Canadians love to escape the cold, dark and slushy days of winter in favor of warm, sunny destinations.  One popular option is Florida.  With it’s beautiful beaches, water parks, golf courses, theme parks and more, the state bursts at the seams with Canadians in the winter.

The path to Florida is well worn with lots of daily flights and families taking road trips.  The decision to drive south is usually influenced by price.  The perception is that it is more expensive to fly to Florida than it is to drive, but is this true?

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To drive round trip from Toronto to Orlando, you will be looking at about 4100 kilometers over 40 hours, that’s a lot of driving!

Contrast this with about 10 hours including 2 flights and check in.

On the cost front, there are many variables to consider.  First of all, your car’s fuel efficiency plays a part in the cost equation.  There will be a big difference in cost between an efficient midsize car and a gas guzzling SUV.

We’ll also have to factor in meals, a room in a hotel, and even the cost of taking extra time off work to drive the 40 hours.  Also, if you have kids in the car, they are likely to get bored and restless after 3-4 hours which will not make for a fun journey.


There are fewer costs to consider when flying south; there’s the cost of the flight along with the cost of a rental car to get around with once you reach your destination.

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The US is a car loving nation, public transit is simply not an option in most places.  For those going to Disney World, there’s an airport shuttle service which might eliminate the need for your own car.

The comparison

Here are the costs for two adults and one child to either drive or fly from Toronto to Orlando.  The flight departs Saturday March 30th and returns Saturday April 6th.

In order to drive and still have the same amount of time, we need to add two additional days onto the road trip scenario, one on each end.


Car Make/Model

2012 Toyota Camry 6cl City: 21mpg Hwy: 30mpg

2012 Toyota Sienna 6cl City: 16mpg Hwy: 23mpg

2003 Ford Expedition 8cl City: 12mpg Hwy: 16mpg

Gas Cost




Hotel Cost








Extra days off








As you can see, fuel efficiency makes a sizable difference here.  I used a website called to estimate the cost of the trip based on the different car types.

The US government runs a great site called which has a database of fuel economy details for thousands of cars.

You can also have a little fun sorting by best or worst cars in terms of mileage.

Did you know a Bugatti Veyron gets around 10mpg or 28 litres per 100km?!  Don’t think I’ll include that one in the comparison.

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You’ll also need to fuel yourself, not just the car!  I roughly estimated $120 for meals for two adults and one child over both days of driving.  This includes lunch on the road both days, one dinner and some snacks.

Given the 40 hour trip length (20 hrs per day) you’ll need to sleep somewhere.

North Carolina is a popular rest stop along the way, a decent hotel will add roughly $200 to the trip for two nights.

While I haven’t assigned a dollar figure to it, don’t forget about the added wear and tear on your car.  After driving 4,000km you’ll at least need an oil change!

One of the most overlooked factors to consider in driving is the time involved.  By taking the time to drive, you’ll need to add an additional two days to your trip in order to have the same amount of leisure time in Florida.

For two people both making $65,000 per year, those extra days are worth over $700!


Air Transat







Midsize Rental Car








At this time of year, flying to Orlando can be cheap or expensive.  If you are travelling during March Break, prices may be up to 50% higher.

The table above shows the price for two adults and one child to fly round trip from Toronto to Orlando from March 30th to April 6th with 3 different carriers. The end of March isn’t peak season so prices are more reasonable.

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Since you won’t be driving your own car down south, you’ll need to pick up a rental to get around.  A midsize car will cost some where between $450-$600 depending on the rental company and type of car.  I used for the comparison.

What about Buffalo?

For those of you thinking that it might be cheaper to fly out of Buffalo – a common tactic Ontarians use to get a better deal – you’ll be surprised to know that this option is far more expensive.

A flight for two from Buffalo to Orlando on these dates costs $1400!

The conclusion

In this case, flying and driving carry roughly the same cost.  One of the big factors here is the value of your vacation days.

If only one spouse works or you have so much vacation time you can’t use it all this could vary significantly.  You’ll have to ask yourself “how much do I value my time?”.

While the costs are similar, there is far less headache if you fly.  Driving really becomes cost effective when you have a family of 4 or more or if you want to head south during the peak season for March Break.

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So next time you’re thinking of taking a road trip to Florida to save some money, make sure you do your homework and consider the options!   

Andrew Martin is a personal finance and investing blogger from Toronto, Ontario with a background in technology and a passion for travel.  His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians make more money by sharing facts, stories and advice.

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