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Fly Direct, Fly & Drive, Virgin America

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I am trying to figure out my best option in terms of having the most pleasant travel experience. I'm looking at going from the DC area to San Diego next summer and can fly:
-- Non-stop on United for $532 (with 5 hours flight time); Or
-- One stop on United for $502 (with 8.25 hours flight time); Or
-- One stop on Virgin America for $614 (with 10 hours flight time)

Alternatively, I could fly to LAX, pick up a rental car (which we would be getting in San Diego anyway) and drive the 2.5 hours (if all goes well?) from Los Angeles to San Diego. A few flight options to LAX are:
-- Non-stop on United for $377 (with 5.5 hours flight time, plus 2.5 hours driving to SD, for a total of 8 hours of travel time); Or
-- Non-stop on Virgin America for $502 (with 5.5 hours flight time, plus 2.5 hours driving to SD, for a total of 8 hours of travel time)

The reason I'm considering the increase in cost of flying Virgin America is that I hear it's a more enjoyable experience than United/Delta/AA, etc. Is flying Virgin America worth the extra expense in terms of comfort and the overall travel experience?

So my questions are - Is it better to pay less and fly to LAX and drive to SD, or is it a better experience to just fly to San Diego directly? Should I just take the direct flight to San Diego on United? Is it worth tacking on extra hours of travel time just to use Virgin America, given that it's a cross country flight (Washington DC - CA)?

Thanks in advance for any advice! I don't want to spend a fortune but I would like to enjoy the travel experience.

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