Is it Cheaper to Fly or Take Your Car?

Are Trips Cheaper by Air or by Car?

Should you travel by plane or car?

Should you travel by plane or car?

If you have to travel a short distance, it is probably obvious that travel by car makes sense. When you account for time you spend at the airport, the price of tickets, and everything else, having a vehicle makes sense.

But if you need to travel for several hours, or even several days, does it ever make sense to take your car instead of fly? You have to consider the cost of plane tickets, but you also need to factor in the loss of time, extra meals, and possible hotel or motel stays. The right answer probably depends upon the number of people that you are traveling with and the time you have for your trip.

The right answer depends upon several factors, and these include:

  • Would you need to rent a car at your destination if you do not have your own vehicle?
  • How many people are traveling with you?
  • Compare the cost of plane tickets vs. gasoline, extra hotel or motel stays, and wear on your car.
  • How valuable is your time, and can you make the road trip part of your trip?

If you are traveling alone, it might make more sense to fly because you only have to pay for one plane ticket. This is particularly true if you don’t need to rent a car when you get where you are going. However, if you are traveling with an entire family, the equation changes.

In this case, balancing four air line tickets vs. a night in a hotel will be very different. It costs a lot more to buy 4 air line tickets than one, but it does not always cost much more to put 4 people in an affordable motel than 1 person. If meals are a consideration, you could always pack some snacks and lunches in the car, so you won’t have to buy a lot of expensive meals on the road.

However, if you need to have a car in your destination city, rental car costs could be a big factor. Renting a car for a week might cost as much or more as an extra airline ticket, and it will certainly cost more than a night in an affordable motel or hotel.

Plane vs. Car Trips

The right answer depends upon your particular situation. Go ahead and estimate the cost of traveling by car or by plane. Also consider the fact that it might take an extra day to arrive at your destination by car. Of course, you might make the road trip part of the fun by stopping at interesting places along the way.

Best Online Travel Booking Sites

Which Online Trip Booking Site is Best for You?

Where to book cheap flights and hotels?

Where to book cheap flights and hotels?

Even a recent article in the New York Times says that there is not one best online airline and travel booking website. In fact, there are so many choices that it can be a little overwhelming to try to figure out which one best meets your needs.  The only good solution is to find the one that best meets your needs, and this is particularly true if you need to watch your budget.

The New York Times article reported on a test of a handful of different sites. This test included big websites like Travelocity and Expedia, but it also included some niche travel sites that are not household names. Six test itineraries were included in the text, and they included travel in the United States and overseas.  Some large U.S. travel sites, like Bing Travel, had to be excluded from the test because they only book domestic U.S. flights.

Which Travel Site is Cheapest?

The big travel sites included Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak,  and Orbitz. They were all very good at finding cheap fairs, and most of the time they reported fairs within a few dollars of each other. In some instances, a smaller travel site did beat the big guys. For example, RouteHappy and Monomondo found cheaper flights from Miami to Chicago.

The advice from this study is to pick your favorite large travel site and also try an upstart to see if they pull out a better price. In other words, using all of the big travel sites or all of the niche sites may not be a good use of your time. Pick one from column A and one from column B.

What if Travel Price isn’t Everything

The survey found that many travel sites only display the cheapest routes, and they don’t care if these flights include 6 hour layovers. Most people would consider paying an extra $25 to $50 – or more – is a small price to pay to spend less time in airports and more time on vacation. This might particularly matter on long international or cross country trips.

The survey found that a site called HipMunk has an agony index that drops routes with really long layovers or other inconveniences to the bottom of the search. After all, if you have to lose time at work, it might really work out cheaper to spend more on a better flight.

What About Hotels?

If you don’t mind a mystery, Priceline may actually find you the best price on a “mystery” hotel. Sometimes, you can put in ridiculously low bids and actually come up with reasonable matches, but make sure you understand the system because it is a little risky.  Priceline also has a regular service where you can see the hotels before you allow the site to charge your credit card.

Which Online Travel Sites Are Easiest to Use?

They survey liked these three user interfaces the best: Momondo, Kayak, and Hipmunk. That said, those might be your choices for a big travel site (Kayak) and some niche ones if you care about simple user interfaces and easy-to-understand information.