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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

TRAVEL TIPS - Road Trip or Fly?

Many trips now start off with the question of mode of transportation...should we drive or fly? Here is our thought process on that question.

UPDATE: Please see our update at the bottom of this article.


Driving can be a good choice, especially if you're not going too far. In fact, for trips of 500 miles or less, it's pretty much our default transportation.  Here are some of the Pros of driving, followed by some of the Cons:

Pros - 

You can pretty much take whatever you want. You don't have to travel as light as possible like you do when flying. Shower chairs, extra pillows, pool toys, sports's not the problem to take them like it would be on a plane.

If you're a wheelchair user, you can have your own personal car with you and don't have to worry about how you'll get around at your destination. If you're a power chair user, this goes double for you.

It's usually cheaper (at least for the shorter distances).

With all the early check-in required at airports these days, baggage claim, and transfers, travel time can be pretty competitive too for shorter distances.

You'll have a more comfortable seat when traveling.

You don't have to share your car with 100+ strangers in close quarters.

If you get tired of the drive, you can pull over to take a break, eat, stretch your legs, etc.

You get to see more scenery along the way and when something interesting pops up, you can stop to check it out.

You can travel on your own schedule.

Cons - If it's a long distance, you'll have a long drive...probably boring too.

If it's a real long distance, say over 1,000 miles, you probably won't save money over flying.

It's up to you to keep the car clean.

You're at risk of an auto accident...much more common than plane crashes.

There are some San Francisco or New York...where having a car is more of a handicap than not having one.

You can get stuck in traffic.

If you need to go to the bathroom, you generally have to wait until one comes along.


Flying used to be much better but since 9/11, deregulation, mergers, and bankruptcies, it has gotten to the point of being quite a challenge much of the time. Still, it is the fastest way to get to your destination.

Pros - Fast. A distance that would take you a week to drive can be covered in 6 hours. You can fly coast-to-coast and cross an ocean in less than 12 hours.

Since you get there much faster, you can save money, not only on gas but on hotel rooms and meals along the way. are much, much less likely to get injured or die in an airplane accident than you are in a car.

You don't have to do the driving.

Cons - Economy class can truly be tight. Crossing the Atlantic on a 10 hour flight being squeezed into a 17 inch seat is just not fun.

Going through security at the airport...especially in the states...takes a long time and can border on humiliation.

Parking at the airport can be can a taxi ride to the airport.

Service can be anywhere from pleasant to rude to downright mean.

Food, if available, can be barely edible.

You need to pack light, very light, or you will not only be lugging a lot of cumbersome luggage but  also paying big fees to take it along.

It's crowded, not only on the plane but in the airport as well.

If you're a wheelchair user, you need to get to the airport an extra hour earlier than anyone else, then you have to beg, cajole, threaten, to get someone to help you check your chair and carry you to your seat.

So for us, if we could comfortably do it, we'd always drive but long trips don't always lend themselves to it.  Flying is something we endure to get where we'll have a good time. Hopefully, you can go through the pros and cons of each mode and come up with a good way to get where you're going.

UPDATE: What this story needs is a real world example. Here is one from a fairly recent trip we took from Ontario, California to Seattle.

Airfare, including taxes, $184 each on Southwest. That's $552 for three
Parking for 5 days at ONT - $40
Link train from Seattle airport $16.50, round trip for three

Gas, round trip for 2,300 miles round trip at 18mpg, $3.90 per gallon - $132
Meals for four days of driving (two days up, two days back)- $240 ($10 for breakfast, $20 for lunch, $30 for dinner)
Hotel halfway to destination (one each way) - $140

Now, when we consider it will take us two days each way to drive and less than 3 hours flying, that $95.50 difference doesn't seem so bad for the three of us. That's two vacation days I don't have to take if I fly and the cost difference is small enough to make it worth it to fly instead of drive for two days each way.

We also take into consideration that Seattle have very good wheelchair public transportation available and we won't really need our own car while we're there.

Of course, the more of you there are, the bigger that price tag will be.  As always, your situation, tolerance, and costs may be different. This is just an exercise to show you how to figure what method of transport will suit your needs and budget.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved


  1. Driving...even for distances over 1,000 much cheaper than flying if you are not traveling alone. Try purchasing plane tickets for yourself, your spouse, and your two children. Even at the high price of gas, it's still cheaper to drive.

  2. Yes, depends on how many you're purchasing...your mileage may vary. There's three of us, our driving limit is around 500 miles per day, our van gets between 17-20mpg on the highway, so we'd have to figure in not only the gas, but food, hotel, wear & tear, and time.

    For us, it breaks down like this: to up to 500 miles, always drive; up to 800 miles, strongly consider driving; 1,000 miles or more, look for a good deal on plane tickets.


  3. i love road trips... only when i'm not the one driving. LOL

  4. Thanks for giving the specifics on the travel expenses! But if there is something one should not skimp on, that would be insurance.

  5. Thanks for the comment, motorhome insurance. We covered travel insurance in our previous Travel Tip on safety and security:

  6. Mm, the travel expenses certainly play as an important factor. Still, in the end, the deciding factor lies in what would be more enjoyable to the person. For example, a road trip can offer the enjoyment of adventure, though you still can't discount the cons that go along with it. Meanwhile, going by plane could be faster, and it might be more convenient if you have a small travel schedule.