So you want to goto PAX? That's great. Have you put any thought into how you're going to get there? Have you also put any thought into your other options of getting there? Well if you haven't, grab a cup of coffee and take a breeze through this and find out what your options are.
Now, first off, there are basically 4 ways of getting to PAX:
- Take A Train (Amtrak)
- Take The Bus (Greyhound)
Each have their pros and cons that weigh in on the decision making process, but there is basically one common decision point between all of them...
Time vs. Comfort vs. Money:
In this section, we're going to discuss just that. In any form of traveling, one of those 3 things is going to be the constant and you're not going to be able to change it. One example could be a college student planning his spring break trip. He knows when his last class before spring break ends and when his first class after break starts. So for him, Time is the constant.
My grandma had a walker, couldn't sit still for very long and had to goto the bathroom constantly. So when we traveled with her, her comfort was the constant.
And last year with me, being a poor college student working at a public radio station, I had a small money supply, and so the total amount of money I was able to spend on the trip was my constant. Some people might have more then one constant, but some might not have any. In either case, figure out which of the three is most important and use that as a constant.
So, how do the four ways of getting to PAX relate to Time, Comfort and Money? Well let's take a quick look.Time
It is really easy to compare the time factors of the four ways of getting to PAX. You just compare times. And that comparison breaks down to two things: Flying and Not Flying. As you will see in more detail later, I looked at 11 places from across the US, ranging from approx. 200 miles away to 3,300 miles away. Now the airlines suggest that you arrive 2 hours before your flight. And I know that some airports won't let you check baggage if it's less then an hour till your flight departs. And Seattle's airport is at least a 20-30 minute drive from the convention center and hotels.
So what does that mean? Well, there is a hidden hour and a half at least in the travel time of flying that you need to add in. But even with that time added on, flying is still going going to be faster then the other forms of transportation. We'll look into the specific times farther down when we look at each of the forms individually, but flying is the clear winner of this one.Comfort
Comfort can mean different things for different people. For some it's a preference. They prefer a train ride to a bus ride. Or the open skies to the chaos that's on the highway. But for others, it's a medical necessity. What ever the case maybe, before you start your trip, find what comforts or special attention you may need or want, and then do a little research to find out which of the four modes of transportation fill your need and go from there.Money
Money is just like time, very easy to compare the four ways of getting to PAX. All you gotta do is look at cost. First off, flying is in a class almost by itself. It is hands down the fastest way to travel to most places, but you pay a premium for that speed. The others move at a much slower pace compared to the plane. So when you are traveling, you should take into account that you will need to eat, and food will cost some money, and so that should be taken into account. Out of the rest, the train is more expensive then the bus and driving throws a twist into the mix.
That twist comes in the total cost for a group of people. Now when you are traveling by plane, train or bus, the cost of you ticket will not change depending on if you travel with your friends. (Unless you have a lot of friends and are able to get the normally 10-20 person group discount.) But with driving, the major cost for the trip is going to be gas. And your going to be paying the same amount for gas whether you are the only one in your vehicle or you've got everybody crammed in like circus clowns. But the cost to each person is going to be A LOT lower in the clown car then the solo driver.
If that analogy didn't work here are the real numbers from my drive last year. Round-trip, my friends and I spent a total of $475 on gas. Now if I was going by myself, it would have been cheaper to take the train, ($393) the bus ($198) and even the plane ($400) to and from PAX. But since there was 3 of us in the car, I only had to pay $160ish for the trip. So if money is tight, Driving can be the cheapest under the right circumstances.Modes of Transportation
Now that you've got the basic overall decisions of time, money and comfort figured out, lets take a closer look at each of the 4 ways to get to PAX. But before that, let me explain how this section is setup. First is going to be a list of pros and cons for each form of transportation. Then doing some simple travel website digging, I'm going to list the prices and times of transportation from 11 different cities from across the US. I chose these cities due to the fact that they range in population from slightly over half a million people to almost 19 million.
But more so is their distances from PAX. they are spaced out, according to Google maps, in approx. 200 to 500 mile increments from Seattle. And so it should give a pretty good idea what the price and time is going to be from anywhere in the US that you are at. The cities are as follows (in order of closeness to Seattle):
- Portland, OR - 200 miles
- Boise, ID - 500 miles
- San Fransisco, CA - 800 miles
- Los Angeles, CA - 1,100 miles
- Denver, CO - 1,300 miles
- Omaha, NE - 1,700 miles
- Chicago, IL - 2,000 miles
- Detroit, MI - 2,200 miles
- Houston, TX - 2,400 miles
- New York City, NY - 2,800 miles
- Miami, FL - 3,300 miles
I know I didn't do any research from outside the country, but that is because there is enough research to for traveling inside the US. And I would put money on the fact that most people traveling to PAX outside the US will most likely just fly to Seattle and back.
Oh, on one final note, I chose to arrive at Seattle on Thursday night and leave Monday morning when I was doing my research due to the fact that that is when the CCST and the WCTT arrive and depart from PAX. And don't quote me on the prices. These were all taken back in January and might have changed since then. And the time is listed in hours and minutes if you didn't notice. The prices listed is for the cost round trip and the time listed is for just one-way. Why I did I do it that way? because that is how the travel sites list it.FlyingPros:
- It's fast. There's not many other ways you can travel over 3,000 miles in under 7 hours.
- You leave the flying to somebody else.
- If you work during the week, you can be back anywhere in the US by Sunday night if need be.
- You won't kill your travel-mates because you won't have time.
- Did I mention it's fast?
Price and travel times by city:
- It's more expensive most of the time.
- The Seattle Airport is 15 miles from the convention center and a taxi would cost around $20
- Might not have power to run electronic devices.
- Not allowed to use certain devices during take-off and landing.
- Severe rules for carry-ons.
- Possibility of getting a Body Cavity search.
- Coach class.
- Screaming Babies have nowhere else to go.
- The Friday before Labor Day ranked as the second busiest day for air travel.
- Chance of missing connecting flight if you have one or more.
- Possible jet-lag.
- Fear of flying.
(Price is for round trip, but time is one-way)
- Portland - $150 and 0:50
- Boise - $163 and 1:30
- S.F. - $209 and 2:00
- LA - $300 and 2:45
- Denver - $240 and 2:45
- Omaha - $336 and 5:45 (Including Layover. No direct flights)
- Chicago - $341 and 4:20
- Detroit - $421 and 5:00 ($392 and 6:30 if willing to have a layover)
- Houston - $315 and 4:20
- NYC - $375 and 6:30 ($320 and 9:00 if willing to have a layover)
- Miami - $400 and 6:00 ($331 and 7:30 if willing to have a layover)
- Plenty of time to hang out with other people on the train... Like the guys from the West Coast Train Trip
- Don't have to be in charge of driving the train.
- More room to move around and actually get up and walk around.
- West Coast Train Trip. Have you heard about it?
- Looser security then planes.
- Seats have power outlets next to them.
- Less then 1 mile from train station to PAX.
- If you're traveling up the west coast, you can hook up with the West Coast Train Trip.
Price and travel times by city:
- There is still a limit on what you can pack and bring with you.
- Multi-day trip on most occasions.
- Only two direct routes goto Seattle. One from Chicago and one from San Fran and LA.
- frequent delays due to freight trains.
- Sleeper cars are expensive if you want one.
- Food on the train is expensive.
- Train swaying might not be good for motion sickness people.
- Train seats are hard to sleep in.
- Not that many train routes it seems and that means not many choices on times.
- Once you get on the train, you are stuck on the train.
(Price is for round trip. but time is one-way)
- Portland - $56 and 3:30
- Boise - $158 and 15:25 (9:30 of which is spent on a bus and 3:00 on layover)
- S.F. - $179 and 23:45 (1:00 spent on a bus and 0:30 spent on layover)
- LA - $184 and 34:30
- Denver - $348 and 58:00 (around 6:00 spent on layover)
- Omaha - $408 and 68:14 (around 6:00 spent on layover)
- Chicago - $286 and 46:05
- Detroit - $385 and 51:30 (around 2:00 spent on layover)
- Houston - $446 and 72:00 (note: If the Houston train to LA is even 5 mins late, you'll miss the LA to Seattle train and you're SOL. So add another 24:00 onto the trip there to be safe. Also, the trip back has a 17:30 layover)
- NYC - $415 and 70:50 (5:00 spent on layover)
- Miami - $579 and 100:30 (14:00 spent on layover)
- If you're traveling with a couple of friends, it can be the cheapest way to travel.
- Traveling with the CCST is one of the easiest ways to meet other PAXgoers before you get to PAX.
- The only limit on what you can bring is the size of your vehicle.
- Driving with the CCST means you're not traveling alone. You're traveling with people who have driven to PAX for years. Most of the legwork (scheduling, gas stops, breaks, etc.) has been already done for you.
- A cigarette lighter + a power inverter = power for almost every electronic device you own.
- Did I mention how cool riding with the CCST is?
Prices and Times:
- Possibility of forgetting to adjust the travel time from what google maps gives you and thinking you can drive from NYC to Seattle in 42 hours. (The CCST has already adjusted for this)
- Traveling speed is comparable to the train and the bus.
- You are at the mercy of the traffic near big cities.
- Toll Roads for some people who are traveling east of Chicago.
- Parking near the convention center or at the hotels is $20+ a day.
- The car might break down... in the middle of Montana. (Knock on Wood)
- Driving long distances takes a toll on some people.
- Truckstop food isn't the greatest (don't eat it in Butte, MT).
- Smelly feet.
- If you don't have enough people, it's going to be more expensive.
(Prices are for round trip and travel time is for one-way)
Note: Trying to figure out the price and times for driving is a lot harder then any of the others. The reason is that there are too many unknowns. How much is gas going to cost next August? What type of MPG does your car get? The number of people you are going to take also makes a difference.
So what I've decided to do here is take the data that I've acquired from the two previous CCST trips and use it to estimate the time and cost that I would have to pay if I was making the journey. The specifics are of a 2000 Toyota Camry with an MPG of 28, with 3 people in the car. And we're going to go with an average of $3.00 per gallon of gas, to make the calculations a little easier.
- Portland- $12.42 and 3:00
- Boise- $36.07 and 10:00
- SF- $57.71 and 16:00
- LA- $81.07 and 25:00
- Denver- $95.14 and 30:00
- Omaha- $132.14 and 37:00
- Chicago- $147.64 and 45:00
- Detroit- $167.78 and 51:00
- Houston- $174.28 and 54:00
- NYC- $203.92 and 60:00
- Miami- $249.78 and 76:00
So that's the long of it, what's the short of it?
- Planes are fast but expensive. Which is fine if you've got an actual M-F job that you can't miss and can cover the higher cost compared to the others.
- Trains are not as expensive as planes in some cases, but not others. And if you're not coming from Chicago or right on the west coast, be prepared for some wicked layover. And if you're coming from west coast, check out the West Coast Train Trip. If they get enough people, There's bound to be some sort of a discount.
- Buses are cheap. You can go anywhere in the US and back for under $200 if you give them 2 weeks notice. It may or may not be faster then the train.
- Driving is even cheaper then the bus if you've got a full car. Plus, if you're east of the Mississippi, check out the Cross Country Supertrip. Nothing like meeting a couple dozen gamers even before PAX has started. And driving in a convoy is a lot safer then driving in one car (and wicked fun).
Well, that's it. Comments? Suggestions?