Fly Direct, Fly & Drive, Virgin America

Old Aug 15th, 2013, 11:54 AM
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Fly Direct, Fly & Drive, Virgin America

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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Old Aug 15th, 2013, 12:10 PM
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I would never pay MORE to fly on a particular airline that would take me 5 hours longer to get to my destination.
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Old Aug 16th, 2013, 04:45 PM
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Yes, I suppose I just desperately want to have a better experience than the usual cattle call of most airline travel. Paying more to get there later isn't good, at least not worth more than an hour's time difference.
*sigh* I guess no Jetblue or Virgin America experience for me this time.
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Old Aug 17th, 2013, 05:27 PM
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How long will you be in SD? Will you really want a car for the whole time? The airport is about 3.5 miles from the center of downtown, with plenty of taxis and even a dedicated airport-to-downtown city bus.

There is a lot to do in SD (staying at a downtown hotel) without a car. You can get to Coronado by ferry, to the Zoo by a short cab ride, by bus, or even by walking, etc. You would want a car just for the day(s) to see La Jolla and coastal cities north of that.
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Old Aug 18th, 2013, 05:45 PM
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Flew Virgin America from SFO to Chicago not long ago. The check-in and gate experience was very cool - hip music, hip lighting, fun chairs. But on board the experience was marginally better. Although I'd say the attendants were happier. The seats weren't any roomier, IMO.

San Diego airport is so easy. LAX is so busy. The drive from LAX added to check in time makes it a long, long travel day.

Go to San Diego this time and try Virgin America another time.
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 07:02 AM
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I'm planning to be there for about a week. I'll do some research about public transportation options and sightseeing locations and see what it looks like in terms of needing a car.

Thanks for the feedback.
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 09:51 AM
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If you're interested in the JetBlue flight experience, you might explore a slightly different option: IAD-LGB.

That is, flying out of Dulles into Long Beach, which is a much easier airport to deal with than LAX-- and a little closer to San Diego (depending on the hour and traffic, between a half-hour to 1.5 hours). LGB just went through a major renovation, giving it a cool new passenger concourse (and much smoother security area); it's still a tiny regional airport, but I'm planning to use it for just about ALL travel I do now. For example, if I have to fly internationally in the future, I will fly LGB-SFO or LGB-JFK and transfer to international flights in those airports rather than fly in and out of LAX, which is a horror story.

For that matter, maybe Southwest into SNA (Orange County) would be a good option. It's even closer to San Diego and almost as user-friendly as LGB. Southwest is a bit of a cattle car, but the flight crew are generally wonderful.

I hasten to add: Flying right into SAN is absolutely the best option. San Diego's a great town, and fighting traffic in the LA metro area is not a good way to start a visit to our lovely neighbor to the south.
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Old Aug 19th, 2013, 09:55 AM
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Quick clarification: LGB is a half-hour to 1.5 hours closer to San Diego than LAX is. But the drive to San Diego will be at least 90 minutes. On a Friday afternoon that drive can be up to 3.5 hours (I've had one trip down to San Diego take that long from my old home in Long Beach).
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