Road Trip Pros and Cons

Is a Road Trip Right for You?

Road trips can take you to places you can't see by train or airplane.
••• Monument Valley is a popular road trip destination. oversnap / Getty Images

Should you buy a train ticket or slide behind the wheel of your car and drive to your destination? The answer to this question depends on many factors. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of road trips.

Reasons to Go on a Road Trip

You Are in Charge

You control your departure time, arrival time, itinerary and stops along the way. You don't have to pay attention to train schedules or airline routes as you plan your trip.

You Don't Have to Eat Airplane Food

That is, if any airlines still offer real food. Instead, you can stop at a restaurant, pack a picnic or swing through a drive-through. 

You Can Change Your Mind

If you don't like a particular place, you can just drive away, and you can linger at places you love.

You Can See the Real World

Taking a road trip allows you to get off the beaten path and see actual communities and natural wonders, not just a train track or superhighway. Meandering through the countryside is a great way to relax and find out what it's really like to live in a particular area.

You Can Pack Anything that Fits Into the Trunk of Your Car

You can use the back seat, too, unless a fellow traveler is sitting there. You don't have to pay extra to bring the items you need, either.

You Can Save Money

Even when you factor in wear and tear on your car, going on a road trip can be a frugal way to travel, especially if you're traveling with a group.

Taking four people somewhere by car is usually less expensive than buying four round-trip airplane or train tickets.

Reasons Road Trips Aren't For Everyone

Driving Takes Time

Driving is one of the slowest ways to travel between two points, especially between large cities with good rail and airline service.

If you are planning a city-to-city trip, you can save time by taking the train or flying to your destination.

You Have to Do All the Work

From route planning to navigation to spending hours behind the wheel, it's all up to you. Sometimes it's easier to let someone else do the planning.

You Have to Park the Car

In some cities, finding parking can be difficult. High city parking rates are not fun to deal with, either.

Traveling by Car Can Be Expensive

For solo travelers in particular, taking a road trip might not save you money, especially when you factor in gas, tolls, parking, meals and lodging along the way.

Bad Weather Can Affect Your Trip - or End It

Getting stranded in a snowstorm is not a fun way to spend your vacation. Neither is coping with flood-related road closures or watching a tornado form just a few miles in front of your car.

Wear and Tear on Your Car Costs You Money

Even worse, you might break down while on the road, far away from your reliable mechanic. If you drive an older car, you might want to rent a car for your road trip, which is a more expensive option.

Making Your Road Trip Decision

It's always a good idea to break out your trusty calculator and add up your travel costs before you decide how to get to your destination.

Traveling by car isn't necessarily the cheapest way to go.

You may decide that time is more important than money, in which case flying might be your best option. Taking the train might be a better choice for city-to-city travel.

However, if you really want to get to know a particular place, driving is probably your best bet, even if it takes longer and costs you more. You may need to transport camping gear or sports equipment, which is easier to do by car than by bus or train.

The Bottom Line

Carefully consider your needs, wants and transportation options before making your final choice.