The cost of driving home for Christmas... for Santa

6 Min Read
#Fleet Management
Share Article
Santa and his sleigh

The run-up to Christmas is a busy period for everyone. Whether it’s putting up decorations, planning Christmas dinner or wrapping gifts, it can feel as though there are a hundred and one jobs on just about everyone’s to-do list. 

No one, however, is as busy as Father Christmas when it comes to making plans in December. Old Saint Nick doesn’t just have Mrs Claus and the elves to think about, but everyone else on Earth!  

As Father Christmas dusts off his favourite red jacket with the white trim and shakes the mince pie crumbs out of his beard, he has to think about the logistics of visiting each and every boy and girl on the planet. How to navigate homes with new chimneys, how to navigate homes with no chimneys, how to make sure the cricket bats and the baseball bats don’t get mixed up; it’s a lot for one man to take on.  

Before he can even contemplate setting off on his journey racing against dawn on the 25th, Father Christmas has to figure out how best to fuel his sleigh and how much fuel will be necessary for the long journey ahead. 

Dashing through the snow 

Before Father Christmas can plan how much fuel he needs, he’s going to need to know how far he has to travel. Granted, the size of the Earth hasn’t changed a great deal since it first supported life, but delivering presents to every home is much different than travelling the circumference of the globe or even visiting every country.  

If we accept that the average home on Earth houses 4.9 people and there are (as of writing) roughly 7.9 billion on Earth, it would work out to 1,612,244,898 homes in the world, give or take a house. That’s over 1.6 billion homes Father Christmas would need to visit, a number that will only get bigger with every passing year.*  

*A small note on statistics – counting the number of homes globally is tricky, especially in places where official records are hard to come by. In fact, one looming question rests on defining what constitutes a house, but that’s an issue for another article. All we can say is, thank goodness Father Christmas has his magical list!

Now we know how many homes Father Christmas must visit, we can calculate the distance he must travel to deliver gifts to all of them. Admittedly, we’re not physicians or mathematicians, so the basis of these calculations is based on previous sums put forward by Arnold Pompos of Purdue University. Feel free to skip the following paragraph if you don’t wish to know the sums behind the final figure. 

If we know the surface area of Earth is 1014 square meters, but 70% of that is water, the size of the landmass on the planet is, therefore, equal to 0.3 x 1014. Now, suppose we assume that the 1.6 billion homes on the Earth are evenly spaced for simplicity’s sake. In that case, we can divide 0.3 x 1014 by 1.6 billion, which gives us 18,750sqm theoretically occupied by every household. The square root of 18,750 is the distance between the households, which comes to about 137 metres. Multiply this by the number of homes, and we finally have the distance Santa must travel.

To reach all the homes in the world, Father Christmas must travel 219,200,000 km or 136,204,565 miles, a distance equivalent to 1.5x the distance from the Earth to the sun.  

Thankfully, Father Christmas has more than one night to travel some 136 million miles; in fact, by clever positioning and through the use of the International Date Line, he could stretch his night over 34 hours. If Santa is cutting the trip close and using every minute of those 34 hours, he would need to travel 4 million mph, 15 times faster than a lightning bolt. 

Santa Claus is coming to town 

We know how far and how fast Father Christmas must travel to visit each house, but how is he going to fuel his sleigh? Let’s assume the reindeer are out of the question. An American reindeer peaks at top speeds of around 31mph, so that leaves us a few million short of the necessary rate. Electric batteries, while more sustainable, would also be a problem, with no one battery big enough to cover that distance and taking too long to charge once it ran out. 

Therefore, we have to assume Father Christmas has a humongous fuel tank. It’s feasible the technology he uses to fit all the gifts into the back of his sleigh can also be applied to the tank, providing him with a near limitless supply of fuel.  

Let’s take the miles per gallon of a Boeing 747 as a comparative example at 0.2mpg and divide the number of miles required to cover by 0.2. We can determine that Father Christmas needs 681,022,825 gallons, or 3,095,991,055 litres of fuel to make the necessary journey. 

With numbers this big, it’s hard to visualise how much we’re talking about, but with an average 747 holding 63,500 gallons of fuel, we can see that Father Christmas’ sleigh will need to carry almost 110 times as much!

Christmas (fuel) cards 

Assuming he has his own supply of petrol at his home in the North Pole, Father Christmas could fuel up all in one go, but if he were to fill up as he went, he’d be wise to avoid filling his tank in certain countries. Hong Kong, for example, has the highest fuel prices in the world at £1.94 per litre of petrol, but in neighbouring China, the price is as low as £0.93! Similarly, in Finland’s Lapland, you could expect to pay £1.58 per litre, but across the border in Russia, only £0.52.  

Naturally, fuelling up as he went along would end up costing Father Christmas a lot of time as well as money, something he can’t really spare when travelling the globe at breakneck speeds is needed. Ideally, if he wanted to reduce some of the stresses on the delivery process (not to mention the sleigh that’s inevitably subjected to tremendous speeds), Father Christmas’ best bet would be delegating some of the challenges to his elves. 

The 21st century Father Christmas would be best off creating a fleet, with each taking a country or continent, reducing the need for a breathless all-out blast on December 24th as well as the amount of fuel needed. If Father Christmas were to need an easy and manageable way to control the amount of fuel used by his elf fleet as they shuttle back and forth across the nations of the world, he could do so quite easily, using one of our fuel card services 

If you thought your Christmas was costly, save a thought for Father Christmas, who if he were to fill up his sleigh with petrol in the UK, would have to spend £4,643,986,582.50! Although, if he was a Right Fuel Card member, he could save up to £309,599,105.50. That could cover Mrs Claus’ Christmas presents and a Christmas bonus for the elves! 

As we’ve seen, flying a sleigh from Montreal to Mozambique and everywhere in between can be pretty costly, but with our competitive fixed weekly price fuel cards, Father Christmas could guarantee some of the best deals this side of Greenland. With a 34-hour operation underway, remaining in control of your fuelling situation 24/7 is integral to any successful fleet, something that can’t be understated for the biggest courier in the known universe. 

Obviously, all these calculations are only theoretical, as everyone knows that Santa’s sleigh is powered by festive magic.  

However, if he ever wants to swap his fleece out for fleet management, Father Christmas can always save some North Pole Pounds with Right Fuel Card.

Picture of employee

Jen Green
Head of Marketing

Jen has extensive experience across a range of regulated industries. Her research on the monthly market  movements for oil and how they will impact prices at the pump has been featured in numerous publications,  including the Transport Operator and Fuel Oil News.