With gasoline prices in the US up 33% over last year and US airfare and rising 15% to 20%, many travellers in the United States are grappling with the decision to drive or fly on their next trip.
page, 49% of poll respondents said given recent
spikes in airfare, they would ditch the airport for the open road. Another
15% said driving takes too long, and 37% said it depends; with the price of
gas, road trips may cost more.
faced that same decision when his family of four wanted to travel from Boston to
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a summer vacation. Lal is the founder of BeFrugal.com, a two-year-old website that
helps consumers save money by providing access to coupons, deals and
promotional codes found online.
“If we were
going somewhere two or three hours away by car, the decision would be easy,
we’d drive,” Lal said. “If we’d decided to go somewhere a lot farther away,
like California, the decision would be easy, too. We’d fly instead of taking
five days to drive across the US.”
deciding how to travel to Myrtle Beach, located about 880 miles away, takes
some serious calculating. Door-to-door driving time would be about 16 hours
each way. Door-to-door flying time (including ground transfers) would be about
in-between distances in that gray area between really far away and really close
that make it hard to decide,” Lal said.
Lal’s background in computer programming came in handy. “There are a variety of
factors and lots of tradeoffs that can get overwhelming when trying to decide
whether to drive or fly. So we decided to wrap some math around the process and
we came up with the Fly or Drive
Calculator,” he recalled.
easy-to-use calculator asks for a starting location and destination, and the number
of travellers. Then it asks for type of vehicle, how many hours a day you
expect to drive and estimated nightly hotel costs.
flying side of the equation, it asks for origin and destination airports, estimated
check-in time and the estimated ground transportation costs to and from the
airport on both ends of the journey. The site conveniently pre-populates fields
with estimated airfare and checked bag fees.
case, estimated airfares between Boston and Charleston (near Myrtle Beach) were
$321, plus checked bag fees of $25. But the biggest cost was transportation
from the airport in Charleston to their resort in Myrtle Beach — nearly $300.
cost for flying his family of four from Boston to Myrtle Beach for a summer
vacation would have been about $2,200. Total cost for driving? About $660. Lal
chose the latter, saving about $1,500.
have made the same decision if it were a business trip? Probably not.
business travellers, time is much more important than it is for vacationers.
Plus, business travellers usually travel alone, which makes airfare cheaper and
driving more expensive because you can’t spread the cost over three or four
travellers,” Lal said. “From Boston, I’d probably drive the two or three hours
for a business trip in the northern reaches of New York City. Any further than
that? I’d fly.”
How do you
make the decision to drive or fly? Would you use a calculator like this to help
decide? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.
McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel