Kelly Alley

There’s been quite a lot covered regarding travel in this column over the past few months, but there seems to be one key piece missing: transportation.

It’s an often-neglected part of the travel equation, unless you decide to fly – then it’s typically the most important thing.

But what differences do the three main modes of travel – car, train and airplane – have to offer?

Let’s start with the humble automobile first.

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The mighty 1988 Toyota Corolla, seen at the North Rim Grand Canyon campground in 2015.

Cars have the ultimate convenience when traveling. They’re easy to maneuver around, whether driving on an old backwoods country road or pulling into a parking spot in a busy lot at a popular national park.

Then there’s the glaring fact that there are more roads than airports or train tracks, at least here in the United States. For many trips it just makes sense to take a car, truck or van to putt around in.

For a little R and R – that’s rails and roads – there’s the world of train-based traveling.

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Train travel offers a different ground view when traveling. This is an Amtrack passenger train taking off from the Alexandria station in Washington, D.C.

Trains offer a bit more rigid way of traveling, but only because you’re subjected to following a path of iron rails to get you where you’re going.

Aside from that, trains are pretty great. One big plus of trains is that they’re kind of like traveling in an RV. You can move around inside the train while you travel down the tracks, sleep, eat, socialize.

The biggest draw for train-based travel is that you don’t have to spend all your time driving or sitting in one spot for several hours.

Planes are in a league of their own within the realm of traveling. Air travel is the newest of the three and probably the most exciting.

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Air travel provides a different perspective for travelers: a birds-eye view of the Earth.

There’s little about flying through the clouds that doesn’t inspire some sort of fancy of the imagination, especially if you’ve never flown. It’s romantic, in the idolized sense of the word.

Much like car travel, you’re confined to sitting in a relatively small space for an extended period of time. Like train travel, you’re among many folks, again, in a small-ish space. Unlike the two, you get a birds-eye view of the world, darting from cloud to cloud. Sunrise and sunset at 50,000-plus feet is something to behold.

Alrighty, so that’s a quick rundown of three main types of ways to travel. Boats were excluded for practicality reasons, although I have seen a road-legal boat driving down the interstate before.

All three have their pros and cons. Cars are the most practical and the cheapest but are the most cramped. Trains offer a view on the ground you’ve probably never seen before, but there’s only one path you can go, and fairly slow at that. Planes are the quickest, have the absolute coolest views and offer a bit of an adrenaline rush – especially on takeoff and landing – but you’re stuck with a bunch of people without the opportunity to walk around, and tickets to fly are pricey.

There’s a moral to this story, I guess. To have the best of all worlds, we all need a car like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Kelly Alley is a senior studying journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at kalley2@vols.utk.edu.

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