Holiday surcharges. Bag fees. Fees for just about everything. Long airport security lines. Flying might not be your cheapest, quickest or most comfortable option to travel to grandma’s house this Thanksgiving.
Consider taking the bus or Amtrak, driving or even renting a recreational vehicle for a family adventure. At an average $2.57 a gallon this week, gasoline is almost 12 percent cheaper than it was a year ago.
Still, the distance you have to travel may make the airplane route the only practical course.
“Prudent families should closely compare the cost of all modes of transportation for both price and hassle,” says Rick Seaney of FareCompare.com.
Here’s a by-the-numbers look at different modes of transportation for a family of four traveling on three routes representing a cross-section of the country on Nov. 25 and returning on Nov. 29 — and how you can save during your trip. The airfares selected were the cheapest nonstop itineraries available as of last weekend.
1. New York City to Boston.
Booking a flight on US Airways will cost you $282.20 roundtrip, including taxes and fees, per person. Add in one bag checked at the airport for each family member and that adds $200 roundtrip. Kits that includes a fleece blanket, an inflatable neck pillow, eye shades and earplugs will run you another $28 for four. Air total: $1,357.
Greyhound will get you there for $144 roundtrip. Checking a second bag for two adults will cost $40 roundtrip. Bring your own food from home for about $16, pillows and DVD player for entertainment. Bus total: $200.
Roundtrip on Amtrak will cost the family $594. Your first three checked bags are free. Hitting the dining car for specialty salads for everyone will be $72 roundtrip. Train total: $666.
You can drive the 215 miles each way for about $50 in gas roundtrip. Meals on the road will add about $80 more. No charge for entertainment you bring with you. Driving total: $130.
2. Atlanta to St. Louis.
A Delta Air Lines roundtrip flight runs the family $1,037. Roundtrip fees for one bag checked by each person at the airport adds another $160. If you want some entertainment, Wi-Fi for one laptop would be about $12 roundtrip. Air total: $1,209.
Greyhound roundtrip runs you about $811. Checking a second bag for two adults will cost $40. Bus total: $851.
There's no train itinerary available to get you there by Thanksgiving dinner.
Drive the 555 miles for about $150 in gas roundtrip. Add in roughly $160 in meals. Driving total: $310.
3. Los Angeles-Portland, Ore.
Alaska Airlines tickets will cost the family about $1,949 roundtrip. One checked bag per person each way is $120 roundtrip. Want food on the flight? A picnic pack including salami, cheese, crackers, apple sauce and energy-drink mix runs $48 roundtrip. Air total: $2,117.
Greyhound gets you there for about $874 roundtrip. Another $40 for the bag fees. Bus total: $914.
The train costs $999 roundtrip, plus about $150 for meals if you buy them on board during the nearly 24-hour ride each way. Train total: $1,149.
Driving probably won't work for most people, since it is 964 miles each way.
Consider an RV
For those so fed up with tarmac delays, lost baggage and other hassles, you might consider renting an RV for your Thanksgiving trip.
Jon Tancredi, a spokesman for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, says the homes on wheels mean no lost luggage, missed connections or less-than-helpful gate agents.
“There's no charge for baggage, movies or boxed lunches,” he says. “Heck, there are no boxed lunches, as RVers have a gourmet kitchen in tow.”
Take traveling from Pittsburgh to Lancaster, Pa., as an example.
The group estimates that the cost over three days for a family of four driving the 238-mile trip in a motor home would be $846, including rental charges, fuel, meals and campsite fees. The rental charges alone run about $180 a day.