Why I drove more than 12 hours home for the holidays instead of flying

Jan 3, 2020

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I was born and raised in a small town in Arkansas. Like many who have moved away from their hometown, I make an annual trip back to see family and a few old friends. Typically, I book a quick two-hour flight from Charlotte (CLT) to Little Rock (LIT) and arrive to a whole welcoming committee made up of my parents and younger siblings who still live in Arkansas.

This year, I decided to make the 12 (ish)-hour drive back to Arkansas rather than fight the holiday travel crowd. Friends and family both expressed concern (and in some cases horror) at the thought of me making the decision to drive for so long when I could have booked a flight home instead. Here’s why I decided to skip the airport this holiday season.

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Photo by Eric Salard / Flickr
Photo by Eric Salard / Flickr

For starters, I wanted to avoid the holiday travel rush at the airport. This year was expected to be record-breaking with the number of holiday air travelers. While I don’t normally mind braving the crowds for an exciting trip, seven million Americans traveling during the same dates didn’t seem worth it when combined with the other reasons for driving.

I’m also not a huge fan of the flight from Charlotte to Little Rock. Charlotte is an American Airlines hub, and Little Rock is a smaller airport. Those two facts mean that the only nonstop flights from CLT to LIT are American Eagle flights on a small regional jet such as the Bombardier CRJ-900.

My broad shoulders and wide hips are not a fan of squeezing into smaller seats that are not made for plus-sized travelers, and I’m not a fan of gate-checking my carryon because the overhead bin space leaves something to be desired. I don’t have elite status, which means checking a bag is an added expense (the airline fee credit on one of my cards was already used up by the time I would have booked flights).

Driving through the snow can be brutal. (Photo by Robert Bye/Unsplash)
My car’s more comfortable seats and my favorite Spotify playlist made the 12-hour drive fly by. (Photo by Robert Bye/Unsplash)

I also selfishly wanted to have my car with me while I was in Arkansas. I decided to stay in Arkansas for an extended trip, and I didn’t want to have a rental for two weeks of driving all over the state to see friends and family. My Chase Sapphire Preferred Card gets me primary auto rental coverage, but two weeks was still a bit too long for comfort for me to have a rental.

All in all, driving home meant comfortable seats, charging ports for my phone, tons of room for luggage and the ability to jam out to music and stop to grab food whenever I wanted. Plus, it was cheaper while still allowing me to earn points. Between 3% cash back* at U.S. gas stations on my Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, an Amex offer for $10 back after spending $25 through the BP Mobile app and 5% back at Circle K through Chase offers on my Chase Sapphire Preferred, I racked up quite a bit of savings.

*Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credits.

Bottom line

At TPG, we love flying. Many of my teammates are self-professed av geeks who would rather be on a flight than just about anywhere else. I’m a budding av geek myself who hopes to spend quite a bit of time in the air in 2020. But road tripping can be just as fun (and rewarding) when it makes sense.

As long as you have the right cards in your wallet that earn rewards on gas and a good Spotify playlist queued up for the drive, you might even decide a 12-hour drive sounds more appealing than a crammed airport gate area and two-hour regional flight.

Featured photo by Hero Images/Getty Images

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