30 Ways to Cut the Cost of Living: Travel

Travel is inevitably part of the cost of living.  Today we will discuss some ideas for keeping travel costs under control.

#22: Compare the cost of traveling: driving vs. flying, and use travel tickers, calculators, and spreadsheets to decide your most cost-effective method of transportation for long trips.

Our family’s travel usually always consists of visits to grandparents who live far away.  Before we had children, we would calculate the cost of flying vs. driving, and flying usually won out if we were able to catch tickets on sale.  Now that we have a three-year old, the cost of driving seems to win every time.  Here are some tips for keeping your travel expenses to a minimum:

  • Avoid “peak” travel times to save on both airfare and gasoline.
  • Check the airfare for your desired travel dates on Expedia (Expedia does not charge a fee for their service.)
  • Then, go directly to the website of the airline with the lowest quoted rate and do a +/- 3 day search to see if there are any lower rates available.  This sometimes turns up some great deals!
  • Check the cost of driving by using AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator (This handy calculator takes your car’s make and model into consideration!)
  • Find the least-expensive gas along the journey using Gas Buddy’s trip calculator and gas price-finder. Another super-handy tool!

Once you have an idea of the base cost for flying vs. driving, take the following additional costs into consideration.

For flying:

  • Did you add the cost of tax and fees to your ticket price?
  • Will you have to pay for parking? (If so, park off-site for the lowest rate.)

For driving:

  • Add the cost of food on the road.
  • Will you make your trip in one day, or will you have to stop at a hotel along the way?
  • Add a bit for the expense of wear and tear on your vehicle.

You may find that the difference in price is drastic, and you have an easy decision, but if the difference is not so great, you may need to use a simple spreadsheet to weigh the options. Take other things into consideration, too.  For example, do you need to get there right away, or do you have the extra time that driving takes?  Do you have a pet that you need to bring with you?  Is your vehicle up for the trip?

If your vehicle can’t handle a long trip, but driving would be substantially less, consider renting a vehicle for the trip.

How about you?  What ways have you found to cut the cost of travel?  Leave a comment below!

(Note: A few links in this post are my referral links. Read my disclosure policy here.)


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  1. These are great tips Andria! With three kids, there will be no more flying:) My last trip was a trip across the Atlantic alone with two kids. We had to take a train for four hours, then one air plane, stop in Paris and then get on another long long flight…..I’m never doing it alone again. Now, my family come to me:)

  2. For cutting the cost of travel via flying:
    I always recommend flying southwest. Here’s why: You can purchase a ticket (depending on when you fly) at less than what a travel site may quote you on a ticket. Southwest doesn’t go through other sites so you have to book exclusively though them. Also you get two bags to go under the plane for free rather than paying $25 for your first bag and $50 for your second a total of $75 extra for just your bags. So with southwest that’s 2 bags free for under the plane and you also get 2 free carry ons (one carry on and one personal item)(which is a total of 4 bags). Also if you are traveling with an infant and choose to have them fly on your lap Southwest is free for infants others charge a $20 fee (personal experience). The best days to fly Southwest would be Tuesday or Wednesday they are the cheapest days out of the week.

    • For parking there are some great sites my two favorites are:
      http://globalairportparking.com/ <–Great for later flights that you can drive to airport or if you just want to hang out in the city but don't want to pay city parking
      http://www.parksleepfly.com/ <–Great for early morning flights or for parents who have kids and have a depart time at 8am and don't want to drive 2 hrs to airport prior to flight (Math: pack car previous night, wake up at 4:30 am, get in car at 5am, drive to airport (depending on traffic) arrive at 7am, go through security, catch flight.)

      Also don't forget Amtrak for travel if staying in US however depending on where you are going calculate in travel length (ie: Chicago, IL-Seattle, WA is a 3 day trip one way via train. So 6 days for travel and depends on how long you want to visit that location). Also if you did go via Amtrak for that long of a period I'd recommend getting a ticket for a sleeper car rather than just a seat. The seat is cheaper but to sleep in with a full train is not comfortable. If the train is not full than spread out on those two seats that do recline and have foot rests.

  3. When driving versus flying, take into account the time it will take — and if you work, that could mean more time off from work to get to/from your destination. Say you and your spouse make $300/day combined and driving 8 hours to your destination to/from adds an extra day at the beginning and end of your vacation. That’s worth $600 right there, before gas, food, tolls, wear and tear, etc. If you just took an evening flight, and the ticket per person after tax is $300, you come out ahead. This proves that whatever you thought you were “saving” by driving might actually be a wash or even cost more than airfare. Just food for thought 😉

    • True! But with a family of five (almost six), and tickets at $300 per person, we would be spending $1500 to fly. Depends on how many people are traveling and the cost of the tickets. 🙂


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