Fly vs. Drive: AAA Helps You Decide

Week one of AAA's Summer Travel Series

Phoenix, Ariz., May 3, 2012. This summer is slated to be the second-most expensive for motorists to fill up in Arizona history. As such, many travelers may be asking themselves “Is it cheaper to fly or drive to my vacation destination?” In the first installment of its third annual Summer Travel Series, AAA Travel experts do the math, and list the pros and cons to each travel mode.

“Higher fuel prices have many travelers debating which method of transportation will be the most affordable this summer,” said Amy Moreno, director of travel for AAA Arizona. 

To address which mode is the most economical, AAA Travel pros compiled the following cost comparison for a family of four:

Nearby getaways



Far away trips



Las Vegas, Nevada



San Francisco, Calif.



San Diego, Calif. 



New York, New York



Anaheim, Calif.



Washington, D.C.



Airfares are based on travel dates from July 12 to July 16, 2012. Fuel prices are based on travel from Phoenix with a 19- gallon tank SUV.

While driving remains the most economical means of transportation, travelers should not let cost alone determine their mode of transportation, say AAA Travel experts. In addition to cost, travelers should also consider the pros and cons of each travel mode:   




  • Cost of fuel is less than airfare, especially for families or large parties.
  • Vehicle will be available at your destination.
  • No baggage fees.


  • Longer travel time, which could incur incidental costs.
  • Wear and tear on your vehicle, plus the stress of driving.
  • Parking fees can add up, ranging from $10-30 per day.


  • Ability to travel long distances in a short amount of time.
  • Less drive time means more time to stay and play at your destination.
  • No stress on your vehicle or on you as the driver.


  • Cost! Airfare far outweighs the cost of fuel.
  • Baggage fees can add up, totaling $50-200 roundtrip for a family of four.
  • May need to rent a car at your destination.

AAA also offers the following tips to cutting travel costs for driving and flying:

  • Find the cheapest fuel. Fuel Price Finder and TripTik® Mobile app can help locate the cheapest fuel along your route, or nearest your current location.

  • Ask the expert. A travel agent can assist with weighing your options and helping determine which mode of transportation would best suit your travel needs.

  • Be flexible if flying. Being flexible with travel times and dates can lower airfare considerably.

Bottom line: The decision of whether to fly or drive boils down to personal preference. While some travelers love the savings and freedom that driving affords, others would gladly pay a little—or a lot—more to get to their destination and have more time to play.

AAA’s Summer Travel Survival Series will be distributed each Thursday in May leading up to Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer. For more information on summer travel, visit

AAA Arizona, the Arizona affiliate of AAA, provides automotive, insurance and auto travel services to more than 825,000 Arizona members. Annually, AAA’s Roadside Assistance responds to more than 450,000 calls for help on Arizona roadways. The auto club also provides insurance, travel, auto repair, discounts and financial services to AAA members. Since its founding in 1927, AAA Arizona has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.