Fly AND Drive? It can be done.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about my decision making process when I decide whether to fly or drive to Walt Disney World.  Nine times out of ten, I pick driving, because it saves me money.  Also, I love the fun of a road trip.  But what if I could have the best of both worlds?

No, I’m not talking about bringing my Hannah Montana CD collection with me.  If you pay attention to rental car rates and track flights carefully, you can find a great opportunity to fly and drive on the same trip.  I’m talking about what the car companies call “snowbird” rentals, and if you use them wisely, you can save a lot of money and time.

To illustrate this, let’s take the case study of a trip I’m planning for my kids’ Spring Break.  If we chose to fly, the cheapest roundtrip flight is $191 per person.  For a family of four, that’s nearly $800 for a roundtrip to Disney.  By comparison, driving would cost approximately $150 including gas, food and hotel for one night.  The difference of course is time. 

Avoiding this look is a major concern.

A flight down, including travel time to and from the airport in Atlanta and Orlando, will take about five hours total.  A drive is going to take a total of about nine hours, not including the time it will take to spend the night, have breakfast and keep driving.  Flying is more relaxing and less time consuming.

The “snowbird” rental is the solution I am exploring.  What this offers is a one way drive out of Florida, if you rent the car from an airport location and return it to an airport location in another state.  In my case, I would pick the car up at MCO in Orlando, and return it at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.  

The attractiveness of this is that the rentals cost only a fraction of what a normal rental would cost.  For example, Hertz has the cheapest one that I’ve found, at $5 a day.  To rent the car starting Wednesday night when we fly down and return it Sunday afternoon costs only $42!  Pair that with one way flights for all of us, and the total comes up to $342, which saves us a ton of money. 

The less time spent traveling, the more time spent riding!

It’s a win-win situation – we get to get out of town on time on Wednesday, and be in the magic that very night.  We get a rental car, one of the big “hidden” expenses of flying, for not a whole lot of money.   We save time, and we save almost an entire day’s worth of driving.  It’s a fantastic deal for spring trips. 

If you’re interested in exploring options for a snowbird rental, check out Hertz’s Special Offers page.  Others I have seen that are offering the same deal at higher prices include AvisNational and Alamo.  All of these offer the one way deals for about $19.95 a day, which is still cheap, just not quite as cheap as Hertz.  Dates vary, but most are from late April through early June.  Check each site for blackout dates, etc.

Does this sort of deal sound like it would help you out?  Would you take a one way flight to save a little money?

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Posted on February 14, 2011

10 Responses to “Fly AND Drive? It can be done.”

  • I love that you have a post about this on touringplans.com – I have done this for years…

    My variation is to fly in, and use DME to get to the resort. I don’t mind relying on the resort buses for my vacation.

    Then I rent the car from National or Alamo (onsite at the Dolphin or Car Care Center) on the night before or morning of the return to drive all the way back home. You only pay for a one/two day rental that way. I am frugal, and it helps me to afford my way to Disney with the frequency I enjoy. Not all the one ways are good for pickup at off-airport locations, so it’s always a good idea to check before confirming the flights.

    Thanks for sharing this with everyone!

  • by John E. Levis on February 14, 2011, at 3:27 pm EST

    We, my wife and I, drive from the Detroit area to Orlando with an overnight stop in Macon. From Macon to Orlando takes us six hours including stops for gas and breakfast. Everyones milage may vary (pun intended) but I’m just curious as to why your drive takes three hours longer than ours.

    • The answer to that, John, is my children. :)

      Stops for potty breaks, etc. are what takes up the extra time. That and Atlanta traffic getting through to Macon takes time.

      • by John E. Levis on February 16, 2011, at 5:56 am EST

        I figured that your children were involved. We try to time it so that we can avoid the worst of Atlanta’s traffic. We do the drive a couple of times a year and enjoy the variety of the seasons on the scenery. We also try to vary our routes as much as we can. But we have the luxury of time. And, you have the pleasure of seeing the joy on your children’s faces. We have our grandchildren, though, and two of them will be joining us next month. :-)

  • Don’t forget to count depreciation on your car when calculating trip cost. It’s easy to think it’s not a factor, but a 700 mile roundtrip drive can reduce the value of your car by $350 current rate is $0.50/mile). You have to factor that in.

  • Ryan, this is such a well-researched plan! I’m sure that with a family of four – especially one that goes to the World so often – research is what makes the difference in being able to go that additional time. Is it too much to ask if your kids and I have the same break?? And while I appreciate all the effort that went into researching the fly AND drive plan, count on seeing me on an airplane. Driving to Florida from NJ by myself is not gonna happen :)

  • LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea. Time spent traveling is time spent not in the parks. You can get in quicker, but if need be you can take your time getting back. My hubbie and I drove all night (like the Celine Dion song ahaha) to get to disney. Ran into Epcot when it first opened and went a crashed in our AKL villa when in start to get hot outside. Travel flexibility is a big deal to get the most our of your park experience.