Fly or Drive?

How far does a trip have to be to travel by air? Answer our poll.

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There was a time when a trip of more than 300 miles had you reaching for the Official Airline Guide (remember those?) for the winged alternative to driving, but times have changed. The high fares and the hassle of airline travel have conspired to move more folks onto the roads and out of the airways.

How do I know this?  I don’t. But I drive a lot in my travels, and I see a lot of license plates from faraway places.  I’ve also noticed that traffic moves along at about 75 to 80 mph on roads that are posted for speeds that would have had my mom screaming for my father to slow down.  And it’s amazing how fast you cover ground on the Interstates.

Having been through the air-travel crunch one too many times, including nights on airport floors when they cancel flights and there are no hotel vouchers (or hotel rooms), I’m now an inveterate driver.

Look at the advantages of driving: You get to take along as much as your car can hold — and there’s no additional fee. You can even pack a nice lunch to savor at a rest stop along the highway. Instead of high anxiety and stress during security check-ins, you’re cocooned in a capsule served by a high-end stereo and all your favorite music. If you’re like me, you look at what you’ve saved in air fares and spend it instead on an overnight stop at a hotel (I’m partial to Hampton Inns and their free breakfast). And you get to see the country–which is absolutely beautiful–close up.

Mind you, if I absolutely, positively had to be there for something on the West Coast, I’d swallow hard and buy a ticket, but a trip of 1,000 miles on the road is no longer out of the question.

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About George C. Larson

George C. Larson served as editor of Air & Space from 1985 to 2005. He is currently an inactive pilot, but holds a commercial pilot's license, with instrument and multi-engine ratings. He is between airplanes at this time, but has owned or operated a Grumman American AA-5B Tiger and a Mooney 201. He has been writing about aviation since 1972, when he joined the staff of Flying Magazine.

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