The pandemic has changed how often people travel. Overnight, millions of people stopped flying. But as the holidays approach, and what is typically the busiest travel day of the year, you'll have to decide if you’re going to drive or fly home to your family.
Depending on your circumstances, the answer may not be as clear cut as it seems. Various factors must be considered when making your decision to ensure you get home safely and efficiently.
It's not unheard of for snow to cancel flights and strand passengers overnight, but snowy roads and storms can also make driving slow, unsafe, and sometimes require stopping. For medium and long distances, even with delays, flying is likely your best bet.
Staying grounded will save money on airfare and baggage fees. And with no TSA to deal with, you'll be able to wrap your gifts before traveling. However, driving might not be as cheap as it seems. There are fuel expenses, but more importantly, you must consider the wear and tear on your vehicle.
A long drive may prompt your car's computer to call for a service appointment sooner than expected. If you have an older vehicle or a leased vehicle with mileage limits, driving a long distance might not be an option. You can rent a car, but these costs can add up if you plan to be gone for even a week.
While concern abounds over how safe flying is for your health, the data seems favorable. The CDC notes that "most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes." Similarly, the Wall Street Journal reports that "cabin air is less of a concern; virtually all commercial jetliners are equipped with HEPA filters, similar to those used in hospital operating room[s]."
For extra peace of mind, if you want extra space on a plane, consider flying airlines like Delta, an airline that is still blocking middle seats through at least January 6, 2021. You can also purchase the seat next to you to keep it empty. Some airlines like JetBlue let you do this online, while others like United require a phone call.
IF YOU DRIVE
Before heading out, especially if you're going through a snowy territory, AAA recommends checking your tires for proper tread depth and inflation and ensuring your wiper blades aren't torn or brittle. Remember to top off the windshield wiper fluid.
HAVE A MAP
It's easy for mobile phones to lose reception in the mountains or run out of battery. As for your car's GPS, it may be outdated and not show updated road patterns. So if you're driving a new route to a place you usually fly, take the time to save Google map data for offline use or get a paper map.
You can also build a AAA TripTik. In addition to directions, these printable maps offer close-ups of critical turn-offs and provide advisories about construction and where and when delays can be expected.