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View Full Version : Driving solo? Any advice? (kinda long, lots of questions!)


Gillian
12-31-2001, 08:30 AM
I am ready to try Disney solo, but now I am worried about driving!

I've driving down from NJ & have decided that I will do one stop. Well, 2 actually because I am going to take a short night drive to washington DC to stay with a friend & then I'll get going really early the next morning. Is one stop enough? How do I stay awake? How can I find a decent, safe place to stay on the way down that doesn't cost too much? I'm very comfortable with Priceline but I don't know which towns are good.

What should I take with me besides cell phone, AAA card, water & blankets? I'll probably be renting a car so I'll need to stock it with everything! Does anyone have a check list?

Any suggestions are welcome & much appreciated! TIA :)

spiceycat
12-31-2001, 02:00 PM
I only drive from Alabama - so for overnight I don't know I have stayed in Lake city, FLorida - nice place not too unreasonable. I generally drive straight - it is only between 9 and 12 hours depending upon the stops. (Okay I am crazy I travel with a cat and he likes to stop at the rest stops along the way for 20 minutes).

Don't carry much cash with you - get the American Express Travel Checks at AAA (they are free to AAA members). Only carry one or two credit cards and make sure you have their numbers down and who to call if they are stolen in a safe place.

kept your wallet & keys with you at all times - I travel with a fanny pack on and this makes it easier.

Florida has some nice rest stops - stop at them and walk around - get a soft drink and relax a little before continuing your trip. Just don't go to sleep at them - many people do - Florida rest stops at night are not a place for sleeping. If it helps while you are stopped using your call card you can call someone at home and tell them where you are - and what time you should be at WDW.

If you think that your car might have troubles I would rent one. If you don't expect any troubles try to remember where you are - the interstate has exit numbers if you can remember which ones you passed before you have a problem it will help AAA located you.


Sunglasses are a must for daytime driving in the South. Also I generally bring a raincoat (never know when you will need it).

nativetxn
12-31-2001, 03:34 PM
Well, I drive to Houston frequently by myself. Never driven to Florida alone, though. I would make sure I had sunglasses, bottled water and snacks. The AAA card and cellphone are definitely important things to take along too. Also a map of the areas I will be driving through, just in case.

Katholyn

JohnK
01-01-2002, 01:10 AM
Before I moved to Central Florida, I drove round-trip by myself three times between northeast Ohio and WDW--it's about 19 hours of driving time (including occasional breaks). This always broke out as one-and-one-half days of travel time, with a night of rest somewhere in the middle.

I never actually made a hotel reservation for any of these trips. It made the most sense to stop wherever made sense, based on how tired I was. There's no sense trying to drive further when you're extremely tired simply because you booked a hotel some miles away, and there's little sense in stopping at a hotel when you still have some good energy left to drive further. Hotels at a decent price ($30 to $60) are plentiful; you should almost never have to drive more than 20 to 30 minutes (at most) to find several selections. Usually, it's more like 5 to 15 minutes.

I always stayed at chain hotels, and never at places I'd never heard of. Of the various options, Sleep Inns and Microtels have been options I've preferred, because they are inexpensive, and most of the properties are new (from several months old to five years old), so you don't get variations in cleanliness or other surprises like you might with some older chains. (By the way, when you go to the registration desk, ask for their lowest rate for the type of room you want, get their answer, and then ask if they have a AAA rate. Or do this in reverse--but do things in the order question, response, follow-up question. That second rate sometimes winds up lower than the "lowest" first rate.)

For safety's sake, many people find hotels with indoor corridors to be more comfortable. I've stayed in towns that seemed safe, and towns that made me a bit uncomfortable, but I've had no difficulties with hotels in either.

Be sure you have everything before leaving your hotel room and checking out. If there is anything you are not sure you have, or are not sure where it is packed, check on it before you hit the road. I once lost roughly an hour over a pair of shoes I didn't recall seeing when I packed my things up that morning. I stopped at a rest stop, couldn't find the shoes in my car, and went back to the hotel. I couldn't find the shoes back at the hotel, either, and it turns out they were in my car, packed someplace I didn't think to look at the rest stop. Had I been more alert, I would have saved an hour.

I typically took a highway exit every 1 to 3 hours, depending on circumstances. There are four necessary things to do on occasion:

--Eat
--Get gasoline
--Go to the restroom
--Stretch

It is most efficient to do as many of these as possible during one off-highway break. Be aware of how many miles your car can go on a tank of gas, and try to drive as many of those miles as possible before stopping to fuel--but make sure you give yourself enough chance to find a gas station once your fuel supply is getting low. The occasional stretch won't have a gas station for 20 to 30 minutes, so if, for example, your car can go 250 miles on a tank of gas, it can be wise to stop at the next gas station once you hit 220 miles.

Fast-food restaurants are a good option for getting back on the road quickly. I've never eaten at a table-service restaurant during those trips--I figured I can do that at Disney instead!

It's helpful to have a reserve of snacks in the car.

Don't always assume a particular restaurant will be coming up again soon. If you're hungry and you're craving that Arby's coming up, it's generally better to stop there than hoping that another Arby's (or any other restaurant, for that matter) will appear in the next half hour. On several occasions, I've had to drive about a half hour to come across a fast-food restaurant after having decided against exiting for one.

Always eat breakfast soon after getting going for the day.

Go to the restroom if you need to go, or if you believe there will be a relatively long stretch without a clean restroom.

Do stretch every couple of hours or so. Stretching will help your energy level.

Make sure you are well hydrated. Bring or buy bottled water. You can drink soft drinks, etc., but make sure you also drink actual water. (That's a tip for the parks, too--water several times a day is an absolute necessity.)

Night driving can be a bit of a challenge, especially along unfamiliar roads. The sameness can become repetitive and cause a driver to lose focus. There are several things I have found to be very helpful to concentrate for hours while driving at night:

--Sometimes, switching the rearview mirror to the "dimmer" view can help concentration, as the bright lights from the cars behind you are dimmed, and you will be much less prone to focusing on those lights.
--Roll down a window to let fresh, cool air in; this helps attention and energy levels.
--I bring along a bright flashlight for lengthy night driving. When my eyes are tiring, I place the flashlight between my legs, pointing up toward my eyes, and leave it there for several minutes. Believe it or not, this does wonders to attention level, both while the flashlight is going and for (I've found) an hour or so afterward. There is no need to look directly into the flashlight's light.
--Another, similar technique is to find a gas station with bright lights (such as on the underside of the overhang before the mini-store), get out of the car, stand under the lights, and stare into or near them for several minutes.
--Keeping a simple, long-lasting piece of candy, such as hard candy, in your mouth can make 15 or 30 minutes seem to go quicker and helps your alertness, since another of your senses is occupied.

Know yourself well enough to know the difference between:

--Being tired but knowing you have reserves of energy or a "second wind" left
--Being tired and knowing that it's all going to be downhill from here

If it's the first case, use techniques such as the ones above to maintain or improve your focus and your energy. If it's the second case, find the next hotel within your price range and stay there, and don't even think about doing otherwise.

Don't even dream of driving from the northeast without a night's rest--it's not worth it! I did that once from Ohio to Orlando while splitting the driving with another driver. We had left Ohio around 9:30 a.m. Around Daytona Beach around 4 the next morning, I was extremely tired and suddenly thought, "If I just swerve the car off the highway, I'll wake up!" I took the very next exit and didn't drive the rest of the way. The other person took about an hour's nap at a rest area, and we got to Orlando around 8 a.m. Not a great way to start a Disney trip.

Go at or near the speed limit. The risks of speeding are not worth the time saved.

As a general rule, don't be in a hurry--linger a bit at a rest stop or highway exit if you wish--but don't waste time unproductively.

Keep an extra car key in your wallet.

If you wear glasses, bring a spare pair. I broke a pair on the way down one trip, and having the spare made a ton of difference!

Apply sunblock when getting ready on any day you'll be in hot weather. It can be amazing the difference about three to five hours of driving can make. You get to the east coast of Florida, get out of the car, and it can be a whole different world regarding weather.

Add oil to your car when necessary (for my car, I would do it every 1,000 miles traveled). If you can, add the oil when the car's been off for a while, to avoid burning your fingers on the engine (as I did once).

Have the basic route essentially fused into your brain before leaving. For me, this went like, "77 south to 26 east to 95 south to 4 west". I had not done this for my first trip, and the result was that I did not have complete confidence that it was 26 east, not 26 west. It is not good to fumble for a map during the half a minute or minute you have to make a decision while driving at 65 miles per hour.

Hope this helps!

Gillian
01-01-2002, 10:23 AM
Thanks for all the great tips! I think I will build an extra travel day into my schedule, just in case I need to stretch it out over 2 nights. And if I get there early, great!

I also found this link with a list of things to travel with
http://aolsvc.aol.consumerreports.org/autos/crauto36.html

Basic kit
Cellular phone. Keep a DC adapter cord handy that plugs into the cigarette lighter.
First-aid kit.
Fire extinguisher. A compact unit that's labeled 1A10BC or 2A10BC.
Warning light, hazard triangle, or flares.
Flashlight. extra batteries and a bulb
Tire gauge.
Jack and lug wrench.
Foam tire sealant or a portable compressor and plug kit.
Spare fuses.
Jumper cables or a portable battery booster.
Gloves, hand cleaner, clean rags.

Additional items for long-distance driving

Basic tools. This includes a set of socket and open-end wrenches, a multi-tip screwdriver, and pliers. This should be enough to perform simple jobs such as changing a light bulb, tightening battery cables, and so on. Even if you don't know what to do, a "Good Samaritan" will still need something to work with.

Coolant hose repair kit and tape.
Extra clothes and small tarpaulin.
Water and nonperishable emergency food.
CB radio. If your route will take you into an area where cellular service is spotty, consider a portable or in-car CB radio.

Additional items for winter driving

Windshield scraper & brush
Tire chains and tow strap.
Blanket and winter hat.
Chemical hand warmers.
Small folding shovel.
Bag of cat litter. This can help provide some traction on an especially slick road surface

BonnieA
01-01-2002, 11:52 AM
I do some occasional long distance driving. I've found that books on tape really help pass the time. But check the car you are renting and make sure it has a tape player or it may have a CD player. You can get tapes from the library. You can also get tapes and CD's from a Cracker Barrel restaurant gift store. They will sell you the tape/CD but if you return it to a Cracker Barrel they will refund all the money except $3. Not sure how much time you have to return it before you can no longer get a refund (a week?). But it's a good plan.

WOW
01-01-2002, 06:36 PM
Well I certainly give you lots of credit---I also live in NJ and am probably going to OKW in April, but I don't know how am going to get there yet. Airfare in about $200.00 which is a good price, but I am scared to fly now. I don't like being in a car too long and I have always said that I would NEVER drive there (until I actually move there and have no choice) but the thought has crossed my mind since the attacks. Obviously I can't give you any advice, but sure would like to hear from you regarding your drive. LOL and have a great time.

Gillian
01-01-2002, 06:52 PM
I thought about flying, since it was under $200 last year around the same time, but this way I may get to visit some friends along the way, and I have flexibility in my plans in case something comes up at home. And I hate to commit :D