When you say the words “road trip,” you might imagine a five- or six-hour journey in the car. But my family has taken the concept much further than that.
Through the years, my family of five has completed dozens of road trips, some of which had us clocking in 5,000 miles or more. (I believe our longest stretch to date is New Jersey to Montana, with many stops along the way.)
Now, some people will tell you that the idea of a multi-day road trip with kids is far from appealing. And to be fair, road trips aren’t for everyone. But here’s why my family commonly jumps in the car when we travel and almost never boards a plane.
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1. Driving tends to be cheaper
My husband and I save money during the year and do our best to bank credit card points so we can take our family on vacation. But even so, we’ve found throughout the years that driving places is a heck of a lot cheaper than getting on an airplane.
The average cost of a domestic flight in the U.S. is around $380 this year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. But because there are five of us, that might put our average cost at $1,900 — and that’s not including getting to and from the airport or checking luggage.
Also, while the average cost of a flight in 2023 might be $380, some destinations are a lot more expensive to get to. When we drove to Montana a few summers back, we were looking at around $5,000 to fly out as a family. Between paying for lodging, gas, and food on a multi-day drive, we spent around $2,000 to get there by car instead.
2. We don’t want to deal with delays
Although flight delays seem to have become more commonplace in recent years, the reality is that they’ve always been a problem. And when you’re traveling with young kids, the last thing you want is to have to wrangle bored little humans in the airport for hours on end while you wait for your plane to show up.
The upside of traveling by car is that aside from traffic, we don’t have to deal with delays. And when traffic holds us up and my kids get bored, at least it happens within the confines of our vehicle, and we don’t have to worry about them running all over an airport to burn off energy.
3. We get to discover new things on our journeys
Although my family tends to drive to save money and avoid the hassle of air travel, the reality is that we like getting off the beaten path and discovering new things, whether it’s hiking trails, overlooks, local museums, or restaurants. On a recent road trip, we tasted what’s billed as “America’s Worst Apple Pie.” (Spoiler alert: It was delicious.) Had we flown to our destination, that’s an eatery we never would’ve come across.
Now to be fair, we specifically bake in extra time during our road trips to explore new places on a whim. But to us, that’s a big part of the fun.
Consider the upside of driving
Long road trips aren’t for everyone. And if you’re someone with limited vacation time, then driving when you travel may not work well for you.
It can also be more economical to fly to your destination if you’re single. And if you’re not bringing kids along, you may be better equipped to deal with airport delays.
But if you’re tired of paying sky-high prices to fly and your last few trips have been aggravating due to extensive delays, then you may want to consider driving to your next vacation destination rather than flying. You’ll need to crunch the numbers to see what makes sense financially, though, keeping in mind that if you can’t do your road trip in a day, you’ll be looking at spending money on lodging on top of gas and food.
But let’s say it costs $500 to fly to your next destination and you’re able to drive the 500 miles it takes to get there in a day. If your car gets 25 miles to the gallon and gas is $3.50 a gallon, you’re looking at spending just $70. That leaves you with an extra $430 to spend on a nicer hotel, food, and entertainment at your destination. Or you can bank the difference and reserve it for your next vacation.
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