Money Advice

What’s the Best Way to Travel During the Holidays? – Cost & Time Considerations

As the previous tune says, there’s no place like house for the holidays. But judging by the statistics, for tens of millions of Americans, “home” means someplace aside from the place they reside year-round.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, throughout the nation, the variety of long-distance journeys – not less than 50 miles every approach – will increase by 54% over Thanksgiving weekend, and by 23% from Christmas by way of New Year’s Day. Most of that improve comes from folks touring to go to family and friends.

For Americans, driving is by far the hottest approach to head house for the holidays. More than 9 out of ten long-distance journeys over Thanksgiving and Christmas are made by automobile. Air journey accounts for less than 5% to 6% of all journeys, and trains and buses account for lower than 3%.

Driving is an interesting possibility for vacation journeys as a result of it’s low cost and handy. Gas and tolls value quite a bit much less than airplane tickets, particularly for a complete household. Plus, you possibly can go away by yourself schedule and carry as a lot baggage as the trunk will maintain. Still, driving is a reasonably sluggish and uncomfortable approach to journey, particularly on lengthy journeys with kids.

Of course, many vacation vacationers don’t actually have a alternative in the matter. If you reside in San Francisco and your loved ones lives in Boston, you will have to fly out to go to them or else spend a number of days in transit. And for brief journeys of 100 miles or much less, flying isn’t actually an possibility in any respect. Even if you happen to might get a flight that brief, you’d spend extra time touring to the airport and going by way of check-in than it might take to drive straight to your vacation spot.

But for journeys of reasonable size – say, between 100 and 1,000 miles – the alternative is just a little murkier. There are loads of various factors to steadiness: the value of the journey, the time concerned, security, and comfort. And for eco-conscious vacationers, there’s additionally the question of how a lot air air pollution it produces.

So taking all that into consideration, what’s actually the finest approach to journey?

To answer that question, let’s have a look at two totally different vacation journeys. The first is a pair making a week-long journey from New Jersey to Indianapolis – simply as my husband and I do each year at Christmas. And the second is a household of 4 touring from Boston to New Jersey for the weekend – simply as my sister’s household does at Thanksgiving. Comparing how the totally different strategies stack up for us can provide you an thought of how they’re doubtless to stack up for you.


kids traveling in a car

The value of a visit in {dollars} is fairly simple to calculate. For air, practice, or bus journey, you possibly can simply search for the value of a ticket. For driving, you possibly can multiply the variety of miles by $0.54 – the commonplace mileage rate set by the Internal Revenue Service. This rate elements in the value of gasoline in addition to put on and tear on the automobile.

However, a protracted journey has different prices moreover the precise transportation. For instance, most individuals can’t make it by way of a number of hours of journey with out stopping for a meal. Air journey also can embody charges for “extras” like checked baggage. And highway journeys usually contain freeway tolls.

So let’s check out how all these prices add up for our two pattern journeys. We’ll take every mode of transport so as: flying, driving, bus, and practice.

Costs for Flying

New Jersey to Indianapolis
To calculate how a lot it might value for me and my husband to fly to Indianapolis for every week, I used the Fly or Drive Calculator at BeFrugal. It put the whole value of the journey at about $1,249. This contains $1,024 for 2 round-trip tickets, $100 in baggage charges, and $125 for parking and taking the shuttle at the airport.

However, this doesn’t embody any prices for meals. We’d pay round $8 every for a meal or snack on every leg of the journey, growing the whole price ticket for the journey to $1,281.

Boston to New Jersey
The journey from Boston to New Jersey is shorter, so the value per ticket is decrease. But my sister’s household has 4 folks, so the tickets for this brief journey would nonetheless come to $1,206. They’d additionally pay $200 for luggage charges and $80 for parking and transportation at the airport.

Getting house from the airport is one other expense. Since there are 4 of them – together with two who should journey in automobile seats – they couldn’t simply get a carry in my dad’s small automobile. They’d want a rental automobile, which might tack on one other $200.

Finally, there’s the value of meals. With two small children, even a brief hop is just too far to go with out meals. So they’d have to add round $64 for these, bringing the tab for the journey to $1,750. All instructed, this brief journey for 4 prices fairly a bit greater than my husband and I might pay to journey greater than twice the distance.

Saving on Air Travel
Of course, there are methods to decrease the value for each these journeys. For instance, we might:

  • Find Cheaper Flights. Both households might most likely fly for much less by taking a much less direct route or going by way of a special airport. However, this might additionally make the journey longer. That is perhaps okay for me and my husband, however it might be arduous on my sister’s household. With small children, an extended journey simply will increase the probabilities of a meltdown.
  • Avoid Checking Bags. Airlines cost about $25 every approach for every checked bag. So by touring with solely carry-on baggage, it can save you round $50 per individual. You additionally get to skip the baggage declare at the airport and keep away from any threat of lost baggage. However, touring gentle might be troublesome when you will have children (or vacation items).
  • Bring Food. Airplane meals is notoriously overpriced. By packing our personal snacks for the journey, we might save between $30 and $60. But sadly, that’s solely a drop in the bucket in contrast to the whole journey value.

Costs for Driving

According to the Fly or Drive calculator, a spherical journey drive from New Jersey to Indianapolis and again prices about $189. This contains roughly $95 for gasoline, $67 for put on and tear on our automobile, and $27 for tolls. The tolls are a bit cheaper for us as a result of we get a reduction for our E-ZPass. Without it, the whole value of the journey could be $293. Once once more, this doesn’t embody meal prices, which provides about $20 for every leg of the journey, bringing our whole to $229.

The shorter journey from Boston to New Jersey can also be cheaper. It prices about $50 for gasoline, $33 for put on and tear, and $12 for tolls. This is the worth with an E-ZPass. Without one, tolls would value a further $7.

A shorter journey additionally makes it potential to drive by way of with out stopping for a meal. All the household wants is about $5 price of snacks to eat in the automobile. All instructed, the journey by automobile prices $100 – a lot lower than flying.

Once once more, there are steps that would make each these journeys even cheaper. For instance, we might pack our personal meals in the automobile so we wouldn’t have to cease for a meal. We might additionally take totally different routes to keep away from toll roads and drive extra slowly to enhance gasoline mileage.

Costs for Bus or Train Travel

New Jersey to Indianapolis
To discover details about bus and practice journey from New Jersey to Indianapolis, I checked Wanderu, a journey website that searches offers from bus and practice corporations. It discovered a approach for us to get there on a sequence of Amtrak trains for $528 spherical journey.

However, we’d have to catch our practice at a park-and-ride station about 9 miles away from our home. To get there, we’d have to take a separate commuter practice with a fare of $2.25 every approach. That would add a complete of $9 to the value of the journey.

On prime of that, to catch the commuter practice, we’d have to get a trip to the nearest practice station. We couldn’t simply drive and go away our automobile there, as a result of it has no long-term parking. So if a pal couldn’t drive us, we’d have to use Uber for $6.55 every approach.

Finally, there’s the value of meals. Many long-haul trains have a cafeteria automobile the place you should purchase meals for round $10 per individual. For a visit this lengthy, we’d have to eat not less than three meals en route every approach. That would deliver the whole value of the journey to about $670.

As for buses, Wanderu couldn’t discover any. However, once I checked Greyhound, I discovered a bus that would take us from Newark to Indianapolis for $348 spherical journey. We’d even have to take a separate practice to Newark for $36 spherical journey, plus an Uber to the station for $13 each methods. Add $60 for checked baggage and round $80 for meals, and the journey would value $537 whole.

Boston to New Jersey
For the journey from Boston to New Jersey, Wanderu was in a position to discover much more choices. One route concerned taking an Amtrak practice from Boston to New York, then catching a Megabus from there to Princeton.

At that time, somebody would have to come choose the household up for the journey again to my dad and mom’ home. In reality, they’d have to be picked up in two separate automobiles, as a result of they wouldn’t all slot in one together with the driver. Fortunately, it’s solely a brief journey, so taking two automobiles wouldn’t be too impractical.

This route would value $117 per individual, every approach. They’d even have to pay a complete of $9 every approach for subway fare to and from the station in Boston. And in New York, they’d have to take a cab between stations, which might add one other $8 or so. So for the 4 of them, the spherical journey would value $970.

Wanderu additionally discovered a route that used Megabus solely. This was cheaper – $36 per individual, every approach. However, they’d nonetheless have to change stations in New York, and so they’d nonetheless have to get to the station in Boston. So the whole for the spherical journey could be $322.

The Bottom Line on Cost

For each journeys, driving is by far the most cost-effective possibility. For us, from New Jersey to Indianapolis, the value of driving is lower than one-fifth the value of flying. For my sister’s household, touring from Boston to New Jersey, the worth distinction is much more dramatic. They could make the journey by automobile for roughly 6% of what it might value to fly.

Train and bus journey fall someplace in the center. For us, touring by practice would value about half as a lot as flying – however nonetheless practically 3 times as a lot as driving. The bus would value about 42% as a lot as flying, however greater than twice as a lot as driving.

For my sister’s household, the train-plus-bus route prices 55% as a lot as flying – just a little pricier than it’s for us. The all-bus route is a significantly better deal, at 18% of the value of flying. However, it nonetheless prices greater than 3 times as a lot as driving.


family traveling on an airplane

The greatest benefit of flying is that it’s a lot quicker than touring by automobile, bus, or practice. However, if you fly, the time in the air is just a part of your journey. You even have to get to and from the airport, undergo check-in, wait round between flights, and choose up your baggage. Add all this collectively and air journey can find yourself taking longer than driving – not less than for brief journeys.

Of course, all the identical delays apply to buses and trains as nicely. In addition, trains and buses normally make many stops, so that you spend further time ready for different folks to get on and off. Also, except you really reside subsequent to a station or cease, it’s inconceivable to discover a practice or bus that goes straight from your property to your vacation spot. Most take an oblique route that prices you further time.

Time for Flying

According to the Fly or Drive calculator, a flight from Newark Airport to Indianapolis takes simply over two hours. However, my husband and I might additionally want two hours to journey to the airport and undergo check-in. At the different finish, we’d want just a little over an hour to gather our baggage and trip from the airport to his dad and mom’ home. That places our whole journey time at 5 hours and 12 minutes.

My sister and her household have a shorter flight – just a little over one hour. But they would wish an hour and 40 minutes to get to the airport and check-in, and so they’d take over two and a half hours to filter out of the airport, choose up a rental automobile, and drive to my dad and mom’ home. All instructed, their journey time could be 5 hours and 24 minutes. So their brief journey would really take longer than ours.

Time for Driving

The Fly or Drive calculator says it takes 10 hours and 29 minutes to drive from New Jersey to Indianapolis. But based mostly on our expertise, that’s just a little optimistic. We normally run into site visitors sooner or later on the journey, which provides about half an hour to our driving time. Add one other hour for meal and loo breaks, and the journey normally takes a complete of 12 hours.

For my sister’s household, the whole driving time is 4 hours and 43 minutes from door to door. They want to make some stops on the approach, however solely brief ones. So with half an hour for breaks, the whole journey time comes to 5 hours, 13 minutes. It really takes them barely much less time to drive than it does to fly.

Time by Bus or Train

Here’s the place we begin to see the actual draw back of touring lengthy distances by practice. Our journey to Indianapolis would contain 4 separate trains, plus a cab trip to the station, plus a carry house at the different finish. The whole time from door to door could be 26 hours. That’s proper – it might take greater than a full day for a visit that we might make by automobile in 12 hours.

The journey by bus is nearly as dangerous. We’d spend 18 hours and 35 minutes on the bus itself, every approach. We’d additionally spend half-hour on the connecting practice, plus 10 extra getting to the practice station. Add 20 minutes for the trip house at the finish, and the journey would take a complete of 19 hours and 35 minutes.

For the shorter journey from Boston, practice journey appears to be like a bit higher. The journey by practice and bus would take seven hours and 25 minutes, together with a two-hour layover in New York. The journey by bus alone takes roughly the identical period of time.

However, the household would even have to take the subway to the practice or bus station. Counting the time to stroll to the station and await trains at each ends, this might add about half-hour to the journey. There would even be a 20 minute automobile trip house at the finish. So all instructed, the journey from door to door would take eight hours and quarter-hour.

The Bottom Line on Time

Flying is clearly the quickest approach to get from New Jersey to Indianapolis. It takes lower than half so long as driving and fewer than one-quarter so long as touring by practice.

However, for the shorter journey from Boston to New Jersey, flying has no actual benefit over driving. It takes roughly the identical period of time both approach. But even for this shorter journey, the practice or bus is clearly the slowest approach to go. It provides an additional three hours to the journey, growing its size by greater than 50%.


winter car drive road travel

Comparing journey value and time is fairly easy. In each instances, it comes down to a single determine: the whole value of the journey in {dollars} and cents or the whole time in hours and minutes.

But comfort is quite a bit more durable to work out. Instead of a easy quantity, it’s a mix of loads of various factors, corresponding to the schedule of the journey, your consolation stage, and the stress concerned. The weight you give to every of those elements is partly a matter of personal choice. Some folks need to be comfy in any respect prices, whereas others are keen to sacrifice consolation for the sake of controlling their schedule.

To examine comfort for our two pattern journeys, I’ve checked out every considered one of these elements individually. Then, I’ve added all of them up to determine which type of journey is most handy for every journey. However, remember the fact that that is one space the place your mileage might fluctuate.


Even although the practice journey from New Jersey to Indianapolis takes greater than a full day, the time isn’t my really greatest downside with it. The actual downside is how that point is distributed.

To begin, we’d have to get a trip to the practice station earlier than 9am so as to catch a 9:07am practice. Then, we’d have to catch a second practice at the park-and-ride station. That practice would take us down to Philadelphia, the place we’d have to wait an hour and 40 minutes for our subsequent connection. That third practice would drop us off round 8pm in Pittsburgh, the place we’d have to wait greater than seven hours to catch our last practice –  at 3:40am.

The schedule for the shorter hop from Boston to New Jersey isn’t as dangerous, but it surely’s nonetheless awkward. For starters, the household would have to go away the home by 7am to make sure of constructing it to the station in time to catch an 8:05am practice. Then, after they bought to New York, they’d have to bundle right into a cab to get to a special station to catch their bus.

Once they bought to the different station, they’d have to wait over an hour earlier than the bus was prepared to go away. And after they lastly made it to Princeton, they’d all have to wait round some extra for somebody to come and choose them up. Looking at these schedules, it’s simple to see why trains and buses are the least fashionable approach to journey lengthy distances on this nation.

This might be the single greatest perk of constructing a protracted journey by automobile: you will have full management of your schedule. You can rise up and hit the highway everytime you like, as a substitute of getting up at daybreak to catch an early practice. If you find yourself leaving jiffy late, all it means is that you simply arrive a couple of minutes late – there’s no likelihood that you simply’ll miss your trip and never arrive in any respect. And when you’re on the highway, you possibly can cease and take a break everytime you’d like as a substitute of getting to wait till you pull into the subsequent station.


In many elements of this nation, there simply aren’t any bus or practice stations in any respect. They’re pretty frequent in the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest, however in the center of the nation, you’ll solely discover them in the largest cities. So if you happen to don’t occur to reside close to a type of cities, taking a practice or a bus wherever is totally impractical.

Even between giant cities, there are solely a really restricted variety of bus and practice routes. So if you need to journey from, say, Cleveland to Detroit, you would possibly find yourself having to go all the approach to Chicago after which backtrack. Of course, many small cities don’t have airports both, however there’s usually some type of shuttle service that may take you to the nearest one.

For me and my husband, it’s technically potential to journey to Indianapolis by bus or practice – but it surely isn’t simple. For my sister’s household, it’s simpler, however nonetheless much more difficult than touring by automobile. Air journey on the different hand is straightforward to e-book for each of us.


Spending time on a practice is much more comfy than sitting in a automobile. Unless the practice is unusually full, you will have much more room to unfold out and loosen up. You also can rise up at any time to stretch your legs, go to the rest room, or go get a snack from the cafe automobile. It’s even potential to e-book a “roomette” with a mattress for a long-haul journey.

Buses and airplanes, against this, are even much less comfy than a automobile. Not solely are you caught in your set, however you’re crowded in with a bunch of strangers as a substitute of simply your personal household. If you need to rise up, you will have to await the seat belt signal to go off, then climb over a bunch of individuals simply to get to the tiny cubicle that passes for a loo.

If the size of the journey had been the identical every approach, I’d positively want to journey to Indianapolis by practice slightly than by automobile. But the time concerned and the awkward schedule just about cancels out the comforts of practice journey. For my sister and her household, there could be even much less benefit, since they’d have to make a part of the journey in a crowded bus.

train ride in wintertime

Luggage Limits

When you will have a bunch of vacation items to transport, space is essential. If you’re touring by automobile, you possibly can simply pack as a lot as the trunk will maintain. On trains, you possibly can normally verify one bag free of charge, and greater than that if you happen to’re keen to pay further. Buses and planes are the most limiting, normally charging further for something greater than a carry-on bag.

And airplanes have an additional downside on prime of that: there’s at all times a threat that your checked baggage can be lost or broken. On a bus or practice, you possibly can normally watch your baggage being loaded and ensure every little thing finally ends up the place it belongs.

For me and my husband, that is considered one of the greatest benefits of driving. Traveling by bus, practice, or airplane would pressure us to ship most of our vacation items individually as a substitute of carrying them with us.

My sister’s household doesn’t want to haul items at Thanksgiving, however they do want to carry sufficient stuff for 4 folks – together with automobile seats for the children. When they take their very own automobile, the seats go along with them routinely. If they took a bus, practice, or airplane, they’d have to carry them individually, which might be a giant nuisance.


When you’re driving a automobile, there’s not a lot else you are able to do at the identical time. You can pay attention to the radio or chat along with your passengers when you’ve got any, however you possibly can’t do something that takes your eyes or your consideration off the highway.

But if you’re using on a bus, practice, or airplane, you are able to do a lot of different issues along with your time. You can learn a e-book, take a nap, verify your e-mail, and even deliver a laptop computer and get some work accomplished. Train journey offers you the most choices for maintaining your self busy as a result of trains normally have loads of shops and, in lots of instances, free WiFi. It’s more durable to plug in your devices on a bus, and on a airplane, you possibly can’t use your mobile connection in any respect when you’re in the air.

For our lengthy journey to Indiana, having the ability to play playing cards or verify e-mail would definitely make the time move quicker. But even in the automobile, we can chat or play speaking video games like “twenty questions,” so this isn’t such a giant deal. It would most likely be extra useful for my sister’s household since the children might play with their toys on the practice. Still, they’d have to be sure all these toys bought put away earlier than they arrived, which might add to the stress of the journey.


Each sort of journey has its personal sources of stress. In a automobile, the most important supply is the driving itself. You have to wind your approach by way of site visitors, keep away from accidents, and put up with the honking horns and blaring radios of different drivers.

On a bus, another person takes care of the precise driving, however you continue to have to cope with site visitors noise and delays. On prime of that, you will have to fear about catching your bus and making your connections on time. On a practice, you possibly can keep away from site visitors utterly, however you continue to have all the hassle of sticking to a schedule.

When you fly, you will have all those self same schedule worries, plus the added hassles of getting to (and getting round) the airport, checking baggage, going by way of safety, and so forth. For many individuals, this makes flying the most nerve-racking of all.

For my household, driving is the least nerve-racking approach to journey. The freedom of having the ability to set our personal schedule and cease after we like greater than outweighs the hassles of driving. For my sister’s household, the advantages of driving are even larger. The hassles of air, practice, and bus journey are dangerous sufficient with solely two folks. With two kids to preserve in line, the journey could be much more nerve-racking.

The Bottom Line on Convenience

In phrases of comfort, automobile journey has many benefits. First of all, you possibly can journey from any level on the map to some other with out having to fear about out there routes. You also can set your personal schedule and carry as a lot baggage as your automobile will maintain.

On the different hand, driving isn’t as comfy as touring by practice. It additionally doesn’t provide you with as a lot freedom throughout the journey. Train journey permits you to do extra along with your journey time, whereas driving time is just about wasted time.

On the complete, this one appears to be like like a toss-up between driving and practice journey. It mainly comes down to a question of whether or not you will get a practice that goes instantly from your property metropolis to your vacation spot. If that’s potential, you possibly can get pleasure from the consolation of practice journey with out an excessive amount of added trouble. But when you’ve got to make a bunch of transfers on the approach, practice journey turns into a sophisticated mess that’s way more hassle than driving.

For me and my husband, there’s no approach to take a practice from New Jersey to Indianapolis with out making a number of transfers. Even for my sister’s household, the journey entails not less than one switch. So for us, the automobile trumps the practice for comfort.


view from an airplane seat

Flying makes lots of people nervous. They can’t board a airplane with out worrying about the concept that it might crash. Driving, on the different hand, is one thing most of us do daily with out a second thought. We’re so used to it that we don’t consider it as a risk.

But if you happen to have a look at the precise statistics, this mind-set is totally backward. On a mile-for-mile foundation, you’re really a lot safer touring in a airplane than in a automobile.

Comparing Safety Rates

The finest approach to examine the security of various kinds of journey is to rely the variety of deaths per passenger mile. A passenger mile is one mile traveled by one individual. So if 1,000 folks all make a visit of 1,000 miles, that’s a complete of 1 million passenger miles. If a type of 100 folks dies in an accident, the demise rate for the journey is one demise per a million passenger miles.

A 2013 examine in Research in Transportation Economics calculated this determine for a number of totally different modes of journey. Here’s how they examine:

  • Air Travel. Flying in a industrial airliner is palms down the most secure approach to journey. The demise rate is 0.07 for each billion passenger miles traveled. In different phrases, for each hundred billion individuals who journey by airline, there’s lower than one demise. If you took a 500 mile flight daily for a complete year, your threat of dying could be solely 1 in 85,000.
  • Bus Travel. Bus accidents kill about 40 folks per year – and 10 of these 40 are drivers and different individuals who work for the bus company. This provides up to an total fatality of 0.11 for each billion passenger miles. That makes bus journey about 65% extra harmful than flying, however nonetheless very secure total.
  • Train Travel. Most of the folks killed by trains on this nation are pedestrians, drivers, or railway staff who’re struck by trains. If you rely all these deaths, the fatality rate for long-haul trains comes to 0.43 per billion passenger miles. However, if you happen to look solely at folks touring on the trains, the fatality rate drops to 0.15 per billion passenger miles. That makes practice journey practically, however not fairly, as secure as bus journey.
  • Driving. Riding in a automobile or gentle truck is nearly the most harmful approach there may be to journey. Drivers and passengers have a fatality rate of seven.3 per billion passenger miles. That’s 67 occasions as excessive as the threat for bus journey and greater than 100 occasions as excessive as the threat for flying. Only bikes are riskier, inflicting a whopping 212 deaths per billion passenger miles.

Staying Safe on the Road

Although driving is riskier than different modes of journey, it’s nonetheless fairly secure. As a 2013 examine by the U.S. Department of Transportation factors out, the demise rate from automobile journey in 2010 was lower than one-third what it was again in 1975.

The examine additionally notes that some varieties of driving pose extra threat than others. Ways to keep safer on the highway embody:

  • Sticking to Urban Areas. It would possibly look like busy metropolis streets needs to be extra harmful than nation roads. But in accordance to the examine, automobile vacationers are literally 2.7 occasions extra doubtless to be killed in rural areas. Rural roads have a tendency to have increased velocity limits, worse lighting, and fewer curves and different units to sluggish drivers down. So a well-traveled route is a safer route to your highway journey.
  • Having an Experienced Driver. People aged between 18 and 29 are 50% to 90% extra doubtless to die in an auto accident than older folks. So if you happen to’re touring with your loved ones, it is smart to put an older, extra skilled driver behind the wheel as a lot as potential.
  • Wearing Seat Belts. Nearly half of all folks killed in auto accidents are adults not sporting seat belts or kids not utilizing automobile seats. So simply by buckling up, you possibly can immediately reduce your threat in half.
  • Staying Sober. It goes with out saying that nobody who has been ingesting ought to get behind the wheel of a automobile. But the examine sheds a clearer gentle on simply how harmful ingesting and driving actually is. It exhibits that alcohol is a think about roughly one out of three site visitors deaths, with not less than one individual concerned having a blood alcohol stage above the authorized restrict.
  • Staying Focused. Distractions corresponding to cell telephones might be simply as dangerous to your driving as alcohol. A 2004 examine by the Brookings Institution used a driving simulator to examine the efficiency of drivers who had been legally drunk with drivers speaking on a cellphone. It discovered that the telephone customers had been much more impaired than the drunks – even when the cellphone was hands-free.

The backside line is that there’s most likely no approach to make driving as secure as flying, and even using a bus or a practice. But with some affordable precautions, you possibly can preserve the threat low sufficient that it shouldn’t deter you from making your journey by automobile.

On the different hand, if you happen to really want to fly, it’s good to know that you simply don’t want to fear about your security in the air. Statistically talking, you’re safer up there than you’d be in your automobile on the floor.

Carbon Footprint

green travel ecofriendly

For eco-conscious vacationers, there’s one last issue to contemplate: the environmental impression of your journey. Cars, buses, trains, and planes all produce air air pollution – some much more than others.

The easiest method to examine how totally different types of journey have an effect on the atmosphere is to have a look at their carbon footprints. True, CO2 is just a part of the air pollution that touring produces. But in lots of instances, an even bigger carbon footprint comes with different pollution as nicely.

To examine the carbon prices of flying versus driving, I used the Fly or Drive Calculator from BeFrugal. It offers an estimate of the carbon impression of your journey, together with its value and time.

For different varieties of journey, I used a 2008 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). It compares the carbon impression of various kinds of journey for brief, medium, and lengthy journeys. It additionally exhibits how the finest decisions change relying on how many individuals are touring.

New Jersey to Indianapolis

The UCS report calculates the carbon impression for journeys of three totally different lengths: 100, 500, and 1,000 miles. Our journey from New Jersey to Indianapolis is about 700 miles every approach, so it’s closest to the center quantity.

According to UCS, for a visit this lengthy with two vacationers, the greenest possibility is a long-haul bus, adopted by a practice. Driving in a “typical car” is the subsequent most suitable choice, and flying in coach class is available in fourth.

These numbers slot in with the figures I bought from the Fly or Drive Calculator. According to its figures, a round-trip flight from New Jersey to Indianapolis produces 2,264 kilos of CO2. Driving in our fuel-efficient automobile produces 1,027 kilos – lower than half as a lot.

Boston to New Jersey

For my sister’s household, the numbers are just a little totally different. Their small SUV isn’t as environment friendly as our automobile, however they’ve 4 folks in it, in order that they’re producing much less carbon per individual. Also, their journey is shorter – rather less than 300 miles every approach. This places it nearer to a brief journey by the requirements of the UCS report.

UCS says that for a brief journey with 4 vacationers, a bus remains to be the greenest approach to go. However, driving with this many individuals is available in forward of taking the practice. Even if you happen to make the journey in an SUV as a substitute of a “typical car,” driving remains to be greener. Flying stays the worst possibility of the lot.

In reality, in accordance to the Fly or Drive Calculator, driving isn’t simply greener than flying for this journey – it’s a lot greener. This website says a round-trip flight from Boston to New Jersey produces 2,482 kilos of CO2. By distinction, making the drive – even in a compact SUV – produces solely 499 kilos.

Making Travel Greener

Most folks aren’t going to make their resolution about how to journey based mostly solely on carbon footprint. Therefore, the UCS report additionally presents some normal recommendations on how to make your journey greener, irrespective of the way you journey.


  • Stick to Coach Class. Flying in coach class isn’t simply cheaper than flying top quality – it’s additionally greener. A primary-class seat takes up practically twice as a lot space on the airplane, so a passenger in that seat is accountable for twice as large a share of the airplane’s carbon output.
  • Bigger Is Better. Bigger planes are normally greener than smaller ones. They use extra gasoline and put out extra carbon in whole. But as a result of they’ve extra seats, they emit much less per passenger.
  • Fly Direct. Nonstop flights have a tendency to produce much less carbon than multi-stop journeys. The much less direct your route is, the extra miles you cover in the air. Nonstop flights save time as nicely. Unfortunately, the draw back is that they have a tendency to be pricier.


  • Driving Is Better for Short Trips. Driving tends to be considered one of the greenest choices for journeys of 100 miles or much less. However, the longer the journey is, the decrease automobile journey ranks on the inexperienced scale. For journeys of 1,000 miles or extra, trains and even airplanes are higher.
  • The More Passengers, the Better. The extra folks there are in the automobile, the smaller your carbon footprint is per passenger. For a household of 4, driving is at all times greener than taking a practice or a airplane. For solo drivers and {couples}, the practice is at all times higher.
  • Fuel Efficiency Matters. The identical journey is far greener in a small automobile than in a giant one. For every mile traveled, a giant, gas-guzzling SUV produces practically 4 occasions the carbon emissions of an environment friendly hybrid automobile. If you don’t personal a fuel-efficient automobile, UCS recommends renting one for lengthy highway journeys.
  • Avoid Traffic. A automobile makes use of extra gasoline when it’s driving in heavy site visitors. According to the report, a automobile caught in site visitors can produce twice as a lot CO2 as the identical automobile cruising at freeway velocity. UCS recommends planning your drive so that you simply aren’t on the highway at rush hour. It additionally suggests getting a GPS unit that may provide you with a warning to site visitors scorching spots so you possibly can steer round them. As a bonus, avoiding site visitors means a quicker and fewer nerve-racking journey.

Trains and Buses

  • Buses Are the Greenest. Long-haul buses, often known as motor coaches, are practically at all times the greenest approach to journey. For a pair, taking the bus cuts the carbon footprint of the journey practically in half in contrast to driving – even in a hybrid automobile. Bus journey doesn’t have to be uncomfortable both. The report notes that many more recent buses are loaded with facilities, together with seat-back video, satellite tv for pc radio, and free WiFi.
  • Try Trains in the Northeast. The Northeast Corridor – from Washington, D.C. up to Boston – is the best-developed section of Amtrak’s rail community. Travelers on this space have extra trains to select from, together with high-speed Acela trains. And as a result of these trains all run on electrical energy, they’re greener than the diesel trains utilized in another elements of the nation.
  • Look for Local Rail Stations. For vacationers exterior the Northeast, trains can nonetheless be an possibility, but it surely is dependent upon whether or not there’s a station close by. Most practice stations are positioned proper in metropolis facilities, so metropolis dwellers can have the best time discovering a station inside placing distance. If your metropolis doesn’t have a practice station, verify to see whether or not you possibly can attain one in a close-by metropolis by bus. Amtrak presents Thruway bus service to its stations from most cities.

Adding It All Up

family arriving home for the holidays

Adding up all the various factors – value, time, comfort, security, and carbon footprint – it appears to be like like my husband and I are making the proper alternative by driving to Indiana every year. It’s by far the most cost-effective approach to go, and the most handy too. Flying is quicker and safer, but it surely’s additionally the most costly approach to journey, in addition to the most polluting. As for trains and buses, the horrible schedules put them proper out of the operating.

For my sister’s household, the alternative is even clearer. A automobile is the most cost-effective, quickest, and most handy approach for this household of 4 to journey. It’s additionally the second-greenest, coming in simply behind the bus. It’s not as secure as different modes of transport, however with an skilled driver and well-traveled roads, it’s nonetheless fairly secure. So for them, driving is the winner by a mile.

However, what works finest for our households won’t be finest for yours. The finest approach to journey can change based mostly on the size of the journey, the variety of folks, and your begin and finish factors. Based on the outcomes we bought for our two journeys, listed here are a few normal conclusions you should utilize when planning yours:

  1. A Full Car Is Better. When you’re touring by yourself, driving isn’t all that less expensive than taking the bus or practice – and it’s not practically as inexperienced. However, as you add extra folks to the automobile, driving appears to be like higher and higher. The value and the carbon footprint go up a tiny bit, however the value per individual drops dramatically.
  2. Flying Is Only Fastest for Long Trips. For our 700-mile journey to Indianapolis, flying could be quite a bit quicker than driving. But for the shorter journey from Boston to New Jersey, driving is simply as quick. The time spent getting to the airport and at the airport cancels out the time saved in the air.
  3. Buses and Trains Depend on Location. For us, bus and practice journey simply wouldn’t work out as a result of there’s no direct route from begin to end. Taking a bus or a practice means taking a protracted, oblique route with many stops that delay the journey. But if you happen to occur to be touring between two cities which have a direct route between them, bus and practice journey change into way more sensible. For occasion, if you happen to reside in San Jose, California, and also you’re heading for Los Angeles, you possibly can take a practice all the approach there and journey in consolation for an affordable worth.

Final Word

As you possibly can see, figuring out the finest approach to journey house for the holidays is a sophisticated business. You have to contemplate your particular state of affairs: the size of the journey, your time and price range constraints, what you will have to carry, and the way inexperienced you need to be.

Fortunately, there are instruments on-line to make the math quite a bit simpler. You can punch your personal particulars into the Fly or Drive Calculator to examine the professionals and cons of constructing your journey by airplane or by automobile. If you need to take a look at bus and practice journey as nicely, you possibly can go to Wanderu or use a transit app like MyTransitGuide to discover out there routes. Once you’ve seen all the choices, you possibly can crunch the numbers to work out what works finest for you.

Will you be touring for the holidays? If so, how do you intend to make the journey?

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