Why day-tripping via plane is totally worth it

Dec 15, 2019

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I know this sounds totally odd, but hear me out: taking a day trip via plane is the newest, best way to do it. Ok, admittedly this isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution — no one is taking a day trip from San Francisco to New York — but there are a lot of reasons why your next outing should be by plane. Let’s explore why:

Heading home after a day trip to Kyrgyzstan from Kazakhstan. Photo by Carissa Rawson/The Points Guy.
Heading home after a day trip to Kyrgyzstan from Kazakhstan. Photo by Carissa Rawson/The Points Guy.

It gets you farther

This one is pretty easy to understand. Simply put, you can go a lot farther via plane than other modes of travel. So far I’ve successfully used air travel to do a day trip twice. Once I flew from Southern California to Northern California to visit my brother for his birthday, and another time my husband and I flew from Almaty, Kazakhstan, to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for a day-long city tour.

In both cases these trips wouldn’t have been possible if we had tried to travel via car or train, with trip times taking up to six hours vs just fifty minutes on a plane:

Note that although flights are blocked for an hour and a half, it actually takes under an hour.
Note that although flights are blocked for an hour and a half, it actually takes under an hour for this flight.

 

In places like California, early departure times and late return times mean that you can spend tons of time on the ground. For me, it meant spending a full day at a theme park celebrating a birthday before heading home (wiped out), happy that I got to spend that time with my family.

It’s easy

While flying isn’t stress-free for everyone (or anyone, really), those of us who fly frequently have developed travel habits that make airports pretty easy. And when you’re just day-tripping? It gets even simpler. No checked bags means no need to head to the counter. It’s similar to many business travelers. Not needing to drag a vacation’s worth of clothing means you can waltz right in. For me? I check-in on my phone, head through TSA PreCheck, and make a beeline for the lounge to grab a few snacks before boarding. It’s about as stressless as airline travel can be.

Flying in for my brother
Flying in for my brother’s birthday meant happy family memories. Photo by Carissa Rawson/The Points Guy.

 

While traveling in other countries, it can actually make cross-border travel much simpler. Take, for example, my recent trip to Central Asia. I managed a day-trip to Kyrgyzstan from Kazakhstan, landing in Bishkek early in the day where heading through immigration was smooth and efficient. As the nation’s capital, Bishkek Airport sees a lot of traffic. The land border, on the other hand? It’s a convoluted affair in which you must depart from your Kazakh taxi, wait in lines through border, hope you get in, and hope you can find a Kyrgyz taxi on the other side.

Similarly, the land border crossing between countries with tensions is also difficult. A trip to Jordan from Israel is painful, with barbed wire, intense scrutiny and hours of waiting to get across the border. In contrast, a flight from Tel Aviv to Amman takes 45 minutes and Jordanian immigration happily sells you your visa when you land. It’s simple.

It’s cheap

Depending on where you’re going, it can actually be cheaper to fly than drive. In the case of my above trip to Bishkek, a cab ride from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan rang in at $250 round-trip, while a flight was only $130. And while I recognize that it’s not cheap in either case, I definitely saved money flying instead of driving.

Even better, for those of us with points and miles, flying can mean that your day trip actually ends up being, well, free. This is especially true for international travel overseas, where you can take advantage of airline award charts to fly for cheap -even with miles. Take, for example, British Airways’ partner flight with Royal Jordanian from Tel Aviv to Amman:

While $237 doesn’t exactly look cheap for taxes and fees, it’s much better than the cash cost of this notoriously expensive ticket:

This is especially valuable for time-strapped travelers wanting to maximize their vacations (I’m looking at you, American corporations who only give their workers two weeks of vacation per year).

It’s rewarding

Similar to the above, using a plane vs a train or car can be much more rewarding. Why? Because massive, international airline alliances mean most airlines you fly are going to earn you miles. The same can’t be said for your cab ride, unfortunately. Even better? If you hold certain credit cards, like the The Platinum Card® from American Express (which has a $550 annual fee. See rates and fees.), you can double-dip your earnings and score 5x rewards on your airline purchase in addition to airline miles. As an elite on Star Alliance, I’m going to head for the plane ride every time.

Bottom line

Day-tripping via plane isn’t for every occasion, or even every person. But there are so many circumstances where heading out for the day on a plane is a great idea- from speedier travel to free flights, it’s time to consider a flight for your next adventure out.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, please click here.

Featured image by Issarawat Tattong/Getty Images.

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