2 kids, 2 dogs, 1200 miles: 2 weeks and 2 birthdays in Florida - COMPLETED!


Cold enough for ya?
Apr 16, 2009
This is my first trip report, and for some reason, I'm having a hard time starting it. We've been back home for just over a week now. I've poured over my pictures, selecting just the right ones. Every time I came to the TR board, I would start reading one and get too involved to start my own. Well, I finally made the time and started. Welcome aboard! (Table of Contents has been added at the bottom of this post!)
2 kids, 2 dogs, 1200 miles: 2 weeks and 2 birthdays in Florida
First things first, introductions are in order.

  • My name is Barry, and I will be your host for this trip report. I'm 31, a systems administrator living in Racine, WI. Including when my family went when I was a child, I've been to Walt Disney World seven times.

    Here I am in December of 2008, leading our daughter Madison atop Satin at the Tri-Circle D ranch at Fort Wilderness.

  • DW is Bambi, age 30. She's a social worker, and we've been married for 9 years now. Her parents took her to Disneyland as a child, so her trip count for Walt Disney World is only at six. I've reminded her of this several times, and have the bruises to prove it!

    Here's Bambi and our son Evan at Toy Story Mania back in December

  • DD, Madison. She turned 5 on this, her 5th, trip to Disney. She was placed with us as a newborn foster child. We already had a trip planned with Bambi's parents to Disney World in December of 2004. We called the airlines, hotels, etc and added an infant to all of the reservations with no problems. Was it easy having a 7 week old at Disney World? No, but it was totally worth it!

    We were taking a break in Epcot when Belle and Beast walked up to us, took Madison and just starting cooing with her.

    Of course, she's not the little baby any more. The adoption was finalized that summer, and she's been back four times since. She loves her Princesses and Fairies, and her favorite changes daily.

  • DS, Evan. He celebrated his 3rd birthday on this trip. And his story is just as good as Madison's. We had planned to go down for Madison's 2nd birthday in 2006. Plane tickets purchased and everything. And then we found out that not only was Bambi pregnant, but she was due right in the middle of our vacation. With a doctor's note, the airline waived the ticket change fee and gave us 1 year to use the tickets. Evan was born 5 1/2 hours after Madison's 2nd birthday. I'm pretty sure she still thinks of him as one of her presents.

    Here he is doing what he does best - climbing things and getting into trouble.

  • Also playing big parts in this TR are Pepper and Allie. Pepper is a 2 year old Spaniel/Lab mix (we think), and Allie is a 1 year old Australian Cattle Dog/Rat Terrier Mix who thinks she's a cat. We were told that her previous owners had 2 cats, and she learned a lot about life from them. Both were rescues from the Wisconsin Human Society. They've traveled with us in the van in the past, and never had a problem. We threw caution to the wind and decided to bring them along for the 2 week trip.

    Allie on the back of the couch, Pepper on the right

  • Bambi's parents - Dean and Carol. They live in Lakeland, FL - about 40 minutes west of Disney World. Their house would be "home base" for 2 weeks. The plan was to leave the dogs there for 4 days while the 4 of us spent some time at Disney's Beach Club. They declined to have pictures posted.

So, you have the "who", here's the rest of the facts:
WHERE: MIL and FIL's house, Lakeland, FL, and Disney's Beach Club Villas. We are DVC members and have stayed here in the past. You can't beat this pool anywhere on or off property. It's amazing.
WHEN:October 9 - 24, 2009
HOW: Mazda MVP Van. 1200 miles each way. First time driving.
WHY: Um, why not? Officially, it was to visit Grandma and Grandpa and Celebrate Madison's 5th and Evan's 3rd Birthdays.

So, that's my introduction. In upcoming chapters, I'll spin the tales of the 2 kids, 2 dogs, 1 minivan drive, the parks, the pools, the food and the fun. Pictures will be included. I have over 1300 from the vacation, and the best of the best have been selected for this TR.

Hold on, it's gonna be a heck of ride!

If you want to skip over all of the witty banter (buy why would you? It's good stuff!) you can use these handy links to get to my daily updates
Table Of Contents
Days 1 & 2 - Oct 8 & 9 - The First Drive
Day 3 - Oct 10 - Lazy Saturday
Day 4 - Oct 11 - Coronado Springs & DTD
Day 5 - Oct 12 - Magic Kingdom part 1
Day 5 - Oct 12 - Magic Kingdom part 2
Day 6 - Oct 13 - Animal Kindgom / DHS part 1
Day 6 - Oct 13 - Animal Kindgom / DHS part 2
Day 6 - Oct 13 - Animal Kindgom / DHS part 3
Day 7 - Oct 14 - Off Day: Golf, Swiming
Day 8 - Oct 15 - Madison's 5th: Magic Kingdom / 1900 Park Fare, Part 1
Day 8 - Oct 15 - Madison's 5th: Magic Kingdom / 1900 Park Fare, Part 2
Day 9 - Oct 16 - Evan's 3rd: Hollywood Studios, Whispering Canyon Cafe, Part 1
Day 9 - Oct 16 - Evan's 3rd: Hollywood Studios, Whispering Canyon Cafe, Part 2
Day 10 - Oct 17 - Another off day
Day 11 - Oct 18 - Beach Club Villas & Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
Day 12 - Oct 19 - Cape May Cafe, Shopping, and Disney's Palm Golf Course
Day 13 - Oct 20 - Universal Studios & a gourmet dinner
Day 14 - Oct 21 - Epcot, swimming and International Food & Wine Fest
Days 15,16 & 17 - Oct 22-24 - Swimming, packing and going home
The Final Entry


Dis Dad Member #325
Jul 4, 2005
Sign me up for the story. (I'll need a good template to write up mine in a couple weeks).

  • FreezinRafiki

    Cold enough for ya?
    Apr 16, 2009
    Looking forward to hearing about your trip:goodvibes
    There's a lot to tell, but I'll do my best!;)

    Hopping on for the ride! :cool1:
    Please keep head, hands, and feet inside the ride vehicle at all times.:car:

    Sign me up for the story. (I'll need a good template to write up mine in a couple weeks).

    Template? Heck, you can copy & paste and just change the names if you want! :laughing:

    Think I'll finish mine before you finish yours? :rotfl2:

    This is NOT A TaG

    Ok, yes it is..


    Clearly, the sand is getting to you. :scared1:

    Here! Bring it on popcorn::
    Welcome. (I like extra butter on mine):rotfl:

    I probably won't finish before you leave for the cruise, so I strongly suggest springing for the satellite Internet connection so you can keep up. Or just finish you get home. Whatever.:boat:

    Good to have you on. Day 1 will be posted shortly!:cool2:


    Cold enough for ya?
    Apr 16, 2009
    As I said before, we've been to Disney World a few times. But we've always flown. Once from Chicago, but mostly from Milwaukee. It sure is convenient living 30 minutes from one airport and 60 from another.
    We've been there twice since we got Pepper, and both times we would have the teenaged son of one of our friends stay at the house with him. The problem is, Evan and I (and to some extent Bambi's Dad) are about the only males that Pepper trusts. [Side note: remember that last sentence. It's a bit of foreshadowing.] Something must have happened to him before we got him, because he is very scared of men. So 2 weeks like that probably wouldn't be a good idea. We looked into a boarding kennel, but 2 weeks for 2 dogs would be major $$$. Add in the cost of 4 airline tickets, and we're already majorly in the hole for this vacation.

    Bambi had been dead set against driving. 20 hours in the car was way more than she ever wanted to deal with. That's why I was so surprised when she brought up the idea of driving. We ran the numbers, stared at the maps, crunched the numbers again, agonized over it, and then decided to drive. With 2 kids, 2 dogs, and 1200 miles from Wisconsin to Florida, were we crazy? Only time would tell.

    We researched like maniacs. What route was best? What time should we leave? Should we plan a hotel stay or drive straight through? How in the heck are we going to entertain 2 kids buckled into car seats for that long? And on top of all that - Labs and Cattle Dogs like to run. A lot. There's really not much room to run in a minivan.

    Our chariot for the vacation was a 2000 Mazda MPV. It didn't have a built in DVD system, so we bought an RCA model at Sam's Club for $180. It had two screens. Each could play its own movie, or they could be hooked up together to show the same one. The biggest problem was the power in the van. Whenever the key was turned on or off, the power would interrupt. Meaning every time we stopped for gas, the movies would shut off and we would have to load them up all over again. I solved this with some creative wiring and additional power jacks from my local auto parts store. Hook them directly up to the battery, and they never lose power. I was having so much fun, that I added another one up front for the GPS.

    We had two big things in our favor on the vacation - washers and dryers. Both at the in-laws house and at our 1 bedroom villa a the Beach Club. Which means for a 2 week vacation, we packed only about 4 outfits each, drastically cutting down the amount of stuff we had to pack.

    With the van packed, I posted this pic to Facebook at 5:15pm on 10/9:

    Unfortunately, we hit Chicago during rush hour. 10-15 mph around the city and I was in a sour mood. It cleared up on the south side and we were doing OK until we got to the I94/I65 interchange in Indiana. The exit was backed up for over a mile. Not sure why, either.

    I was posting to Facebook via my Blackberry so family and friends could follow the trip and see that we were still OK. 10/8 8:15 PM - "gas station in northern indiana for potty & jammies"

    With the gas tank full and the kids now changed into PJs, we set out again on I 65 South. Bambi took over driving south of Indianapolis. She had slept some and was refreshed and ready to go. Facebook: 10/8 11:59 PM : 30 miles north of Louisville, KY. heavy rains. it's starting to let up a bit, so we press on. I took over again in Kentucky after a nap. Somehow I kept it on the road and away from the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. The fact that it was 1 am and closed helped too.

    I was on a roll. Some podcasts on my iPod and a little Mountain Dew in the cupholder was all I needed.

    Facebook, 10/9 5:23am: rest area just west of Chattanoga, TN. I'm sure Tennessee is beautiful country, but driving through it at night, an all you see is the outline of this hugh mountain, you really miss a lot. the 5% down hill grade with twisty turns north of Nashville was fun, but I could have done without the crosswinds and the rain. Bambi and the kids are sleeping. I had a two hour nap in Kentucky and I'm feeling good.

    That rest area is where I found this bench. That looks like one happy lizard.

    We were making great time. We weren't sure if we were going to stop for the night or not, but since we were sleeping OK in the van we never needed to. Pepper and Allie were fine too. They would curl up (or stretch out) and sleep right along with us.

    Our biggest concern was Atlanta traffic. We though if we stopped for the night around Chattanooga, that we might hit evening rush hour.

    Facebook: 10/9 7:19am: 30 miles north of Atlanta. Don't need to worry about evening rush hour just morning.

    After after a nice stop to change clothes (shorts!) and get some breakfast we were back on the road. We hit Atlanta about 9:00am, and took the I 75 HOV lanes right threw downtown. We never went below 50mph through town. We were very relieved, because we have heard very bad things about Atlanta's traffic.

    This was south of Atlanta somewhere. Bambi had taken over driving again. Mmmm...big tub of cheese balls...

    And one of my favorite pictures from the trip. I have entitled it "Disagreement with the Navigator"

    The rest of the drive seems like the longest. After Atlanta, you still have a lot of Georgia and Florida to drive through. I'll let Facebook tell the story:

    Facebook 10/9 9:14am: Macon, GA. After 16 hours in the car, the kids are doing pretty good. The dogs are getting restless. 7 hours to go.

    Facebook: 10/9 12:33 pm: In Florida. Kids and dogs have done very good on the trip. 3 hours to go then swimming. (Swimming is at Grandma and Grandpa's pool. And thank goodness, after 19 hours in the van, we're starting to smell a bit ripe!)

    Facebook 10/9 3:53pm: We made it 1259 miles in 22 hours. No fatalities, and the family still gets along!

    We arrived before Grandma or Grandpa got home from work. We had made it about 8 hours ahead of schedule since we didn't need to stop. They told us where they hid the key. I'm not going to post the location here, so PM if you want to know. :rotfl2:

    Since it was still in the upper 80s we went swimming, ate dinner, and went swimming again. Evan in the pool:

    After that, it was time for some well deserved sleep in an actual bed!

    Coming up: lizard hunting, gator protection and birthday presents!
  • mickeystoontown

    DIS Veteran
    Oct 2, 2006
    I'm in! I often say trip reports and pictures are what keep me sane until my next Disney vacation. Thanks for your contribution to my sanity....I need all I can get.;)

    Your kids are adorable as are your doggies.


    May 27, 2009
    very cool. i live in Green Bay, and I just started toying with the idea of driving for my trip in March. We have a daughter that will be 2.5 at the time. those dvd players are the best.

    made the drive from Green Bay to Columbia, SC to visit my brother last March. It went ok....but, this would be 6 hours longer.


    DIS Veteran
    Aug 27, 2004
    Brave man you are. 20 hours in the van with children and wife.LOL Sounds like a great drive tho. Waiting for more.


    Today is the best day of my life!
    Dec 10, 2003

    Glad the drive went so well. We drive a LOT from WV--DH can't stand for someone else to be in control, not even an airline pilot LOL (although he doesn't seem to have any problem relinquishing the wheel to ME...hmmm...).

    My dad makes this drive back and forth from Madison to Florida every spring and fall with his motorhome...it's a doozy!

    Thanks for posting your trip report, staying tune for more...getting excited 'cause we leave in 3 weeks!!!:banana::banana::banana:


    DIS Veteran
    Aug 5, 2003
    I'm so excited to read about your trip! My first EVER trip to Disney World was a road trip in a Toyota Corolla with a 4yo, 2yo, and me 6mo pregnant...:rolleyes1 That experience alone almost ruined Disney for me! :rotfl2: