6 Times You Should Drive Instead of Fly


Unless you're absolutely terrified of soaring the friendly skies, you may choose flying over driving any day. Since you can arrive at your destination faster and you don't have to deal with a tiresome drive, flying is often a no-brainer. (See also: The Ultimate Guide to Flying During the Holidays)

But even if flying is your preferred way to travel, there are times when driving makes more sense.

1. You're in No Hurry

If you don't have to be at your destination by a specific date or time, driving might be the lesser of two evils. You can take your time, travel at your own pace, and perhaps break up the trip over one or two days to avoid travel fatigue.

Even if you booked a hotel for one or two nights while driving to your destination, the cost of driving — including fuel and food — might be cheaper than flying. And when you bring your car on vacation, there's no need to rent a car, duh.

2. You're Traveling With Your Family

I didn't realize how much airline tickets had skyrocketed until I was booking tickets this past June. Traveling as little as two hours in the sky costs an average of $450 round-trip per ticket.

If you have a family, multiply this number by four (or however many family members you've got), and you're looking at $1,800 for plane tickets alone. And as we all know, vacation expenses involve more than just plane tickets. You have to factor in accommodations, a car rental, food, and entertainment. Frankly, most people don't have this kind of cash to spend.

But if you pile your family or friends in the car and hit the road, you only pay for fuel. If it costs $50 to fill your car, and you fill up four times during the course of the trip, $200 sounds a lot better than $1,800.

3. You're Traveling Last Minute

Booking an airline ticket months in advance is one way to snag a low price. But life happens, and sometimes we have to travel last minute. Several factors influence the cost of airline tickets, such as oil prices, distance, and the timing of flights. And unfortunately, if you're booking a flight within seven days of a departure date, you're going to pay a premium. So, if you have to travel last minute, you might be better off driving.

4. You're a Heavy Packer

Not only is there the cost of purchasing airline tickets, you might pay a checked bag fee between $25 and $35 per bag. And if you overpack and your suitcase weighs more than 50 pounds, there's an additional charge.

This isn't an issue if you pack light or have a carry-on item. However, if you're traveling with a family or if you're a heavy packer, multiple bags are inevitable. And the more luggage you pack, the more you'll pay in airline fees. But if you drive a car, SUV, or van, there may be plenty of space for luggage and any other items you need to bring.

5. You're Looking for a Bonus Experience

Driving has its headaches, which is why some choose to fly instead of drive. But if you want your entire trip to be an unforgettable experience, the fun can begin the moment you pull out of your driveway.

Select a scenic route on the way to your destination and take advantage of a few photo opportunities. Or if there are popular attractions and landmarks along the way, spend a couple of hours exploring. Why not hike amidst Sequoia trees in Northern California or spend the day at Lake Tahoe in Nevada?

6. Your Car Is a Comfortable Ride

Even if you don't mind driving to a destination, you have to consider your car's comfort level. You don't want to spend two or three days recuperating from back, hip, or leg pain after your trip.

But if there's ample leg room, the seats are soft, and you're confident that you can make the drive with little or no discomfort, give it a shot — especially if there are one or two other drivers in the car. You can drive a little and then rest your eyes, or recline your seat and rest your back. It might not be the fastest way to get to your destination, but at least you can enjoy a comfortable trip while saving money.

Do you want to share other reasons why driving is better than flying sometimes? Let me know in the comments below!

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Guest's picture

Many years ago I used to enjoy air travel but that's gradually become more of an ordeal. Now I'm driving for business trips that are less than 500 miles each way. One of the benefits is greater flexibility, there's no charge for making last-minute changes like a side-trip. Plus I'm not into carefully packing suitcases and lugging them around, I just dump stuff I may or may not need into cardboard boxes and slide them into the trunk. Quite a few good places to eat next to freeways, even the average truckstop is better than airline food. Also thanks to today's elevated prices for airline tickets, our company has raised their mileage reimbursement rates so each road trip nets me out a few hundred bucks. Finally with all of the health scares these days, it's much less likely I end up in quarantine.

This may be a bit like sex, some want to take their time and enjoy the ride while others want to quickly get it overwith.

Guest's picture

I don't think you factored in all the costs on #2. While you might be able to drive in a full day somewhere where you could fly in 2 hours, the costs differences start to shrink as that time increases. For example, to fly from the northern Midwest to southern Florida to visit family, we can get flights for 3 of us for around $1200. Driving there would not only require fuel costs, but at least one hotel stay each direction. This site (http://www.befrugal.com/tools/fly-or-drive-calculator/) does a pretty good job of breaking down the differences, but also misses extra food costs for driving - unless you pack all your food for the trip.
Even though we could save ~$400 by driving, I'm not sure my sanity would tolerate that much time in the car with a small child.