Fly or Drive?

In the spirit of Labor Day travel, Nate Silver has a nice post up about the costs and benefits of driving vs. flying. I tend to agree with most of Silver's analysis, which would put me at odds with many of the post's commenters.

(from flickr user YoLoPey)

Based on the arguments that people are making in favor of driving over flying in moderate to long distance trips, I cant help but wonder if a lot of it has to do with a difference in their level of travel skill?

Some are complaining about having to get to the airport early, stand in long lines, undergo invasive TSA searches, and being asked to show their ID "a million" times, etc. The reality is, those probably were concerns in the earlier part of this decade, but 2001 was almost a decade ago and I think a lot of the bad stereotypes are still around.

Once you get to know the airports you use, you learn how long the lines typically are, how long it takes to walk to the terminal, etc. I know that when I fly on Southwest out of Cleveland, I can expect the line security line to be about ten minutes long, the walk to the terminal about five minutes. I know I don't need to get to the airport particularly early. Further, I know how to efficiently pack my carry-on and I know whether or not my belt or watch will trigger the metal detector. An inexperienced traveler has plenty of opportunities to make mistakes that could make for a less-than-pleasant plane trip.

I understand the reasons people prefer to drive on trips, but I personally can't stand it. Driving long distances is a painful experience that causes me anxiety. If traveling a moderate distance, say, from Cleveland to Chicago or Cleveland to Washington, DC, I would definitely prefer to fly, even if the door-to-door travel took exactly the same amount of time. Yes, dollars and cents cost has something to do with it, but it's also about the level of anxiety that different forms of travel impose. For me, driving is significantly worse.


    Rob, I gotta say for Cleveland to DC, Amtrak rocks. It's a little slower than driving, but fairly cheap, and you can sleep all the way there.


    So, has it been your impression that the TSA people at CLE don't check for the toiletries in a baggie thing? I don't recall ever getting hassled about that there.


    In my experience I have found TSA people at CLE to be among the most lax agents throughout the country. Whether or not that is a good thing is probably in the eye of the beholder..


    The only problem I have with that type of laxness is that they might let you take something that the people on the other end won't let you bring back!