Many holiday-makers may be forgiven for feeling that taking the car is the most expensive way to travel that doesn’t involve booking tickets with NASA.
It used to be the case that taking the car on holiday was the cheap option. That’s not necessarily true any more.
Since the introduction and success of low-cost airlines, air travel is no longer the preserve of the wealthy and at the same time petrol prices have risen, erratically but steadily. In the last twenty years, budget airfares have fallen, while petrol prices across Europe have often doubled. (For an evolution of worldwide petrol pump prices since 2003 click on the interactive graph below)
Infographic by Staveley Head
Train prices have remained stubbornly high in many European countries, in particular the United Kingdom, where the increase in fares has, more often than not, exceeded inflation.
So what is the cheapest way of travelling to a European holiday destination? Of course it depends on the destination’s remoteness and accessibility of travel infrastructure such as motorways, airports and train stations. And it depends how many people are travelling.
We compared prices for a departure on Friday September 7 (just after the end of the peak season/school holidays) and a return on Monday 10 September. When considering air travel, the total does not include transport to and from airports, which can cost more than 50 euros per person in some cases.
We also calculated the cost for a single individual (in a hatchback car when driving) and the cost for a family of two adults and two children aged two or over (in a ‘family’ car when driving). In both cases, unleaded petrol was used in the simulation.
Each cost, in euros, is based on a return journey. The prices for trains and planes are the cheapest found on the net and are taken from various travel comparison websites. The data for car journeys comes from viamichelin.com
When looking at cost for a family of four, the presence of low-cost flight routes makes a significant difference. The absence of a direct flight can also make for a long wait: to fly 250 kilometers from Prague to Vienna for example can take up to 14 hours and take you via Helsinki! Not ideal when travelling with kids, especially when the drive can be finished in under three hours.