The Best Ways to Travel Long-Distance

Forget the Summer of Love, this summer is all about fun! Specifically adventures and trips with friends or family—safely, of course. But getting to your destination is only half the battle. And while it might be tempting to embark on a ten-hour drive rather than try to organize a train trip, car crashes are the leading cause of death when traveling in the US. Rather than letting potential hurdles get the best of your exciting plans, allow us to do the gritty work for you.

We’ve compiled a list of the best and safest ways to travel long-distance, so you can focus on the fun times ahead.


Planes ✈️

#1 safest way to travel

Nothing says travel more than catching a plane to a neighboring state or far-off, distant land. There’s something extraordinary and magical about watching the landscape shrink before your eyes as a plane takes flight and gains elevation. And for argument’s sake, there’s no better place on earth to watch a sunset or sunrise grow from light pink to brilliant hues of orange, purple, and deep blue.

It’s easy to see how folks of all ages can become enamored with plane travel: it’s efficient, romantic, and exciting. Plus, there were zero deaths during scheduled airline travel in 2014, which is a comforting statistic—even if you scale plane passenger miles with automobiles, planes would still be the safest way to travel. But there are other perks to aerial voyages—planes take you from point A to point B quickly, making them ideal for international travel or quick trips. And if you have children under the age of two, they fly for free.

Things to consider when traveling by plane

  • It’s speedy
    Regardless of how much time you’ve set aside for vacation, jet-setting your way to a destination is the safest, and one of the fastest, ways for you to get there. So if you’re in a pinch or looking to optimize on a long weekend, getting there by plane is the way to go.
  • It’s also exhausting
    Navigating airports, terminals, baggage claims, and countless other people is tiring and can be tough on everyone—not just kids or aging adults.
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Pro tip

Pack a pair of pajamas in your carry-on—just in case. You never know when a flight could get cancelled or delayed, and sleeping in the clothes you’ve been traveling in simply won’t do.

Tricks and tips for your trip

  • Say hello to organization station
    Keep electronics with electronics, toiletries with toiletries, and snacks with snacks. Not only does this approach make it easy for TSA to see what’s in your bag, but it also helps you stay organized as you navigate your travel itinerary.
  • Stay healthy
    To put it bluntly, airports are a breeding ground for germs. So make sure you avoid touching your face or mouth, wash your hands frequently, get some hand sanitizer once you’re through security, stay hydrated, and pack those vitamin C tablets.
  • Time it right
    When you’re flying with little kids or trying to make a connection, timing is everything. Make sure you give yourself enough time to grab your ticket, get through security, stop at the bathroom, and collect yourself before your flight.
  • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum
    As tempting as it might be to throw back a few glasses of wine, drinking while flying can give you quite the hangover and impact your immune system’s strength.
  • Expect the unexpected
    Be it an inconsolable baby, a delayed flight, or an occupied bathroom when you just gotta go, you have little control over what happens, so try to roll with the punches.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes
    We’re not talking pajama pants (though if you’re so inclined, do it), but donning comfy clothes will make your travels all the better. Also, avoid flip-flops or sandals—both types of footwear are tough to walk around in when you’re in a hurry. Instead wear shoes that are easy to slide on and off. Just don’t forget your socks!

Trains 🚆

#2 safest way to travel

Once upon a time, trains were the lifeblood of travel in the United States—it was largely the only way people could sightsee or visit family members in other states. But trains have become extremely underutilized—relegated as slow-moving relics that only urban commuters ride.

But trains are not only safe; they also provide a sense of laid-back luxuriousness that you don’t get when traveling by plane or car. After you board the train, all you need to do is take a seat and let the personnel do the “driving” for you. And the loveliest part of all? You get to watch the world unfold all around you. Some trains have cars that are designed specifically for unobstructed nature viewing. These scenic cars are particularly exciting for kids since they offer an unhampered picture of what the world outside the train looks like. Plus, there’s usually a fully stocked bar on those cars, too, so you can enjoy a beverage and stop to smell the roses, rather than having to focus on the road or navigate a busy airport terminal.

Things to consider when traveling by train

  • It’s luxurious
    Between the plush seats, ample leg room, sleeper cars, and stress-free approach, travel by train offers a lavish experience. Plus, you get to skip traffic, long lines, and restrictive seat belts.
  • It’s more affordable than flying
    Travel isn’t cheap—but embarking on a voyage via train is generally much cheaper than flying, especially if you’re trekking a short distance.
  • It can take a while
    Trains aren’t the fastest way to get around. So if you’ve got a tight time frame, you’re probably better off flying.

Tricks and tips for your trip

  • Spring for the sleeper car
    You won’t regret a good night’s rest, and the sleeper cars offer just that.
  • Pack an eye mask
    Distractions are everywhere on a train. Bring along a light-blocking eye mask, and while you’re at it, grab some noise cancelling headphones to tune out any annoying conversations.
  • Check your luggage
    Keep stress levels to a minimum and check large bags—but don’t forget to bring a small carry on with necessities.
  • Enjoy the ride
    Train travel is going to take a long time, so indulge in the slow-going nature of it and enjoy the small moments with your family.
  • Bring reading and play materials
    Whether you prefer audio books or an iPad, train travel invites you to slow down and take the time to catch up on reading. If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to bring along some puzzles, Playdough, and other toys. Packable, family-friendly games (like Uno or a travel-size board game) are great as well.
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Pro tip

Don’t forget the camera! Train travel is very picturesque, so make sure you snap some photos.

Automobiles 🚗

Most dangerous way to travel

When compared to the passenger death data from planes and trains, automobiles are the most dangerous method of travel. Driving requires a lot of responsibility and attention, and it can be difficult to fully focus when you’re driving a car filled with antsy kids and luggage. On top of it, you have to navigate other drivers’ bad driving skills, making long-distance road trips extremely stressful. On the other hand, automobiles provide fast and dependable transport to rural areas where an airport or train station aren’t available.

State stats

Things to consider when traveling by automobile

  • It’s quick and affordable
    If you’re only going a few towns over, driving to your destination can get you there in a timely fashion—and it won’t cost nearly as much as a plane or train ticket.

  • It’s more dangerous
    When driving, you have to take into account other people’s actions and operate on a defensive level. This can be especially taxing when you’re driving a car filled with luggage and family members.

Tricks and tips for your trip

  • Keep your eyes on the road
    Distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of automobile fatalities and accidents. Keep your driving distraction-free by delegating tasks to a capable copilot.
  • Pack an emergency road kit
    If you experience car trouble, an emergency road kit will help you react quickly and effectively to the situation at hand.
  • Sign up for AAA
    Regardless of where you are in the US, or even if you’re not in your car, a AAA membership will help you get out of a sticky situation—whether it’s a flat tire, a broken axle, or an empty gas tank.
  • Pack snacks
    Foods like fresh fruit or veggies can offer a tasty reprieve from typical gas station fare.
  • Nap it off
    If you’re feeling sleepy, a nap is a surefire way to help prevent an accident. If it’s safe, pull over to the side of the road and take a thirty-minute rest before continuing on your journey.
  • Bring your toothbrush
    To help rouse yourself post nap, brush your teeth. Plus, fast food and gas station snacks don’t exactly translate into fresh breath, so a little scrub-a-dub-dub can help offset the travel grime.
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Pro tip

Wear polarized sunglasses. They’ll protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays and ease any discomfort or eye strain that you can experience when going shades-free.

From a security standpoint, planes and trains have more safety protocols in place to ensure everyone gets to their destination in one piece. So as you drum up ideas for summer vacations and family trips, consider the distance you want to travel and how much money you want to spend on transportation. Both factors will help you decide what method of travel is best for your family. From there, the sky’s the limit (especially if you choose to take a plane)!

Travel statistics

  • Americans travel a total of 1.3 trillion miles per year
  • 56% of long-distance trips are for pleasure
  • 98% of long-distance trips are within the US
  • 62% of long-distance trips are within the traveler’s home state
  • Number of passenger deaths in 2014
    • Air: 0
    • Train: 5
    • Automobile: 21,014
  • Median distances per method of travel
    • Air: 2,068 miles
    • Train: 192 miles
    • Automobile: 194 miles

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Andrea Harvey
Written by
Andrea Harvey
Andréa is passionate about community advocacy. Before joining our team, she studied journalism at the University of Oregon and worked at local newspapers like Salt Lake City Weekly and the Ogden Standard-Examiner. As an Outreach Strategist, she helps SafeWise reach new communities nationwide with data-driven safety campaigns and educational resources.

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