10 Reasons Road Trips Are Better Than Flying

Our online friend, Mommy Points, ran a piece this week titled 10 Reasons Flying is Better Than Road Trips, discussing why after their recent road trip, they determined flying is a better option for them. We thought it might be fun to look at the opposite spectrum of why road trips make sense for other families.

We just returned from a two week road trip across America, traveling from the north shores of Ohio, all the way down to Orlando, Florida. This meant long days in a van with 3 kids under five years of age (ages 5, 3, and 1).

With the front end of vacation packed full of excitement, it is a huge mental burden to imagine the 1,000+ miles being spent in a vehicle all together. Lots can go wrong to impact the trip. However, with some careful planning, lots can also go right. Lets take a counter look at why road trips may make sense for some in lieu of flying.

Road trips cost more than you think:

At first glimpse, looking at the staggering cost of air travel, not only in tickets, but extra baggage fees, etc., it can often look like a real easy solution to jump in the vehicle and head off to your final destination. After all, we are a nation that started the mass transportation movement to get you from point A to B in the most convenient and expeditious fashion.

However, when carefully looking at what vehicle travel actual costs, the numbers may surprise you. Mommy Points has it right when you factor in gas, tolls, food, and possible hotel nights, the numbers may start to equal out.

However, where it starts to make a difference is in the economy of scale. The cost of air travel for Mommy Points circumstance is factored by 3 people. Two adults, or sometimes one adult, to one child. For the InACents family, the children outnumber the parents 3 to 2. Therefore, anytime we start to think about air travel, the cost of 5 seats versus 3 play a big factor into our decision.

On a good sale, Cleveland (CLE) to Orlando (MCO) might be $200 each for a coach seat. So without evening factoring the cost of luggage for two weeks of a trip for five people, we easily look down the aisle of a plane swallowing up $1,000. Not chump change.

Gas, on the other hand, to fill our van, was on average $50 per fill-up times 7 stops. Factor in a couple quick meals and drinks (a lot of which we packed from home), very minor tolls on a short section of Florida highway, and all three of our hotel rooms were booked on points, and we are far below what it would have cost to fly.

Using points for domestic travel just is not an option for our family. We would must rather use our limited bank of miles towards aspirational travel than wasting them domestically.

You eat unhealthy food:

Healthy food can easily be found just as easily on the road as it can at an airport. Being in our own vehicle, we have the option to drive a couple extra minutes to find the roadside fresh Georgia peach stand. Convenient stores, more and more these days, sell pre-cut fresh fruit, granola bars, etc. to quench a healthy appetite.

Sander's Cafe

Not to say our family may not occasionally stop at a fast food place while on the road (I could not help from stopping at the birthplace of KFC). However, when leaving from home, we make sure to pack plenty of prepackaged fruits and veggies, packets of apple sauce, and other healthier treats while on the road.

Stopping to go into a store to purchase some fresh food also allows for little ones to use the facility, diaper changes, hand washing, quick cleaning of the vehicle, and stretching of everyone’s legs.

You are cramped and uncomfortable:

This is one area you will never convince our family is better in an airplane. Granted, we never have been spoiled enough to be up in front with lie flat seats, but I much rather the ample room from a vehicle than a plane.

Coach seats of an airplane, while traveling with kids, and a bag or two of stuff to entertain them, is always cramped and uncomfortable. I personally do all of the driving for our family, and even without the convenience of being able to snooze off for a couple minutes, I will take being in control of a vehicle any day over a cramped plane seat with stale, recirculated air.

You power through:

Maybe it could be that our family spends so much time in a vehicle traveling, rather than on a plane, that we do not have the same complaints of having to struggle through car rides. Yes, travel, no way you put it, is not always ideal. Yes, there could be spats of tempers between two young boys in the back seat. However, we have groomed our boys from the moment our first son was born that road trips are fun.

We never fail to deliver on the other end (subject to behaviors on the way). We want to get to our destination as quickly as possible too. However, it also teaches us as parents to have some patients. Having a three (3) year old that just got done potty training means we need to stop for lots of potty breaks. Sometimes more than Daddy cares to want to make.

Mrs. InACents also does a fantastic job of entertaining all three of our boys on the car ride. Between hourly little presents, to surprise games and activities, to electronics, our boys get entertained and rewarded for good behavior on road trips.

I talk with lots of people, and they question how our kids are able to travel so long in the vehicle and they could never do it. Kids are adaptable, and believe it or not, so are adults. Yes the convenience of being able to get there quicker on a plane is nice, but what is that saying about enjoying the journey?

The scenery stinks:

I often have daydreams about having no destination or time schedule, and just hoping in the car and seeing where the roads take us. However, everytime I am on the road, I realize that just like Mommy Points mentions, there is not always a lot to see right off the freeway.

There were portions of our trip, such as the Great Smokey Mountains on the drive home, that were breathe taking beautiful, but the mid-portion of Ohio leaves one rather…empty.

Great Smokey Mountains

This is a big reason we also do not rush to cram a trip into one day of travel and schedule stops along the way. Kids are already sacrificing and “powering through” 8-12 hours a day of vehicle travel. Having an exciting stop along the way does great for everyone’s moral.

Traveling from Cleveland to Orlando, we stopped overnight in Mammoth Caves, then drove to Atlanta, and then stayed with friends for several days in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. At each of those stops, there were exciting events planned such as Mammoth Caves, Dinosaur World, World of Coke, plus hotels alone are such a huge highlight for our kids.

Better use of time in the air:

The big difference between traveling with one kid versus three, and being outnumbered parents:kids, is that regardless of whether I am on a plane or a vehicle, there is no better use of time.

As a parent, I am very cognizant of my surroundings, as well as how other people are perceiving my families behaviors. Therefore, a plane ride is pure torture for me, having to constantly worry about what the kids are doing, preventing fighting, yelling, etc. Kids are going to be kids, regardless of whether they are in a vehicle or plane. On top of it, magnify the amount of testosterone coming from this household, and boys will be boys. That also means though, that there is no time for dad to pull out his laptop and work. It may mean I can use a smartphone on occasion. Again I think there is a scale of how many kids are in the picture to where better us of time in the air is no longer feasible.

Driving is just plain scary:

This one I can hardly argue with. Even as a more “aggressive” driver, with a good awareness of what others are doing around me, you can often get into some scary situations. The scariest drivers we encountered this trip were in Kentucky, where even when our cruise control was set at 10 over, there were still lots of people darting in and around vehicles to get to their destination. They must have been powering through. 🙂

It gets annoying:

Again, three boys, testosterone, close quarters strapped in a seat belt, hungry bellies, lots of restroom stops. I get it. Things can get annoying in close quarters, but with many of the aforementioned, driving is not all that bad. Even after three days in a vehicle before really getting somewhere to relax.

Personally, I find air travel more of an annoyance, as I do not particularly like flying, and therefore, I have to try and be on my game as a dad and husband, watching all the luggage, coordinating, making sure everyone has their stuff. However, it is part of what I signed up for as a dad.

My best friends wife recently told us something that really changed my mind, and I digress a minute, so stick with me. Our kids try and sneak into the bed with us occasionally at night. All kids do it, and my wife and I were against it for the most part, and would usher them back to bed in a semi-conscience state.

Then my best friends wife made me realize that at some point in the future, those kids are going to grow up. They will not be sneaking into our beds anymore. As a sentimental guy, I cherish so many moments with our kids. That is the moment that I realized to snuggle them a little more, because 10 years from now I am going to look back and cherish those moments. (Note: We still encourage our boys to sleep in their own beds, but occasionally let it slide).

Driving just takes forever:

Driving does take exponentially longer than plane travel. For some trips, like cross-country, it may absolutely make sense to fly as opposed to driving. Our family is fortunate enough to have some flexibility with schedules, where we can factor in a couple extra days on the front and back ends of vacations to travel.

The one area people overlook though is that flying is not only the time spent in the air. It is the hour going to and from the airport, plus the two hours prior to departure to make sure there is plenty of time to usher three monsters to their gate. Suddenly a three hour flight now encompasses six to seven hours of time.

Counter that with those same amount of hours, our family is now in another state, already enjoying our first destination.

Do not get me wrong. After nearly two weeks traveling and at Disney, it was daunting to realize we were going to try and cram the drive home into two days, as opposed to the three coming. Twelve hours one day, and 10 hours the next (all those restroom stops add up). Maybe it was one of those power through moments where we all just wanted to get home.

As a family we did it! We made lots of great memories, not only for our family, but my wife’s parents and brother. We grew as a family. We learned how to tend to the needs of our children to minimize meltdowns after long days at a park.

I am not trying to argue air travel is better than a road trip or vice versa. Like every situation, your particular family dynamics may be more conducive to one form of travel over the other.

Magic Kingdom Monorail View

A little bit of suffering for a whole lot of gain.

Save Money, Travel More!

Source: Mommy Points

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4 thoughts on “10 Reasons Road Trips Are Better Than Flying

  1. Love it! Actually planned to write something similar showing the other side myself, but will use this as a jumping off point for sure. I think it largely comes down to time. You mention your big two week trip, and that sounds like fun (well, mostly), but we only have two weeks of vacation to use each year as a family, so the idea of zapping them all on one trip makes me hyperventilate a little. When you could get a few of those days back by flying instead of driving. I think that Pre-Check/easy airport process and currently just having a family of 3 also obviously play largely into the somewhat different views.

    Great post!

  2. Great post! With 2 kids, we are in that middle zone where the cost is tipping more towards road trips in some cases. But I just much prefer air travel and will pay a bit more to do it when I can. My particularly squirmy daughter has never had the personality to sit strapped into her car seat for hours on end, so that has tipped the balance for us the past 5 years. We shall see what the coming years bring now that we are traveling a lot with Baby #2!

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