Whether to fly or to drive is one of the biggest debates in travel, with strong arguments on either side. What it really boils down to, however, is that neither one is necessarily going to be better than the other on every single trip. The pros and cons of each make some travel plans simply work better with air travel, while other trips call for the freedom of the open road.
Money is often cited as one reason to choose driving over flying, but is that necessarily true? When driving, you have to factor in the cost of gas but also potentially hotel stays, food, and wear on your car, or the added cost of renting a vehicle for the trip.
On the other hand, air travel can be very expensive especially if you are planning on flying during a busy weekend, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. A last-minute airline ticket can cost hundreds of dollars which would be even more than a long drive with food, hotel stay, and gas money. Also, you should be aware of baggage and other fees that airlines may add in on top of the price of the seat.
When it comes to getting to your destination quickly, it can be hard to beat the efficiency of air travel. Even with the time spent getting to the airport, going through security screening, and boarding the plane (re-boarding if you have a layover) you can cross hundreds of miles in just a few hours. That same trip may take a day or more if you are driving. So if time matters, for example, you only have a limited number of days of work, then flying is definitely the way to go.
However, not every trip needs to be completed under a time crunch. For people who are retired or are taking a long vacation, the lower stress and relative freedom of car travel is a major bonus. If you see an interesting town or destination along your route you are free to pull off the highway and take a look, something that is impossible to do with air travel. The freedom of the open road has almost mythic status in the United States, and for good reason. There are many out of the way attractions throughout the country and many memories and photos to be made at those sites.
Also, you need to consider what is going to happen once you arrive at your destination. Some cities have excellent mass transit systems so you would be able to travel freely and easily without a rental car after you arrive, but others do not. So once you arrive, you will have to rent a car anyway.
So the calculation between flying and driving isn’t necessarily a straightforward one. In general, however, shorter trips that can be accomplished by car in a day or less may tilt toward cars in the driving vs flying debate. The more contained cost of gas and taking away the hassle of an airport show the benefits of driving. For longer trips, such as cross-country travel, flying will reduce the variation of gas prices, limit wear on your vehicle, and allow you to spend more time enjoying the destination.