Summer often brings busier travel outlets, but expect even higher prices, fuller flights and more delays on American domestic flights this season. The Air Transport Association reported that passenger revenue has increased 21% in May of this year as compared to the same month last year, and the average price to fly one mile has increased 17%. Whether you're planning a business trip or a vacation, prepare yourself for what could be a stressful and expensive trip.
Fortunately, an overpriced, packed flight isn't your sole travel option. Consider taking an alternative mode of transportation. Even though they're slower, you might actually take in some of the landscape as you make your way from A to B.
In Pictures: Vacation Savings Tips
If you have a car and you don't have to go that far, you could avoid the cab ride to the airport, long lines when you get there and unruly young children on crowded planes. But renting a car can be expensive: A five-day rental for a midsized car will run you just under $300, which is similar to the cost of a round-trip domestic flight before taxes - and that's before insurance and gas are included in the price. However, if you plan to take the family or have the option to get others to chip in, driving could be your cheapest alternative. And having wheels with you means fewer cabs and not having to learn new transportation systems once you arrive. It could be the best alternative ticket depending on what you have planned.
Taking the Train
Trains have a lot to offer in the way of comfort and ease. Train stations are often located right downtown in a city or town, so they're always easy to get to. When you're riding the rails, you'll often take a less traveled route, and passengers can sit back in the dining or observation car and soak up the scenic landscape. Amtrak also offers free wireless internet access on an increasing number of commuter trains, so you'll be able to get some work done along the way - or just surf the net. But prices and timing can still be a turn-off. A one-way ticket from Chicago to New York will run you about $110 in mid-July one way; it's less than a one-way flight, but is it enough to justify a 20-hour ride? Maybe, as long as you're not in a hurry. And if you aren't, take advantage of the multi-city ticket option, and build a trip around interesting stops in between. (For more travel savings tips, read Save On Planes Trains And Automobiles.)
Taking the Bus
The best thing about the bus? The price. If you know where and when you're going well in advance, check the price for a bus trip. Chances are you will be quite surprised. Greyhound offers 10-50% off on trips booked in advance, and again, if you aren't going very far, it could be a great option. Like the train, you'll enjoy looking out the window at the local sights, and could have access to a wireless internet connection depending on the bus. On the downside, bus stations are often located in the less-than-savory part of town, so try to time your trips to avoid arriving late at night.
The Bottom Line
There are some great perks that go along with avoiding the airport. Not having to throw away liquids or whatever other contraband you accidentally left in your carry-on luggage is certainly one, as is leaving high-priced airport food behind. Plus, you can enjoy the added autonomy or improved comfort levels that can come with some alternative travel modes. So don't just take other, slower travel options for granted. In the end, avoiding the high security, high prices and high stress levels that come with flying this summer might just be worth the added travel time.