Last year AAA predicted 42 million Americans would be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday.
This year’s projection has yet to be published, but if you plan to travel, know you’ll be among millions and your mode of transportation can affect your experience. Depending on multiple factors, there may be one mode better suited to your plans.
Here are some characteristics of plane, car and train travel to consider:
Airplanes are the champion of fast travel time for large distances relative to trains and cars, but that extra time may not be worth it given the headaches and hassles of flying.
- Pricing: Ideally, you can book a plane months in advance and get a plane ticket much cheaper than those booked a week before you plan to travel. In the military, plans are not always easy to make given the responsive nature of the job. The average ticket price for the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel was cited by Wichita State University to be about $383.
Flying can actually be the cheapest route if you’re about to secure a free flight with the Space A Travel Program. Active duty members that are deployed, as well as their dependents, may be eligible to receive an open seat on a flight. Unfortunately, the flights aren’t always guaranteed and during the holiday season, may be very rare. It is definitely a route to consider looking into, considering the money you could save.
- Discount: Military members have access to airline discounts for booking flights through companies like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbit. Individual airlines may also offer discounts but require you to call and inquire about it.
- Crowds: The busiest travel days for Thanksgiving are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. You can try to avoid these days, but if that’s not possible, be sure to cushion your plans and especially any connecting flights for potential delays.
Trains combine the scenic route of car travel with the perk of being able to relax while someone else takes the “wheel.”
- Price: Matador Network lists 21 train rides cheaper than an airplane, meaning you may have luck in saving money while purchasing your ticket. Still, trains follow the pattern of planes in raising the ticket price as the holidays near.
- Discount: For Amtrak, veterans can receive 15 percent off while active duty members receive 10 percent. If you have children, those aged 2 to 15 ride for half-price.
- Crowds: According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, of all holiday travelers, only 2 to 3 percent choose to travel by train, bus, ship or other. Amtrak also tries to create more trips to accommodate the influx of travelers, but it would still be wise to prepare yourself for booked seating.
Most people choose to take a road trip to their holiday destination. In fact, according to the same BTS survey, 91 percent of holiday travelers travel by car.
- Price: AAA offers a great way to calculate the cost of fuel for road trips. It gives the current average prices of gas and allows you to type in your car year, make and model as well as your destination to quote a price. This way you can see how much your trip could cost compared to plane and train travel.
- Crowds: Given that 91 percent of travelers choose the road, be sure to plan for delays and highway congestion. Another factor to consider in road construction and closures. Search engine maps typically have an option to avoid these obstacles. State and local highway departments also list any changes to roads that may cause delay.
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