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Summer motoring 2012: car, plane, train?

  • Are cars, planes or trains cheaper
  • forms of of holiday travel?
  • We simulate costs for travel to south of France
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As part of our summer motoring 2012 series, we decided to see if it's cheaper to take the plane, train or car when heading abroad on holiday.

We've already discussed the practicalities of driving abroad, so read on to see just how the costs break down against trains and planes.

How we did it
We took a hypothetical family of four on a return trip to Nice in the south of France from their home in Teddington, Middlesex pricing the journey for travel by air, rail and road.

All of our journeys are calculated for a family of four (two adults and two children who are both aged under 11) for a week in August 2012 from Saturday to Saturday.

Planes, trains or automobiles?
Find out which method of travel is the cheapest way to head for the sun.

Air: Flights are from Gatwick Airport to Nice with British Airways, and are the cheapest available on the selected days, with quotes generated three months in advance.

Driving: Costs were calculated using a Ford Mondeo 2.0TDCi 140 Zetec. Fuel costs are calculated using the average diesel costs of 1.43 a litre in the UK and 1.43 a litre in France. The exchange rate for the purposes of calculations was 1.21 to the pound.

Fuel is calculated for both journeys assuming the tank was filled at point of departure. Refuelling is then assumed to take place with five litres left in the 70-litre tank.

Fuel economy is calculated using the True MPG average figure for the Mondeo, which is 42.8mpg.

Rail: Quotes for ticket prices do not include any discount cards.

Prices correct at time of research

Teddington to Nice by air

Teddington to Gatwick by train:
64.20 return
Alternatively...
Teddington to Gatwick by car:
61.72 (4.42 in fuel and 57.30 for long-stay parking)

Gatwick to Nice by plane:
Aug 4-11 - 441.44
Aug 11-18 - 585.44
Aug18-24 - 777.44
Aug 24 - Sept 1 - 781.44

Total by air
Between 505.64 and 847.58 depending on the week booked and method of travel to airport.

Teddington to Nice by rail

Teddington to London St Pancras by train:
51.60 return

London St Pancras to Nice by train
853 return

Total by train
905.60

Teddington to Nice by car
(On tolled motorways)

Eurotunnel
190 return (95 each way, tickets chosen to allow driving across France on the same day)

Road tolls from Calais to Nice, return:
219.40 (181.32)

Fuel (outbound):

Teddington to Folkestone
83.7 miles - 12.74

Calais to Nice:
Via Paris...
756 miles 528.3 miles from rest of UK-filled tank at 80.86 then 227.7 miles at 28.56 (23.60) in France

Via Reims...
760 miles 528.3 miles from rest of UK-filled tank at 80.86 then 231.7 miles 29.03 (23.99) in France

Return journey

Nice to Teddington:
Via Paris...
839.7 miles 127.36 (105.26)

Via Reims...
843.7 miles 127.93 (105.73)

Total by car - using toll route
593.78 via Paris
594.64 Via Reims

Teddington to Nice by car
(Using toll-free route)

Eurotunnel
190 return (95 each way, tickets chosen to allow driving across France on the same day)

Fuel (outbound)

Teddington to Folkestone
83.7 miles - 12.74

Calais to Nice:
Via Paris...
758 miles - 528.3 miles from rest of UK-filled tank at 80.86 then 225.7 miles at 30.57 (25.27) in France

Via Belgium and Besancon...
830miles - 528.3 miles from rest of UK-filled tank at 80.86 then 301.7 miles at 37.82 (31.26)

Return journey

Nice to Teddington:
Via Paris...
841.7 miles - 105.52 (127.67)

Via Belgium and Besancon...
913.7 miles 114.53 (138.58)

Total by car - avoiding toll routes
436.54 via Paris, 453.44 via Besancon and Belgium

So, its a close-run battle between the plane and car, while the train is left in a distant third place. Cars and planes both have pros and cons; driving to Nice will take a minimum of 12.5 hours, while a flight could
get you there in around six or seven hours, door-to-door.

However, taking your own car on holiday will save you several hundred pounds in hire-car charges, should you want to travel around once at your destination. If you've got time to spare, taking the toll-free route will save you a lot of cash and reward you with some great scenery and cafes along the way.

Youll need to remember to check your insurance and organise some additional breakdown cover, though - along with making sure you're fully road-legal for the country you're heading to.

By
Pete Barden
/Tom Webster