Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lesson 10: Travel Costs are Less

This lesson is a pretty obvious one, since my wife and I now live only from one side of the bed to the other (most nights anyway....), as opposed to almost six hours driving. Trying to see her once a month was certainly no picnic on the car miles, gas bill and number of hours taken out of a weekend (but of course it was worth it, honey!).

However, what I want to talk about is making the decision to fly rather than drive. AAA has a calculator that shows the fuel cost for a given trip, but it's pretty simplistic in my opinion. Although the decision can be boiled down to just the cost of gas vs the cost of a ticket, there really is a lot more to try to model into the equation -some of which is difficult to quantify.

For instance, trying to go from Indiana to West Virginia was close to 6 hours of driving. A direct flight could have been only an hour and a half or less, but there aren't any direct flights, and there aren't really any major airports within an hour of either end of the destination. Adding up the total time would have been just about 5-6 hours - not significantly different than the driving time.

There are other costs to flying too - do you have to get a rental car once you are there? Are you carrying more than one passenger? But the decision isn't all weighted in favor of driving - there is additional wear and tear on the vehicle, (arguably) more stress, and the consideration of emissions (if that's your thing).

For major venues that are more than 5 hours away, are only one traveller, and don't need a rental car, flying often is the cheapest way to go. Over Christmas, I was able to get my wife a ticket for back home 10hrs away by car for just under $100. For other situations, especially when there is more than one person travelling, taking the car is usually the cheapest method.

I was highly disappointed that I wasn't able to find a halfway decent comparison calculator that would be able to show the driving time + cost as well as a flying time + cost based on starting/ending points, whether you needed a rental, and number of travellers. I guess I'll have to leave it up to someone else to develop it!

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