Should I drive or fly from Baltimore to Nashville and Knoxville Tenessee
January 20, 2015 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Should I drive or fly from Baltimore to Nashville and Knoxville Tenessee?

I have about a week off in February, and have been planning to visit a friend in Knoxville Tenessee and also visit Nashville. I'm in Baltimore. It looks to be roughly an 8-10 hour drive. Flight to Nashville looks to be roughly $300ish. Renting a car appears to be about the same (I have a car, but it's old and I think it might be better to rent a car rather than put miles on my car that I need for work).

Any thoughts on this? It would probably end up being a 2 day drive as I'm by myself. But I'd need to rent a car anyway while I was there. Perhaps I could stay someplace cool along the way? But the driving will eat up a good part of the trip.

I've never been to either place, and haven't been to any of the surrounding area since I was very young. I'm interested in hearing music in Nashville, as much twangy dive music as I can. In Knoxville I'll mostly be hanging out with my friend. My understanding is that the public transport in the area is pretty crappy.

posted by sully75 to Travel & Transportation around Nashville, TN (12 answers total)
Fly direct on Southwest to Nashville. Then rent a car for the 4 hour trip to Knoxville. Drive back to Nashville, and do your thing there and fly home.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:13 PM on January 20, 2015

Don't compare the price of renting a car to drive vs. a flight. Compare the price of renting a car to drive vs. a flight and also a rental car for the days you're there.

Personally, I've looked into flying to that neck of the woods from the East Coast (NYC in my case) and the price was outrageous. I also remember it being a really inconvenient flight, involving long layovers in roundabout places (Cleveland, maybe?). So it might be worth driving just because you need a car anyway and it's 8 hours in a car (driving through some of the most scenic places in America) vs. a similar amount of time dealing with airport drama.
posted by Sara C. at 2:18 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

FWIW, Southwest doesn't show a direct flight from Baltimore to Nashville, at least not a daily one. You'd most likely lay over in Chicago (ya see?!), and the overall travel time is about 5 hours. And that's out of Dulles, not BWI. Add an hour in traffic to the airport, an hour dealing with security nonsense, and another hour to get your rental car, and you could have made the drive.
posted by Sara C. at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2015

Wait! Drive down Interstate 81, and then pick up 40 around Bristol. If you want to break the highway driving, get off around Staunton or Lexington, and take the Lee Highway (Route 11) down at least through Buchanan. The Valley of Virginia is one of the prettiest drives ever, (though not necessarily this time of year). South of Roanoke is Floyd, a well-known music scene, though a bit of a drive east from 81. Once you get to Abingdon, be sure to stop at the Appalachian crafts gallery and cafeteria Heartwood, and stay at the Martha Washington Inn. But by then you're only a couple of hours from Knoxville. And Nashville - well, memail me if you need suggestions for Music City, but it's well worth the drive and the exploration.

Here's an earlier inquiry, half-helpful:
posted by mmiddle at 2:28 PM on January 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

I haven't done a comparison with Baltimore and Nashville recently, but it might be worth noting that rental cars are stupid cheap in Knoxville. I live just outside Knoxville, and we rent cars for road trips. Our most recent trip, we got a Nissan Altima for $19/day, and the trip before that we got a Malibu for $16/day. Delta, American and US Scareways all fly directly between BWI and Knoxville (TYS).

Just a thought.
posted by workerant at 2:46 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I live in Nashville and my in-laws are in the DC area, so I've done most of that drive many times. It kind of sucks. If I wasn't traveling with my wife and dogs I'd gladly pay to fly instead.

I like the idea of flying into Nashville and driving back and forth to Knoxville, it's only about 3 hours each way (though you cross time zones).
posted by ghharr at 3:24 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

an 8-10 hour drive. ... It would probably end up being a 2 day drive as I'm by myself.

Definitely don't do anything that feels unsafe to you, but 8-10 hours is a pretty routine one-day drive. That's basically leaving after breakfast, taking coffee breaks and getting lunch on the way, and getting to your destination at about dinner time. There's no harm in stretching it to two days if there are fun and interesting things you want to see along the way, but there's no need to break the trip into two parts unless you want to.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:58 PM on January 20, 2015

Not sure where Sara C. is looking for Southwest flights, but I see 3-5 daily non-stops between BWI and BNA (e.g.) The other thing to think of in February is potentially crappy weather and roads between the two--perhaps more so through the "mountains?" You might have to deal with that with an airplane too, but I think that's better than being out caught somewhere driving.

8-10 hours each way eats a big chuck out of your week too I think.
posted by sevenless at 4:24 PM on January 20, 2015

I regularly drive long distances (my wife lives in TX and my best friend lives in Indiana and I live in NC). I don't think a thing about getting in the car and ending up in Indiana that night, for much the same reasons as you've outlined - I drive a diesel VW bug, and the gas is considerably cheaper than flying, and then hey, I have my car on the other end. I've driven to Dallas from here twice in the last year. I've driven Greensboro to Nashville and up to Asheville from here many a time (which is closish to Knox), and driving to Baltimore from here is a breezy afternoon's work. Drive to Orlando? Heck yea, 95 is lovely along the SC/GA coast. You get the point - if it's under 10 hours driving, I don't fly typically.

So, all that said: I would never plan to drive from Baltimore to Knoxville/Nashville in February if I could at all help it. Scare quotes around mountains or not, the Appalachians are real, they have serious grades, and they are ridiculously curvy (I've driven to Utah and then Utah to California, so I've been over the Rockies too. That was less than fun too. Mmm, wind in Wyoming in an 83 Honda Civic hatchback that weighed not enough, even loaded down with my stuff. Good times.)

If there's weather, driving through the Appalachians sucks out loud through a straw with hairy goats for company. If you're not used to driving in mountains, they already suck, and that doubles down if there's weather (I have a dear friend from Alaska who did grad school in western VA, and she hated driving in the snow there, though in her case it was more 'I'm okay, but the other folks on the road...') You never know if we're going to get weather in February around here or not (and seriously, third gear and 40 mph in the snow with the trucks zipping by you in the left lane kicking up snow is not fun, and the Bug handles really well in snow). Especially if you're already planning for it to be a two-day drive (which makes it sound like you're not used to doing a lot of long distance driving?), save yourself some potential grief and fly (and make sure to buy travel insurance unless you're flying Southwest or another airline that lets you cancel and get the credit back easily).

If there's no weather, making it a two day drive and puttering along would be totally doable (or one day and no puttering, but it is a long day). There's a lot of awesome stuff to see along the way. But driving over the mountains will make you tired if you're not used to it, and like I said, you just never know what the weather is going to do down here in February.

I'm not trying to scare you (well, okay, I kind of am), but: fly. Rent a car on the other end. Enjoy your trip. Nashville is awesome, I'm jealous. :) (I'm sure Knox is awesome too, but I've never been).
posted by joycehealy at 5:47 PM on January 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I live an hour and change east of Knoxville, and at 6 hours or so from here, DC area is just barely in the radius that's easier to drive than fly. Although Nashville has more direct flights than the airport I use.

Also might be worth considering the current gas prices and the lack of adjustment of the airline ticket prices last I looked at them.

81 can be hairy in winter though; avoid if there's much chance of snow. If it's not snowing, which it hasn't much this winter so far, it's a nice drive down the valley. I may have spent too much time driving in the *real* appalachian mountains (on roads with names like "the snake" and "the dragon"), but placid 81 does not stike me as the terror that posts above make it out to be. :)
posted by joeyh at 6:47 PM on January 20, 2015

BWI and Nashville have tons of direct flights via Southwest, yes.

I would question your stated driving time. I drove from Washington DC to Emory VA roughly a skabillion times, and that was a good 6 hours. And one time my college roommate and I went to visit her parents in Nashville, and Emory to Nashville was also about 6 hours. And then add time to get to I-95/66 (don't know how you're routing) from Baltimore.
posted by chainsofreedom at 8:03 PM on January 20, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks all. I should have mentioned that I work nights so generally getting up really early is not an option. I would probably end up leaving around noon. I guess still doable in a day though if I could get in late.

Still working out the schedule, I'll check flights when I get it all figured out.
posted by sully75 at 8:53 AM on January 21, 2015

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