Airline Travel - So Not Worth It

I'm traveling soon from my home in North Carolina to see my best friend Trisha in Cincinnati. It's about an 8-hour drive, and a pretty drive for most of the way. (Things get ugly when you cross into Ohio. Sorry, buckeyes.) Usually I'd have no problem making the drive but this time I was hoping to fly. My visit is only 4 days, including drive time, and one day while I'm there Trisha and I area driving to Columbus (about 2 hours each way) to see my cousin and her new baby. 

That's a whole lotta driving.

So I hopped on Delta where we have skymiles and onto Priceline, just to check out the competition, hoping to find a "cheap" flight. 

The best I found was $264 dollars. Pretty good... until you remember that the airlines now charge you for every bag, snack, drop of water, and I think the air you breath. So let's round up and say, with all fees included, about $300 for the trip. 

Okay, still do-able. It will cost us about 50,000 skymiles if we go that route. I'm not sure I'm willing to spend that many skymiles on something that I really can drive. But I don't see Trisha often and I want as much time with her as possible, so maybe...

Until you look at flight schedules. The only direct flight out doesn't put me in Cincy until almost 10 pm on my first day of travel. The other flights give me the option of either a 38 minute layover in Atlanta (which I would have jumped on even 5 years ago but in this day of delayed flights, no way) or anywhere from 2.5 - 5 hour layovers in either DC, Chicago, Charlotte, or Atlanta. When I factor in the potential for cancelled flights, lost luggage and a travel day that still equals almost 6 hours spent in airports and cramped flights... forget it. I'm out. 

Yes, I'll have a lot of drive time. But I'll also have fresh air, plenty of leg room, my music, healthy snacks in a cooler, mountain views, and the ability to overpack to my hearts content (without sweating over whether my lipstick will be confiscated at the gate b/c I forgot to put it in a plastic baggie). 

Ten years ago, my drive-time limit was five hours. Anything over five and I would book a flight. That moved up to 8 hours, and now I hover between the 10-12 hour rule.

It makes me sad. I used to love flying. There was great people watching and flights were rarely cancelled and not every single flight packed passengers like sardines in a tin with arm-wrestling competitions taking place in the holding pens for the last bit of overhead bin space. Now, more often than not, I find myself tense and irritable when I fly. I'm anxious to just get off the plane, grab my luggage, and get the hell away from the misery that is today's modern airport. 

How about everyone else out there? What's your "I'll drive it, not fly it" cutoff?