Monday, November 21, 2016

Money Crashers: What’s the Best Way to Travel During the Holidays?

Every year, Brian and I drive out to his parents' house for Christmas. It's a long trip—about 12 hours, including stops—so we usually leave before dawn to try and make it there by dinnertime. For the return trip, we leave a little later so we can have breakfast and say goodbye to everyone, so we don't get home until around 10pm after stopping for dinner along the road. That gives us maybe an hour to unpack the car and pet the cats and go through our week-long backlog of mail before going to bed.

Some folks might wonder why we bother making such a long trip by car. Wouldn't it be a lot faster to fly? Well, yes, it would—though not as much faster as you might think, since you also have to factor in travel time to and from the airport, as well as waiting time at the airport. But it would also be a lot more expensive: probably over a grand for the tickets, baggage fees, parking, and overpriced airport food. It would also be a lot less pleasant. In addition to spending the actual flight crammed into those narrow seats with a bunch of strangers, unable even to take a bathroom break until the seat belt sign went off, we'd have to deal with all the hassles of driving to the airport, parking, checking baggage, going through security, waiting around at the gate, claiming baggage, and worrying about missing our plane. (No matter how early we leave, we always worry about missing our plane.) Plus, we wouldn't be able to haul much baggage, so all the Christmas presents would have to be shipped ahead of time. Add that to the hefty carbon footprint of air travel, and it's easy to see why we consider a long trip in the car preferable to a short trip by plane.

From time to time, I've wished that we could make this trip by train instead. Trains are usually my favorite way to travel, especially for a medium-to-long-haul trip like this one, because they're a lot more comfortable than either cars or planes. You have enough room to stretch out in your seat; you can look out the window at the scenery; you can get up and walk around any time you like, get up and go get a snack, play cards, and all sorts of things you can't easily do on the road. But when I checked, just out of curiosity, to see how much it would cost to take a train to Indiana, I discovered that the only train that could get us there is an Amtrak that's routed all the way down to D.C. and back through Kentucky before finally making it to Indy 23 hours later. Yes, you read that right—23 hours, nearly twice as long as our trip by car. It definitely wasn't a viable option.

However, as the holidays approached this year, I got to thinking that just because driving works best for us, that doesn't necessarily mean it's best for others. So I decided to do a post for Money Crashers comparing different types of holiday travel. In exhaustive detail, I outline the pros and cons of flying, driving, and bus or train travel, comparing cost, time, convenience, safety, and carbon footprint. Along the way, I offer some general tips about how to make your trip cheaper, greener, and less stressful, no matter how you travel. And I wrap it all up with some general advice on how to calculate the costs and benefits for yourself and figure out which mode of travel is best for your holiday trip.

Here's the full article: What’s the Best Way to Travel During the Holidays? – Cost & Time Considerations. Here's wishing you and yours a pleasant trip.

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