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Thinking of taking a trip soon? See how you can run the numbers and decide whether it’s better to drive or fly for your next vacation!

Drive or Fly to Florida?

Fun week for us in Florida for our family vacation as we're swapping between having some lazy beach days and checking out Orlando's parks.

It's been refreshing and relaxing to spend time together as a family. Now that our little girl is a bit more mobile, it's been sort of game with showing her new things.

We wanted this anniversary trip to be fun for everyone and it has been. We've tried not to over plan things, but we still had to make some choices about the vacation.

One of the decision we weigh when traveling around the country is whether or not to make it a road trip or go ahead and fly to our destination.

For us, if the trip is longer than 11 hours we'll fly, if it's 4 hours or less we'll definitely drive. This trip is in between lengths where we have to decide what option is best for us.

Running the Numbers with Flying or Driving

TRAVEL fly or drive next vacation

One of the first steps we take when looking at the costs is reviewing a car rental.

For some trips we need to have a rental car whether or not we fly or drive. Not all cities have public transportation that will get us where we'd like to go.

When we went to Denver, our hotel was ideally located so we didn't need a car. We flew in and used a taxi to get to downtown.

We walked or used the city's public transportation during our stay. It was relaxing and we had a great time.

Renting a Car Down to Florida

For this trip we knew we needed to get a rental car either way because we were visiting two cities in Florida for the trip. We'll use this trip to run the numbers on driving down versus flying down.

It's about a 600 mile drive one way. If we rent a car we usually assume that the gas mileage is around 25-30mpg since it's mostly highway driving.

That means it would be about 20- 24 gallons. With gas price at an average of $3.339/gallon, it would cost us about $66.78- $80.14 each way for a total of $133.56 – $160.28 just to make the road trip to our destination and back.

When I checked rates online for a rental, I found that the price would be around $170 for the trip, not counting fees and taxes.

So driving down to Florida would cost us around $303.56 – $330.28 to get us there.

Flying Down to Florida

When looking at flights I use sites like Kayak to compare prices on possible flights. I also check out Southwest's site to see their rates since they don't list them with the travel sites.

When I checked online here are the prices I found *:

  • AirTran – $239 per person
  • American – $310.20 per person
  • Delta – $360 per person
  • Southwest – $372 per person
  • United – $310 per person
  • US Airways – $237.20 per person

*I listed the lowest price I found for each airline.

For both of us to get to Florida by plane, the cheapest price we'd pay is about $475. Since our daughter is under 2 if we wanted to have her on our lap during the flight she'd be free.

If we wanted to take her in a car seat secured we'd have to buy an additional ticket.

For some airlines like Southwest parents can get a discounted ticket (about half the price of a regular), but most charge full price for the extra seat.

Reviewing Additional Road Trip Costs

Besides looking at the numbers, it's also good to see if doing a road trip can enhance your vacation by adding a couple of destinations.

While you can't put a price on expirience, there are costs associated with small detours and sightseeing on the way down. We looked at the extra costs of eating on the road.

While we usually grab snacks to take with us for our drive, we do stop for a meal and to stretch our legs.

With a toddler it's even more important to break up the trip with stops. We're grateful that our little one enjoys messing with her toys and napping in the car.

When we do stop to eat we take our time so we can have her run around, play and hopefully tire herself out for the next stretch of driving.

Of course if we're going to eat, we might as enjoy something different than our usual fare. discovering hole in the wall spots is fun.

We also like returning to past favorites when we visits certain towns. If you're looking for possible eating option on the road, there is a site you may want to check out Road Food.

After looking at everything we decided to do a road trip for this vacation. So far we've been having a great time – we tried out a few local spots and the drive was leisurely. No rush, no problems.

Deciding How to Travel For Our Trip

After looking at everything we decided to do a road trip for this vacation. So far we've been having a great time – we tried out a few local spots and the drive was leisurely. No rush, no problems.

The ride down was fantastic and we hope the return will be the same.

Thoughts on Family Vacations

I'd love to hear from you about your family trips and how you plan them. How many of you fly for your family vacations? How many of you take road trips?

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

4 comments add your comment

  1. This summer we did the calculations on a trip to the DC area where we knew we’d have to rent a car while up there. It ended up being much cheaper to drive, so we took my car. Total cost to drive (including all the stops and motels) was less than the cost of a single plane ticket, even though it was an 18 hour drive each way. Sure, it took us longer – but it was also nice to take a road trip together since we hadn’t done that in years!

  2. We usually fly, just because then we can spend more time enjoying ourselves. However, I do love a good road trip!

    • Yep, road trips can be fun, but sometimes a direct flight is quite nice 😀 I had a quick question Michelle – Do you have a favorite airline you like to use or do you simply go by price? We’ve some disappointing experiences with certain airlines, so-so with most, but were really happy with Southwest. I’m trying to get feedback from others.