I took a road trip to Disney World and here I shared what I learned with you:
For me, the worst part of traveling is… the actual travel part. Or I guess I should say, the transportation. Whether it’s in the car, on a plane, or a train, it’s a means to an end for me. (That might be why I enjoy cruising – that is a very fun way to get transported from one destination to another!). So I will almost always choose to fly down to Disney to minimize my travel time. However, in 2020 we decided we would be much more comfortable driving down instead of getting on an airplane. So it was time for a road trip to Disney!
Depending on where you’re located, driving to Disney World might be anywhere from a half day to a multi-day event, so you really have to weigh the pros and cons. You’ll want to consider cost, vacation time, patience levels, and in this age safety. However, I will admit the drive wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it was going to be!
We are in Pennsylvania so the drive to Orlando is anywhere from around 16-20 hours depending on traffic and other circumstances. I also don’t have kids so it was just my husband and myself – though I can definitely act like a kid sometimes! But of course there’s plenty of other things to consider when you’ve got kids in tow as well.
Here are a few ways we were able to survive our road trip to Disney World:
Music, audiobooks, and podcasts
20 hours is a long time, so you want to make sure you have plenty to entertain you! Anything audio is great because of course the person driving can’t watch or read anything. I also can’t really watch or read anything even when I’m driving because I get carsick easily. Music and singalongs are always fun, especially if you have a good Disney playlist! We actually found podcasts to be our favorite. We listened to some Disney ones, as well as a few others. There are plenty of great podcasts out there for kids that parents will enjoy as well during family trips. Often the podcasts bring up interesting topics of discussion and we would pause it to have our own discussions. Sometimes they went on for quite awhile and led to some great conversation.
Of course snacks are another great way to get through the trip. We tried to pack a balance of healthy and “fun” things, and items that could be pretty easily consumed in the car. We had granola bars, apples, trail mix, goldfish, chips, pretzels, and jerky, amongst other things. You could also bring a cooler and do sandwiches or other more filling items as well.
One of the major downsides of being in the car so long is being cramped into one seat. I at least try to make it as comfy as possible by bringing blankets, pillows, and sweatshirts so I can adapt to the temperature and get cozy when I’m not driving!
Stay overnight somewhere
If your drive is on the long side I really recommend looking into a place to stay overnight to break up the trip a bit. It can be tempting to want to drive straight through and get to Disney as soon as possible, but it’s also exhausting. We realized even if we tried to do that we wouldn’t arrive until very late at night, and immediately getting up early the next day to hit a park didn’t sound like the most fun!
Make your “break” a destination
Another thing that really helped to make the drive more tolerable was stopping overnight – and making the stop a place to look forward to. We could have just picked a random hotel somewhere about halfway, but instead I looked for things that might be happening in states on our journey. On the way down I found a half marathon that was happening in North Carolina on Sunday morning which wasn’t too far out of our way. I’m a big runner and have a goal to run a race in every state. So we drove down to NC Saturday, spent the night, I ran my race, and then we drove to Disney the rest of the day Sunday. It really made me happy to have something to focus on there!
Pee when you need to
Some people want to try and hold it as long as they can. I get it – it’s frustrating to have to stop, especially if you’re traveling with multiple people and they all need to pee at different times. But for me, reallllly having to pee is one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the world, so I’d rather just pull over and sacrifice the 5-10 minutes it will take. Especially if you’re traveling on a major road, there are usually places right off of the main road where you can make a quick stop.
Keep an eye out for favorite rest areas
Speaking of making a quick stop, I found it was helpful to have in mind a few places that were my favorite to stop or where I felt comfortable and knew they would (usually) have a reliably clean restroom. Starbucks is a favorite stop for me because they have the bathrooms, they are usually everywhere, and you can The exit signs will usually tell you what places are right off of the exit so you can plan your stops. I also like the places that are just “rest areas” because they have bathrooms, places to walk around, and typically vending machines without any obligation to feel like you need to buy something.
Give yourself plenty of buffer time
Having a flexible schedule is going to give you the most peace of mind. Don’t plan a dinner reservation after a long day of driving because you never know what might delay you – and you may just feel like grabbing something quick and then sleeping. However long you think your trip is going to be, add a few extra hours. Then you won’t feel as much pressure and stress when you get stuck in traffic, need that extra bathroom break, or just want to get out of the car for a bit.
Be prepared to pay for parking
One thing to keep in mind when you’re driving down to Disney World is that the resorts do charge a parking fee for vehicles, so when you arrive be aware that you’ll have to pay to have the car. Depending on the resort type that will be anywhere from $15-25 a night.
Is it cheaper to fly or drive to Disney?
People often balk at the price of flying, especially when you have a larger family and have to pay for tickets for everyone. In many cases driving may be cheaper, but that’s not always the case. If cost is a big concern it’s important to calculate all of the little expenses. Most people think of gas as being the big one while driving – but how much gas you use depends on your mileage and your car. You’ll also want to keep in mind any tolls, the cost of food and snacks you might stop for, and the above mentioned parking at the resort. If you do plan to stay overnight somewhere that’s an extra hotel fee to factor in as well.
Thinking about your own trip to Disney World? Check out my Ultimate List of Disney World planning resources to get you started. If you’d like the assistance of a travel agent at no extra cost to you, email me at [email protected] and we can start planning and booking your trip!
Other blog posts of interest:
The cost to travel to Disney every month in 2021
2021 Disney trip planning guide
Surprising things I didn’t expect about visiting Disney right now
What to pack for Disney during coronavirus
Why you want to plan your 2021 Disney vacation now
Have you ever taken a road trip to Disney World? How was your experience?