Several years back my trip to Walt Disney World from where I lived then took roughly 13 hours. I learned quite a bit on those trips on how to arrive ready to go. There were ups and downs, along with some wonderful memories along the way.
- Plan on plenty of nourishment for the trip with easy food. Our favorites were cheese & crackers, homemade chicken salad, chips, nuts, fruit and some sweets. The rule of thumb was whoever wasn’t driving was responsible for serving. Food had to be easy – don’t want a distracted driver. When driving thru the night, gas stations aren’t always the most pleasant nor do they have much in the way of decent food.
- Pack plenty of water, juice, coffee and some soft drinks. You need to stay hydrated in the car just like when you are in the parks. Keep soft drinks to a minimum since they are heavier on the stomachs. Cold water is great and if you don’t have real water drinkers in the crowd include some of the flavor packets now available. There is no need to worry about bring too much, just put it in the room and you have some water for in the parks each day. Coffee works in a thermos as long as everyone can drink it the same way.
- Keep paper towels and wet ones ready while in the car. Accidents do happen!
- Before starting out, map your trip and do some research on the hotels available along the way. Consider this plan B just in case driving thru the night doesn’t work out like you anticipated. Another thing to check out is rest areas along the way. There will always be one close to the state lines. The welcome center portion may not be open, but the restrooms are usually nicer. Always park in the well-lit areas and keep together in a group going and coming from the vehicle. Stopping in the middle of the night can be a little nerving if you aren’t used to it. We have actually planned for a stop about 2-3 hours out, even now that my trip is more like 8-9 hours.
- Typical trips for us started at 4:00 pm as soon as we could get off work. This worked well for us whether we traveled with kids or all adults. Having more than one adult in the car particularly helps when traveling at night – while one drives, the other sleeps and then visa-versa. Stopping on a regular basis keeps everyone fresh, stopping only at rest areas unless the car needed gas. Speaking of which – once the car reaches ¼ of a tank – time to watch for a well lit, convenient and clean gas station. There was times when we did pull over in a rest area for an hour nap, although I really don’t recommend this. Rest hours are patrolled now, but better safe than sorry, if you really don’t think you can safely drive, by all means find a hotel and get some shut eye; referring to your list from #4 for those late nights. For me the hours between 2 and 5 am are my worst for night time driving.
- Traffic can be somewhat lighter at night, but be prepared the truck traffic can be a heavier. Take it easy and remember traveling thru the night is quite different from day time traffic.
- When arriving in Orlando early the next morning, do stop and freshen up before having a good breakfast. Your freshen-up bag should have toothbrush, toothpaste, a wash cloth and whatever you need to get your morning started just like normal.
These tricks may or may not work for you or your group, but it has worked well for me thru the years. Do you have any favorite times to drive for long trips? Are there any special tricks you have learned?
Debbie and her husband live in Collegedale, TN where her youngest son is going to college. She is a huge Disney fan who dreams of someday retiring and working as a tour guide at Walt Disney World. She has enjoyed many trips to WDW with children, grandchildren and sometimes adults only. It is her ultimate goal to make sure everyone who visits WDW has the same magical time that she enjoys every time she visits.