July 17, 2011
I recently returned from a great pronghorn hunt in New Mexico where we were filming an episode of Petersen's Hunting TV. In the past, I've always flown to Albuquerque and then rented a car for the 2-hour drive to the ranch. But the last few years, I've taken a good hard look at the merits of driving versus flying and I've found that the not-so-friendly skies are no longer the answer.
One might assume that the time savings along is a good enough reason to fly, and at first glance, it is. But not by much. It takes me an hour to get to the airport, and I have to get there 2 hours early. Add in 3.5 hours for the flight, an hour to get my bags and get my rental car, and 2 hours to drive to the ranch, and it takes me 9.5 hours door-to-door compared to 12 hours by car. If everything goes perfectly, which rarely happens these days, I would save 2.5 hours by flying.
I started out with the assumption that driving is cheaper than flying, but sky-high gas costs make driving costly. A round-trip flight from Houston to Albuquerque plus a rental car for 3 days costs didn't cost much more than the $450 I spent on gas and the $145 I spent on an extra night in a hotel, which was necessitated by the fact that my 11 year-old can't share the driving duties. But when you factor in wear-and-tear with the fuel, which works out to $827.22 if we use .51/mile for 1622 miles, driving is actually quite expensive. But if you split the bill with a few buddies, driving gets cheap fast.
Driving really starts to come into its own when you consider the fact that there are no flight delays, lost luggage or excess bag fees - you can bring everything you might possibly need and it won't cost you a cent. You don't have to check your gun with ignorant airline personnel, you can come and go when you please without expensive flight change fees, and you can bring your meat and trophies home for free, which saves the cost of shipping them or bringing them back on the airplane. On an elk hunt, that's a huge savings.
My drive to New Mexico was way better than I expected. My son slept the first few hours, but once he woke up, we talked the whole way. It made the time fly and it opened my eyes to one more thing - driving cross-country is a great way to spend quality time with someone you love.