Travel tips

Comparing Travel Cost: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

transpo costs, travel costs, travel ticket costs


My wife was excited to see her dad for the first time since he moved to Texas over three years ago. While talking with him to get his travel plans, she found out he was actually taking a bus. He thought taking a bus would be cheaper than flying, but when he stated he paid over $300 for a one way bus ticket I was sure there was a cheaper way for him to travel.

I compared the cost of a one way ticket to travel from Dallas, TX to Minneapolis, MN by train, plane, bus, and automobile. Here’s what I found:

Greyhound Bus:

  • Advance purchase (no refunds) : $89
  • Refundable Ticket : $187
  • Travel Time: 23 hours
  • Advantage : Inexpensive, don’t have to drive
  • Disadvantages : Long travel time


  • Value Ticket: $185
  • Travel Time: 22 hours
  • Advantages : Don’t have to drive
  • Disadvantages :Long Travel Time, cost


  • Coach Ticket: $83.10
  • Travel Time: 2 hours 31 minutes
  • Advantages :Short travel time, cost, don’t have to drive
  • Disadvantages : Have to leave the ground (some people don’t like to fly)

Car Rental:

  • One Week Car Rental : $241
  • Travel Time: Variable
  • Advantages : Have transportation at destination
  • Disadvantages: Cost (gas too!), travel time,

The cost of the bus ticket I found didn’t seem to correlate with what my father-in-law paid for his ticket. By playing around with the dates I found that a bus ticket becomes more expensive when the travel date is very close. When I asked my father-in-law some questions, I found that he purchased his ticket just a few days before he left, and he didn’t do any research regarding cost. He just assumed a bus ticket would be less expensive.


Image courtesy of ddpavumbaat

The cost of every one of these options will vary based upon how close your travel date is, as well as your starting and ending location. Never assume that one method of travel will be cheaper than another. Give yourself plenty of time to investigate and weigh your options, then make an educated decision.

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About the author

Brock Kernin


  • Also use incognito mode when browsing, for most all flight options, and consider a dump fare if you can. By ‘dump fare’ I mean book with a layover where you actually want to go, and don’t take the final flight. This works great if you can make it on a carry-on piece or mail your baggage early.

    When looking to book my wife’s work travel it was cheaper to book a flight to Ohio with a layover in Detroit rather than book a flight to Detroit. Both were ‘direct’ flights to Detroit, but the one considered a layover was $100 less than the official direct flight.

  • Great analysis. Bus is often cheaper than flying, but having ridden on a bus for 26 hours it is well worth the expense to buy a plane ticket. Travelling with a family it’s usually cheapest to drive, but if you’re going in the winter then I would much rather fly and avoid the nasty roads.

  • @Dan – interesting point about Incognito mode….I assume you’re saying it’s going to potentially give me different prices because it can’t tell what my location is? I’ve heard of the “dump fare,”….I think it’s hilarious that those sort of things even exist. Shows you how stupid the pricing structure of buying an airline ticket really is.

  • @Brock Pretty much. Incognito mode dumps any cookies from the session, so when the site looks through your cookies to see how long you’ve been researching this trip it doesn’t see you are serious and jack up the fare a little.

    They tend to look at your history and if they can tell you’re serious, they’ll gouge you for every dime they can.

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