I’ve spent more than 250 hours traveling by train, plane, car, and cruise ship this year, and I’m convinced trains are the best way to travel right now


Joey Hadden

Thu, 13 October 2022 at 9:30 pm

Ranking of modes of transportation collage
Insider’s travel reporter has traveled by train, cruise ship, plane, and car this year.Joey Hadden/Insider
  • I’ve spent more than 250 hours total traveling by train, plane, car, and cruise ship in 2022.
  • I’ve experienced both smooth sailing and travel nightmares with these transportation modes.
  • Considering their comfort, savings, reliability, and environmental impact, I prefer trains in 2022.

I’ve traveled more in 2022 than ever before. Considering the cost, comfort, and convenience, I think trains are the best way to get around these days.

The business class car on Via Rail
Inside a business-class car of a Canada Via Rail train.Joey Hadden/Insider

As Insider has previously reported, 2022 saw an increase in traffic, inflated gas prices, packed cruise ships, and significant disruptions to air travel.

To avoid the chaos this year, I’ve taken to the rails more than I have in previous years. Considering the comfort, reliability, and low environmental impact they offer, I think trains are the way to go in 2022.

Since the start of 2022, I’ve taken 14 flights, five trains, three road trips, and one seven-day cruise.

the author sits on a train (L) and a plane
The author takes trains and flights around the US and Canada.Joey Hadden/Insider

I started the year flying back and forth between New York City and Phoenix to visit my partner once a month until May, when we took a cross-country road trip to move in together in New York.

Read more: I’ve traveled long distances alone by train, plane, and ship. Here are 11 of the most important things I’ve learned about solo travel.

I also flew twice to Austin, Texas, and to Salt Lake City to visit family.

I also traveled for work to Baltimore by train, flew to Florida for a seven-day cruisetraveled by train to Eastern Canada, and flew back to NYC.

I’ve graded each way of getting around in seven categories that are important to me: personal space, cost, travel time, luggage, reliability, comfort, and environmental impact.

airline delay, people wait in line for their flight
People wait in line for a delayed flight.James D. Morgan/Getty Images

During my 2022 travels, I’ve seen everything from sky-high gas prices to flight delays and cancellations to overcrowded cruise ships and destinations.

When it comes to dealing with crowds, I’ve found trains have been the least congested form of transportation this year.

A person sits alone in an Amtrak Acela First class car
Empty seats in first class on an Amtrak train.Joey Hadden/Insider

Every train I’ve been on this year has had a less-than-full car, making it more spacious than any cruise ship or flight I’ve been on.

Most times, I’ve gotten a row to myself. I’ve only had to sit next to someone during half of one train ride this year.

While cars generally offer the most personal space inside the vehicle, I haven’t loved the packed gas stations I’ve encountered.

Two photos of the author's dog in the backseat
The author’s dog lounges in different seats throughout a road trip.Joey Hadden/Insider

Thanks to the pandemic, I value my personal space more than ever.

Cars have unquestionably offered the most personal space during my travels this year.

But with increasingly more cars on the road, rest stops and gas stations have become more crowded, and traffic jams are more plentiful.

I’ve personally experienced too many long lines and packed bathrooms for my comfort this year.

Although my cruise this year was not packed to capacity, it still felt too crowded for me.

Packed pool chairs on a cruise ship behind a full hot tub
People pack the pool area on a cruise ship.Joey Hadden/Insider

While I could escape to my cabin for some space, many activities, restaurants, and shows on the ship felt filled to the brim with cruisers.

I waited nearly two hours in line to play laser tag for just 10 minutes on one occasion.

Read More: Disappointing photos show what it’s actually like to go on a cruise

Many of the flights I’ve taken this year were completely full.

People on a dimly-lit flight
A flight the author took earlier this year.Joey Hadden/Insider

Several flights I’ve taken this year have been packed, while many airports I’ve traveled through had long security lines and busy terminals.

And I’ve seen many travelers desperately trying to hop on a new flight after their flight was delayed or canceled.

Overcrowded flights have been such a problem that I’ve been offered $250 to $500 vouchers to change my flight on several occasions. While this tactic wasn’t unheard of in previous years, I’d never experienced it so frequently.

Traveling by car has proven to be the cheapest way for me to travel since my partner has a hybrid vehicle.

A person drives a Prius in downtown Phoenix
My partner driving through downtown Phoenix in May 2022.Joey Hadden/Insider

I don’t have a car, but I’m fortunate enough to have a partner who does. Because my partner drives a Toyota Prius, getting from Phoenix to NYC cost us just under $200 in gas.

If I traveled like most drivers who drive gas-powered cars, I’d face higher gas prices. But I’d still be looking at cheaper costs compared to flying.

Gas prices are displayed at an Exxon gas station on July 5 in San Francisco, California.
Gas prices at an Exxon gas station in July 2022 in San Francisco.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I’m even more fortunate that my partner has a hybrid vehicle, considering the exorbitantly high gas prices this year.

Our road trip could have cost us upward of $350 for gas if we were driving a more common car like a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.That’s still much cheaper than the $700 flight I booked between New York and Phoenix in June.

The trains I’ve taken this year have been cheaper than the flights I’ve booked, and I could even justify purchasing business and first-class tickets, which include meals.

The author in a first-class seat with meals all around her on a train
The author on a train with some of the meals offered on her rides this year.Joey Hadden/Insider

Train travel has been the second-cheapest form of travel for me this year.

I’ve paid between $100 and $300 a ticket on Amtrak and Via Rail Canada trains for economy, business-class, and first-class seating.

Amtrak’s first-class ticket included a meal, while its business-class ticket did not. Via Rail Canada’s business-class ticket offered a meal, though there was no first class on the route I selected.

Flying has become increasingly more expensive this year, even when booking a basic economy ticket.

Delta boarding calls with an arrow pointing to basic economy at the end
An arrow points to the author’s basic economy class on a boarding screen at the gate.Joey Hadden/Insider

I’ve been flying back and forth between NYC and the southwest nearly every month this year, and it’s only gotten more expensive for me to fly.

It cost me $200 for a round-trip direct flight from NYC to Phoenix in February when I booked the tickets a month in advance. In June, I booked flights with connections to and from NYC and Salt Lake City two months in advance and paid nearly $700.

I expected flight prices to increase in the summer since it’s a more popular time to travel, but I was shocked by how much more expensive flights were this year.

I used to occasionally opt for a premium economy or even a first-class ticket for flights in the past, but this year, I couldn’t justify the cost.

Cruising was the most expensive option but included food, lodging, and activities.

Cruise cabin with pool and food photos overlaid
The author’s cruise-ship cabin and some of the food and activities included in the price of booking.Joey Hadden/Insider

I went on my first cruise in March, a $2,000, seven-day cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, from Florida to four Caribbean ports.

While this was the most expensive form of travel I booked this year, the cost includes several value-adds like accommodation, dining options, and activities.

Travel time is something I typically want to minimize in favor of more time at my destination, and flying is usually the fastest way to go long distances.

The author sits alone at an airport
The author waits at a gate for her plane to arrive.Joey Hadden/Insider

Even with the additional two to three hours spent in airports, a plane is the only way I’ve gotten across the US in less than a day.

In my experience, traveling by train has been the second-quickest form of travel this year.

A laptop on a train tray table on the left with a view of water out the window on the right
The author uses train time to work on her computer.Joey Hadden/Insider

When I traveled to Baltimore by train in February, it only took about 2 ½ hours. The same journey took me twice as long when I went by car in August.

Car travel time varies depending on traffic, and I experienced a lot of gridlock this year.

A view of a sunset from inside a car
The sun sets on a road trip in Arizona.Joey Hadden/Insider

In general, many cars travel faster than trains in the US, according to CNN. But traffic added considerably more time to my trips this year.

Thanks to traffic, a recent road trip from Baltimore to New York took five hours, while it usually takes three and a half.

While the cruise ship is part of the vacation, I felt a week on a boat was too long.

Deck 15 on the world's largest cruise ship during the day and at night
A cruise ship during the day, left, and at night.Joey Hadden/Insider

Although the cruise was the vacation itself, a seven-day cruise felt too long to me, and by the end, I was ready to get off the ship.

Luggage is usually essential for traveling, and I’ve found cars to be the best option for bringing everything I could want or need.

a dog in a car
The author’s packed car for a cross-country road trip.Joey Hadden/Insider

Most cars typically have more room for luggage than a plane or train would provide. During our road trip from NYC to Phoenix, we stuffed everything my partner owns into his car.

When bringing luggage on trains, I had the option to check a bag and could also use an overhead bin inside the train car.

People board a train with suitcases and an image of a backpack overlaid
The author packed a backpack for her train rides.Joey Hadden/Insider

Passengers can check their bags as they board the train and get their bags from an attendant after exiting. In my opinion, it seemed much more straightforward than checking a bag for a flight and having to hunt around at the baggage-claim area.

Checking luggage on my cruise was a breeze: I handed my suitcase over when I boarded the ship, and it was brought to my stateroom later that night.

Cruise luggage at the port and cabins
Checked bags arrive at cruise cabins.Joey Hadden/Insider

checked one suitcase during my cruise, and it was in front of my room by the first evening of the trip.

From lost bags to crowded baggage-claim areas, flying has been the worst when it comes to luggage in my opinion.

Luggage in an ariport and on a flight
Carry-on luggage on a flight and in an airport.Joey Hadden/Insider

As Insider reported, hundreds of passengers worldwide have had to deal with the chaos of lost luggage in 2022.

Other passengers have had to fight their way through crowded baggage claims and stacks of abandoned suitcases to hunt for their luggage.

And even though I’ve always chosen to carry on my luggage to avoid this chaos, I’ve found that most flights I’ve taken this year have made me check my bag at the gate regardless, since the overhead bins fill up so quickly on full flights.

Trains have caused the fewest delays for me this year, and I’ve found them to be the most reliable way to get around in 2022.

The author in front of a train with another image of a train announcement on the left
The author in front of an on-time train.Joey Hadden/Insider

While my train journeys haven’t had a perfect track record, I’ve experienced the fewest and shortest delays this year while traveling by train.

While my cruise ship was the most reliable vessel for departing and arriving at my destinations on time, I never knew exactly when I’d be allowed off the boat.

airport shuttle sign at night (L) and the cruise ship departing the port (R)
The ship was on time, but the flights to and from the port city were not.Joey Hadden/Insider

The scheduled port arrival time isn’t actually when you’ll be off the ship.

As Insider previously reported, local authorities have to inspect the ship before passengers can get off, which can take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour or more.

You set your own departure time when driving, but reliably getting to your destination on time often comes down to things like traffic.

Cars on the road in New Jersey in Mayy 2022 (L) and August 2022 (R)
Cars on the road in New Jersey in May 2022, left, and in August 2022.Joey Hadden/Insider; Eduardo MunozAlvarez/VIEWpress/Getty Images

While traveling by car was seamless during my road trip from Phoenix to NYC, we haven’t been so lucky during other road trips.

Flying has been the least reliable way for me to travel this year due to delays and cancellations.

A phone message says the flight is delayed
A notification of a delayed flight.Joey Hadden/Insider

My flights this year have been delayed for anywhere between an hour to 24 hours later than the original departure time.

As a result, I’ve almost missed family events, and the uncertainty of whether I’ll get to my destination on time makes me anxious every time I fly.

Traveling by car was the most comfortable for me in terms of privacy.

Two people in a car viewed from the backseat
The author and her partner on a recent road trip.Joey Hadden/Insider

Although our car was packed to the brim with luggage during our cross-country trip, I found it was more comfortable than other transportation modes because we had the space all to ourselves.

Trains offered the most comfortable seating.

Comfy chairs on Via Rail Canada trains
Economy, left, and business-class seating on Canada Via Rail trains.Joey Hadden/Insider

I think train seats are more comfortable than plane or car seats.

The headrests on the Canada Via Rail trains I’ve been on were curved, so I could rest my head comfortably when lounging.

With all its amenities, I thought the cruise would be the most comfortable way to travel this year. But motion sickness made sleep nearly impossible for me.

A cruise ship cabin with a window in the back
Inside the author’s cruise-ship cabin.Joey Hadden/Insider

When it comes to comfort, cruise ships generally offer another level of amenities for the long journey.

On my recent cruise, I booked an ocean-view room with a mini fridge, a bathroom, plenty of storage, and two twin beds pushed together to make one king-sized bed.

Unfortunately, I felt the ship rocking each night, which made me sick and kept me awake. The few times I did sleep, I often found myself waking up in the crevice between the two mattresses.

Since I usually fly economy, flights are the least comfortable form of travel for me.

Arrow points to crammed seat pitch on a flight
Minimal leg room on a flight.Joey Hadden/Insider

I’ve found that airplane seats in basic economy, which I fly almost exclusively, have the least comfortable seats of all the transportation I’ve taken.

Across airlines, I’ve found basic economy seats to be thin and poorly spaced. Flights also tend to make me feel cramped and trapped, especially when I’m sitting in the middle seat.

What’s more, flight turbulence gives me motion sickness and makes me feel anxious.

I like to be conscious of the environmental impacts of my travels, and train travel has the lowest carbon footprint of the bunch, the BBC has reported.

A view out the window of an Amtrak train shows trees, marshes, and clouds in a blue sky
The view from a train window.Joey Hadden/Insider

Train travel is almost always more eco-friendly than plane travel, the BBC found, using the EcoPassenger calculator, a tool by the International Railways Union and the European Environment Agency that calculates the carbon footprint of various forms of travel.

This is because trains tend to emit less carbon than planes.

Cars tend to be more environmentally friendly than planes, especially if you’re traveling with at least one other person.

Trash and recycling bins at gas stations
A gas station in Florida.Joey Hadden/Insider

Cars generally produce fewer carbon emissions than planes, the BBC reported.

This is especially true if the vehicle is electric. Even if it isn’t, carpooling is still an environmentally friendly option compared to air travel.

Flying is one of the worst forms of travel for the environment.

An airplane parked ini New Jersey as the sun rises on a cloudy morning
A plane on the tarmac at Newark Airport in New Jersey.Joey Hadden/Insider

Aviation makes up about 2% of global carbon emissions, National Geographic has reported.

The climate effect of flying is much greater than other modes of transportation, because the non-CO2 greenhouse gases that planes emit at higher altitudes persist longer than gases formed at the Earth’s surface, Eloise Marais, a researcher from the Atmospheric Composition Group at the University of Leicester, told BBC News in 2019.

Cruising is typically worse for the environment than flying.

Smoke coming from Wonder of the Seas cruise ship
A cruise ship docked in the Caribbean.Joey Hadden/Insider

The International Council on Clean Transportation says that cruise-ship passengers emit almost two times more CO2 than those who fly and rent a hotel.

Cruise ships emit three times more carbon dioxide per passenger per mile than passenger jets do, as well as more than a ton of trash per day, a recent research review from Marine Pollution Bulletin found.

This makes me want to avoid cruising for the rest of my life.

Entertainment isn’t that important to me when I travel, so I didn’t count it in my review. But I thought my cruise offered the best entertainment of the bunch.

collage of activities on on a cruiseship including a basketball court, rock climbing, mini golf, and an escape room
A cruise ship offers basketball, mini golf, rock climbing, and an escape room.Joey Hadden/Insider

Cruise ships offer more entertainment than planes, trains, and cars, with shows and activities like waterslides, rock-climbing walls, musicals, and laser tag. It’s worth noting that the ship isn’t just a mode of transport, but a destination in itself.

In my experience, planes offer a wide variety of entertainment.

The author uses the entertainment system on a Delta flight
The author uses in-flight entertainment.Joey Hadden/Insider

Most flights I’ve been on have had personal TV screens on the back of each seat with dozens of movies and TV selections. I’ve found that this makes the time in the air go by faster for me, and it’s helped me deal with travel anxiety.

All the trains I’ve taken this year have provided WiFi, which I used to stream entertainment on my personal devices.

A laptop with a WiFi setup on the screen on a table
A WiFi network on a Canada Via Rail train.Joey Hadden/Insider

All the Amtrak and Canada Via Rail trains I took this year had WiFi on them, which I used to complete work and stream movies and TV shows.

On road trips, I’ve had to provide my own entertainment and get by without WiFi.

The author and her partner on the road
The author and her partner on a road trip.Joey Hadden/Insider

My partner and I spent our cross-country trip listening to pre-downloaded playlists and podcasts. We also spent a lot of time just talking. If you’re concerned about entertaining yourself during a long road trip, I suggest bringing a buddy and planning ahead.

Ultimately, the best form of travel right now depends on what your priorities are. For me, train travel ticks the most boxes.

The author sits on an Amtrak train in first class
The author on a train.Joey Hadden/Insider

Based on my experiences getting around by train, car, plane, and ship, I’ve found that trains offer the most comfort, reliability, and personal space for one of the lowest costs and least environmental impact.

Driving is my next favorite option, thanks to its cost, space for luggage, and comfort.

One of the biggest losers for me is also one of the most ubiquitous ways for traveling long distances. Flying did poorly in every category except travel time.

Finally, while I think cruises have a decent system for handling luggage and are fairly reliable, the price and environmental impact feel too costly for me to plan on cruising again anytime soon.

Read the original article on Insider

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