Vacation question: Fly, drive or take a train for traveling the USA?

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Vacation question, fly, drive or take a train for traveling the USA?

How many times has this question come up over the years?  For some it may not have because they automatically do what they have done for years, fly or drive.

We use to fly and then when we had children that were of the age of a full price airline ticket that ended.  A couple can drop $1500+ in a big hurry by flying during the times everyone else wants to.  However, what is your time worth is the most frequent response.

For example, according to Mapquest, a trip from St. Paul, MN to Miami Beach for spring break would take 28hrs. and 48min. to drive barring any traffic issues.  Even hard core drivers are looking at a trip with about 2 days of driving.  Keep in mind that for every 12 hrs of driving you can add in about 2 hrs of stop time for food, bathrooms, gas, break, etc.  A 14 hr actual driving day will mean about 16.5 hrs on the road with stops. Ouch!  Round trip means about 4 days of driving time that could have been spent at the beach working on the tan.

Now let’s look at that drive a little closer.  Two nights on the road on the way down means about $250 in hotels and another $100 in food for two adults.  Some hotels like Drury Inn offer free dinner the night you arrive and breakfast the morning you leave- Bonus!  We score some savings but let’s keep it at $350 for room and board for one way.  How about gas?  Again according to Mapquest our trip down will take an estimated $115 in fuel.  This means in total we are looking at about $500 including incidentals.

Now the real positive of driving is seeing this great country, stopping at wonderful local food stops along the way and conversing with the one you are with.  We have favorite stops from coast to coast from our driving trips.  For example, Mallard’s Family Restaurant, Nashville, TN, Choo Choo BBQ in Chickamauga, GA, PC Fishhouse, Port Charlotte, FL, Folks Kitchen, Marietta, GA, Winchester Steakhouse, Buffalo, WY, Seven Seas Bar and Grill, Mandan, ND, etc.  This makes me very hungry and ready for a road trip.  You can’t see the land from an airplane.

Now an different way or if you will, a combination trip is to take a train.  Nothing like the romance of the old Empire Builder or the North Coast Hiawatha and railroads called Great Northern, Burlington Route, Katy Line, Northern Pacific, etc., traveling clickety clack through towns, cities and open country.  If you travel to Washington for example you will travel through two major mountain ranges, the Cascades and the Rockies.  Nothing like waking up in your private room and seeing the splendor of snow capped mountains and clear blue skies.

Travel East and you will travel through the smoky blue mountains of the Appalachians.  Amazing to see parts of the country that you don’t see in a car or plane.  Some of my most restful travel has been in a train.  “Look Mom, no hands!” That’s right no driving, let the Amtrak engineer take care of all that.  The train is like a restaurant/motel/sightseeing tour on tracks.  Price will fit somewhere between car and air travel but train travel really encompasses good parts of both.  The trains travel through the night so you will make better time than driving.  However, on off points are more restrictive than cars and maybe even airplanes.  Fun way to travel.

Which ever way you take make sure you stop for a minute and enjoy the surroundings and enjoy the company who is with you.