We'll be travelling from Sydney to Inverell (in the far north of the state) to stay at my parents' farm over the Christmas/New Year period - a distance of 621 km. The cheapest option would be to drive up in our 10-year-old Festiva, but the car is a bit too cramped for long distance journeys. The drive would take about 6.5 hours each way (longer if we take a lunch break on the way), and cost around $200 or so in petrol for the round trip. A bit should be added on for wear-and-tear on the tyres, car servicing costs etc., but there's effectively no depreciation cost for using the car as it's already more than a decade old and has over 115,000 km on the clock (one careful driver ;). Next year when we visit my parents at their other farm at Forster each school holiday we'll probably trade in the old jalopy for a near-new (1 yo) Hyundai ix35 Highlander (about $41,500 new).
An economy-class return train fare for a family of four costs $356.44 (the adults cost $172.22 each, while the kids are only charged $6.00 each!), and the kids enjoy travelling on the train for a change. The train takes about the same amount of time overall (we have to catch a City train to Hornsby before changing onto the countrylink train). DW is insisting we take the train rather than drive, which is easy for her to stipulate since she won't be paying for the train fares (I can't really complain, since staying a week with her in-laws isn't her ideal vacation!). I don't really mind paying the extra $150 to take the train, since I'll be able to sleep, watch a DVD or read a book during the 6 hour train trip, rather than stare at the road! The train doesn't actually pass through Inverell, so we'll have to get off at the closest station (about an hour drive) and be collected by my parents.
My parents had also asked about us taking a plane, but the cost is exhorbitant. It would cost $1025 for the family - nearly triple the cost of travelling via train. The flight time from Sydney to Armidale is just over an hour, but it would take around an hour to get to Sydney airport from home, plus another hour or so to get from Armidale to Inverell. So the total travel time would be around half via plane rather than train or car. The one-way airfare is $144 per person, so it would be worthwhile for adults (a 60% premium compared to economy train fare, or about the same price as first class train travel), but there isn't any discount available for children.
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