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Why Roadtreking is better than air travel

| Updated Oct 10, 2013

I hate flying. In my past life as a journalist, I was frequently in the air, flying here or there for this story or that. I grew to dread air travel.

But now that I travel in an RV, I hate flying even more.

I write this from Albany, GA, where we are visiting family. It’s a quick visit, to watch the grandsons play football and to attend grandparent’s day at the youngest one’s school.  We’re flying on gift tickets,  down here just for the weekend and then back to Michigan.

Jammed together in an airplane is no fun after controlling our own space in an RV
Jammed together in an airplane is no fun after controlling our own space in an RV

This is the first airplane trip we’ve taken since we bought got a Roadtrek some 19 months ago.

Roadtreking has spoiled us.

We’ve made the trip many times in our Roadtrek. It’s about 950 miles, an 18 hour drive.  With food and fuel stops, you can do it in one very long day’s  drive. We prefer spending the night in the Roadtrek.

In the Roadtrek, we have everything we need. We can bring all the clothing we think we may need, all the supplies and food and we can stop where we want, eat where and when we want.

It is like traveling with our home. We like the drive, get to take our dog and can take turns driving.

We are the masters of our journey.

No so flying.

departuresThe actual flight from Detroit to Atlanta is a about two and a half hours. Then it’s another hour and 20 minutes on a small commuter airplane down to Albany. So, all told, flight time is just shy of four hours.

But that is not representative of real travel time. And it comes with a huge cost: Aggravation, a loss of control and germ exposure.

Let me explain.

The first frustration came when we packed our bags. We take carry-ons. I’ve lost too many bags at too many airports over the years to let the airline handle them. Alas, you can’t bring what you want in a carry-on. Shampoos , conditioners, hair products, shaving cream, etc (unless they are in miniature containers) are all forbidden. Carry-on space constraints mean other things that we’d normally have in our Roadtrek – like a hairdryer, jackets or sweatshirts – have to be get left behind

We departed our house at 9 AM, drove to my daughter’s home in another Detroit suburb to drop off our dog. Tai, our loyal RV traveling companion, was something else we had to leave behind. He gave us that forlorn “what, you’re abandoning me?” look and we felt terribly coldhearted as we rushed out.

It took close to an hour to get to our daughter’s house in another Detroit suburb. Then we drove north to Flint, MI and the Bishop International Airport.  Add 45 minutes.

Then there was the hassle of finding a parking spot at $15 a day. Standing in line, going through airport security – taking off shoes, belts, removing laptops, getting the carry-ons inspected. Add another hour.

The government shut down also resulted in laying off most TSA gate inspectors and agents. Yet there was a full contingent at the airports. I talked to one of them and he told me they were all working without pay, hoping that whenever the government gets its act together and “reopens,” they’ll get back pay. “If this shutdown continues, I don’t know what I’ll do next week,” he said. “I’m running out of gas money,”

We go to the waiting areas. The Delta attendant at the gate  used the public address system to asked passengers to put their carry-ons at their feet because the carry-on bins would be full. Ugg.

By the time we’re actually on the plane – jam-packed, everyone breathing everyone else’s air, Jennifer and I are cramped, uncomfortable and annoyed to no end by a noisy couple in the row behind us who seem to be incapable of speaking a sentence that does not contain the F-word.

We get into Atlanta’s gigantic Hartsfield International Airport a little after 2 PM. It takes 15 minutes to get off the plane from our Row 30 seats. Our arrival gate is in Terminal B.

The hallways are jammed. People push and nudge to get close enough to read the departure sign for connecting flights.

Our Albany departure is  in Terminal D.

We walk for close to ten minutes, jostled and dodging other harried passengers  who are dragging all sorts of wheeled suitcases behind them. Then it’s a short line to board a long escalator down to the train that takes us to Terminal D.

The train is elbow-to-elbow crowded. We all hang on to whatever pole or strap we can find as the train accelerates. Even so, a man in front of me loses his balance and lurches backward, roughly bumping into an elderly lady. Both would have gone down if it weren’t so crowded. Instead, wedged in like that, all they could do was ricochet off other passengers. The woman glared at the man, who apologized profusely.

As the train rapidly decelerates at Terminal D, he’s holding on good.  He tried one more “I’m sorry” but she is having none of it.

We all try to exit the train at once, before the doors close, an irritating beeping noise indicating it would be happening soon.

There’s an even longer line for the up escalator. More bumping and jostling ensues. A guy cutting in front of me from the side sneezes inches from my face. Terrific.

Up into Terminal D, it is again so crowded you need to merge into the traffic flow like you do in a car on the freeway of a big city at rush hour.

It’s always rush hour at the Atlanta airport.

We try to find food. There are long lines at each place. It’s also always lunch hour at the Atlanta airport.

I’m getting cranky by now and go to find our gate while Jennifer searches for nourishment.

There are no seats at our gate. I find two unoccupied spots a few gates down. I put my laptop on the seat next to me to save it for my wife, drawing angry glances from others looking to take a load off their feet Eventually, Jennifer shows up. She managed to scrounge up a blueberry muffin from down the way, a muffin made surely within the past month.  Or maybe a little longer. Hard to say.

Someone a few seats away is coughing up a lung. Not good.

Finally, we catch the connecting plane to Albany.

It’s a small 50-seat plane, two rows of two seats on each side. Roller bags have to be checked. There’s no room for them. Nor is there any room in the seats. I’m glad it’s Jennifer’s thigh I’m making contact with instead of a stranger.

I hear someone behind me sniffing and coughing. At least he’s not sneezing.

We land in Albany a little after 5 PM. Then we retrieve our bags, make our way out of the airport and drive to our son’s place.

We arrive about 6 PM – nine hours after leaving home, but way more tired than if we had driven in the Roadtrek.

Sometimes, time dictates the need to fly.

But if given the choice, I’ll take the Roadtrek any day.


Mike Wendland

Published on 2013-10-10

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

39 Responses to “Why Roadtreking is better than air travel”

October 23, 2014at9:10 am, Marlene Evatt Ansley said:

That’s the way I would look if I were flying! lol

October 22, 2014at12:57 am, Rob Merritt said:

A very clever and only too real tale of the “joys” of air travel. And, a funny selfie.

October 11, 2014at11:11 pm, Kim Bourne said:

That’s how I feel about flying

October 11, 2014at9:52 am, Kelli Shook said:

Cause you see more!

October 11, 2014at12:43 am, Mark Handler said:

I don’t think Mike & Jen will ever fly again! 😉

October 10, 2014at9:23 pm, Louise Pinchak said:

Love the faces.

October 10, 2014at7:43 pm, Jeannie Baggett said:

yes it is way better than air travel

October 10, 2014at6:41 pm, Paul Konowalchuk Pogorzelski said:

TSA, Atlanta airport, say no more.

With the all the Ebola concerns, enduring all that contact and exposure at airports and the confinement in an airplane cabin…just yuck!

Think about it. You pick up your luggage from baggage claim or climb into a rental car. Grab door handles, handrails, Kiosk screens, etc. Who has touched and smeared or transferred someone else’s germs onto suitcase handles, rental car keys, door handles, etc.

Indeed, hands down, traveling in our Roadtrek in lieu of flying was one of the major reasons concerning our RV purchase/investment. Now I’m really glad Vicki talked me into a Class B. Just pack everything you like, pull out of our driveway & go.

October 10, 2014at4:12 pm, Sue Stacey said:

This is my feeling exactly, I don’t like airports, would rather drive 🙂

October 10, 2014at4:03 pm, Rick Ornberg Sr said:

I also learned this years ago. Last time I flew to Florida I was so up tight by the time I got to my seaside hotel room that it took me the rest of that day and most of the next day just to relax. When I drove the next time, I took a day and half to drive and arrived relaxed and ready to enjoy the beach. Haven’t looked back (at ever flying again) since. Who knows, maybe when I try the trip again with my new RT, I might just keep going!

October 10, 2014at3:43 pm, Susan Carter White said:

True….but you can’t take them to Europe with you so flying is necessary.

October 10, 2014at1:46 pm, Stephen Allen said:

Much as we love our Roadtrek ANYTHING is better than air travel!

October 10, 2014at1:28 pm, Roadtreking said:

Took the Roadtrek down to do some tailgating

October 10, 2014at1:14 pm, Melanie Carlisle said:

Never mind…I read the story! I love the Albany area. Have fun with the Grands!

October 10, 2014at1:09 pm, Melanie Carlisle said:

Mike, are you & Jen going on “vacation?” If so, have fun…

October 10, 2014at12:52 pm, William Browne said:

Mike Wendland, how true and flying international is even worse than ever.

October 10, 2014at12:41 pm, Tim Bucher said:

Mike, I am actually flying tomorrow and feel the same way you do, but at least my family and RT are at the destination Airport. LOL

October 27, 2013at12:42 pm, Mike Wendland said:

There’s room… we take out 70-pound Norwegian Elkhound. Have to step over him a few times but we’re glad for his company

October 27, 2013at12:40 pm, Barbara Alexander said:

I totally enjoyed your comments and am with you in your observations. We bought a used Roadtrek Versatile last spring and, after three trips in it, are hooked! I would love to take our 80-pound collie with us, but my husband says there is not enough room. Your Roadtrek is a little bigger than ours, but you have a large dog, too. So it’s obviously doable, huh?

October 16, 2013at1:10 pm, tropicmom said:

You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one! The only thing I would add to all the positives about driving instead of flying is: once you get there, you have your own transportation as well as your own room! 🙂

October 15, 2013at9:54 pm, Gaurav said:

This is exactly how I feel. I have only flown twice in the last 10 years. I prefer driving, but sometimes you just have to fly. If the place I am going to is a 6-8 hour drive though, I don’t even bother with flying. I flew last week from Boston to San Diego, both ways, with a connecting flight, I got where I needed to be in 12 hours. Leaving my house to get to the airport, going through the TSA, flight time, waiting for my connecting flight, getting my baggage, and then driving to my destination from the airport.

October 12, 2013at8:18 pm, Dave said:

Thanks for the great laugh Mike. I quit flying when they wouldn’t let me take my Swiss Army Knife along. We are sitting in our camper on the shore at Bar Harbor, Maine after driving from Duluth MN. We drive when we want, stop when we want, use our own bathroom and have had a fantastic trip so far. We drove across Wisconsin, Michigan UP (no mosqitos), up into Canada at the Soo, Across Canada, dropped down into the States at the Thousand Islands, across northern NY, Vermont, NH, and Maine. The countryside has been beautiful. We visited Pleasant River RV park and have to agree with DR Campskunk on the beauty of the area. What a peaceful, quiet spot. Anyway, our travels continue. Get out and RV the country, Bigfoot Dave

October 12, 2013at6:44 pm, Ann Valus said:

Other than the cramped conditions, the flying part is fine, but the rest of it is a total nightmare. It certainly isn’t the pleasant experience it used to be. Not much better than being on a bus with the chicken crates and goats. It is so much fun traveling in your own little house on wheels with your dog and your own cooties.

October 12, 2013at11:56 am, Maureen said:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything in life was positive…we can only hope…perhaps a little boring….but wonderful. I love reading the stories of self deprecating people who aren’t afraid to show their foibles. These stories are meant to make people laugh…laughter….my very favorite positive thing. I once flew in a hurricane at Heathrow. The hurricane, it was God’s work; the disorganization, 8 hour delay and luggage loss was the airlines’ work. I am sorry to say I didn’t thank either of them that day for the experience. I did thank the very kind young man who helped me on finally landing in Madrid in the wee hours of the morning. Of course, I could be in a hurricane in an RV too but can’t wait to get moving.

October 12, 2013at12:24 am, Sean said:

I have an RV, and love driving it, but also love flying. I think this is a great example of having an experience (which is neutral), and then making up a story about it as positive or negative… Jennifer chooses to frame her experience as an adventure, while the author certainly revels in hating every minute…. It’s interesting that so many people attacked her for enjoying something… So much more acceptable to talk about how bad things are… Bonding through shared suffering. Personally I rather take a vacation with Jennifer than the author.

October 10, 2013at7:54 pm, Roger and Dale said:

We enjoyed this post, Mike. Our thoughts about flying exactly. Love our Pleasure-Way!

October 10, 2013at6:29 pm, Mike Wendland said:

Whoa, folks, Lighten up. No need to get personal. I’m sure Jennifer Neumann meant no insult. I’m glad she has had good flying experiences. But as I said in the posting, given the choice, I’ll take RV travel any day.

October 10, 2013at6:25 pm, Chrissie said:

Jennifer Neumann. Are you aware that your comment above has insulted the readers of this RV blog? Do you own an RV? Have you ever traveled in one? I guess you are too busy jet setting about spending two months at all these exotic locations. I bet you get manicures twice a week and are extremely high maintenance. Your patronizing tone tells us what you think of us. I am too much a lady to tell you what I think of you.

October 10, 2013at6:16 pm, Larry Sykes said:

She’s kidding, right?

October 10, 2013at6:15 pm, Roberto said:

I think Jennifer N is out of place on this Roadtreking RV website. We are all here because we love to drive. Seems weird that someone who likes flying as she does is hanging around dissing what we all like to do. Annd puhleeze… leave the religious babbling out of it.

October 10, 2013at6:11 pm, Shelly said:

If Jennifer Neuman hates driving so much, what, pray tell, is she doing on this RV blog? Perhaps she works for an airline and is shilling for them? I find it very difficult to believe she has had no problems with airlines if she truly flies as much as she is bragging about. She does seem a bit prideful, doesn’t she?

October 10, 2013at5:19 pm, Jennifer Neumann said:

My husband and our little daughter adore flying. We travel for vacations all over the world and have never had one problems. We go for about 2 months in the winter to Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the Caribbean and so many other tropical places. We just pray and God has totally and always protected us with great flights, no extra charges, great seat, great flight attendants who just adore our daughter and we could go on and on. We love flying – hate driving. We have never once experienced a delay – leave about 8:00 am and are always at our destination so quickly. Even when we traveled all over Europe for our honeymoon, we flew everywhere and the flights were fab.

October 10, 2013at4:03 pm, Stu said:

Mike, you are so funny ,I hate to fly too. Hope you make it back home without to much trouble.

October 10, 2013at1:12 pm, Judi Darin said:

Now I have flashbacks of the frequent need to be on a plane when I was working. Nightmares, really. RTs are so civil!

October 10, 2013at10:20 am, Bob T. said:

Mike – As a frequent flyer (for work purposes) I can relate with this post so well, especially since I connect through Atlanta on a regular basis to get to my final destinations. You nailed it with your descriptions of airline travel. I follow your travels and keep holding out hope that someday my travel method will be a Class B such as yours. Safe travels and keep Roadtreking!

October 10, 2013at10:13 am, Rich said:

I am so completely with you on this Mike. I HATE to fly – I’d much prefer to take our RV, or even our car wherever we need to go. The airlines have also gone out of their way the past few years to make flying as unpleasant as possible. No more meals, less legroom, no snacks, lots more waiting, longer lines, etc… Not my idea of a good time.

October 10, 2013at9:25 am, Maureen said:

Mike, you have made my day…..a good laugh in the morning is the best medicine. Good luck on your return trip!

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