Deciding if it's 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 both seem to rise during peak vacation travel times. But AAA has a service that allows you to budget for a road trip and compare approximate driving costs to the price of an airline ticket. Just simply input some basic information (like your city of origin, destination city, and car make and model), and the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator will return the number of driving miles, gallons of gasoline required, and the estimated cost of both a one-way and round trip ticket.
Factoring in Gas Prices
Gas prices aren't the only factor when deciding upon taking your family vehicle or a plane to Florida. But it's a big one. Gas prices, along with plane tickets, tend to skyrocket in the summer. For this reason, purchasing plane tickets many months ahead of time may land you cheaper rates then pumping your car full of gas mid-summer. If you'd rather drive, visit Florida in the off-seasons of spring and fall when gas prices are lower and you don't need to crank your car's air conditioning.
Plotting the Travel Distance
Sometimes flying is just worth it, when you factor in the time it takes to travel the distance you're going. If you live one of Florida's neighboring states, popping over the border may be no big deal. However, if your travel involves driving for days, with one or two overnight stays, you'll need to factor in that cost, too. Multi-day, round-trip automobile travel could easily add a minimum of 300 dollars to your vacation costs. Add to that the time spent in the car, rather than at the vacation attractions, and suddenly plane travel looks much better.
Parking and Automobile Rental
If you decide to travel by plane, you will incur the additional cost of parking at the airport while you're gone. Airport parking can be spendy—and up to 20 dollars a day—but nearby budget lots are usually available at most major airports. Do the math and factor in this cost, should you decide to fly.
Also, when flying, you need to consider transportation once you get there. The extra expense of a car rental (combined with airport parking) just might make it better to drive yourself. Either way, call ahead to learn if your resort charges for parking. Because whether you drive yourself or rent a car, this parking fee could be an extra added expense.
Money-Saving Tips and Strategies
About.com's Budget Travel Expert suggests shopping different airports when selecting flights. Arriving or departing from another regional airport (even if it's farther from your home or destination) could save you money. Taking flights into, and out of, smaller Florida airports—like St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport—may also save you money.
Save on expensive airport parking fees by using sites like ParkSleepFly.com to find hotels that allow you to park on the premises while you're away. Simply stay overnight in a participating hotel that's close to the airport and use their free shuttle to and from the airport. Meanwhile, your car is safe and secure while you're gone, and usually at significant savings.
If you plan on flying to Disneyworld, consider using an airline that participates in Disney's Magical Express. This service offers a complimentary airport shuttle and luggage service to those staying at most Disneyworld resort hotels.
And if you're looking for ways to save on your road trip, both GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com list motorist-reported gas prices in most destinations. By using these sites, you can find the cheapest gas in the area you're visiting or wherever your travel takes you.