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Walking around at first gives a sense of adventure and fun. But after a few levels, and seeing high levels with their flashy mounts, or realizing that the distance from town to town is getting larger and larger, walking becomes a bit more of a pain. Back in the beginning stages of World of Warcraft, mounts were attainable at level 40, and were at least a good 60g + to purchase. Epic mounts were about 500g gold.
It wasn't rare to see a level 40 without a mount, scrimping for another two or so levels for a mount. I recall not even having an epic land mount till Burning Crusade. But now mounts are acquirable at level 20 (regular land mount), 40 (epic land mount), 60 (flying). But despite the lowered levels, mounts still require planning in advance. But on top of saving up the cash for them, mounts also come with a host of ways to gain them, to ride them, and to make riding even faster.
Ways to get them.
Factions. Between the main racial factions alone, mounts are readily available to purchase from your home faction. Doing reputation turn ins for other racial factions, or quests (such as for the Netherwing faction) will earn a player a mount at exalted.
PvP mounts are available through farming certain battle grounds for tokens and a bit of honor points.
Certain mobs (mostly) in instances drop rare mounts; these guys can be farm able but be prepared for hours and or weeks/months of grinding that same mob.
Certain professions such as Engineering and Tailoring can craft profession specific mounts as well.
Flying versus land.
Riding has various ride speeds. Land mounts start off at 60% speed increase and the epic ones a 100% increase. But flying mounts have the extra bonus of 170%, 270% (and even more if it's a rare mount) and the whole flying thing.
Land mounts are good for the levels before level 60, but as soon as flying mounts are available, most use those as mounts as they can both fly and ride on land.
Many things can speed up riding speed beyond what is listed on the mount. I know when I leveled alts I had a separate 'riding' set of gear to speedily get from place to place. Keep in mind most of these speed ups only work for people up to level 60-70 only! Also realize if you get caught in combat, your stuck with said gear on until you lave it. Thought there is nothing more satisfying then defeating a bunch of mobs or enemy player in riding gear (well next to being in fishing gear...).
Enchants such as the one for gloves can add additional speed. The mats for it aren't horrible, but the enchant itself is fairly rare. Riding spurs made by black smiths are easy to make and can add a small increase to speed.
Trinkets were the big thing once you hit leave 40. Most would say next to engineers, the Carrot trinket from now submerged Thousand Needles from the raceway area was their first trinket. It was so big an item that people rarely chose the other quest reward. Though with the state of things Cataclysm, this trinket is no longer available and stopped working after level 60.
The next best thing was the leather working made riding crop. Unlike the Carrot it applied to both riding and flying mounts and took a decent amount of mats. Only until Wrath of the Lich King came out (they stop working after level 70) did riders drop the highly useful crop.