Looking to book a cruise? The cruise landscape is drastically different than it was just a couple of decades ago. While it used to be taking a cruise meant a trip to Florida for most people, growth in the popularity of sailing means you can now catch a cruise anywhere from New York City to Seattle and nearly every major port city in between.
Of course, with cruise ports being so much closer for many people, it’s given literally millions of passengers the option to drive to the cruise port instead of fly.
And for many people, the question of driving or flying is a no-brainer. If you’re a cruise passenger living in Houston, it’s only a 45-minute drive to board in Galveston and make your way to the Caribbean.
But many others don’t have such a simple decision.
For those living more than a few hours drive from a cruise port, it’s reasonable to wonder if you’re better off catching a flight (and all the hassles and costs that come along with it) or load up the family car and take a road trip to your cruise.
If you’ve run up against this dilemma, we have some things to weigh in deciding whether to drive or fly to the cruise port.
Reasons to Fly to the Cruise Port
It’s much quicker
The decision on flying to your cruise really comes down to the time you save versus driving. While it might take half a day to fly cross-country, it would take multiple days to drive the same distance. And keep in mind that any driving you do is multiplied by two because you still have to drive back home. That why we usually put a lid of six hours on our decision to fly or drive. If it’s more than a six-hour drive each way, then we’ll look into flights.
It (can be) much cheaper
There’s no doubt that flying is much more efficient in getting you to the port. In return, it’s usually more expensive than driving. However, if your trip is going to take at least two days of driving, then flying can be much cheaper when you factor in all your meals and lodging during your trip. You’ll have to do the calculation for your specific trip as the cost will change with the price of airfare. But don’t think you only need to factor in the price of gas in your comparison.
No worrying about parking
If you drive to the cruise port, then you have to also figure out what to do with your car while on your trip. There is always parking at the cruise ports, but it can be pricey — as much as $20 per day at some cruise ports. If you fly, you don’t have to worry about the hassle and expense of parking. It’s something you definitely need to factor into your decision.
Reasons to Drive to the Cruise Port
It’s less of a hassle
Get in the car and go. No 4 a.m. wakeups to get to the airport on time. No security pat-downs. No delays or cancelled flights. And no getting dragged out of your seat due to overbooking. Driving a car to the port is so much easier than dealing with flying these days. You can stop when and where you want to and a car seat is a whole lot more comfy than flying coach.
Pack what you want
Are you an overpacker? Do you want to pack more than 3 ounces of shampoo? If you drive, then you can pack as much as you want without having to deal with baggage fees from the airline or limits on liquids from the TSA at the airport. Definitely factor the savings on baggage fees into your calculation of the cost of flying versus driving.
It’s usually cheaper
Yes flying can be cheaper in some cases, especially if driving long distances. But most of the time it’s going to be less expensive to drive, especially if traveling with a family. Buying four airline tickets to anywhere is going to be expensive. Even after factoring in parking for your cruise, you’ll typically come out ahead when driving to the port.
If it’s feasible, we elect to drive to the port instead of flying — 10 times out of 10. Between packing and being on your own schedule, driving is much less of a hassle than flying to the port. The equation starts to change when the driving distance creeps to be more than 6-8 hours each way. At this point the time savings of flying starts to be greater than the ease and convenience of taking a car.
One other thing to think about is if you want to spend any extra time in your port city. If you’d like to get there early or stay a day later and explore, then having wheels to get around (and keep your bags while you are out and about) is invaluable.