Thursday, October 6, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Travel

Like most people, I don't live near a Disney Park, so I have to figure out how to get there. We happen to be a just the right distance that there are several viable options, and I've done two of them in my life. So, for our vacation next Spring, I've been looking at all the possibilities, which include flying, driving, and taking the Auto Train.

We (actually, I) drove to and from last time and, while 17 hours behind the wheel is a long time, it wasn't so horrible that I wouldn't do it again. It is also the cheapest way to go, since all you have to worry about is gas, food, and tolls. The major benefits here are that we don't have to worry about how much stuff we're taking and we will have our own vehicle to drive around in.

The second way to go would be to fly. I'm not opposed to flying, even though the last time I did was when Michelle & I got married, I just think it's a little too much hassle for too little reward. Plus, we would have to rent a car and deal with luggage limitations.

It seems to me that the best of both worlds would be to take the Amtrak Auto Train. Yes, it would still involve us driving down to Virginia, and it isn't cheap, but we'd have the car and luggage, and I wouldn't have to drive the entire way from New Jersey to Florida. How does it rate on a dollars and cents basis, though?

Here's our criteria:
Two adults and one child traveling from South Jersey to Orlando Florida

We'll look at the Auto Train first, and pick the Family Stateroom, so we have some place private.

Round trip on the Auto Train would cost $2,035. That includes meals, wifi, and taking the car along. No premium loading/unloading of the car, or anything like that. Total time on the train = 17 hours. Total time getting to and from stations = 4 hours. Total time per directions = 21 hours.

Now on to air travel. I'm going to use numbers from my time share discount, to be fair about it. We'll also be looking at non-stop flights from Philly to Orlando*. For three round trip tickets it would cost us $1,440 on American Airlines. Car rental for this trip, picking up and dropping off at Orlando International, would cost $330 from Enterprise. Parking at Philly would cost around $110 and checked baggage could be up to $210, bringing us to a total cost of $2,090 for this trip. Total time in the air = 2.5 hours. Total time in the airport = 2 hours. Total time getting to and from airports = 2 hours. Total time per direction = 6.5 hours.

Going by by the bottom line of each version, Amtrak is cheaper and has less restrictions on what we can take. Yes, it takes longer, but since much of that travel is overnight, and I'll get to relax during it. I'm willing to deal with it.

* I should point out that we could travel with Spirit Airlines out of Atlantic City as well. Round Trip for the three of us there would be $477 (saving $$963). Parking there would be $130 (adding $20), but the baggage fees could be $530 (adding $320). So net change for Atlantic City would be saving $623, or a total cost of $1,467. Quite frankly, paying the extra money to not have to deal with plane travel/rental car/etc, is worth it to me. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

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