How do we get there: Driving versus flying #Vacations #travelblogs

Family Vacations: Driving or Flying

By Michael Melville

I love traveling and I love vacations. They are my favorite thing to do outside of writing and spending time with my family. One of my dreams is to be able to mix writing and traveling while being paid for it. Family trips were a huge part of my childhood and life. These days, with money being a little tight still, people think traveling is more expensive than what it really is. I find it’s the ones who DON’T travel that think it’s expensive, though. You don’t know what you don’t know when you don’t want to see it. Sure it’s going to cost you some money regardless but what you spend in money you will earn back tenfold in family memories and experiences. Sometimes those experiences can dramatically change a child’s life.

I am the biggest fan of road trips. I prefer driving to flying hands down no matter where I go. If you are traveling in the continental USA or Canada, driving is cheaper than flying I would say 90% of the time when adding up the total trip costs. It has been that way for quite a while even when gas prices were higher…SHOCKING BUT TRUE. Yes, there are some instances when it is not. Nevertheless, as I said, usually, driving is cheaper. Right now, you might be saying, “You’re a damn liar what’s your face blogger guy!”


Technology is the king of research now when it comes to traveling, not predetermined, and old-fashioned assumptions. The days of winging it on the road or trusting a travel agent are gone unless you are traveling out of the USA. There are literally thousands of travel websites and travel bloggers who are dedicated to making information about traveling and cutting costs available to everyone. One just has to look. It is all about being educated.

People, in the process of vacation planning often completely ignore the idea that driving could be an option while perhaps being the best option for a long distance trip. The fact that gas prices are down nearly 2 dollars a gallon (in some places) from where they were even just a year ago only lends to this. Flying is cool don’t get me wrong,  and fast but it’s needlessly expensive for a family of four or more and let’s face it, it’s incredibly boring between taking off and landings. Loud people, crying babies, loud kids, no legroom, overpriced booze, stupid fees not to mention inflated ticket prices and schedules (which I hate on vacation) make the whole thing a hassle. Now, a road trip, however, you learn, see, feel and smell so many things that you just will never get in a tube flying 30,000 feet in the air.

Comparing Flying and Driving

So in an effort to help educate people on trip planning, trip costs and vacations in this travel article I will do an honest cost comparison between flying and driving for a family of four. This family will consist of two parents and two kids whose ages are 6 and 10 (one boy and one girl). For the sake of popularity, my pretend “Family” will be looking at taking a vacation in Orlando Florida within the next 60 days and will be traveling from where I live in Michigan. I will also refrain from picking and including pricing for specific vacation destinations in Orlando (so no Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios etc. etc.….). This article is about getting there.

The costs will be based on current prices at the time this post was written (10/5/2015) and not traveling over a holiday because that is unfair. I personally avoid traveling over the holidays (by plane) or the 3 days before and after the holidays at all costs. I will go under the assumption that the trip will take place in the next 60 days since planning and booking ahead of time is always ALWAYS the smartest thing. A trip like this would likely be planned out much farther in advance than I am doing or at least they should. Many airlines charge extra fees for each ticket purchased for flights departing in under 30 days.

I will be looking at prices from several different websites and try to find the cheapest prices for both flying and driving. Keep in mind prices are subject to change as we all know. Gas prices for driving will be based on driving a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze. Travel costs will also be based on roundtrip travel in both travel options.



Vacation Pricing

Driving (First leg)


Grand Rapids to Orlando

Total Miles Traveled – 1230 miles

Total Travel Time – about 18 hours

Total number of fill ups on the way to Orlando – 2

 (Fill up in Grand Rapids before leaving) – $38.00 @$2.39/gallon

 Nashville Tennessee area – $25.10 @$1.74/gallon

Hotel Costs (Halfway point and 8 hours driving)

One night in Chattanooga TN (3-star hotel) Nov 7th-8th – 174.05 (taxes Included)

Food Costs (Estimated)

Lunch – $40.00 x 2

Dinner – $50.00

Snacks – $30.00

Orlando Gas Costs

 (One tank) $40.00 @ 1.91/gallon


Vacation Pricing

Driving (2nd Leg)


Orlando Florida to Grand Rapids Michigan

Total Miles Traveled – 1230 miles

Total Travel Time – about 18 hours

Total number of fill ups on the way to Grand Rapids – 3

Fill up in Orlando – $31.36 @$2.02/gallon

Chattanooga Tennessee – $24.82 @$1.75/gallon

Top off in Grand Rapids – $1.54 @$2.23/gallon

Hotel Costs (Halfway point and 8 hours driving)

One night at Aloft Nashville Cool Springs, Nov 14th-15th – $117.93 (3-stars, tax included)

Food Costs (Estimated)

Lunch – $40.00 x 2

Dinner – $50.00

Snacks – $30.00

Total roundtrip cost from both legs$772.00



Vacation – Flying (Roundtrip)


Grand Rapids Michigan to Orlando Florida

Four Roundtrip tickets with trip protection insurance – $1,106.00 (Allegiant Air, Direct Flight, and Taxes Included)

Baggage Fees (If applicable) – $200.00 (4 checked bags)

Other Flight Fees – $89.00 (Seat Selections) $40.00 (Priority Boarding)

Rental car (for duration of time in Orlando) – $161.00

Rental car gas – $40.00 (You probably will not use this much, but it depends on how much driving you do while in Florida. Rental cars must be returned with a full or ¾ full tank or pay a fee)

Total roundtrip cost – $1636.00


Total trip savings comparing flying versus driving

— $864.00 saved by driving —


When I priced these all out, I was actually surprised that Allegiant came out on top considering the optional but exorbitant fees they charge but it was just barely that they did. For the flight portion, I looked at Southwest Airlines and (American was the cheapest I found there without naming my own price) in addition to Allegiant. Southwest came out at $1765.64 with a rental car included and no baggage fees. American was the most for these dates and hit $1995.92 with a car rental and trip protection, but that did not include baggage fees at $25.00 for the first bag per person. All taxes were included in these prices.

Now, of course, there are ways to make both trips cheaper, especially with driving. One example would be driving straight through to Orlando and alternate driving between the parents. By doing this, it would have avoided $291.98 in hotel costs for my imaginary family. For me personally, driving 8 hours is nothing, I’ve done this trip, and longer ones alone and can drive about 13 hours before stopping to sleep. In my younger days, I could push 20 hours…oh to be young again.

With flying Allegiant, you could skip the travel insurance, picking your seats and paying extra for early boarding but I would not suggest it at least with Allegiant. The airline is notorious for having delayed and late plans. I think with any airline paying for early boarding is worth it. However, with Allegiant if you do not pick your seats your whole family could end up sitting on different parts of the plane. Do you really want your little kids sitting next to total strangers 10 rows up because you got cheap and took a chance?

You could also play the creative packing game to avoid some baggage fees but I think with kids and going somewhere like Orlando (with all they have there) that would make that one a lot harder than for a solo flyer or even a couple. You could also try to find cheaper flights into surrounding airports like St. Pete’s/Tampa, Daytona, or even Ft. Lauderdale but you are going to be looking at more driving. So you need to decide If the extra gas and driving is worth saving maybe 50 bucks.

Yes driving is actually cheaper

It is fairly obvious that driving is the cheaper option by looking at this comparison even If you want to add on another two hundred bucks for incidental costs like souvenirs or extra gas along the way. Yes, driving does have some drawbacks like potential traffic issues, maybe a car breaking down and stops for the kids or something like that. I have found on all my road trips over the years that issues like these to be very rare occurrences, though. Flying has its own drawbacks as well like late flights, canceled flights, layovers, lost bags, and rough weather. Therefore, it’s important to think about what works best for your family. I still think driving is the way to go and do not buy into the idea that flying is more convenient. When looking at the prices above if I had a family of four going to Orlando I do not know that spending an extra $864.00 is worth a perceived notion of convenience that is the usual argument for flying. Looking back on all my past trips and comparing the ones when I flew versus the ones when I drove I can honestly say the trips where I flew where more stressful and much more of a hassle.

National Lampoons Family Vacation


Now, yes you may think you are losing 2 days in Orlando by driving but you are not really. Considering the arriving flights I found don’t arrive until later in the day, then factor in getting your bags, rental car and driving to your hotel and checking in you lost a whole day of your trip doing all that. Then you have to call it quits early the night before going home, so your family can pack, wake up early to drop the car off then catch your plane. Driving gives you a little bit more leeway and freedom without the panic and rush.


I will also note that the Allegiant flight departed on Friday and returns on Friday. The other two flights I found both left on Saturday. Therefore, the kids will be missing another 2 days of school. As a parent, I never really want to consider the option of my kids missing school so I can save money, that’s what winter, spring and summer breaks are for. In addition, Allegiant doesn’t fly from everywhere or offer direct flights so that airline may not even be an option for some.

Last Thought

Now, of course, there is also the obvious issue. That being neither one of these trip options have hotels, park tickets, parking, park food, or souvenirs factored in. If you are just going to Walt Disney World and staying outside the park, your hotel may offer shuttle service to and from the airport and also to and from the park so you may not need a rental car.

Now, if you are just going to Disney and staying at a Disney resort (which I suggest, see my travel post on that), they offer free transportation everywhere so a rental car is very pointless. However, if you are going to Disney, Universal and Sea World during the trip a rental car will probably be needed and more so if you plan on going to Kennedy Space Center or want to see the Ocean. Depending on what you do, you could be looking at another $1,000 to $2,000 (or more) on top of just getting there.


If this trip is a once in a lifetime event for your family then driving will give you far more freedom to see and do everything that you want to do more than flying ever could and for a cheaper price. Therefore, it’s important to really plan this out way ahead of time. Talk to your kids and get their input on what they really want to do the most because let’s be real you are going to Orlando for them right? If you spend half of your vacation budget just getting there what is the point? That $864 bucks you saved by driving could afford you some additional vacation options for additional days at certain parks. If you drive, it also gives the kids another opportunity to be involved by seeing if there is anything along the way they would want to see. Kids are pretty tech-savvy more than most parents are so I am sure they will have some ideas. It’s not just about getting from point A to point B but everything in between.

Just remember that for family vacations it is about the whole trip and ALL the memories from it. So why not make as many as you can?


Websites I used:





4 thoughts on “How do we get there: Driving versus flying #Vacations #travelblogs

  1. Oh but I should add there is an argument that spending money on experiences (i.e. travel) is better for us than spending it on THINGS, because we derive more pleasure from the anticipation, the panning, the experience and the memories. So I fully support the notion that people should find ways to travel.

  2. I might consider that long in the car with children aged 6 and 10, but there is no way I would drive more than 5 hours with a 2 and 5 year old. Even 5 hours is enough to make me homicidal…

    1. I guess I look at it this way. If you’re going to be around your family 24/7 for a week what’s 5 hour drive. However, I say that without having driven that far with kids yet. But, having been on a plane with many kids who are not mine who are that age….i think I’d still rather drive. There has gotta be a park or something a long the way right.

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