Is It Cheaper to Drive or Fly?

How to estimate your travel costs for your next Florida vacation.

Florida coastal travel summer Sanibel Island highway
••• James Pauls/E+/Getty Images

Deciding whether it is cheaper to drive or fly to your next Florida vacation destination is getting more difficult. Gasoline prices and airline tickets are constantly in flux, and they always seem to go up during peak vacation travel times.

AAA has created a Website that will help you budget for a road trip or compare the approximate driving costs against the price of an airline ticket. After selecting the starting city, your destination and vehicle information, the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator returns the number of driving miles, gallons of gasoline required and the estimated cost of both one-way and round trips.

It's a very cool tool!

What are some of the considerations besides actual gasoline or airline ticket costs?

  • Distance. If you are traveling a significant distance by automobile that would require overnight stay(s) in a hotel before you arrive at your destination. A round-trip could easily add a minimum of $250-$300 to your vacation costs.
  • Parking. If you are flying, will you have to leave your car in an expensive parking area at the airport? If you are driving, will your resort charge you daily for parking? These expenses can run up to $20 or more per day.
  • Automobile Rental. If you are traveling by plane, will you have the extra expense of a car rental once you arrive at your destination?

What are some money-saving tips and strategies?

  • As About.com's Budget Travel Expert suggests, shop for airports. Arriving or departing from an airport that is farther from your home or destination could actually be a money saver. Flights into and out of smaller airports, like St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport may also save you money.
  • Save those expensive airport parking fees by using sites like ParkSleepFly.com to find hotels where you can leave your car while away. Simply stay overnight in a nearby hotel offering the service and most times get a free shuttle to the airport. Meanwhile your car is safe and secure while you're gone, usually at significant savings.
  • If you are planning a trip to Disney World and will be flying, consider using a participating airline with Disney's Magical Express. It offers complimentary airport shuttle and luggage services to those staying at most Disney World Resort hotels.
  • Want to check out the cheapest gas? Both GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com depend on motorist to report gas prices, so you can find the cheapest gas in your neighborhood or wherever your travel takes you.

The Bottom Line

Whether you have decided to drive or think flying is your best option, you'll want to check out my Florida Driving Guide and Florida Air Travel Guide.