Getting to your destination may be the simple part of your summer vacation. Getting around while you’re there? Not so simple.
That’s because there are more ground-transportation options than ever. They include buses, bike-sharing, car rentals, ride-sharing, scooters, trains, and, of course, taxis. Yep, they still have those, and they work pretty well.
“This year there are more travel options for summer travelers than ever before,” says Art Guzzetti, a vice president for mobility initiatives and policy at the American Public Transportation Association, a trade group. “Fortunately, travel information is more available and easier to find.”
A recent survey by ValuePenguin suggests that the typical vacationing U.S. family spends about 44% of their travel funds getting to, from and around their destinations. That comes to about $2,100 each year on transportation costs. For ground transportation, the biggest expense is gas (an average of $669 a year), which tells us what you already know: Most people avoid making difficult ground transportation choices by driving to their destination.
To answer the question, “How do you get around on vacation?” you have to do a little math, take into account the places you’re visiting and be open to new ideas. Because times are changing.
Running the numbers
For Andy Abramson, getting around once he reaches his destination means running a quick calculation: How much would it cost to rent a car and pay the extra insurance and other fees versus using a ride-sharing service like Uber?
“More and more hotels — even short- and extended-stay properties, as well as boutiques and luxury properties — are charging up to $50 a day for parking,” says Abramson, a frequent traveler who runs a marketing firm in Los Angeles. “In summer, when room rates are high, as are car rentals, there’s less and less value in renting a car and paying to park it.”
He likes Zipcar, a car-sharing service that allows members to rent by the minute, hour or day.
“I can control the costs better and get exactly the car or SUV I need,” he says.
But one size doesn’t fit all. For example, if you value speed, a rental car might work best because nothing beats having a car in a hotel parking lot at your beck and call. I’m writing this at a HomeAway rental in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and there’s only one way to get around: by foot. It’s also great exercise.
So what do other travelers do? It depends.
Don Gilbert, a frequent traveler and consultant from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, says he adjusts his ground transportation to the destination.
“In Mexico, we will use taxis almost exclusively since they are inexpensive,” he says. “For day trips, we might rent a car if the distance and availability of taxis at the destination are questionable.”
In Ireland, Gilbert usually rents a car because he stays in the country. In Italy, he always takes trains, which are more convenient and allow him to avoid parking.
The road ahead
More changes are ahead, according to Susan Shaheen, co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Travelers want choices, and a new transportation concept called “mobility on demand,” which allows consumers to access mobility services through a network, is becoming a reality.
“The growing array of services available to travelers includes car-sharing, bike-sharing and scooter-sharing; shuttle services; transportation network companies like Lyft and Uber; and public transportation,” she says.
Mobility on demand is poised to change the way you get around on vacation. For now, you have more choices than ever, which is great news. Because when it comes down to it, there’s no one correct way from point “A” to point “B.”
Mobility tips for your next vacation
Download a mass-transit app: Check out an app like Citymapper or Moovit to find out about mass-transit options near you. The sooner, the better. You might save a bundle by leaving your car at home or skipping a rental vehicle. In many communities, a transit pass will give you great access to many different attractions, without having to worry about traffic or parking.
Check emerging “mobility on demand” apps: For example, the DART GoPass app is an all-in-one travel tool that handles your transit needs in North Texas, including Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Trinity Railway Express, Trinity Metro and the Denton County Transportation Authority. You can even find a scooter or an Uber Pool shared ride through the app.
Should you just walk? Why not? You can find out how pedestrian-friendly your destination is by checking its Walk Score online.