The New York State of my wallet – to fly or drive?

This week, I received the wonderful news from my cousin that his wife had given birth to twins.

After I finished snickering about the lost sleep, dirty diapers and feedings – times two – that he would be dealing with, my thoughts quickly turned to the religious obligation that would cause me to make the 580-mile journey to see the bundles of joy, just eight days later.

Alas, getting from my home in central North Carolina to the Westchester County suburbs of New York City poses one of those “fly-or-drive” dilemmas that is just about a draw no matter how you slice it.

The last-minute airfare and ground transportation costs of winged travel is almost offset by the gas, tolls, meals and overnight stay necessitated by my Family Truckster.

There’s no disputing the convenience of getting there by air. From Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International Airport, there are several convenient nonstop flights per day offered by Delta to New York LaGuardia and JFK airports, and, for a Gold Medallion like myself, a lightly traveled Saturday or Sunday flight almost certainly means an upgrade to more leg room and complimentary booze.

Of course, since the twin buggers didn’t have the foresight to give us at least 14 days of advance warning, this 65-minute flight tips the scales at a hefty $615.

Once curbside at Terminal D, the meter continues to run for the 35-mile trek to Chappaqua, NY, my final destination. The website estimates my bill at $109.86 (including a 20 percent tip); and my favorite go-to car service in the Tri-State area, Car-Mel, quotes $82 for a one-way sedan trip. I could decide, instead, to hop the NYC Airporter (operated by the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey) to Grand Central for $13, and take the Metro-North Railroad to Chappaqua for $9.75 (off-peak, purchased at the station).

At that point, Uncle Steve would pick me up, provide me housing and lunch, and drop me back off for the return journey.

Now, perhaps, in the interest of marital harmony, I decide (wisely) that I should include my wife on the journey to see the newborns. Though Uncle Steve’s Cadillac comfortably manages the additional set of buns without additional cost, the airfare and ground transfers double.

Of course, adding my beloved to the passenger seat of the Family Truckster has a much more efficient and economical impact – not only transporting two for the price of one, but also providing an extra set of rested eyeballs to the equation. Google Maps estimates that the drive will clock in at 9 hours, 19 minutes, sticking to Interstates 85 and 95 for much of the journey.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that at least somewhere along the way – passing directly through Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; Philadelphia; and of course the New York Metro area – an unforeseen traffic snarl will add to that total.

Mapquest’s estimated fuel calculator – allowing me to input my car’s MPG and using an average per-gallon cost of $3.76 — puts my gas investment at $120.40 one way. Tolls would add another $25 each way; and the AAA estimates that my car costs 48 cents to operate (exclusive of gas) each mile, tacking a hefty $278.40 onto the one-way cost. Let’s not forget about meals (two each way, enroute – easily $50 each way), overnight lodging (the Holiday Inn Mt. Kisco will charge me $152.64 to rest my head) and the Xanax I’ll have to buy for my in-laws to watch my three children overnight.

Here’s the tale of the tape:
FLY FOR ONE (using public transit): $637.75
FLY FOR TWO (using public transit): $1275.50
DRIVE FOR ONE (including AAA cost to operate): $1050.24
DRIVE FOR TWO (including AAA cost to operate): $1100.24

Of course, the cost is only part of the story – time; convenience; lost (or gained) productivity; marital harmony; and just the overall spirit of adventure have to factor in to this as well.
Taking all of this under consideration:

Would you fly or drive?

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