How to Decide Whether It’s Cheaper to Drive or Fly This Summer

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Now that we’re in the third summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people who weren’t comfortable traveling in 2020 or 2021 have opted to do so this year. Unfortunately, a combination of factors—including high gas prices, a shortage of rental cars, increasing airfare, and fewer flights—mean that traveling during the summer of 2022 is not going to be cheap. (Or pleasant.)

When planning a trip, one of the biggest decisions we have to make is how we’re going to get to our destination—which, for most Americans, means either flying or driving. But which mode of transportation is better value right now?

Here are a few factors to consider when figuring out whether it’s cheaper to fly or drive this summer.

The number of people going

It helps to break travel costs down into the price per person, Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, recently told the Washington Post. Let’s say you’re heading to Nashville, and roundtrip airfare is $300, and gas would cost $250 total (and you have your own car).

If you’re traveling alone (and solely looking at airfare versus gas, and no other factors) flying would be cheaper than driving. But if you’re traveling with someone else (or additional people), driving would likely be the more affordable option.

What you’re doing when you get there

What’s on your agenda once you arrive at your destination? If you’ll primarily be sticking to one area that’s walkable or has decent public transit, you may be able to get away without having to rent a car for the duration of your trip.

But if your plans involve exploring a location that requires a car to get around, and you opt to fly rather than drive to your destination, you may end up having to rent a vehicle when you arrive. Don’t forget to include the cost of car rental (and gas) into your estimated expenses.

The value of your time and mental well-being

In addition to the monetary costs, also factor in the value of your time and mental well-being.

For example, is spending time in an overcrowded airport waiting for a flight that ultimately could end up being cancelled going to stress you out so much that it’ll make it hard for you to relax on the rest of your trip? Or, would driving technically work out to be cheaper than flying, but take three times as long?

Not everyone has the luxury of taking the value of their time and well-being into consideration, but if you do, it’s not something to ignore.

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