Traveling often involves several different modes of transportation. But what is the best way to get from point A to point B? If your vacation involves more than one location, you will have to look at all the possibilities and decide which works best for you. There are several things you need to look at when you evaluate transportation options, such as cost, time, and convenience. Your decision will most likely be based on a combination of these factors rather than just one on its own.
Transportation typically ends up being one of the biggest expenses for a vacation. If you’re on a tight budget, you definitely want to try to stick with the cheapest option. Normally you would expect faster modes of transportation, like flying, to be more expensive, but this isn’t always the case. It’s important to look at planes, trains, buses, and even boats and compare the costs.
In Europe, many countries have wonderful, extensive train systems. But they aren’t always cheap. Also check for bus companies that might have routes similar to the trains but at a more reasonable price. Several low cost airlines operate in Europe, which can often save you lots of money.
Do you have lots of time for your vacation or do you have to keep a tight schedule? While I strongly suggest slow travel, there are times when it makes sense to limit the amount of time you spend in transit. Look at your transportation options and determine how much time each will take. Remember that depending on where you are, two places that look close on the map might take a long time to travel between.
Don’t always assume flying is the fastest option. A two hour flight might look faster on paper, but when you factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, being at the airport one to two hours ahead of your flight, and the time it takes once you land to get through immigration or wait for your luggage if you don’t travel carry-on only, flying could end up taking longer than alternatives such as a train or bus.
This one is a little harder to measure. Once you know the cost and time needed for various transportation options, you have to decide how much inconvenience you’re willing to deal with in order to save time or money. It might be worth spending a little extra money to avoid a flight with connections or a train with lots of changes. Maybe there’s a cheap option that doesn’t arrive at your destination until late at night, but spending a little more could mean arriving at a more reasonable hour.
Consider overnight transportation options. Overnight trains and boats usually have beds so you can sleep. That way you combine transportation and one night’s lodging. This will usually be cheaper, and you can hopefully sleep through most of those boring transit hours. But think twice if there are no beds and you don’t sleep well sitting up.
Some real life transportation examples
A few years ago, I went to Malta for a friend’s wedding. While planning my trip, I decided to go to Dubrovnik, Croatia after the wedding, but the two places were difficult to get between. Most of my options involved taking three flights, which cost hundreds of dollars and took all day. But when I looked at the map, I realized their might be a ferry option. I ended up with a late afternoon flight from Malta to Bari, Italy, and then I took an overnight ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik. I was able to spend most of that last day in Malta, and my transportation became my lodging, so I saved both time and money.
Earlier this year, my husband Andy and I were in Assisi, Italy. In order to get back to our home in Freiburg, Germany, we took three trains from Assisi to the Rome airport, flew to Stuttgart, Germany, and then took three more trains to Freiburg. We never looked at how long it would take to just use the trains the entire way home, we just assumed the flight would be faster. It turns out we would’ve saved three hours if we had just stuck with the trains the whole way. It might have cost a little more, but I gladly would’ve paid a few extra euros to reduce the hassles. Lesson learned, always compare options.
Evaluate all of your transportation options when you’re planning a trip. Remember that prices don’t always relate logically to the speed of the mode of transportation. Take a little more time to research your options in order to find the one that saves you both time and money while also taking into consideration the convenience factor. Simple transportation options that can make your trip more enjoyable, but you might need to do a little more digging to find the right ones.