Someone at Daily Kos wondered why someone like me wouldn't take a train to visit family that is just under 1,200 miles away for the holidays. Let me explain by showing the real life itineraries via car, train and plane.
Leave from home for DIA on Sunday at 4:45 p.m.
Leave from DIA to Dayton, Ohio on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Arrive in Dayton, Ohio on Sunday at 11:59 p.m.
Arrive at Grandpa's house from Dayton Airport at 1:35 a.m.
Leave from Grandpa's house for Dayton airport at 12:30 p.m.
Leave Dayton on Saturday at 3:35 p.m.
Arrive in Denver on Saturday at 4:35 p.m.
Arrive home on Saturday at 5:50 p.m.
Total Travel Time: 13 hours 10 minutes
Leave from home on Sunday at 6:00 a.m.
Drive to Grandpa's house with ETA of Sunday just before midnight (per mapquest).
Leave from Grandpa's on Saturday at 6:00 a.m.
Drive to home with ETA of Saturday just before midnight.
Total travel time: 36 hours (even with two or three additional hours for breaks each way, it is very competive with traveling by train).
Leave from home for Union Station in Denver on Sunday at 8:00 p.m.
Board Train in Denver on Sunday at 8:25 p.m.
Arrive in Chicago on Monday at 4:00 p.m.
Board Train in Chicago on Monday at 5:25 p.m.
Arrive in Cincinnati on Tuesday at 3:17 a.m.
Get in car to Grandpa's house on Tuesday at 3:21 a.m.
Arrive at Grandpa's house on Tuesday at 4:10 a.m.
Leave Grandpa's house on 12:06 a.m. on Saturday
Leave Cincinnati 1:10 a.m. on Saturday
Arrive in Chicago 10:35 a.m. on Saturday
Leave Chicago 2 p.m. on Saturday
Arrive in Denver at 7:15 a.m. on Sunday
Drive from Union Station in Denver to home on Sunday with ETA 7:30 p.m.
Total Travel Time: 62 hours 52 minutes
Flying costs about twice as much as driving or taking a train for a family of four.
Train tickets would cost about $840 for a family of four and there would be an additional parking cost (on the order of $84 for a week). Driving would cost about $400 for gasoline, about $24 for a pro-rata share of oil change costs, and about $500in car depreciation. So, the cost of traveling by train and by car for a family of four is roughly identical.
I didn't bother to consider some unrealistic alternatives such as taking a boat down the South Platte to the Mississippi, then up the Mississippi to the Ohio River and its tributaries to my destination. I also didn't consider biking, travel by foot, or travel by horse. There is no commercial blimp service between the destinations.