Should you drive or fly to your cruise port of embarkation?  This is a common question when going on a cruise from a port that is not close enough for a friend to drop you off.

Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

The decision to fly or drive might seem to only hinge on the distance to the port itself.  But even if a port is hundreds of miles away flying is not your only option and there are additional costs and factors to take into account.

In this article I will cover everything you need to consider and plan if you are either driving or flying to your cruise port.

I’m currently planning a cruise for next month with my family.  During the planning process I had to decide if we would drive or fly to the cruise port.  Each method of travel has its pros and cons.   There are also additional costs if traveling by plane or car.

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How many people are in your group?

While you might be able to score some cheap flights to your cruise port it may still be more affordable to drive if you have a group of 3 or 4.   Not only does airfare have to be multiplied by the number of people traveling but taxes and fees have to be added in as well.

If you’re going on a cruise with your whole family and the drive is still doable it will be more cost-effective to add a couple road trips to your itinerary since the cost of fuel will be roughly the same whether it’s two people or four people going on the cruise.

How much luggage do you want to take with you?

Cruise ships will basically let you bring as much luggage as you want onto the ship.  There are a few rules and limitations, and you can read our article on how much you can bring here.

When flying it’s a different story.  Not only do airplanes limit how much luggage you can bring, but you will also end up paying more on your flights if you need an extra bag.  Also, you might pick up a few souvenirs while on your cruise and end up going over the limit or have to pay for extra baggage on the flight home, making the cost even higher.

If extra luggage is a big factor for your cruise you might want to just drive to the port so you can bring as much as you’d like.

If you’re a minimalist and like to pack light this should not be an issue.

Related:  Cruise luggage rules:  how much can I bring on a cruise?

What is the current price of fuel compared to flight costs?

I always use a fuel cost calculator when seeing how many miles I will need to drive both ways.  Then compare that with flight cost.  This doesn’t mean I will go with the cheaper option though, as driving is almost always the more affordable option.   You still have to consider other factors like wear and tear on your vehicle, time, and the next point which is the cost of parking at the cruise port.

Related:  7 reasons you should never fly on cruise dayv

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How much does it cost to park at the port?

Brooklyn Cruise Port.  (Photo Credit: Cruise Fever)

If you drive to a cruise port you more than likely will have to use a parking service, whether it’s right at the cruise port or an off-site location.  I usually prefer to park at the port itself, but you will want to look up that total cost for the duration of your cruise.  It may cost $180 to $250 to park at the port and this cost needs to be added to your fuel costs before you compare it to the cost of flying.

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On a cruise I’m currently planning, the cost of gas and parking would equal about $400.  Add to that the time it takes to drive the 9-10 hours to the port and an airplane is looking a lot more attractive.

However, flying has another cost that we will talk about in the next point.

Related: 10 most expensive cruise ports for parking in the U.S. (Updated 2023)

How much time and money will it take for port transportation?

If you fly into the city of your cruise port you still have to actually get to the port itself.  Whether you take a taxi, Uber, or private transportation to the port, you should take this extra cost into account when adding it all up in your cruise budget.

And if your cruise port is not close to the airport – as will be the case if cruising out of Port Canaveral, FL or Galveston, TX in many cases – this transportation cost can add up quickly.   It will also take a little longer to travel to and from the cruise port which has to be factored into your schedule.

How is the condition of your vehicle?

If you have even the slightest question about your car’s reliability you should probably not drive it to the port.  You’re better off either flying or renting a car if this is the case.  But rental costs would be for two one-way trips which could add a few hundred dollars to the final cost.  But at least you would save on the cost of parking at the port.  You just need to then get transportation from the car rental place to the cruise port when you drop off your car.

My car broke down when driving to a cruise a few years ago.  The car’s engine died halfway to the port in Florida and I had to rent a car for the rest of the trip so I wouldn’t miss the ship.   Talk about stressful!  So, there’s another reason to always have cruise travel insurance for any cruise you take.

How flexible do you want to be pre-cruise and post-cruise?

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Whether you fly or drive to your cruise port I recommend arriving the day before your cruise.  But what if you feel like getting to the cruise port a couple days early, and you decide on that at the last minute?  Or maybe after your cruise you want to change plans and enjoy the port city for a little longer?  Driving offers more flexibility for those who like to live on a whim.

A set flight time can make things a little hectic if something trips up your schedule, like traffic, weather making your cruise ship arrive back a little later, or other unforeseen events.  Always allow extra time for getting to and from the airport, but also have travel insurance no matter what method of travel you ultimately choose.

Is convenience or money more important?

The choice of flying or driving really comes down to this question.  After all, it’s your vacation and you only get so many days off of work throughout the year.  If convenience and time is a greater factor then flying will be the way to go in most cases, but you still need to factor in airport to cruise port transportation costs and arriving and departing with plenty of buffer time.

If I’m within 5 or 6 hours of the cruise port I prefer to drive as it’s less restrictive to flight times and schedules, offering more flexibility along the way.

Bottom Line

There’s no one answer for everyone when it comes to driving or flying to a cruise port.  Hopefully, these questions will help you know which method of travel is right for you.   Whichever method you ultimately choose, give yourself plenty of time and don’t sweat the small issues that inevitably will come up throughout the trip.

Read more: 15 things you should do right after you book your cruise

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