Flying vs. Driving: What Will Save You More Money on Your Family Vacation

We are all hoping the time will come again soon to hit the road and take another great family vacation. But, with planning a family vacation comes a lot of different costs to consider. One of the biggest costs just happens to be how to get to and from your awesome vacation spot. Therefore, one of the first items we always tackle, when it comes to travel, is how to get there. So, which one is the better option for your family vacation: flying vs. driving?

The answer won’t always be the same though, depending on a few different factors. So, with each trip, you should consider all of the factors involved in getting from point A to point B instead of going with a blanket answer.

Travel Time

The first item to consider when discussing flying vs. driving is the actual travel time needed. Of course, this is irrelevant if you are traveling out of the country. So, for the sake of argument, I’m going to choose a potential real vacation spot and go from there. Our family has been considering going to Chicago this summer for a family vacation from our home in Raleigh. We have 5 kids, so there will be 7 of us traveling in all.

According to Google Maps, it will take us approximately 13 hours to get there if we choose to drive. However, if we choose to fly, it will only take 2 hours. That’s a pretty big difference in travel time!

But, if we choose to drive instead of fly, then we could potentially make different stops in other cities along the way. This would help diversify our trip even more and create a multi-city trip instead of just a one city vacation. For us, that is our preference most of the time. Because we have found a lot of interesting things along the way when we drive that we would have never seen if we chose to fly instead.

Number of Passengers

The decision to fly vs. drive can be so much easier if you only have 1 or 2 passengers. But, if you have a family of 7 like we do, the cost difference becomes much more vast.

For the aforementioned Chicago example the difference between flying vs. driving would be:

  • Round-trip flights to Chicago for 7 – $180.96 per passenger = $1266.72 (via Southwest airlines)
  • Driving to Chicago for 7 – 1650 miles round-trip (full tank goes 300 miles, which means filling up 6 times)
    • A tank of gas costs an average of $45 x 6 fill up’s = $270

This means that we would be saving almost $1000 just by choosing to drive!

Pack the Car

If we decide to drive vs. fly, there is another added benefit. We can pack a whole lot more in the car than we can take on the plane. And packing more in the car helps us save even more money when we travel.

This is because we can pack things like:

  • Snacks
  • Food for lunches and dinners
  • Extra sunscreen
  • Pool toys
  • Small electronics
  • Board games
  • Bigger water bottles

Driving in the car helps us get creative with where we can save more money. Which is why it is one of my favorite ways to travel. Even if it takes us a lot longer to get there.

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Hotel Stops

Of course, if we choose to drive we also might have to account for extra overnight hotel stays. After all, it’s a pretty long trip and children don’t usually do well stuck in the car that long. So, if we decide to drive, we would probably extend our trip to account for the extra travel time. And this boils down to extra nights in hotels.

More than likely, we would only extend the trip by 2 days, which means 2 more nights in hotels. But, we would be staying in one city on the way into Chicago and a different city on the way out of Chicago. Other cities along the travel route should be less expensive (much less in some cases) than our overnight accommodations in Chicago would be.

Therefore, we should add an extra $100 per night for a decent hotel on our way in and the same on our way back home. That would tack on an extra $200 to our driving total. Which means we would be spending somewhere around $500 for our family of 7 to travel there instead of almost $1300.

Flying vs. Driving Summary

Ultimately, whether you choose to fly or drive to get to your vacation destination is completely up to you. Flying certainly has its perks:

  • Less travel time
  • No extra overnight hotel stays
  • More time spent at the actual vacation destination

But, driving also has its perks:

  • Costs much less the larger your family is
  • Get to see other cities along the way
  • Never know what interesting sites you’ll run across
  • More family time
  • Pack more fun things for your vacation

So, when it comes down to it how you choose to travel depends upon your family size and preferences. And if you still aren’t sure which way ends up being the best for you, then check out This site has a built-in calculator to help you determine whether flying vs. driving is the best option for your family vacation.

No matter which choice you go with, just make the best choice for your individual situation. And your wallet, of course!

When it comes to traveling for your family vacation, do you normally prefer flying or driving, and why?