As you know, William and I love to travel! We’ve done both – flying across the country and taking long road trips. So which is better? If you are trying to use those vacation days, should you fly or rent a car?
Honestly, the decision is incredibly personal. I wish I could, but I can’t just tell you which to do. What I can do is make your decision a lot easier by breaking down the pros and cons of both!
Flying vs. Renting a Car – Which Is Best On A Trip?
Let’s look at a few key factors to make your decision easier:
- How Long Is Your Vacation
- What’s More Important – the Destination or the Experience
- How Much Stuff Are You Packing
- What Stresses You Out Most
How Long is Your Vacation
Renting a car is better decision if you have time in your vacation schedule to drive there. For example, if your destination is 6 hours away, it makes a lot more since to drive, especially if you live farther than an hour away from the airport.
Also keep in mind: how far away are you (and your destination) from the airport?
I’ll use Kansas to West Virginia as my main example for this post. According to Google Maps it is about 16 hours from here to there. We live 2 hours from the airport and the ultimate destination is 2 hours from the MCI airport.
So, we end up driving 2 hours, waiting 2 hours at airport, flying for 3 hours, driving 2 more hours. That is a total of 9 hours travel time! It’s only saving us about 1 day of travel time to fly.
Flying is a better option though if you only have 2 days on your vacation. You can fly, spend time and fly home within 3 days. It isn’t easy to do that by driving from KS to WV.
Destination VS Experience
This is such an important one! Airports and stuffy airplanes are simply not an enjoyable travel experience. So what is more important to you on this trip – the destination or the experience?
If you have time, drive! Take breaks. Drive off the interstate into some small towns and walk around.
William and I have made some amazing memories on the road between Kansas and West Virginia. Like how difficult it is to find a quality cup of coffee in rural Kentucky! But it’s all part of the fun and the memories.
Cost of Flying vs Renting a Car
Next, you have to look at the cost. Obviously if you are traveling as a family, the cost of each flight ticket adds up! There are some very affordable car rental rates – and ways to save even more off the already low prices.
In my personal experience, it was actually more cost-effective to drive from WV to KS with William once. Other times, the cost of the flight ticket was so low we couldn’t pass it up.
Alamo has an extremely helpful car rental guide that walks you through each step so you choose the best car at the best rate for your trip.
How Much Stuff Are You Packing
Some airlines allow 2 checked bags to fly free, others charge you for every single checked bag. If you are going to be packing a lot of stuff, it might just be easier (and more affordable) to drive.
Another benefit of driving? You don’t have to worry about your stuff getting messed up at the airport if it is searched. All of your valuable things are right there with you.
Finally, be honest with yourself and your traveling crew. What stresses you out more: crowds and possible delayed flights or driving long distances?
I’ve personally met people so terrified of flying they would rather drive across the country. Then I’ve also known people who think flying is pretty relaxing compared to the stress of being around terrible drivers.
Tips for Flying With Kids
If you are flying with kids, check out my resources:
Car Rental Tips
First, plan games! If you are planning a road trip with your family, take a peek at my 5 road trip games for kids. It’s super fun and each game can morph into more games with a little creativity.
Next, consider the experts! When you are planning a family vacation, consider the tips on the Alamo Scenic Routes page. There are some helpful articles on there like “how to plan a family vacation” and “best places and times to travel as a family.”
My final tip: Keep it low stress. Vacations should be a time to make memories. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be as fun as you can make it!