End of Year Getaway | Aviation Photography

January 08, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Last blog post I talked about some of our reasons for getting a plane.  And if you read that post, you will have seen one of the reasons was time and money savings.  


Our end of year getaway trip is a perfect example of how we save time and money!  I will admit up front, we had never put the pencil to it to see how much we save on our little trips.  This was both informative and reassuring to us to see the savings on paper.  


We recently went on a 4 day trip to Dallas, Texas then Fort Smith, Arkansas and back home to Fort Clark Springs, Texas.  The aircraft we flew was a Piper Twin Comanche with turbos.  On the way up we cruised at roughly 181 knots.  We had a tailwind for part of the trip, which was awesome!!  I wish I could say the same for the return flight.  We fought quartering headwinds almost the entire way back.


What we travel with...

- Headsets...these stay in the plane, but Chris and I have Bose aviation headsets and the girls have headsets from EMs 4 Kids.  They are THE BEST!!  I recently got K a big girl headset that allows her to talk to us.  This is the one she flies with Gulf Coast Aviation Headset.  For a 4 year old, she has great radio etiquette. She knows that when there is chatter on the radio she can't talk.  We are proud of that.  What is neat about this one, is that there is a jack for her to plug in the iPad to so she can watch her princess movies. 


It is never a dull moment with these two!

- eye wear for all of us.  The girls LOVE their Babiators.  They are super durable, fashion friendly and are the perfect accessory for flight.  What makes them even more awesome that they have a lost & found guarantee.  Very much worth the investment.

- camera bag.  I typically have my Nikon D810 with a 24-70 mm and 14-24 mm lens in the bag.  I have an Olympus Stylus TG-4 camera that I use too, especially when our crew chief stows the camera bag too far out of reach for me.  :)

- a 31 bag from The Bag Lady full of snacks with FULL size water bottles.  It took me forever to find a bag that was insulated well enough to keep snacks and drinks for us while in flight that also didn't take up too much space.  I have no clue what the name of the actual bag is, but if you join The Bag Lady's group you will be able to ask her what I fly with...she knows and can take care of you!

- iPad for inflight entertainment

- car seats for long legs and for trips we know that we will be traveling via car/truck upon landing. If we are going on a short trip for lunch at an airfield with a restaurant we don't bring car seats.  (J sits in hers as we fly and K's is in the cargo area since she is tall enough to sit with her seatbelt tightly fastened)

- luggage...one medium luggage bag for all of our clothes (believe it or not) and a Trunki suitcase for K (J has one but she's not tall enough to ride it yet)

GB Pockit (worth its weight in gold and perfect for the plane!) This stroller folds down to a nice little 12 in square and weighs 11 pounds.  As soon as I knew there were pre-orders for it, I snagged one.  Side note:  We also took this with us when we flew commercial and didn't have to gate check it because it folded down small enough to either be put under the seat or in the bin above. Every flight attendant who saw it was floored! Someday I will make a travel bag for it.

- K's toilet...just in case we have an inflight restroom emergency.  My go-to travel toilet is The Travel Potty (also worth its weight in gold).  Round two of potty training (for J) has also started, so we are stuck traveling with a toilet for ever.  It uses gallon sized zip lock bags and has a compartment on both sides of it to store the extra bags and diapers/wipes (in our case).  We also love it for the fact that it folds up to look like a little briefcase, and takes hardly any space to store or travel with.


How we pack when we fly the CessnaThe Cessna doesn't have as much baggage space as the twin. If we need to bring car seats, we put them in the seats that the girls sit in.

How we pack with we fly the twinThere is MUCH more luggage space in this plane, and as a result our oldest doesn't have to sit in her car seat. We will typically put extra diapers and wipes on top of the seat portion of the car seat, because we can't leave home without those either.

Day 1:  Took my time packing us up, walked over to the plane by about 10:30 am and was airborne by 10:45am.  We were landing in Dallas an hour and 51 minutes later.  (Had we have driven it would have taken almost 7 hours!) Cost:  $139.23 in gas for the plane + $115 for a rental car and gas (For the record Cornerstone Air Center at Fort Worth/Meacham Airport had outstanding service...highly recommend landing there if you can!)  Had we flown commercial we would have had to drive over 2 hours to San Antonio and catch a flight for $223/person one way ($892 for our family of four).  We flew an IFR flight plan, so if you want to see our trip stats, here's the link.  http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N8396Y/history/20161228/1715Z/74TX/KFTW  

Parked and ready to play in Dallas. The girls LOVE their LuLaRoe airplane leggings.

Day 2: Enjoyed Dallas with the kids and friends.  We stayed at the Gaylord Texan and had a blast enjoying all of the Christmas activities in their convention center. Their ICE program was so fun!  They had lots of ice sculptures to see and ice slides for the kids to slide down.  Outside there was a small skating rink.  So much fun!  We will plan to come back next year too!

Day 3: Did some sightseeing then went to the airport to fly out to Fort Smith.  We arrived at the airport when we felt like we were ready to take off (approx 1:12pm), loaded the plane, and were airborne within 20 minutes.  Flight time to Fort Smith was an hour and 34 minutes.  Cost: $122.85 + $65 to park + $62 for a rental car and gas.  Note: we elected not to get gas in Fort Smith because it was way too expensive.  It was cheaper to pay a tie down fee than to get their gas.  In the future we are going to avoid landing there at all costs - the fees were outrageous.  Had we flown commercial  from DFW it would have cost an additional $255/person one way ($1,020 for our family of four).  We were able to spend some time with family before calling it a night.  We flew an IFR flight plan for this leg as well.  You can see our trip details here http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N8396Y/history/20161230/1900Z/KFTW/KFSM.   

View of the Arkansas River at 3,000ft Toddler pilot in command

















Day 4:  We spent half the day with family, then drove to the airport, loaded the plane and were airborne within 20 minutes.  Because we chose to forego purchasing gas at Fort Smith, we needed to make a gas stop.  We chose to stop at Kickapoo Airport in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas...a convenient stop enroute home.  From Fort Smith to that stop was an hour and 30 mins thanks to headwinds.  We had a nice little layover, met up with a friend and filled up with gas to go home.  The FBO there is really quaint and the staff is very friendly. We flew this leg VFR, so sorry, no flightaware link to share.  I will add...even though you are flying VFR you always want to maintain contact with center, and can always request flight following.  This is good for everyone - the radar knows who you are and if there is any traffic that could be a factor to you, center can at least communicate that with you to be on the lookout for.  Cost: $202.37 in gas (Note: to fly from Fort Smith to San Antonio would have cost $359/person, $1436 for our family of 4, with one stop in Dallas on the way.  Then after landing we would have an additional 2.5 hour drive home).  We came home 2 hours and 5 minutes later, right after sunset with plenty of time to give the kids a bath and put them to bed at bedtime.   Enjoy the clip below of our landing...if you listen closely you can hear the peanut gallery in the back.  


Did I overwhelm you with information?  Let me summarize...we decided a week before our trip that we were going to take this trip.  In the time it would have taken us to fly commercially we flew our plane to the destination, with plenty of time to enjoy our evening.  We spent a total of $706.45 in travel expenses for a family of four to do all of that travel.  This doesn't include the hotel or food, but that would have been the same expense regardless of the mode of transportation.  Our total travel time was approximately 1 hour 51 minutes to Dallas, then 1 hour and 34 minutes to Fort Smith, then 4 hours with our short layover coming home. Going on this trip via commercial airplane would have cost us $3,348 on tickets alone.  We would not have gone on this trip at that price.  Time wise, it would have taken 8 hours just to come back on that last leg.  


What I didn't factor in as a comparison was driving this trip.  Had we have driven, it would have been pretty painful.  Our food bill would have likely been more because we would have to stop more often and we all know that you get food at almost every pit stop you make thanks to the garbage disposals (kids) in tow.  We would have spent more time in the car than at these destinations, we would have needed much more than 4 days to make this trip happen, AND we would have been dealing with traffic. Gas would have likely been cheaper, but factoring in the time saver, we wouldn't have even considered doing this trip if we were driving.  


The other cost that I didn't add to this is the cost of the plane.  Between the monthly plane payment, insurance and operating cost (including the money we set aside each month for the annual - I'll talk about operating expenses in another post), we spent about $50 a day to operate the plane.  That totals to about $200, and the plane wasn't in use the entire time, so theoretically it is closer to $150 total.  


You don't have to own a plane to do this...you can also rent one. However, you will have to get checked out in the plane and get approval for where you are planning to take it.  So, if you were thinking about giving this a try, you could easily get a taste for it by renting first.  Cost of renting a plane will depend on what type of aircraft you are renting and FBO fees.  


Next post will be about a short trip for lunch, so stay tuned!



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