Doin’ the Disney Drive: Tips for Happy Road Trips to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida
Your family’s summer road trip to Walt Disney World is just around the corner, and you may be starting to identify with the Clark W. Griswold family from “National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation.” On the other hand, with a little planning, his trip might not be a comedy of errors. Head to the local video store, rent a copy of “Summer Vacation,” enjoy the family’s visit to Roy Wally World, and learn how NOT to drive off-road. Afterward, you may find some of these tips helpful:
Have a place to sleep. No one likes looking for a motel late at night, so if you book early, you’ll be the hero of the family. If you prefer to keep your schedule flexible, create a list of alternative stopping points that offer decent food and accommodation (don’t forget the phone numbers). Call ahead in the afternoon, once you have a better idea of how the day is shaping up, to make sure there’s a room waiting for you.
Keep the kids busy. Many families bring enough games and activities for the entire trip, and some invest in DC-powered TV/VCR combos or portable DVD players. Books on tape (or CDs) are another great idea. The Harry Potter books are more than enough for a two day trip each way.
Get ready. Nothing is more costly or frustrating than a breakdown when you’re away from home. Service your car before you leave: check tires, brakes, transmission, and air conditioning, change oil, and top up all fluids. Be extra careful if you’re driving your RV or towing a trailer: schedule a service several weeks in advance, in case you need a special part.
Take care. Let’s not fool ourselves. Driving is even more dangerous than flying. Improve your family’s odds by changing drivers frequently and traveling no more than 500 miles per day. 24-hour marathon rides may get you there sooner, but you’ll pay for it in risk and exhaustion. And face it, after an energetic Disney vacation, the last thing anyone needs is a drowsy driver behind the wheel on the way home.
Do AAA. Make the most of your AAA membership and use their travel discounts, the latest road construction news, all the maps you could want, and their famous Trip-Tik route planning service. If you don’t have a membership, a long car ride is a good excuse to get one.
Have fun on the way. Why put off your vacation until you get to Disney? Map of visits to nearby points of interest. What roads lead to Orlando and what are the places of interest?
East Coast travelers typically navigate south on I-95 and switch to I-4 near Daytona. Popular side trips along the way include Washington DC, Williamsburg, VA, Cape Hatteras, NC, Charleston, SC, and the Daytona/Cape Canaveral area of Florida.
Drivers a little further inland (as far west as Pittsburgh) choose routes that include I-77, I-79, and/or I-81, eventually joining I-95 in South Carolina. For a great secondary route for history and nature buffs, stay on I-81 to Knoxville, TN, where it joins I-75 through Georgia. National parks and Civil War battle sites dot the route from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to the Shenandoah Valley (did you know Disney once wanted to build a theme park here?), and continues through the Smoky Mountains.
I-75 is on the plans of just about anyone from Ohio to Chicago, St. Louis and beyond, as nearly all preferred routes merge with I-75 before reaching Georgia. The Chattanooga Tennessee/Northern Georgia area has a variety of interesting natural and historical sites, and is a perfect choice for your midway stopover. Those further south and west inevitably gravitate toward I-10, which skirts the Gulf Coast until it also meets I-75 in Florida (who can resist a stop in New Orleans?) Once on I-75, Disney World-bound travelers head south past Ocala, Florida to Florida’s Turnpike, which cuts southeast toward Orlando and I-4.
We hope your road trip is the best kind of adventure!
Copyright © Jennifer Marx, PassPorter Travel Press. All rights reserved.