Wings or Wheels? Which is Cheaper for a Vacation?

It's cheaper to drive to Orlando.
It's cheaper to drive to Orlando.
For a couple, airfare can be cheaper to Las Vegas.
For a couple, airfare can be cheaper to Las Vegas.
Travel Agent Ann Sadie
Travel Agent Ann Sadie

Montgomery, Ala. (WSFA) -- If you're planning a summer vacation soon, the high price of fuel may have you wondering if you can even afford it.

"Outrageous," is how traveler Stan Woods described the price of gasoline these days. He and his family are vacationing in the Florida panhandle this year.

"We're going from Anniston to Panama City because it's a little closer to home for us," he said.

Other travelers told us they're cutting hotel costs by choosing to stay with family. "We went to Pensacola and spent 3 or 4 days with relatives," said Chris Peringer of Atlanta.

But what about more distant destinations? Is it cheaper to fly or drive? WSFA 12 News answered that question in a recent special report called "Wings or Wheels?"

We searched out the cheapest airfare to popular destinations. Then we added up how much it would cost to drive to those same locations. We factored in not only gas prices, but hotel stays and meals along the way.

"People are still traveling," said Montgomery travel agent Ann Sadie. "They're just more careful about what they're doing."

Sadie advises budget-conscious travelers to consider all-inclusive resorts. She says resorts in Jamaica and along Myan Riviera in Mexico are among the more affordable.

"It's one inclusive price and they know, once I purchase this, it includes everything," Sadie explained. "It even includes gratuity."

Travel agents say Las Vegas also has some good deals if you agree to stay Sunday through Thursday. And even Disney World can be affordable.

"The nice thing about Disney is they have something to suit everybody's needs," Sadie said.

So if you go to Disney, do you drive or fly?

That's a no-brainer. A couple can drive to Orlando for just $308 round trip. The cheapest flight from Montgomery is $438.

For a family of four, a Disney car trip will cost $408, compared to $876 in the air.

But Vegas is a different story. A couple will spend as much as $900 driving from Montgomery, compared with just $776 on a plane.

For a family of four, unfortunately, it's cheaper to hit the road. The $1,000 driving bill beats the best air fare from Montgomery -- $1,536.

You can find cheaper flights if you fly out of Atlanta or if you choose travel dates farther out.

"Flexibility is key," Sadie explained. "Some airlines offer great prices, but they limit the number of seats at that price. You can never book too early."

Regional destinations like the Florida panhandle, Atlanta and Nashville seem to be popular this year. For those destinations, driving is always cheaper.

Another relatively inexpensive trip for Alabama residents is aboard a Carnival cruise ship. Carnival is the only company that offers cruises from Mobile.

Travel agents can often help you find lesser known destinations and discounts. The usually won't charge you a fee, unless they book your airfare. The commission is around $50.

Reporter: Mark Bullock