Just Ask! A travel service:Getting to the Montreal area – do we fly or should we drive?

September 23, 2016

BURLINGTON, ON.  Traveling can be fun.  Cruises are great, bus tours can be an adventure but most travel takes some planning.  Ask your questions before you travel and don’t find yourself saying: “I didn’t know that.”  Gordana Liddell a season travel veteran is here to answer travel questions: Just Ask.

My family is planning a trip to Montreal to see my husband’s grandmother in Vaudreuil.  He wants to drive but I want to fly because I think driving is too long for me and my two small kids.  The flight is short.  Can you convince him?


Hi Kate,

This is a discussion we have had in my own family many times, and having done both with kids, I have definite ideas about which is better.

Let’s examine the flying option:

At first glance a 70 minute flight seems like a short trip.  But that’s only the gate-to-gate time…not the entire journey.

Here’s the breakdown in a best case scenario:

-Travel time from Burlington to Toronto airport:  45 minutes

-Parking:  if you park on site the time added is minimal, but most of us would probably explore the many off-site options. These require a shuttle bus ride to the terminal as well as waiting for said bus.  Add 45 minutes.

Check – at times this can be an “experience”. Allow for the time needed if you are flying.

-Check-in:  Even if you did an online check-in at home, you still need to be at the airport with enough time to check in your bags, (assuming you have bags since you are travelling with children…advice on travelling extremely light in an upcoming article), get through security and get to the gate at least 30 minutes before departure time.  Add at least one hour.

-Boarding, flight time and deplaning:  Add two  hours.

-Getting picked up at the airport or taking a taxi?  Add 45 minutes for drive time to Vaudreuil.  (Renting a car?  You will need to add considerably more time).

Total travel time from Burlington to Vaudreuil by way of flying is about five hours.  And all of this is assuming the fact that you will experience no traffic on the way to or from either airport, that your flight is on time and that your baggage arrives on the same flight you do.

Now let’s look at the cost.  If you get extremely lucky, you can score seat sale prices for only $250-$300 per person.  More realistically, though, $500 per person is what you should expect.  I’ll do the math for you…for a family of four, this adds up to…a lot.

The case for driving.

Travel time should take about six hours in a car.  This, of course, does not factor in traffic or stops.  The best…the very best time to go…is in the wee hours, when traffic has not yet started and ideally you can just transfer your kids from their beds to the car, and they can spend a good part of the journey asleep. 

Weather can be a tough obstacle when driving, especially in the winter.  But it can be an even tougher obstacle when flying.  Winter weather causes flight delays and even cancellations due to storms not only in your own city but in others.  Your plane may be stuck somewhere where the weather is nasty and your own city is sunny and mild.  At least when you are driving to your destination, you have much more control over the entire situation.

If you drive – plan for ways to keep the kids occupied. If the weather is right a picnic is a great idea.

The drive is an easy one but it’s not an overly exciting one so you will need to think of amusement for the kids.  Again, keep them asleep for as long as you can, and as for when they are awake, I’m sure you are already an expert on finding things to keep them occupied on a daily basis anyway.  Plus, you will definitely need to make at least one “refreshment” stop which will kill some time, and at the same time add time to your travel.  So try and keep it…efficient.

And when you get to Vaudreuil, you will arrive at the front door of your husband’s grandmother’s house, AND you will have a car to get around in, AND you will have your luggage with you guaranteed.

Cost:  Yes, gas is expensive.  But you can get there and back and have a full tank of driving around gas by filling up four times.  This should not cost you more than $400.  That’s a huge difference from the cost of flying.

And, probably most importantly, it costs the same for one person to make the drive as it does four.

In the end, Kate, I don’t think I can convince your husband that he is wrong.  But those are the main points you can look over, compare and decide together.

(Do the drive).

Gordana Liddell is our resident travel writer. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto, a travel industry veteran of nearly two decades, freelance writer, and most recently book editor. She is fortunate enough to live right here in Burlington with her family.  If you have a travel question you can reach her at: send us an email



Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 comments to Just Ask! A travel service:Getting to the Montreal area – do we fly or should we drive?

  • Greg

    You’re really playing fast and loose with the flying times. I have done that trip more than 20 times (some with family) in the last two years and I have rarely ever come close to your duration when flying.

    Trip to Airport 40 Minutes
    Arrive (at parking lot) 1 hour before flight time 1 Hour
    Flight Duration (to out of gate) 1.25 Hours
    Rental Car Signup/Taxi and baggage collection 30 Minutes
    Drive 30 Minutes

    That’s under 4 hours door to door. You could shave off more time if you were really quick on the Montreal end.

    I’m not saying flying is the way to go, but the comparison should be legitimate. Have you considered taking the train? When I’m not pressed for time I like taking the VIA to Montreal. It’s the most relaxing method of travelling and could be an adventure for the kids.

    • Gordana Liddell

      Those are all legitimate times you give, Greg. However, as a former airline employee, I’d say parking your car one hour before your departure time is a real gamble. Lines at check-in/baggage drop off may be long, same with security lines. I’d say THAT’S playing it fast and loose. Travelling is stressful enough without the added stress of being late for your flight.
      And Via is a wonderful option, yes. But in light of recent news, I decided not to touch on that, given that Kate did not ask about it.

      • Greg

        You make a good point. I should have noted that being a frequent flyer with an airline gives you extra time to play with no afforded to all.

  • resident

    Why are the children not in car seats? Get another picture!
    Editors note: The children are wearing seat belts;m they are not babies.