Drive or Fly?

We got home for our 6+ week Winter Summerland trip yesterday and quickly unpacked from the flight. It’s amazing how you can be away for that long with just a few bags (although we brought home 1 more bag than we left with).

Some friends were surprised that we flew to Florida instead of making the drive in our own vehicle. We were a bit undecided on the best course ourselves, but despite CV19, we opted to fly.

(The science that I read said that airplane air circulation is very, very good and the risk of asymptotic spread of CV19 is quite low).

How do the time & money compare between driving & flying?

Here’s my analysis …


Our flight to Florida on Sun Country Airlines were $311 each. Probably $400 once you add in the add-on costs of seat selection and baggage. When we landed, we rented a Toyota RAV4 from Enterprise for $2,135 for the 46 days we were there. That’s $46/day, including taxes and all the goofy fees they add on. Additionally, we had to fuel the car (25 mpg average) for the time we were in Florida – that’s another $240.

That works out to $3,175 for total transport by flying.


This part of the analysis is a bit theoretical. To start, the trip to Florida from our house in Minnesota is 1,561 miles each way (3,122 RT). In addition, we drove 2,079 miles around Florida on the trip itself. That’s 5,201 miles total.

Using the IRS’ 2020 mileage reimbursement estimate, $0.575 per mile, the cost of driving our vehicle (gas, insurance, and wear & tear) would be $2,991.

Additionally, the 22.5 hour drive would require at least 1 night’s hotel each way. I will assume that would be about $100/night, for an additional $200 total.

That works out to an estimated total of $3,191 for the driving option.


The good news is that the financial costs of both approaches are about the same. They are less than $20 apart ($3,175 vs $3,191).

Not included in that are the 22.5 hours of driving each way, plus gas stops, plus potential roadside breakdowns. Additionally, there is a cost to the ‘road food’ that would be needed for the extra 4 days of travel back & forth. Even at a ‘minimum wage’ of $15/hour for our time, driving (45 hours x2 people) becomes pretty expensive ($1,350).


Even in retirement, I value my time at much more than $15 an hour, so in the end, flying to Florida makes all the sense in the world to me in terms of both time & money. If we stayed in Florida for longer – as we hope to in the future – I realize the equation will change. Still, I think for anything under 3 months, flying is a better choice.


8 thoughts on “Drive or Fly?

  1. Remember you paid your insurance on your car whether or not you drove so you have to add that to the flight side and if you have a new car, like me, the dealerships lifetime warranty requires an oil change every 5000 mile OR every Six months so in my case I would have to add the oil change part of the calculation also to the flight side as well.

    I just drove from Phoenix to my home 1354 miles in 19 hours. No hotel and only one food stop. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND DOING THAT AGAIN.

    Welcome home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yikes! That is some drive. I hope you had someone to share the driving with … or a lot of energy drinks!

      Our insurance on this vehicle (BMW X5) is $765 every 6 months, so that’s an additional $176 for the 6 weeks we were gone. It’s a 2017 model, so the warranties are up. Of course, our adult son used the SUV in the snow when we were gone, so in our case the insurance was needed, as he was taking care of the house while we were gone.


  2. We tend to drive these days, if the overall drive is less than 14-15 hours to avoid COVID exposures as much as possible. Luckily Florida easily fits into that range for us. I don’t blame you for flying for the longer distance that you guys traveled. I would’ve done the exact same thing! Time is valuable. We are flying to Seattle later this Spring and driving back East with our daughter and her golden retriever on the return trip. She is moving back to the East coast for a few years. This will be a couple of weeks of driving to see the country, as we check off some bucket list sites along the way. Glad you had a great FL trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a really fun roadtrip across the country! How far is that? Driving a regular vehicle or are you renting a moving truck/pulling a trailer?


      1. Point to point it’s approximately 2850 miles, but adding in roughly 10 site seeing stops, it will easily exceed 3000-3600 miles before we are home. At this time we are discussing renting a nice larger SUV (suburban sized) for the one-way trip and selecting key dog friendly overnight resorts/hotels to stay for a few nights at a time, but my daughter is pushing to drive her smaller SUV back instead of having it transported. Don’t get me wrong, her SUV is a nice and new-ish SUV, but I’m a pretty big guy and prefer comfort over convenience. So the at detail is still a little up in the air at this point. I’m leaning toward renting the larger SUV, but I am grossly outnumbered! I’m sure my daughter’s golden retriever would side with me, if he saw the back of a suburban, but my daughter and wife probably won’t let him have a vote (or me)! 😆 It will be a cool trip either way with lots of bucket list stops. Yellowstone has long been my biggest NP bucket location, and Badlands and Mt. Rushmore will also get checked off this trip. 🚙

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds fun, but I agree that you want to get a big enough vehicle for that many miles on the road!


      3. We rented a Tahoe in Charleston once and drove down to Florida and then over to New Orleans. Even without a golden retriever, that was a great highway cruiser.


  3. Funny that we drove the 12 hours each way even though we can fly on pass ride for cheap. I think for us it comes down to the desire to take more than luggage can accommodate and I really like driving my own car where I know the cockpit well.

    Good observations, though.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s