Recently, my family decided to make a last minute trip to Disney World the week of New Year’s. Before everyone faints at the heresy of going during the busiest week of the year, my brother’s school was playing in a bowl game in Tampa, so my family decided to kill two birds with one stone. Quickly putting aside the loud warnings in the back of my head about the massive crowds, I couldn’t turn down a pseudo surprise Disney trip. The resort reservation was all set (we would be staying at a Finding Nemo Suite in Disney’s Art of Animation Resort), and I already had my annual pass, but the flight fares were absolutely insane from Baltimore, which is the closest airport to me. Being a more intelligent person than I, my girlfriend suggested a simple alternative. Why don’t we just drive down? So we did. I hope everyone who is considering the possibility of driving instead of flying finds this useful.
Before getting on the road, make sure to fill up your car, get snacks and do all those obvious road trip things. Then grab something Disney and display it prominently on your dashboard as a constant reminder of why you’re driving. Trust me. It helps after you’ve been driving for six hours then realize you’re not even half way there yet. Also, music is important for any road trip but this is a Disney road trip so of course that should be Disney too. You could do songs from your favorite Disney movies but my girlfriend loves watching Stacey, so we listened to three different Stacey videos for hours on end. Her endless enthusiasm helps driving motivation exponentially. Alternatively, I suggest a loop of park music like Main Street or Future World in Epcot.
As for tips for the actual drive, it definitely helps to have multiple drivers. As exciting as Disney World is, driving along the same highway for what seems like forever is draining. Switching to the passenger seat and catching a quick nap has amazing rejuvenating effects. Also, this next part is absolutely critical if you are going to be driving through North Carolina and South Carolina on Interstate 95: do not stop at South of the Border. I repeat. DO. NOT. STOP. AT. SOUTH. OF. THE. BORDER. Pedro is like a Siren of Greek Mythology except what awaits you is an awful tourist trap. Moving on…
With our resort reservation beginning on Tuesday night, we left early Monday morning for our thirteen hour drive. We figured that we could do the bulk of the driving on Monday, stay somewhere along the way, then do the rest Tuesday morning before checking in and starting our trip properly at one of the parks. I figured we would stop somewhere in Georgia at a Holiday Inn Express or something like that. The Problem was that the anticipation got to us. It was late, but we just kept going. Seeing that first Disney World billboard ignited a fire in us that told us to keep driving. The further we got, the less we’d have to drive the next day was our thinking. Normally, I’d say this is a good idea, but not during New Year’s week. Remember how I said it was the busiest week of the year? That goes for the greater Orlando area, as well. It was 2 am, and we got to Orlando before deciding to find a hotel. The problem was that most places were sold out. It wasn’t until after checking eight hotels that one finally had an opening. I distinctly remember the hotel employee’s face of pity after taking one look at me and seeing how haggard I appeared. I know this is a minor point to harp on, but trust me. The last thing you want to do after driving twelve hours is get turned down by a hotel because it’s filled up. Consider making prior reservations if necessary.
After a much needed night of rest, we made our way from Orlando to Disney World, which brings me to my last and most important tip for road tripping to Disney. Take a photo of the Walt Disney World gate as you pass under it. Trust me. It’s like crossing the finish line at a marathon. I think. I’ve never run a marathon. Happy driving!