I usually have CNN on the TV while I'm at the computer (I hesitate to say I'm working) and this story caught my attention today: Train or Plane? Travelers Weigh In.
It would be nice if Amtrak here on the West Coast was as convenient as it is (apparently) in the Northeast corridor. I checked schedules to a couple destinations I might be likely to travel to and they involved a lot of changing from bus to train and back again, as well as overnight travel. So – I checked Los Angeles to San Francisco. One would think this a pretty straightforward destination, but no; again, it involved changing from train to bus and back again. The train to Las Vegas is a straight shot – Los Angeles Union Station to Las Vegas. Then, I checked the travel time – a whopping 19 hours – for a distance that can be driven in less than 5. Wow. Even the fare isn't that great at $86, considering that most airlines have specials to Las Vegas for under $100.
Which got me thinking about my personal favorite form of travel – my car. Of course, gas prices being what they are, I'll probably be staying home a lot. Unfortunately, when gas prices go up, so do airfares – and driving was already cheaper and – in my opinion – more convenient than flying.
Take my most recent road trip. My brother passed away in February and I actually made reservations fly from Burbank to Salt Lake City. The fare probably would have been less if I'd made reservations a couple weeks (or months) in advance, but there are some circumstances that simply don't allow for that, and this was one of them. The cheapest fare I found was over $400. And, BTW, airlines don't give any kind of discount when you have to travel suddenly due to a death. I think they could at least offer the same fares they'd give if you were making a reservation well in advance, but that's just me. (I'd also give passengers more seat and leg room, which I also don't expect to see any time soon in air travel.)
The morning I was to leave, I was having lunch with my husband about 2 hours before I had to leave for the airport and I managed to talk myself out of flying. Because I'd made my reservations just the day before, I wasn't able to get any of the cheaper fares with restrictions, which turned out to be a good thing – I was able to cancel my reservation without penalty and get it credited back to my card.
There's one drawback about driving by yourself and kind of needing to be somewhere at a certain time. You can't really stop and take pictures. The drive through Southern Utah was absolutely gorgeous. There had been a big snowstorm two days before and although the roads were dry, the landscape was like driving through a Currier & Ives postcard. There was a top crust of ice on the snow and it sparkled and glittered in the morning sun. There were occasional old barns and small towns that looked really picturesque. You know – you can't see this stuff from an airplane.
My gas cost round trip was $250. In addition to the airfare of approximately $400, I also saved $200 on a one-week car rental, so overall I saved money by driving, even if it did take me longer to drive. If I'd driven straight through, the drive time would've been 3 to 4 hours more each way than the time it takes to fly (factoring in all the pre- and post-flight time necessary). All in all, I felt it was worth it to save over $300 and sit in a comfortable seat with complete control over my departure time.