To drive or fly from SF to LA?

(Image: Mapquest.com)The reality of $4 per gallon gas is changing the way Americans travel this summer and there’s plenty of advice and tools out there about how to deal with it. 

One of my favorites is the new Fly or Drive Calculator from BeFrugal.com. This site helps answer the age old question among frequent travelers… Whether it makes more financial since to drive or fly to your destination. What’s clever about this calculator is that it allows users to enter specific data about their trip, which helps it come up with a specific answer.

For example, you enter your origin and destination and number of travelers. For the “drive” calculation, it asks what type of car you drive, how many hours you plan to drive each day, estimated hotel costs along the way. For the “fly” side, it asks for origin and destination airports, number of bags to check, time needed at the airport, and the estimated cost of getting between the airport and the city.

I frequently hear from travelers in San Francisco wondering if it makes more sense to drive or fly to Los Angeles, about 380 miles away. According to the calculator, it makes a lot more financial sense for a single traveler (going next week) to drive ($140) than fly ($332).

But there are some factors to consider. For example, flying there takes a total of about three and a half hours door-to-door (depending of course how far your destination is from the airport). When driving, total time for the trip is about six and a half hours door-to-door.

As a business traveler, where time is money, I’d probably opt to fly instead of drive to LA.

But if I were traveling on a leisure trip to LA with someone else, the money saved by driving is significant.

According to the calculator, two travelers flying from San Francisco to LAX and back next week would cost nearly $500 total — that includes airfare and ground transport to/from both airports. Driving? Just $146.

Next time you ponder the fly-drive question, whether you are traveling to LA or elsewhere (Las Vegas? Portland? Palm Springs? Visalia?), be sure to use this helpful tool to make the best decision.

When you travel to LA, do you fly or drive? Why?

(A post similar to this recently appeared on the YouMustBeTrippin.com blog I write for Best Western.)

(Image: Mapquest.com)