In 2003, it was reported by the Bureau of Transportation statistics that almost one fifth of United States adults had never flown on a commercial airplane. That’s right–about 18 percent of adults who lived in the nation that contained about 20,000 airports at that time had never purchased a ticket and boarded a plane to experience the miracle of flight.
It’s tough to say why exactly that number seems so high. While 18 percent clearly represents a minority, the fact that one out of every five adults had never flown in a plane indicates there must be some reason so many are avoiding it. Maybe it’s a fear of flying. Maybe it’s simply not a financially intelligent move, as flying it’s always the cheapest option around. Maybe, though, some people prefer traveling via other forms of transportation.
Let’s look at four of the biggest players in the world of travel and break down the advantages and disadvantages of each one. For comparison’s sake, I’ve also laid out how long and how much money it would take to cross the country through each mode of transportation. You’ll see that for extended trips like this, you’ll want to shy towards flying, more than likely.
-No need to buy a ticket
-Leave at any time
-Go anywhere you want, stop when you want, where you want
-You get to experience the sights, sounds and smells around you along the way
-You’ll use a ton of gas, which isn’t great for the environment
-It is considerably slower than most other forms of transportation
-You have to pilot the whole way, if you’re not driving, you’re not moving.
-Cars get uncomfortable quickly on long road trips
NY → LA
Duration: 41 hours
Driving across the country in a car that gets about 25 mpg will cost you about $250 (more assuming your luggage and other passengers weigh the car down) and would take about 41 hours. If you plan to stop and sleep or see sights along the way, the trip will take considerably longer. You do, however, have much more freedom when driving a car than you’d get with any other form of transportation. Generally speaking, leave car rides to relatively short trips.
-Much faster than driving
-Sit back, relax, and take a nap or do some work, no need to be in control
-Easier for extended trips
-Only see sights through passing window views
-Scheduled, you can’t leave whenever you’d like
-You’re limited by the stops at the train stations
-Limited to travel within the continental US
-Limited ability to walk around, stretch legs
NY → LA
Cost: About $300
Duration: About 60 hours
If you’re planning on crossing the country, train might not be your best bet, but for smaller, interstate travel, trains are a fast and convenient means of getting you from point A to point B. Given the mass transit factor of trains, they’re also less detrimental to the environment. A trip from NY to LA, including layovers and stops would actually take longer than it would via car, about 60 or so hours. You’d also have to transfer at least once (likely in Chicago) in order to make the cross-country trek complete.
-The level of exploration is unmatched
-Able to cross the ocean to visit other continents
-Relaxing and an overall new/fresh experience if you’ve never been on a cruise
-Entertainment, food and drinks are provided throughout trip
-Cruises visit multiple countries in one trip
-Cruises are costly
-Slow compared to flight
-Bad weather can ruin the trip
-Seasickness is a very real possibility
Cruises are a different ballgame entirely. While using a cruise to actually get somewhere isn’t entirely recommended, the fact that cruises will stop in various countries and provide entertainment makes them worth experiencing at least once in your life. However, with a lack of a direct waterway from NY to LA (streams, creeks and sewers notwithstanding), traveling between the two via boat wouldn’t be a viable option.
-Fast, by far much quicker than any other mode of transportation
-International flights available
-Best for long distances
-Relaxing (if you don’t get airsick)
-You can go virtually anywhere
-Expensive, relatively speaking
-Restricted as far as stops and sightseeing
-Bad neighbors can ruin a flight
NY → LA
Cost: About $600-$800
Duration: About 6 hours
Planes are, of course, the fastest option if you’re going between two major cities that are across the map. While it might not be the most fiscally responsible, flying is something that must be experienced at least once in your life, if not 20-30 times. It’s effortless (once you’re out of the airport), features breathtaking views, and allows you to explore not only the continent, but the entire globe.
There is no “best” form of transportation. Ultimately, each has its own advantages and disadvantages and will be dictated by where you’re going, how long, your tastes and your budget. Happy travels!