"For 2,000+ Mile Round-Trip Drivers Only!" (Part V)

BC1836

DIS Veteran
Joined
Dec 20, 2006
Hi all! I was referred to this post to get some info from all of you experts!

So, while I’ve been to WDW at least 20+ times, I have never made the drive down from Pittsburgh. I have always flown, but with two small kids, my husband thinks it will be better to have the car, car seats, snacks, etc.

It looks like it’s about a 15 hour drive for us, and I guess I’m just looking for ANY advice on how to make this as enjoyable as possible. We will be going for a week in April. Our boys will be 3 and 7 months, and we have never done a drive this long with them.

Do you suggest leaving late at night and driving straight through? Leaving in the morning and staying over somewhere? Any suggestions on best hotels, any must see tourist attractions along the way? Best road trip snacks? Lol. Literally anything you want to throw my way, I would appreciate! I’m definitely a nervous mama over here
Not counting weather concerns, plan to avoid any metro area during rush hour. I've done 13 straight-thru drives (see P. 1 for the all-time records) and you WILL be exhausted upon arrival. That first day in the park might not be that enjoyable because of your marathon drive. You can break up your drive by booking a hotel/motel in advance (know the time that allows you to cancel without penalty), but make sure you travel over half your distance on your first day of driving. Of course, be aware of your surroundings when seeking to fill you gas tank at some obscure exit in the post-midnight hour. These are a few thoughts for you to consider.

All the best! :thumbsup2
 

TheHamm

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 12, 2017
Hi all! I was referred to this post to get some info from all of you experts!

So, while I’ve been to WDW at least 20+ times, I have never made the drive down from Pittsburgh. I have always flown, but with two small kids, my husband thinks it will be better to have the car, car seats, snacks, etc.

It looks like it’s about a 15 hour drive for us, and I guess I’m just looking for ANY advice on how to make this as enjoyable as possible. We will be going for a week in April. Our boys will be 3 and 7 months, and we have never done a drive this long with them.

Do you suggest leaving late at night and driving straight through? Leaving in the morning and staying over somewhere? Any suggestions on best hotels, any must see tourist attractions along the way? Best road trip snacks? Lol. Literally anything you want to throw my way, I would appreciate! I’m definitely a nervous mama over here
Welcome! It is normal to be a nervous mama, part of the job description! Like all parts of parenting, flexibility is key to road trips in which there will be chaos no one could possibly predict. However, this is totally do-able!

While my husband would prefer to drive over night and we have, I have safety concerns with this as drowsy driving is no bueno. Additionally, it is really hard when you arrive in the morning and the kids are ready to go and the grown ups are not. Putting in some solid hours during naps and night time sleeping worked better for us on most of our road trips, this sometimes includes a 4am departure. Sometimes we stop for the night, sometimes we drive 20 hours if the weather is good.

At 3 and 7 months, I would assume you will need to stop every few hours for potty/diaper changes/feeding the tiny one. I would count on an extra 2-3 hours on the road. The little puffy rice things, cheerios, or goldfish in a munchkin cup double as a noise making rattle. Cereal is still our go to with 8 year olds! At 3 they still squirted go-go squeeze all over the place and it did not go fantastically well. We tended to try to hit rest stops with outdoor areas and give them the pouches while they wandered a bit. Road trips are also when we have uncrustables which we eat outside the car while wandering around, they are less messy than home made PB&J. We also played silly games hopping around picnic tables on one foot while stopped to get a little of the silly wiggles out.
The 7 month old is harder to keep entertained than the 3yo, but will sleep more. Anything crinkly or noisy is good for them both. For the older one I found a box of tissues to empty and shred as well as a pile of post it notes to disassemble were very entertaining and not terrible to clean up as long as the tissues stay out of the kiddo's mouth. I preferred toys that could be tethered to the kids' seats for both easy retrieval and to prevent it from being hurled at the driver. If you are ok with a little sticky in the car, a tiny container of bubbles is worth 20-30 minutes of excitement when blown from the passenger seat. It almost counts as bath time for my kids. Water wow coloring books (melissa and doug) are useful and entertaining for the older one, but you may have to pick up the pen 700 times. We did eventually get a portable dvd player when they were 4ish, and that was helpful- probably not for the tiny kiddo - but super annoying that I listened to paw patrol for 6 hours as the kids could not deal with headphones in their car seats.
 
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  • bluezy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 7, 2008
    Hi all! I was referred to this post to get some info from all of you experts!

    So, while I’ve been to WDW at least 20+ times, I have never made the drive down from Pittsburgh. I have always flown, but with two small kids, my husband thinks it will be better to have the car, car seats, snacks, etc.

    It looks like it’s about a 15 hour drive for us, and I guess I’m just looking for ANY advice on how to make this as enjoyable as possible. We will be going for a week in April. Our boys will be 3 and 7 months, and we have never done a drive this long with them.

    Do you suggest leaving late at night and driving straight through? Leaving in the morning and staying over somewhere? Any suggestions on best hotels, any must see tourist attractions along the way? Best road trip snacks? Lol. Literally anything you want to throw my way, I would appreciate! I’m definitely a nervous mama over here
    It's been a long time since our kids were that young, but we did make the drive to Disney from the Philly area several times with a 4 year old. We didn't travel to Disney with an infant so I'm not much help there, but things that worked for us with toddlers/pre-schoolers (but may or may not work for your family) were:

    1. We always left early in the morning (usually by about 5:00 a.m.) and spent the night usually around Savannah, GA which left us with about a 4 hour drive in the morning. The "drive at night and drive straight through" method never appealed to us because we knew the kids would sleep all night while we'd be awake. Then when we'd arrive at the hotel, the kids would be wide awake and we'd be exhausted -- and it would be difficult for us to sleep if the kids are awake. By splitting the drive over 2 days, we get a good night's sleep on the drive down and when we arrive at Disney we're well-rested (though slightly fatigued from the drive -- but adrenaline usually takes care of that as soon as we start seeing the exit signs for Disney) and we usually spend a few hours in a park on arrival day (or hanging out at the pool, riding the monorail, going to DS, etc. if we didn't go to a park).

    2. We made sure the kids burned off some energy whenever we made a stop. I'd keep some bubbles, a frisbee, a jump rope, etc. handy so that when we were at a rest stop I could spend a few minutes tiring out the kids. :)

    3. I made sure to have plenty of new toys and activities in the car but didn't just give them to the kids all at once. I'd pack a small bag with a few new things and give that to them for the start of the trip but then I'd keep the rest of the new stuff in the back of the car and give them something new when they needed it (basically whenever they got bored with what they already had). I also made sure to keep some new stuff for when we were in the hotel rooms (life saver on a rainy day when you might spend more time in the room) and for the drive home. Things I would buy would be: paper tablets, colored pencils (don't forget a sharpener), stickers, pipe cleaners, Color Wonder markers and paper/books, little animal figurines (usually saved those for the hotel), and little toys that I'd find in the dollar store or the birthday party favor aisle at Walmart/Target. They also had DVD players with headsets (before cars had them) and I'd make sure to have a few new DVDs to watch. Ditto with a CD player before we switched to MP3 players -- always made sure they had some fun new music to listen to. Now they're al teenagers/adults so they just bring their phones and that's all they need for the entire drive. :D

    4. Lots of individually packaged snacks...and always a few that were special treats that they wouldn't normally get at home. And we always have bottles of water.

    5. If the kids were sleeping, we tried not to stop the car. We'd drive as long as we could to let them sleep. And on the flip side, if they said they needed a bathroom stop or just wanted to stretch, we stopped at the next exit or rest stop.

    We're fortunate that all of our kids travel very well in the car and I always ended up with a pile of new toys and treats that I never had to use the entire drive. But I'd rather be over-prepared. :)
     

    igrsod

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 11, 2010
    If you were doing a 20 hour drive... would you rather divide it up over 2 days and stay midway somewhere, or take 3 hour shifts and keep driving with no hotel stops along the way?
     

    LadyBeBop

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2009
    If you were doing a 20 hour drive... would you rather divide it up over 2 days and stay midway somewhere, or take 3 hour shifts and keep driving with no hotel stops along the way?
    I need more information. :)

    1) Where are you driving from? Your 20-hour drive could actually turn into 24 hours if you have to go through a number of large cities with its traffic. Especially during rush hour. Or if you have little kids who need to go potty every two hours.

    2) How many drivers? If you're by yourself, I'd allow at least two days. Maybe three. If there are four drivers, sure you can drive straight-thru.

    When I was younger, we always at two drivers. We could handle about 14 hours and call it a day. Any more was pushing it.
     

    igrsod

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 11, 2010
    I need more information. :)

    1) Where are you driving from? Your 20-hour drive could actually turn into 24 hours if you have to go through a number of large cities with its traffic. Especially during rush hour. Or if you have little kids who need to go potty every two hours.

    2) How many drivers? If you're by yourself, I'd allow at least two days. Maybe three. If there are four drivers, sure you can drive straight-thru.

    When I was younger, we always at two drivers. We could handle about 14 hours and call it a day. Any more was pushing it.
    That's good information.
    We are still in the planning stages. Coming from Ottawa area in Canada to WDW. 2 or 3 drivers.
    If I was solo, I would not drive straight through... my eyes wouldn't allow it.
    But with 3 for sure i think we could just push through. Google says 20 hours... I have in my head that it probably would take closer to 24 hours.
    Never done the drive before, but with all this airline uncertainty and testing requirements to fly home, driving seems like a more reliable option.
     

    dvczerfs

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 14, 2008
    Yes I was going to post something similar about turnaround time. OMG we would never be able to drive down and a couple of days later drive back. We need a week to recover. When I say we I mean DH lol. He does most of the driving.
    Oh come on, you can do it!!!
    I left Davenport Fl. on Tuesday morning at 2:30am. Drove to Roanoke Virginia, stayed over night. Left wednesday morning at 2:30am, pulled into our sold house in Nazareth Pa at 10 am. Loaded up and drove back to Roanoke, arrived about 9pm. Woke up Thursday morning, hit the road at 2am and pulled back in to Davenport Fl. in time for a shower, a nap and dinner.
    3 days, 2400 miles….. alone. Lol
    One of the best trips I ever made. Lol
     
  • dvczerfs

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 14, 2008
    We started in Mechanicsburg, and I’ll have to look into the 81-77-26-95 route.

    And yes a very fast turnaround trip. My wife just started her new job and we wanted to sneak a trip in while we were both off from work.

    Thankfulky we are already planning our return trip in October 2022.

    I just booked the rental SUV yesterday using AutoSlash which was a tip I discovered from lurking here.
    Three places you want to avoid at rush hour… Harrisburg, Charlotte and Jacksonville. Watch your speed in Virginia, it’s the only time my entire life I set a cruise control. Lol
     

    LadyBeBop

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2009
    That's good information.

    We are still in the planning stages. Coming from Ottawa area in Canada to WDW.
    I haven't crossed the border by car in over 20 years. I don't know how long it takes, but make sure you allow time for that.

    2 or 3 drivers.

    If I was solo, I would not drive straight through... my eyes wouldn't allow it.
    But with 3 for sure i think we could just push through.
    Two drivers...I'd stop for the night somewhere in the Carolinas. Three drivers...I'd attempt it. But be careful. And don't give the most inexperienced driver the overnight shift.

    Google says 20 hours... I have in my head that it probably would take closer to 24 hours.
    Yup.

    Never done the drive before, but with all this airline uncertainty and testing requirements to fly home, driving seems like a more reliable option.
    I don't know when your trip is. But things may change in the next six months. We don't know. Plan your drive, but also be aware of the constantly changing situation. Flying may be better in August and quite possibly will be much better by Christmas 2022.

    But I don't know.
     

    pwdebbie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 20, 2007
    Oh come on, you can do it!!!
    I left Davenport Fl. on Tuesday morning at 2:30am. Drove to Roanoke Virginia, stayed over night. Left wednesday morning at 2:30am, pulled into our sold house in Nazareth Pa at 10 am. Loaded up and drove back to Roanoke, arrived about 9pm. Woke up Thursday morning, hit the road at 2am and pulled back in to Davenport Fl. in time for a shower, a nap and dinner.
    3 days, 2400 miles….. alone. Lol
    One of the best trips I ever made. Lol
    Sounds like you did not return with an extra passenger.
     

    TheHamm

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2017
    If you were doing a 20 hour drive... would you rather divide it up over 2 days and stay midway somewhere, or take 3 hour shifts and keep driving with no hotel stops along the way?
    You are also at the mercy of whom ever is working at the border, which could significantly add to your transit time. Friends crossing Windsor to Detroit for work using the NEXUS lanes regularly complain the time is inconsistent and hyperbolically 20% more than pre-pandemic. Hopefully that levels out, but who knows?

    On a good trip (no national border crossing to account for!), we add ~10% onto the google predicted 17 hour drive time. We have added on 4 hours due to traffic, and we have had to stop overnight due to the road being nearly impassable due to storms, so it can vary wildly in our experience.

    If the idea of stopping for the night unscheduled is overwhelming, or if you do not have US cell coverage to check if nearby hotels have availability, I would just plan to stop. It does not bother us so we have tended to roll with the chaos. Given more than 2 drivers and no kids, I would plan to go all the way and pivot mid-drive if need be.
     
  • dvczerfs

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 14, 2008
    Sounds like you did not return with an extra passenger.
    No, that quick trip was this past summer. I will be heading north in the next few weeks and I will have an extra passenger on the return trip.
    I’ll have her begging to fly before we hit Virginia. Lol
    I told her, I leave early, her early is 10 am. My early is 2:30am.
    I drive Pa, Ma, Wv and into Virginia before I make my first stop.
    And just so she was aware, I reminded her a rest stop isn’t a place to dilly dally around at and she wouldn’t be the first that got left at a rest stop and or gas station for piddling around. If you need to eat three times a day, pack it because, I’m not stopping. If you insist on drinking, better be able to hold it, why……
    im not stopping.
     
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    pwdebbie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 20, 2007
    No, that quick trip was this past summer. I will be heading north in the next few weeks and I will have an extra passenger on the return trip.
    I’ll have her begging to fly before we hit Virginia. Lol
    I told her, I leave early, her early is 10 am. My early is 2:30am.
    I drive Pa, Ma, Wv and into Virginia before I make my first stop.
    And just so she was aware, I reminded her a rest stop isn’t a place to dilly dally around at and she wouldn’t be the first that got left at a rest stop and or gas station for piddling around. If you need to eat three times a day, pack it because, I’m not stopping. If you insist on drinking, better be able to hold it, why……
    im not stopping.
    We'd never be able to travel together then. :P I insist on a break every two hours just to stretch my legs and stay awake. (I'm the driver.) And if I allow myself a coffee, the stop might be sooner.
     

    dvczerfs

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 14, 2008
    We'd never be able to travel together then. :P I insist on a break every two hours just to stretch my legs and stay awake. (I'm the driver.) And if I allow myself a coffee, the stop might be sooner.
    Lol. Nope, you would be at the Virginia welcome center on I81 calling an Uber. Lol
    After I joined this thread how many years ago, I quickly found I was not normal. Lol
    This trip will be interesting, all the trips I made I was either considerably younger or was on the road and did a lot of driving for work. I know longer am on the road, retired from that job to move to Florida since March 2021 and I sure didn’t get any younger.
    I live about an hour from Sanford airport which I drop and pick up my wife often because she flys home to see her mom. I can tel you, I’m out of the game. Lol
    We will see how it goes, im aiming for leaving the week of January 17th.
    I’ll keep the 2000 plus thread updated on my venture north.
    I know one thing for sure, I won’t be there long, waaaaaaaay to cold, grey, brown and gloomy for me.
     

    dvczerfs

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 14, 2008
    Plans are in place, driving trip number…….. I have no idea, lol
    As long as the current weather situation up north stays on it’s time and path, I’m leaving home on Tuesday, guessing around 3am. Driving to Roanoke Virginia, I have a reservation for the night. Waking up early and driving to the Lehigh Valley, staying at a“costumer “ friends house. We have a lot of catching up to do.
    Will make my way over to my mother in laws to load the car, she’s bringing a few things, we’ll see.
    Returning to my friends house for the evening. I’ll be picking my mother in law up at 6am Thursday morning ( AIS ) I’m leaving at 6am, not 6:10, 6:16, or 6:01… 6:am…. Wouldn’t be the first to be left behind, try me.
    We are driving to Walterboro Sc and staying the night. Hitting the road by 3am Friday for a 9 9:30 am arrival.
    Wish her luck. Lol
     

    dawnelda

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 9, 2020
    Literally anything you want to throw my way, I would appreciate! I’m definitely a nervous mama over here
    Sorry to be late to the party here. When my daughter was young (3-ish), I would give her a box of themed Band-Aids (think: princess, Star Wars, etc.) when we had a long drive. She happily covered her thumbs with every Band-Aid in the box. It was a cheap way to keep her entertained for quite a while.
     


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