I hate flying, too! But then, I am not really as much of a traveler as many here and I am assuming that FireDreamer's parents don't mind flying since they flew to the U.S. from Europe.
When Frank and I drive from New Orleans to Springfield, we usually stop at Jonesboro, Arkansas which is about 7 hours from here. Then we do the last four hours in the morning and have lunch in Springfield. Works for us.