Travel Tips

Vacation Planning 101: Is It Better To Fly Or Drive?

A super simple guide

The Vacationeer
Woman and young child walking along The Battery, Charleston, South Carolina.

Unless you’re planning a trip to travel across an ocean or take a cross-country road trip, you’ve likely wondered, “should I drive or fly?” during the vacation planning process. The answer to this weighty question isn’t one size fits all; both have positives and negatives. 

Outside of choosing your destination and travel dates, deciding how you’ll get there is one of the most important details of your trip. Whether you drive or fly depends on various factors.

7 Questions To Answer Before Deciding Whether To Drive Or Fly     

Start by putting the proverbial “pen to paper” and answer the following questions.

Exterior image, Liberty Place Charleston, a Hilton Club, cotton candy colored skies overhead.
  1. How many days do you have for your vacation?
  2. Who are you traveling with?
  3. How many hours would it take to drive?
  4. Are there sites along the way you’d enjoy seeing?
  5. Would you need a car at your destination? 
  6. How many people are traveling with you?
  7. How much does it cost to fly versus drive?

Some websites tout vacation planning calculators that recommend the most cost-effective route based on pre-determined factors. Still, you can calculate the costs the old-fashioned way (using a spreadsheet, of course). 

Begin by researching airfare to your destination for your desired dates. The internet abounds with options for finding competitively priced flights — take your time and shop around. Once you have your flight price, build out the price of your trip. 

How Much Does It Cost To Fly?

Some line items you’ll want to list on your spreadsheet as flight expenses are: 

Woman showing young child the harbor, The Battery, Charleston, South Carolina.    
  • Airport parking fees for the duration of your trip, if applicable
  • Alternatively, if you will use a ride-share service or a taxi to get to the airport
  • Airline baggage fees
  • Travel day meals
  • Ground transportation at the destination (rental car and fees, ride-share, taxi, etc.)

How Much Does It Cost To Drive?

From there, you can complete the same exercise for the costs of driving. Expenses you should consider are:

  • Pre-trip car maintenance
  • Gas
  • Travel day meals
  • Lodging, if your trip is long enough to stop for one or more nights before arriving at your destination 
  • Parking costs and tolls

Final Factors

The cost comparison will give you a good foundation to decide whether you drive or fly. Ultimately, other intangible factors will also come into play. 

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge at sunset, boats in bay, Charleston, South Carolina.    

Here are four additional considerations:

  • How would a flight delay or cancellation impact your trip? If you’re not traveling more than seven hours away, and it’s a quick trip for a special event (think: a wedding, graduation, etc.), you may not want to risk it. Driving may make more sense in this case. 
  • How long will the road trip take? If your destination is 1,200 miles away, it will take at least two days round-trip. If your vacation is only a week, you’ll spend more time in the car than vacationing.
  • Are there sights you’d like to see while driving, or do you have family or friends to visit along the way? If so, you may not mind spending so much time on the road — it would be part of the vacation.
  • Are you traveling with small children, the elderly or a person with other special needs? If so, it may be better to travel exclusively one way. 

Read "10 Summer Vacation Must-Haves To Pack On Your Next Getaway" for more vacation planning inspiration, plus a free printable packing list. 

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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