4 Reasons a Road Trip is Better than Flying!

RR September 3, 2010 2 Comments


Why driving trumps flying when vacationing with kids …
despite what experts may say!

“Spend less time on the road.” “Avoid long road trips.” “Book your tickets months ahead.”

I don’t get it. Why do travel experts advice you against long road trips with young children? If time wasn’t a constraint, I would pick a road trip any day over flying.

After dozens of road trips (lasting between 5 and 15 hours) with my young daughter, nieces, nephews and relatives between the ages of 20 and 70 with varying levels of eccentricity, I am convinced that contrary to popular advice and common wisdom – road trips, in fact, are not as bad as they are made out to be. In fact, with thoughtful planning and a little preparation, road trips can actually be enjoyable for everyone.

Think I’m crazy?

Maybe. But I’m just speaking from experience.

Our family takes a lot of road trips. In fact, we try and avoid flying whenever we can. Just last month we took a 14-hour road trip to Niagara Falls. People warned us that it might turn out to be a nightmare with two young children (my daughter and niece). But guess what? It turned out to be the best trip we’ve had in a while.

If you’ve been avoiding road trips like the plague and are convinced that flying is the best way to go when traveling with young children, then consider some reasons why a road trip rocks.

Road Trip

Flexibility + Spontaneity = Sanity
The # 1 reason my family prefers to drive rather than fly is because we get to choose when we want to leave, stop for lunch and take a break. More importantly, we get to change our minds if the need arises. We love that a road trip allows us way more flexibility than a flight. The other side of that coin is spontaneity. I can’t tell you how many road trips we’ve pulled off within a span of a few minutes. There’s been more than one occasion when somebody just came up with an idea and before you know it we were packed, had our directions printed out (in the pre-GPS, smart phone era that is), and were on our way!
Getting ready for a trip and making sure everything goes as per schedule is not easy when you have young kids and their unpredictable moods, tantrums and emergencies to tackle. Which is why leaving for the airport at least 2 hours ahead of your flight, finding parking space and going through security lines can get somewhat stressful.  So, when time isn’t too much of a constraint and the idea is to have a relaxed family vacation, we prefer to drive. It gives us the chance to accommodate last minute delays and unexpected tot trouble. Taking the car allows flexibility in terms of space too – we get to carry way more than we would be allowed to on a plane. From food, water, beverages and snacks to extra toys, books, CDs and other items to keep the tots entertained – I just love the fact that we can feel at home in our car. To me, it’s like taking our living room on the road. We bring along board games, cards, books, magazines, crosswords, puzzles, coloring books, crayons and more recently the portable DVD player to use as a last resort. I’ve had the experience of flying 20-hour flights with my daughter to visit family on the other side of the planet and well, given the choice, I would pick a road trip over a long-haul flight with kids any day. I shudder when I think about the time I tried feeding my daughter in the cramped Coach seat of an airplane – her food jar in one hand, spoon in another, while balancing her on my lap. Trust me – traveling with a baby or toddler on a long-haul flight is NO fun. On the other hand, consider the freedom of a road trip. Time for a diaper change? Stop at a rest area. Baby getting cranky? Put on her favorite music or read her a story or two. Or allow her a few minutes to stretch her legs and run around during your rest stop. Anyone hungry? Stop for a quick snack. Better yet, bring your own snacks and drinks so you don’t have to waste time taking exits, waiting in line or placing your order at the drive through. (We’re vegetarians who prefer home-cooked food. So taking along snacks, wraps and other items from home is a great time (and money) saver for us.)

Family Time – Before Tweeting, Texting, It Was Called ‘Bonding’
Everyone from Oprah to Elmo’s talking about it. Thanks to our modern day lifestyle, spending quality time with family doesn’t fit into most of our schedules. A long road trip is the perfect opportunity to do the one thing we seem to have the least time for – talk. Not Tweet or Follow or Like or Friend. Instead just have a conversation like the olden days. Our family has some of the best times during road trips. We tell jokes, share secrets, discuss news, books, movies and crushes (when my older nieces and nephews visit). There’s a lot of laughing, teasing, some gossipping and arguing, even occasional sulking, but I’ll tell you one thing you won’t hear – the dreaded, “Are we there yet?”

When my daughter was a baby, my husband and I took turns driving while the other sat beside her and entertained her. We would read books, sing rhymes, do finger plays and play with sock puppets, mimic family members, play peek-a-boo, count trucks or trees, name clouds or just have a good time giggling with her. Those are some of our most memorable moments with our daughter. A road trip gives busy parents and young babies just what they may need but don’t get very often- uninterrupted time and undivided attention. With older kids or among couples, road trips offer wonderful opportunities to catch up on school, friends, workplace gossip, future plans and everything else under the sun. My husband and I have had life-altering discussions in our car – we even picked out our daughter’s name on the 10-hour drive back from our babymoon!

Cost -Hidden and Obvious
This one’s a no-brainer. Families wanting to save on airfare naturally choose to drive. But, you may actually be saving more than you know. Take into account the checked-in baggage fees that most airlines charge these days. And the cost of hiring a cab to the airport or the long term parking fee and a rental car at your destination. Don’t forget – baggage weight restrictions and TSA rules don’t allow you to carry everything you’d like to. Travel gurus advise you to pack lightly and to buy other essentials at your destination. So, you may end up buying diapers, baby food, umbrellas and other items you may need at your destination, adding to your vacation expense. Besides, I don’t know about you – but the last thing my family wants to do on a vacation is spend time at the drug and grocery store shopping for mundane items. When you drive, you have the freedom to bring these items from home. Simply carry cartons of bottled water, juice and snacks in bulk with you instead of buying them individually on the road and paying more.

Road Trip ExperienceThe Experience – ‘Mommy the plane isn’t moving’
Let’s face it. There isn’t much of a view from up there. When we were flying back after a vacation in Asia, my 3-year-old daughter asked me why the plane wasn’t moving. Well, you won’t face that particular problem on the road. On the other hand, a road trip offers plenty to see, experience and enjoy. Whether it’s panoramic views of mountains and lakes or the skyline of big cities, the quaint simplicity of small towns or the gradually changing scenery as you travel from one state to another – whatever your taste, there’s sure to be something for you to take away from a road trip. Besides the views, there’s something about a road trip that I can’t quite put a finger on, but which is lacking in every other mode of transport. Maybe it’s the fact that you have to be involved in the process and the confusion and wonder that ensues (Honey, where’s the map, Did we miss the exit?, Oh no! I reset the GPS!). Or the freedom to stop and smell the proverbial roses along the way. (We’ve stopped at countless scenic overlooks and picnic rest areas that weren’t in our itinerary over the years and never regretted the few minutes it set us back!) Or the fact that it’s just us…no prying co-passengers or flight attendants, nobody casting you annoying glances because your child is crying. And tell me…who really enjoys waiting in line at the airport security check to have their bags, shoes and bodies scanned? I appreciate why it’s necessary but, given the choice, I would rather travel a little longer by road than be subjected to that every time I go on vacation.

A road trip, even one with kids, can be as much fun as you make it. Of course, certain things help. For example, if two or more people share the driving, if the kids nap like they’re supposed to, if traffic doesn’t hold you up and if the weather is beautiful. But, even if everything doesn’t go as planned, guess what – YOU get to make the call! You can change course, pay aunt Jane a surprise visit on the way, stop for a break, take a nap, capture some memories in your camera and then be on your way. Now which airline offers you that kind of convenience and freedom? I haven’t come across any. And until I do, I stand by my verdict: A 14-hour road trip is so much more relaxing, enjoyable and fun than a 1.5 hour flight!

Do you take road trips with your family? What’s your experience been like? Would you rather fly or drive if given the choice?

avatarAbout the Author:

RR writes on intentional parenting, holistic living, travel and other topics. Visit her blog on reading to kids

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2 Comments to “4 Reasons a Road Trip is Better than Flying!”
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    [...] you read 4 Reasons A Road Trip is Better Than Flying, you already know that our family just needs an excuse to get into the car and start driving and [...]

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