Is it cheaper to drive or fly to Europe?


For a while now Mrs.B and I have been talking about booking a city break via Airbnb* somewhere in Europe. We quite fancy Paris as we’ve never been there before but there are a few other destinations we’d quite like to try out too. With this in mind I started to wonder, what is the most economical way to get to Europe these days?

When I was young I went to Europe a few times with my family. The cheap flight revolution wasn’t really in full swing back then, at least I don’t think it was but we certainly didn’t travel that way, so the only realistic options were to go by car, coach or rail.

I remember one time we travelled over to Brittany by car with a mid-journey ferry crossing at Dover – I’m sure this journey is resurrecting old memories for a lot of the UK population right now – and apart from the fact that we had the same one or two cassettes playing on a constant loop on the car stereo, it was a pretty fun experience. It also gave us a good bit of freedom to travel around and visit different places when we reached our destination. I do remember my dad complaining a lot about the price of fuel, especially when we reached France and he saw just how much cheaper it was to buy fuel on the continent. Back then, though, it was the most practical and cheapest way for a family to travel. But what about now, is it still cheaper to drive to France and Europe or does it now work out cheaper to fly? And is it worth the extra travelling time to go by car just to save some money?

So is it cheaper to fly or drive?

It’s actually more difficult than you might think to try and work out the answer to this question, as when looking at airline costs you also have to take into account extra baggage costs, taxes and getting to and from the airport etc. I did come across a helpful website called GoEuro* which compares the cost of travelling to and from any European destination by Car, Train, Air or coach, so I did a quick comparison on there and the results were quite interesting.  According to this site the estimated cost of a return flight to Paris for both myself, my wife and my two children in mid-July – so I don’t get fined for taking them on holiday during term time – is approximately £668 with Ryan Air including taxes, commuting costs to and from the airport and any other costs. If we were to travel by car however they estimate that it will only cost around £157 in fuel, so that’s quite a huge difference. So, what about the extra time spent travelling?

Is it worth the extra travelling time?  

Driving to France instead of flying would quite likely be a lot more tiring but then with the crazy flight times I’ve seen some of my friends and relatives get handed over the years I’m not all that sure it would be. What I did find interesting when comparing the estimated travel duration times on the GoEuro site is that it didn’t seem to take that much longer to go by road than by air when commuting times to the airport were taken into account. They estimate that it will take around 7 hours 32 minutes in total to go by Air compared to 9 hours 11 minutes by road, I’m guessing that includes time spent commuting and checking in/out at the airport. So when you take that into consideration and couple it with the reduced cost of travelling by road, driving seems to be quite a good budget option if you don’t mind a few hours behind the wheel. There’s also the added benefit of being able to take in some of the French scenery along the way – I feel like I’m turning into my Dad when I say things like that.

Are there any other options?

You could go by rail but that part of the comparison tool didn’t seem to be working and the other option was to go by coach. I’ll give you the figures for going by coach but I’m not going to go too deep into that because after travelling to Barcelona by coach when I was younger for a grand total of around 30 hours each way I swore I would never do it again. I know some people enjoy a good coach journey but at 6 feet and 5 inches tall it’s just not for me. For your info, though, the estimated cost to go by coach was around £270 with a journey time of approximately 21 hours. Like I said, not for me!

So which option would you go for based on the estimates above? Air, car or coach?

4 Responses to Is it cheaper to drive or fly to Europe?

  1. I recently took a 60 hour bus right (not by choice) from Jakarta to Surabaya. It was a nightmare. I swore off buses a long time ago and for good reason. In the West they are awful, in Indonesia it was a disaster. Don’t do it. Seriously, don’t do it!

  2. debt debs says:

    I was on business in Paris in 2012 and took the chunnel over to see my cousins in London one weekend. Last year one of my cousins did the same and met me in Paris. Very convenient. I took a hotel near the Gare d’Nord during that weekend and we had a marvelous time. Went to the Catacombs which was quite fascinating. However you go, enjoy!

  3. Last year when we had our vacation, we travelled for 6 hours to go to the resort. We didn’t have any choice aside from riding a bus and it was very horrible! I preferred riding an airplane rather than the road trip.

  4. Dailyhints says:

    Last year I caught an overnight bus from London to Paris which cost £10. Slept all the way there, arrived and had the full first day to spend in Paris. It meant I could spend more money on the things I wanted to do there. Returned from Paris to London the same way, think that cost €15.

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