Learning to Fly

Tired of the disarray in air travel? Embrace the thrill of a road trip or the charm of a bus ride, and let the journey become the destination for solo travelers seeking new horizons.

Learning to Fly
Photo by Erik Odiin / Unsplash

If you’ve been paying attention to the news in recent weeks, you have seen the barrage of stories involving Alaska Airlines, and the Boeing 737 MAX plane. You might have also noticed the sheer number of cancellations on flights as a result. In fact, the issues with the Boeing 737 Max goes back several years as the fantastic Netflix documentary points out. Although air travel is generally considered safe and efficient, it doesn't always guarantee a seamless experience. Be that as it may, there are other options if you only want to travel domestically across the country, and have some extra time to spare (and some ingenuity). There are other options to dealing with airport security, waiting in long lines, and sitting at airport terminals hoping for the best.

All Aboard!

Amtrak has faced its fair share of challenges, and you could encounter delays and disruptions in service. These disruptions can be caused by various factors such as winter weather, general weather conditions, maintenance work on the train lines, and even sharing rail lines with freight carriers. However, there are advantages to train travel. Firstly, you won't have to go through a lengthy security line like you would at an airport. Additionally, you will generally have an assigned seat, ensuring a comfortable journey. Depending on your destination, you may have a direct route or need to transfer to connecting trains or shuttles. Although train travel takes longer than flying, it offers more scenic views depending on your chosen route. Moreover, the longer duration of train travel allows for the availability of sleeping accommodations and relaxation on the train, as Amtrak typically offers cabins for long trips. This option is particularly beneficial for those who cannot or do not drive, as train stations often have Uber, Lyft, and taxi services available. Furthermore, train stations are usually located in cities with plenty of amenities nearby if you plan to stay there. However, it's important to note that staying awake during train travel can be challenging, and there is a higher risk of theft. Additionally, in the United States, Amtrak is the primary option for train travel, but its service record is mixed, so it's wise to proceed with caution. Fortunately, there are also local and regional train options, especially in the northeast, if you prefer to travel within a specific region.

blue and white train seat with no people inside
Photo by Hansel Wong on Unsplash

Don’t Miss The Bus!

The late and legendary former coach-turned-sportscaster John Madden hated air travel so much, that he established the “Madden Cruiser”. Mr. Madden was famous for not enjoying air travel, so much so that he spent many weeks on the road either taking the train or bus. The Sporting News article goes into detail on this:

The Madden Cruiser was a luxury bus that Madden took around the country to get to the NFL games he was calling. It was given to him by Greyhound bus lines as part of a 1987 endorsement deal that covered all expenses for the bus, including a personal driver.
The Madden Cruiser became the broadcaster's preferred method of travel, and he has put hundreds of thousands of miles on his buses over the years. It also became a legend in the NFL community, as Madden often hosted meetings and interviews on the bus during his career.

Unfortunately, if you're traveling alone, you won't have the luxury of your own "Madden Cruiser" bus. However, taking a bus can still be a great option, especially if you're on a budget. While it may not be as glamorous as train or plane travel, buses are a convenient way to reach your destination. Bus terminals are often located in cities and sometimes share space with train stations. However, they can also be found in other areas away from train stations. Buses typically use interstate and state highways to transport passengers, and sometimes you might even get lucky and find a bus that isn't completely full. Just like trains, there isn't much security on buses, so it's important to be cautious and avoid any unsavory characters (although flights can sometimes have them too!). Despite this, bus travel is reasonably priced and generally experiences fewer delays. Since buses use highways and roads, there's also more flexibility compared to trains. Additionally, there are plenty of bus companies to choose from, including FlixBus, Megabus, and Greyhound, among others. You can even use bus routes as a convenient "connector" between train stops and your final destination.

gray and black bus parked during daytime
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Road Trip!

This option is definitely the most convenient. However, just like train travel, you have to consider the time it takes to reach your destination. If you're going on a regional trip, this might be a better choice. You can choose to take the interstate highways, state highways, or even the scenic routes, or a combination of all three. Road trips can also alleviate the stress of flying or taking the train since you can go at your own pace and follow your own schedule. While there is a risk of accidents while driving, practicing safe and responsible driving can minimize that risk. Depending on the distance you're traveling, you may need to book a hotel for an overnight stay, but for shorter regional trips, it's a more efficient option. The downside is that you'll be putting more miles on your car and increasing wear and tear, not to mention the cost of gas. Going on a road trip alone can also be a bit lonely, but you can always keep yourself entertained with podcasts, audiobooks, or music. This applies to all the other options as well. If you're traveling more than 200 miles one way, I highly recommend renting a car to lessen the strain on your own vehicle.


Planes, Trains AND Automobiles

If you have the patience and are open to different modes of transportation, it is entirely possible to reach your destination. Depending on your chosen route, you can fly directly to one location, take a train to another stop, and then drive or take a bus to your final destination. However, it is important to consider that this option may take a significant amount of time and the cost savings might not outweigh the inconvenience. This approach could be more suitable for regional connections to major cities, where it might be easier to rent a car from the connecting airport and drive to your destination. This would be especially beneficial if you already planned on renting a car for your trip, as it combines the advantages of a road trip with the time-saving aspect of a flight. Alternatively, if you prefer not to drive or don't have a driver's license, taking a bus or train is also a viable option and may be more cost-effective.

Closing Thoughts

You have a multitude of options for travel beyond just flying to your destination. In fact, you may already be combining different modes of transportation without even realizing it. Flying to a destination often requires a great deal of patience and time, as well as a backup plan in case of any unforeseen circumstances. It's important to stay updated on the weather conditions and be prepared for possible cancellations or delays. Despite the potential headaches, flying remains the safest and quickest way to travel. However, even when you fly, you still need to consider how to reach your final destination. Whether it's taking a train, bus, rideshare, or renting a car upon arrival, you'll need to find a way to get to your accommodations, regardless of the distance. It's true that traveling in any form can come with its own set of challenges, but the moment you arrive at your destination, it all becomes worthwhile.