Getting around

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Here’s a very specific question: let’s say that you have to get between two medium-sized cities, and they’re a few hours apart. And let’s say you’re trying to take the trip with your two or three friends, who can be very indecisive. And, finally, let’s say that there’s a big debate raging about what the most affordable way to get back and forth between these two cities is. What would you say to help bring everyone to a decision? And before you ask, yes, this is exactly what I’m dealing with right now!

You sound frustrated! We don’t blame you. A simple question like this can be confusing when you start working out the math involved in transporting multiple people instead of just one. Let’s talk a bit about your options.

First, there’s the bus, which you mentioned. A classic budget choice, the bus is likely cheapest for an individual traveler. In most cases, a  bus ticket is going to be cheaper than a train ticket or a plane ticket. It’s probably worth checking prices, of course–you may find that a regional commuter flight is more affordable than you thought, which could make it worth the relative speed and comfort of flying as opposed to riding the bus–but, assuming your friends already have quite enough to discuss, perhaps we should stick to the bus.

The tricky thing is that your group could make some other options cheaper. Renting a car, for instance, is significantly pricier than taking the bus for a single traveler. But split the cost three or four ways, and things start to look a little closer–and then the convenience factor begins to creep into the equation.

And don’t rule out car services and taxis for longer distances, either. The pros at Absolute Taxi say they routinely take customers on longer trips–you could take a taxi from Albany to Cooperstown with their upstate cab service, for instance. Set rates for longer trips make it easier to predict pricing than would be the case with shorter cab trips, and cabs and car services make it easy to carpool with friends to save money, because you’re paying for the trip–not each seat.

There is a case to be made for each of these forms of transit. And, of course, there are certain distances and types of trips that each will be the clear choice for. But when more than one could work, what’s the best way to save money? We’re afraid there’s no way around a good old-fashioned price comparison. Fortunately, you can use apps to check the fares with multiple airlines (or train or bus lines) at once, simplifying the process a bit. If you really want to save, it’s worth the extra effort it takes to call a car service for a quote and compare all the prices from different modes of transportation.

So what would we say to your quarreling friends? We would lay out two or three prices and tell them to vote. If there’s a clear option, everyone will leave happy; and it it’s a close call, then it’s not a big enough difference to be worth being stressed about!

“Traveling–it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” — Ibn Battuta

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