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June 23, 2009


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Because of the costs of flights, we choose to make our vacations visiting family. All are within driving distance 8hrs but can turn into 12+ hours with traffic on holiday weekends. This however usually turns into a vacation day. I think I spend roughly 4 days of my 10 days vacation a year in the car driving. Not worth it if I had the extra cash to take a flight.

Lately we've been doing overnight drives to save on traffic and vacation days. But that usually kills at least half of the day after by being so tired.

We drive if we can get there in one day. If it'll take 2 or more days in the car each way we fly.

When I was a kid, we always drove. We only flew on two vacations, and both were to Michigan to visit family (we lived in Florida). Our family vacations were always road trips. Dad hitched up the pop-up trailer and we would take two or three weeks to drive around the southeast or up the east coast visiting destinations for a day or two before moving on to the next. I would love to do that kind of road tripping again, now that I'm an adult. Maybe once/if we start a family. I'm sure it took a heck of a lot of planning on my parents' part. My brother and I just enjoyed the bologna sandwiches, vacation cereal (the sugary stuff) and lots of car games. No game boys for us.

Our family in Michigan is pretty big. My mom's cousin had 12 kids! Every year that one was a senior in high school they would load up the 15-passenger van and drive to Florida for Disney and the beach and would stay with us. Crazy but that's probably the best way to do it with that many people. And since there was always at least 3 people with a driver's license they would drive straight through for 24 hours.

My husband and I drove to Las Vegas once, to try to save money on the plane fare. We drove overnight, played poker in the wee hours when we arrived, and checked in to the hotel as soon as the room was clean. Then we decided to not do that again. Now we only fly if it's more than 6 or 7 hours to drive. Which is just about every where from Denver.

Anything around 8ish hours or less results in a drive for me.

I did a quick search on from Flagstaff, AZ (my city) to Los Angeles. Google maps says it's a 6:45 drive but I usually make it in 6. Kayak shows flights with between 2-5 hours including layovers. Flagstaff is a tiny airport and I can get there about 1 hour early, however bigger airports often require earlier arrivals especially when you consider parking. Flagstaff's parking is about 30 feet from the Terminal entrance.

So even if we go low, you have a minimum of 3 hours from Flagstaff to LA. Then you have to get a rental car and get out of LAX and go to your hotel. There's probably another good hour there. So we're at 4 hours bare minimum (with the potential for upwards of 8).

Then compare costs:
Flying had a rate of $151 to fly to LAX. This was on a randomly picked day so I expect these prices to vary greatly but from experience that sounds about normal or actually maybe a little cheaper than normal.
Then you need a rental car. An economy car in LA is $42 per day. Assuming you stay one week, this will cost you $294 though it could be less depending on the length of your stay.
So the total cost for flying is about $445 and that's only for one person.

My personal car is a fuel efficient Toyota Corolla. I can go about 6 hours on the freeway without needing fuel (I can do Phoenix and back on one tank which is about 5-6 hours). With current gas prices, it costs me $25 to fill up my tank. So overall I have a gas cost of about $50 but I'll go with $75 just to be safe.
I'll also get an oil change just before the trip and that will cost me about $30.
Once I'm driving in LA the gas cost will be the same as in the rental so I won't include those costs.
Total cost for driving is about $105 and that's for up to 4 people.

So I save $340 by driving. Even when you factor in wear and tear, that's a lot of saved money. Even in our best estimate of 4 hours for flying, I spend an extra $340 for 2 hours worth of time. I know I don't make $170 per hour. And really, is 2 hours extra all that much?

I find that once you start crossing the 8ish hour mark, it becomes a lot more worth it to fly. Both in cost per hour and the fact that I just simply don't want to drive for much more than 8 hours. Sometimes you have to factor in a 2 day trip instead of one day which incurs hotel fees and the like. On the other hand there is often a lot to see along the way if you make a full trip out of it.

We drove 12 hours to Washington DC two weeks ago because we were on a budget. It was a long driving but still managable. One good thing of driving is you don't need to worry about how many luggages that you can bring and go through all security checks.

It depends on how big of airport you can departure from. We are living in about 2.5 hours from Chicago airport. So you are going to rent a car to/from the airport? or take a coach ($30 per person one way)? If we departure from our smaller airport, the ticket price probably not much less.

" think I spend roughly 4 days of my 10 days vacation a year in the car driving. "

Wow - only 10 vacation days? I can't imagine that nor driving so much as part of it. I usually fly but lately have been trying to cut back and use the train instead. Both are cheap and convenient for me, where I live.

On our vacation two weeks ago, we had a scheduled drive of 8 hours to get to our destination. After 7 "potty breaks" and the vomit incident, the trip was MUCH longer. Next time, we fly!!!

I think the answer would be much different outside the USA, where petrol is not as cheap. Double the price of petrol, but leave the flight costs the same, and see how it works out.

Also imagine if you can't use an interstate, but instead use windy, narrow roads, or you need to make a ferry crossing.

Fly, train, or occasionally bus. I don't own a car.

Fly usually as I am in Canada and distances can be a bother, besides, I live in Alberta and most of my family and friends are in Ontario. Driving there would be a 40 hour trip? I drive to see my brother and family in BC and it is a 6 hour trip and is quite a beautiful trip with the varied mountain scenery, but any further and I either need a second driver or I am flying.

This year I will be driving. The flights to where I am going in Canada are prohibitive. Also, I waited too long to book. Maybe I could have gotten something cheaper. So I will drive 8 hours.

I'm driving for 2 days to Florida starting this Saturday. We have 6 people in my family plus the dog so flying is not an option. However, when the kids grow up and leave it will be flying for sure!

Now that I have kids, flying is not very appealing any more. But neither is driving!

Not sure what to do. We're going on our longest trip yet in August (2 weeks in Oregon - we live in Northern California), and I might go crazy driving. It always takes 2x as long to go anywhere with children. At least for my family.

The thought of flying scares me because my kids are high-strung (yeah, more than yours!) and I may end up on some sort of terrorist watch list after I beat somebody for yelling at my kid.

How lucky some people are to have the choice. I don't go anyplace, period. At the beginning of summer, we were fantasizing about driving to Tulsa (zoo and maybe some sight-seeing) or Branson/Silver Dollar City, but then our hours got cut at work and we decided to stay home and watch TV instead.

But technically, our answer is 'drive'.

It's a myth that driving is usually cheaper than flying. Most people seriously underestimate the true cost of putting miles on a vehicle - not just gas, but accelerated routine (and non-routine) maintenance costs and deprecitation are other very real costs of driving a long distance. Plus if you drive, you must factor in meals and in the case of very long trips, hotels. Unless you have places to stay with friends or family along the way.

It's almost always cheaper to fly.

We tend to drive within a certain distance (probably the 8-hour guideline applies to us, too), but most of our family who aren't local live 14-17 hours away, so flying is somewhat more convenient. On the other hand, as someone noted above, some flights involve an hourlong drive to the airport, a couple hours waiting there, the flight itself, a wait for luggage and a rental car, and a two-hour drive to our destination -- and even a 12-hour drive gets a lot more reasonable.

There are wear-and-tear costs associated on a vehicle, but we try to drive moderately in our daily lives, so I tend to assume that a car is meant for driving, and those travel costs are part of the deal.

Just go back from a week in Yosemite.

We left Seattle on friday night, stayed in Portland at the in laws. Then drove to Sacramento for a couple nights with friends. Camped for 4 nights in Yosemite. Drove to San Fran for a night, drove to red bluff to get out of town and a little closer. Then drove straight back from red bluff to seattle with a lunch stop in portland with family.

It depends on what you want in a trip. A car trip can be cheaper, indeed, but you need to take into consideration the amount of time it will take to drive from one point to another. There's also a lot of planning required, regarding things like the places to visit and the current state of the car.

In the end, a road trip can be flexible, since you can find some areas of interest in between the start of your trip to your destination.

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