To Fly Or Drive, That Is The Question This Summer
Many years ago my friend’s nine-year -old daughter suggested the family buy a motor home so they could drive to Hawaii. Little did she know that sometimes a destination can only be reached by airplanes or boats. With gas prices rising hourly, Channel 9 News did a study recently on which is cheaper: to fly or drive. So, I did a comparison of my own for our Minnesota trip to celebrate a 100th birthday over July 4th.
On United or Star Alliance partners from Denver to Duluth, MN, prices today range from approximately $702 to $1200 per economy seat (two senior passengers total $1404 to $2400). Factor in the cost of a checked bag each, shuttle or airport parking, and time lost in one travel day each way.
Now let’s consider driving. For the two-day, sixteen hour drive of 1104 miles, we pack snacks and lunches in a cooler, eat at a rest stop, stay in a hotel that includes breakfast, and have dinner out. At an average price of $4.50 a gallon of gas (predicted for the summer) in a car that gets 25 miles per gallon, the gas amounts to $199.
A Holiday Inn Express in Des Moines, IA, runs $85 (summer prices may differ) and includes breakfast. Dinners might cost $40 each way. So the trip totals approximately $648. To be fair, count automobile wear and tear. Driving still wins out and we have our own car rather than renting one.
That said, I do all our driving and my husband catches up on his reading and sleep. I am the one who spends two days doing nothing productive except cover miles.
Let’s consider another trip, this time to California to visit friends. Denver to Mission Viejo, CA, near Los Angeles is 1080 miles. The driving costs remain similar to the Minnesota trip, about $648. Today, flights from Denver to Orange County John Wayne Airport range from $264 to $469 per person ($528 to $938 for two seniors) on United or Star Alliance partners, plus checked bags. Now the other factors, time and convenience, play a role in a decision to fly or drive.
It boils down to a personal choice. If the trip is squeezed between other commitments as ours is, obviously we’ll fly. Besides, we need to use expiring air miles, i.e., the decision to make the trip in the first place. Of course, the comparison changes if you can use air miles. Then, you might as well fly and rent a car. Again, time and convenience play a role in the decision. Remember, too, that air miles come in handy for emergencies because last minute flight prices are usually astronomical. Realize that as pump prices escalate, so will airline fuel prices. Today’s ticket may cost much more as summer approaches. In my case, driving seems the only choice in one instance, while flying is a convenience and even necessary for the second trip.
Make your own comparisons as you plan your summer travel. Be sure to check the ticket prices with other airlines. If the fees don’t fit your budget, perhaps this year is the time to stay close to home and explore all Colorado has to offer. In the coming weeks, I’ll chronicle some events and sights in Colorado you might consider for a vacation within driving distance.