The Not-so-happy Skies

Today I am travelling to visit my youngest son in California. We do this trip a couple of times each year to pick him up, take him home or simply to visit. Something strikes me though: is there such a thing as a good flight? I have travelled on most major airlines. But nothing ever seems to go to plan. The lines are long. They always manage to mess up your ticket or seats…or something. Besides the fact that I hate flying, I HATE flying. Not a good situation when you live in one country and have family in another. Of course now is the time that many people are preparing to travel either for Spring Break or planning their summer holidays.  So how does flying rank in terms of the Frugal Fam core values?

Family first. I must give flying high marks in this category. It is highly unlikely that hubby and I would have met and married were it not for relatively cheap air travel. And of course, it is a complete life saver in terms of my relationship with my son and other family in the USA. On the other hand, travelling with young children is a complete and total nightmare…almost every time. When I remember the road trips we would take as a family, even the litany of ‘are we there yet’s’ cannot compare to the simple option of pulling over for awhile to let the children run and play. Unfortunately, air planes offer very little in way of stops.

Save money. This is probably the biggest reason why the road trip became such a family favourite. What family of four can afford to fly when it is much cheaper to drive to any destination? Even including some meals and hotels, the road trip is often more economical than flying. And who can forget the ‘fun’ of the actual trip such as depicted in American Lampoon’s Family Vacation. Of course, Christie Brinkley better stay away from my hubby.

Environmentally friendly. Don’t be fooled flying is one of the worst polluters, because the planes emissions are going into the upper atmosphere where their effects are compounded. Of course, airlines try to sell you trees to ‘offset’ your travel, but this is not a proven technique to compensate for your emissions. It is more about making you feel less guilty about flying so you will do it more.

Healthier. There can be health effects of flying as well. In addition to air quality issues and the ease of spreading germs in such tight quarters, there can also be problems in terms of blood circulation. On very long flights such as mine from London to Los Angeles, there is the risk of blood clots developing…perhaps even life threatening.

If it seems that I am a bit anti-flying that is because our flight was one of the worst. That does not change the fact that all the points I have made are true. But for our family with members in two different countries, flying is an unfortunate necessity. The family friendly trumps all other values as I said would sometimes happen. Do I feel guilty about the damage I am causing the environment? You bet I do. But until we are once again are on the same continent, we have no other viable choices. In complete honesty, I am probably such a stickler about the 3R’s because I am so aware of the damage that families like ours are doing.

But if you have a choice, the best alternative to meet all the Frugal Fam core values is road trips close to home. The family vacation we took most of my life are prime examples. We lived in upstate South Carolina and almost every year we spent a week in Charleston. It was about a three to four hour drive, which for fighting siblings is just about the perfect limit. A couple of years, we instead went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee; a slightly longer drive but still relatively close. The notable exception was our infamous trip to Washington, DC. It reminds me of flying, because basically anything that could go wrong…did.

Of course, the pity is that many of us live in what others would consider ideal vacation spots, yet we take them for granted. When was the last time that you truly explored your city? Could you not save the hotel and travel costs by vacationing at home? Pretending you are a tourist in your own home…and rediscover the beauty of the place you live.

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