Driving from DC to Orlando - need advice


Earning My Ears
Jan 6, 2002
We'll be making our first trip ever to WDW, and we've decided to drive (from the Washington, D.C. area). I've seen a few posts here from others who've made this drive, and was hoping someone would have some tips/advice:

1. It seems like most sources say the total trip is about 17 hours. Excluding getting caught in rush hour traffic, but including regular construction/other backups, is this realistic?

2. We're trying to figure out how far to try to get the first day of driving, and where (city/what motel) to spend the night - ?

3. Is it better to make a reservation for that one night, or just take our chances? (After our last (bad) experience with using a "coupon" from a rest area booklet for a AAA-approved motel, I'm a bit leary of doing it that way again!)

We always drive from Baltimore to Orlando with our 3 children. We usually take 2 nights on the road, just because it's tough being in the car for long stretches of time. We usually have a AAA book with us, and call for a reservation from the road when we see how our time is going.
One suggestion, we usually stay right outside of WDW the night before our WDW reservations start. That way we can check in to our resort and go to the parks without wasting the day as a travel day. WE then go back to the resort late in the afternoon and get our keys and luggage. By staying in Orlando the night before, we are well rested and usually plan where we want to go on our first day at WDW.
1st post.......welcome to the boards.
Brunswick Ga. is a good place to stop. However, DC is 2 hours closer then We are but we drive right past DC. It has never taken more then 17 hours for us to make the drive from here.(Harrisburg, Pa) We leave between 6pm and midnight, drive straight through, check in, eat, sleep and are ready the next day. We get 200 miles every 3 hours, at 1000 miles that's 15 hours. My wife and son sleep, we stop for gas twice, have munchies in the car and do drive up windows to eat. You should be able to make that drive in 14 hours.
As I said though, Brunswick Ga is a good place to stop since you should with traffic make WDW in no more then 5 hours and that's slow.....spruce

Epedia maps shows DC as 851 miles from Orlando taking 13 hours and 20 minutes.
Brunswick Ga is 649 miles from DC taking 10 hours and 10 minutes. So from Brunswick you are 202 miles from Orlando....spruce
We are making the trip from D.C. in March, and we are stopping in Santee, SC on the first night. That is a little more than half way, and we are trying to split it up so that we are in the car about the same amount of time both days.

On the way back, we are stopping in Florence, SC

Hi we live in the Baltimore area and have made the drive a couple of times. It did not take 17 hours, 14-15 maybe.

The first time we drove straight through the night, this worked out fine as the kids slept all night but we, DH and myself were pretty tired when we got there. The last time we drove most of the day and stopped at Brunswick, GA (as mentioned by the other poster) for the night. This is a good place to stop, it's right before the Florida border. The next morning you only have about another 2-3 hour drive left.

There are many hotels and restaurants at the Brunswick stop along I-95. What we did was bid for a hotel thru www.priceline.com. We have always had good luck with priceline, especially when looking for a place to stop along I-95 and highly recommend it. We received a nice Holiday Inn for $25/night. There is a Cracker Barrell at this stop also, so when we woke up we had breakfast there and continued on our journey. If you are interested in using Priceline, I recommend checking out www.biddingfortravel.com for bidding tips and information.

Friends of mine went in October and I bid for a room for them in Brunswick and got a room for them for around $25-30/night. They ended up leaving around 6:00 a.m., but they made such good time, when they hit Brunswick, they decided to keep on going through to Orlando. Since they paid so little for the hotel, they just took the loss, but they said it was nice to know they had the ressie if they had wanted to use it. Anyway, boy, this was wordy... sorry :) Have a good trip, let me know if I can help.
We drive from Delaware. We usually leave at 9pm on a Friday night, drive through the night taking turns and a occassional catnap at a rest area in Virginia or NC, and make it to Orlando around 4-5pm Saturday, stay in a hotel near Disney and then check in to our hotel the next morning. If I were to stop for the night, Hardeeville SC (Exit 5 on I-95) is a good choice, it is 5 miles from the Georgia border and has about 3 or 4 chain hotels as well as fast food and gas stations to choose from. I think 17 hours from DC is realistic if you stop only for gas and eat in the car. We usually stop for Breakfast and gas once (near Manning SC) and occasional bathroom breaks.

Enjoy the drive !

Mike :)
AF Brenda,
We ate at Clark's in Santee. Not a drive up/ quick eat place. Actually, just the opposite. It's a family restaurant w/ lots of locals/retired folks enjoying home-style meals. We also stayed in Florence NC, nothing special, but the room was clean and the complimentary breakfast suited our needs.

Thanks for the info!! If it were just DH and I, we would probably drive straight through, or worst case, go on to Brunswick. But the kids just get too antsy in the car after 8 or so hours.
We've been driving straight through from Delaware for nearly 17 years! the worst part of the drive for us has been through DC! hehe! Once we clear your "lovely for a day trip but heck to drive through" part of the country the miles fly by. Remember the speed limits in the southern states are much higher then up north. I think we saw 70MPH for a good part of the way.

We started with one 4 year old back in "85 and have had nearly every combination in between since then up to and including 4 kids (all our own), babies, teen agers, nieces and nephews w/o parents, and everything in between. I, myself, am not a great traveller. I like to stop often just to stretch or potty or snack or just because! We break up the trip in many, many ways. sit down meals, shopping in gas station tourist traps (the kids love this part), reading the corney Pedro signs until you cross the border into SC, etc.

I buy snacks for the kids that we never splurge on at home, new travel games (that they still enjoy when we get home), audio story books (you can get 3 disneybooks and a cd/tape at ToysRus for $6.99), colored pencils (no crayons or markers!) and stickers, copies of trip tic maps for older ones to mark "where are we?" along the way, oh my, the list goes on and on. One backpack per child, a pillow and blankie turn the back of our van into a mini amusment park with a place for naps when all else fails. Also some of the smaller key chain type games you see around are great for the backpack in disney while waiting in lines.

All said, the times we have decided to stop, we plan it down to the hotel and restaurant practically. A museum in Savannah, an outlet in North Carolina, our all time favorite is to push on to St Augustine, FL though. the kids love to run around Castillo de San Marcos after being in the car for that long. that night we relax by a hot tub or pool and then arrive nice and early for Disney the next day. the thing I dislike the most about stopping en route, is the unpacking and packing back up of our stuff. Then again, I've never learned the art of packing light. . .

jmho, most kids are more adaptable then us big kids <grin> either way, have a great trip. oh, btw, we've also had nightmarish things come of those rest stop coupons, yikes! never again.
We don't have any children, it's just my husband and myself. But I often travel with my nephew (4) or my godson (10) and goddaughter (7). Our trip isn't that long, under 5 hours. But I read this idea here somewhere and plan to use it. When you stop for a fast food lunch, stop somewhere that has a playground (McDonald's). Adults get their food and eat while the kids run wild in the play area. If the kids are old enough, adults eat inside (in peace), otherwise you'll have to eat outside while watching them.

After you've eaten and they've gotten rid of some energy, buy their food and let them eat in the car, so you can get back on the road (if they're old enough to handle this without messes/spills). They still get hot food, you get to eat in peace, and they release some energy. Can't believe I never thought of this.
We drove down from DC on our last trip back in 1999. We usually leave about 8am and stop around 6pm, although I don't remember where we stopped for the night. We arrived at Shades of Green around 2pm on second day though.
the worst part of the drive for us has been through DC!

I can understand that! Do you stay on I-95/I-495 around D.C? If so, depending on the time of day, you might be better off getting onto Maryland 295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway) and taking that down to where it hooks up with I-95/I-495 again. There are no commercial vehicles or big trucks allowed, so there is much less traffic. The speed limit is only 55 MPH, but it takes less time because there is so much less traffic. It is a 4 lane divided highway, restricted access, and the scenery is beautiful!
Make sure you go the speed limit in Florence. I got my first and only speeding ticket after almost 30 years of driving on a 4-lane there this summer. Cost me $325 -- $75 for the fine and $250 for the lawyer.

blizzard2 -- our drive is considerably shorter, but sometimes we leave late in the day. we almost never make a reservation for the road night b/c we want to drive until we are tired with the hope of making the second day shorter. We almost always leave wdw at the end of the day and we handle it that way then, too. We also carry AAA books for all the states we're going through and call ahead when we start getting tired. We've done that on many trips and have only had trouble finding a room once. We stick to the medium price chains: Hampton Inn (the best IMO), Comfort Inn, etc.
There are very few states where I won't speed a little bit, and South Carolina, along with Louisiana and Ohio, is one of them! I've never gotten a ticket there, but I've noticed that there are cops all over the place, so I don't even do my customary 5 MPH over the speed limit there!
hehe. . . better not go to far with this speeding discussion but I can't resist. . .

my brother has been a police officer in 7 states over the years (currently retired military, CIA, navy seal, you name it!) he has also been a firefighter, paramedic over seas, all that stuff.

He says the tried and true formula has always been 5 miles over for mechanical error and 5 miles over for human error. So..

I set the cruise control to 9 miles over and have never gotten a ticket and have driven in all the worst states (with a speed trap every ten miles it seemed at times).

Anyway, we usually take 295 around the Wash. DC area and it works well. I also have a friend in Lorton, VA so we occasionally go by way of there as well.

I second the Hampton Inn vote. I love the very full breakfast and my kids love the variety. We do that playground thing too. Out in the mid west, the Burger Kings get our vote for best indoor playgrounds. Oh, another tip, stay away from that Mcdonalds on International Drive that claims to be the worlds largest, it's filthy and slow service. Try the others in town. there are more with playgrounds and better service.

Again, have a terrific trip!
We go down from hampton Va. Takes about 13 - 14 hours to drive. We like to run down for quick weekend trips so we leave and try to make St Aug. fl on those trips. But for the trips where we are going down for a week or more we stop about 1/2 way through SC. We do this because the way 95 cuts through SC you feel like you will never get out of the state. this seems to work well for us we stop every 150-200 mile just to stretch our legs and get out of the car for a few minutes this make the drive a whole lot better ( on my wife I would rather drive strait through Ha ha ) There are a lot of nice places to stay along 95 so we don't worry about res for the night down or back . Our rule of thumb is when we are ready for dinner we start looking for a place to stay. That way nobody burns out and you don't have to drive after a nice big meal just whatch a little TV in the bed and up out the door Earley the next morning.on our last trip we decided to leave about 5:00 AM took our time make plenty stops and before we new it we were in ST aug. so we satyed there. just take your time enjoy the ride and stop when you want for a break. you will be surprised how little time you will loose and how much more fun the ride will be. Have A Disney Day ºoº
any other tri-state area people do the drive? i heard 18 hours fom nj from a couple of different people and was hoping that was the case
As i posted earlier, we just did this Dec. 26th and back on new years day. We left disney at 5:30 a.m. and was sitting in our home in Southern Maryland (calvert county) by 7 p.m. We made about 4-5 short stops, only one for about 20-25 minutes to eat. The rest stop/stretch/bathroom change drivers breaks. We've gone to disney over 35 times, probably flown 10 or so. So driving is not so bad. We left christmas day at noon, and stopped 5-10 miles north of the florida line at 9:30 p.m. traffic was a breeze.
We live in the DC area and have driven twice to Disney - both times we left at night and drove straight through but it is a very exhausting drive. My parents just left yesterday for Disney and they made it to Savannah, GA spent the night and are on their way to Orlando as we speak, they said they left at 8 am yesterday morning and were settled in their hotel room in GA by 5 pm, they said it was much better breaking the trip up like this as opposed to driving straight there. Have a great trip!!!:p
We are in Loudoun Cty, just to the west of DC. We usually do it in one stretch. We leave between 4 and 5 in the morning - put the kids to bed in sweats and let them go back to sleep in the car. Stop for breakfast around 8 or so just south of the NC border. Have a picnic lunch in SC or GA and get to Orlando around 8pm or so. It takes us about 15 hours and we usually stay somewhere cheap offsite that first night.

On the way back, we leave mid afternoon and drive 6 or 7 hours to somewhere in SC and then finish up the next day. The drive home always seems to take longer, but it actually is still around 15 hours.


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