Cost vs. Time. vs. Conscience: A Travel Calculator

By JOANNA M. FOSTER

A calculation of the relative costs of traveling solo from New York to Boston in a 2005 Honda sedan vs. flying  there this month.  (The traveler opted to take a taxi to the airport at both ends).  Flying involved a slightly smaller carbon footprint.BeFrugalA calculation of the relative costs of driving solo next week from New York to Boston and back in a 2005 Honda sedan, vs. flying there in a commercial plane. (For the air option, the traveler opted to take a taxi to the airport at both ends.) Flying involved a slightly smaller carbon footprint.

“Vacation” is the inseparable accomplice of “summer.” But while it may seem imperative that a summer vacation be taken, the best mode of transport may be less clear, given the myriad options.

travel cost calculator introduced on Tuesday at http://www.befrugal.com may help the bewildered in need of a break to make the most of their time and money while remaining conscious of their carbon footprints.

The calculator, a pet project of BeFrugal’s founder, Jon Lal, combines data from the Environmental Protection Agency, Google Maps and AAA, among other sources, to calculate the costs in time, money and carbon dioxide emissions of driving versus flying to your destination anywhere in the United States.

Included in the calculations are variables like the number of travelers, mode of transportation to and from the airport, type of vehicle driven and costs of overnight stays during a road trip. The calculator won’t tell you which option is “better,” but it will outline how your choice will affect your wallet, your schedule and, potentially, your conscience.

“We just do the math,” Mr. Lal said. “You get to be the judge of how to assign value to those numbers.””

If nothing else, the calculator will give you a sense of what importance you assign to saving dollars and cents, versus saving time or reining in your greenhouse gas emissions. How many hours are you willing to sacrifice sitting in a car to reduce your carbon footprint by 100 pounds?

Unfortunately, the calculator does not allow you to compare the costs of flying or driving versus using public transportation like trains or buses, which is often more economical or relaxing and nearly always gentler on the environment in terms of emissions per passenger.

Mr Lal said one reason this option was left out was that outside the Northeast, public transportation is simply too limited to be relevant for the majority of the Web site’s visitors.

And of course, the calculator won’t do all the math for you. You’ll still have to come up with your own algorithm to compare the emotional costs of sitting next to your significant other for a 10-hour drive versus taking your chances with multiple companions in Row 12.

It’s also important to remember that napping on a plane is more socially acceptable than napping at the wheel, and that the plane is generally less likely to get lost.

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