Travel Tip: To Toll Or Not to Toll

To toll or not to toll, that’s the question every cheapskate traveler asks. In the whole scheme of things, it comes down to what your time is worth. Is the money you’re saving by avoiding the toll worth the time and hassle?

When I drive from Texas to Wisconsin, I ask this question. Going through the Kansas Turnpike for the entire distance costs $14. By Google’s estimates, I would save about 45 minutes. By my experience around the way traffic really works, the toll road saves me about 2 hours.

So when I look at a $14 to save 1-2 hours, I can now see just my time alone is worth $7-14 per hour. The distance is about the same, so I’m not going to be paying more for gas. When money is tight, or I just want to be cheap, I would say my time is worth the $7-14 an hour. When time is limited and every hour matters, it’s worth spending that extra money.

I’ve personally taken both routes. The non-toll road will take you down a lot of US highways and even back roads. If your GPS is stupid like mine, it’ll take you away from civilization onto unpaved dirt roads. This is definitely much more of a hassle than interstate driving.

On the other end, the scenic route is always nice. You can discover many things you would have never seen on the more generic interstates. By saving the money avoiding tolls, you might get added value in the adventure.

With that being said, you need to figure out your priorities. The first priority is what is your time worth? Is avoiding the toll worth the time and hassle for the money you save? In some cases, you might come out ahead taking the toll road. Toll roads are often more direct routes and save you on mileage. The time savings is how much you actually value your own time.

The second priority is how much of an adventure do you want. If you can afford to spend more time driving, it might be worth avoiding tolls for that. You will discover a lot more things taking the less traveled roads than the toll roads.

When traveling, there’s really no wrong way to take. I’ve both taken the tolls and avoided them. It really depends on how crunched I am for time and how much adventure I want. It’s really up to you to decide the same thing and then choose your route accordingly.

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