How to Save $2,000 and Your Sanity

Drive, don’t fly. As I mentioned in my November post, “I’m Done With Flying,” the full-body scanners were a tipping point for me. This holiday season we ditched the long lines, humiliating searches, and inevitable delays and drove.

We had a full car: husband, cousin, son, and self. We were on the road for twelve hours, but it was more relaxing and more fun then I thought it would be. We entertained ourselves with jokes, conversation, napping, music, movies & games on the ipad, reading, blogging, and staring out the window.

Round trip costs were minimal compared to flying. We filled up the tank five times for a total of about $200. Lunch and dinners on the road totaled about $150. Road and bridge tolls were about $20. On the way back, we split the trip into two parts, in anticipation of slow-going on the blizzard-affected roads in NY and NJ. With my AAA discount, our room at the Hampton Inn in Pennsylvania cost $103. All totaled, we spent less than $500 to transport four people from New York to Michigan comfortably and safely. If we had flown, airfare, long-term parking, bridge toll, snacks at the airport, bag check fees, and rental car in Michigan would have cost a whopping $2,500, six times more. Choosing to drive instead of fly saved us over $2,000!

The amount of money we saved was staggering. But the bigger benefit was the improved experience. Even before the naked scanners and manual body searches, I’d begun to feel the stress of having my personal space invaded at the airport. Taking off clothing at security checkpoints, submitting to random searches of my personal items, and sitting in a seat so small and cramped, that I often spent hours pressed arm and leg against a perfect stranger was more stressful than I had recognized. Air travel has become unsafe, inconvenient, uncomfortable, and expensive, but I travel for business, so I engage in a purposeful (and necessary) denial about how awful the ordeal is. My business traveler state of mind made me almost forget that there are alternatives; I tough it out at the airport for the sake of my job, but I don’t have to do it on my own time.

Luckily, the scanners jolted me out of my denial and motivated me to try driving once again. Sitting in my roomy car seat, next to (but not touching) a family member was downright relaxing compared to the narrow, dirty plane seat. And I had forgotten how much I like staring out the window for long stretches. In my busy work-a-day life, I get few (actually no) opportunities to zone out for hours at a time and recharge my mental batteries. The long drive gave me plenty of time for quiet contemplation, which felt luxurious.

As an added bonus, driving allowed us to avoid the hassles associated with the blizzard of 2010. While everyone else was stranded at the airport, we sailed along highway 80 and didn’t see a flake of snow on the road until we were about twenty miles from the George Washington bridge. Traffic slowed a bit, but there are so few cars on the road that we moved along briskly and got home ahead of schedule. Our wonderful neighbors even shoveled the walk for us!

It was a long drive, but a good experience and a huge money-saver. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to flying.

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