Should You Fly or Drive? Consider These Factors

by  Darren Murph | Dec 6, 2013
Plane / Biletskiy_Evgeniy/iStock

For those who make the annual trek to grandmother’s house for the holidays, the question that tends to arise is always this: What's the best way to get there? If you’ve waited until now to book flights, you’re probably finding eye-poppingly high fares. The airlines know just how many people are going to want to travel for leisure in the upcoming weeks, and they’ll charge a pretty penny to make your Christmas dreams come true. But is flying really your best option? Consider these factors to determine if the highway actually makes more sense than the sky. 

Time: Most people assume they’ll save time flying home for the holidays instead of driving. For cross-country jaunts, that’s a wise assumption, but for destinations that can be reached in less than 8 hours in a car, there’s a different case to be made. To break it down: an hour can be spent just traveling to the airport, followed by 15 minutes in line to check your bag, followed by another 30 minutes clearing security, followed by an hour or so waiting for your flight to board, a half-hour waiting for your luggage on the other side, a half-hour getting your rental car sorted, and on and on.

That's already up to four hours of dead time, not to mention the hours that you’ll spend in the air. Toss in the chance of delays and cancellations (heightened especially during the holiday season), and that decision to fly may seem a little less appealing.

Cost: For solo flyers, it’s often a better deal to hop on a plane instead of fueling up the car and putting additional wear and tear on your vehicle. But if you’re looking to make it a family affair this year, the tables can easily turn. Airlines jack up fares as the holidays approach, which could make the cost of flying for a family of four much more expensive than driving in a single vehicle.

To do some travel math, visit AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator — you can input your vehicle, your origin, and your destination, and it’ll tell you how much to budget for gas. For the most part, it’s safe to assume that the break-even point is two passengers; if you’re traveling with three or more people, it’ll likely be more affordable to drive (assuming you have the time, of course).

Have any other travel tips for the holiday season? Let us know in comments below!

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