Having 3 ½ and 4 ½ year old boys, I get a little anxious if travel plans don’t go as smoothly as anticipated. Patience at these ages (okay, mine too) only lasts so long and car rides become really miserable for everyone when young children are unhappy or bored. We recently and hesitantly made the decision to drive from Indiana to the Florida panhandle – a total of 11 hours drive time in normal traffic. Although this is still several hours from Disney World, I discovered that with some preparation, a lengthy drive is completely manageable. The experience gave me enough confidence to know that if we drive to Disney World for our next magical vacation, we will survive.
A few factors made our trip a breeze. Here are some tips you might try on your next long road trip with little ones:
- Stop! Luckily, we have family and friends between home and Florida, regardless of whether we are heading to the beach or Disney World. Our beach trip was broken into 4 and 7 hour segments. (Disney would be broken into 6 and 10 hour increments). Having a free place to get some decent rest is priceless. During the drive, frequent bathroom breaks are inevitable but we kept them quick – this was a great opportunity for us all to stretch our legs and get some fresh air.
- Watch! We finally broke down and bought a dual screen portable DVD player. I picked up 2 new DVDs for less than $10 apiece for a surprise. This can be a fun opportunity to talk about lesser known or forgotten characters on your way to Walt Disney World.
- Create! I bought a coloring book, a sketch notepad, two 24-packs of crayons, two clipboards, two sticker books and put all of this in one reusable shopping bag, which mostly stayed between their car seats. Each boy had his own clip board and re-sealable sandwich baggie of crayons. This provided hours of peace and quiet. (In the image above, Theo is actually using a toddler coloring app on my phone – also a great resource to mix it up, although I didn’t make a habit of this since I don’t have a car charger).
- Eat! I packed multiple snack-sized bags with various favorite foods for them to munch on between stops, such as dried fruits, cereal, and cheese flavored crackers.
- Play! Each child packed a few special toys they wanted to take with them from home. Between the movies and their current interests in coloring and drawing, they barely played with these items. On the way home, they napped some and played with souvenirs we acquired during vacation.
The convenience of flying and using the Magical Express service is hard to beat, but there are also undeniable perks to having your own vehicle while enjoying Disney World. Flying every time we want to visit may not be a financial possibility. Thanks to what I learned and shared above, I won’t fear the road trip again.
Candice was raised in east Tennessee. While in college, her best friend dragged her to a Walt Disney World College Program recruiting session at the University of Tennessee and the rest is Disney history. In the Fall of 1999, Candice became a quick service food hostess for Sunset Ranch Market and Fantasmic at Disney-MGM Studios – or what is now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While soaking up her time as a cast member, she met Ryan, a neighbor and a fellow college programmer who worked as a custodial host at Epcot. Four years later, Candice moved to the Midwest and married that boy from across the hall. They now live in Greenwood, Indiana with their two little boys. The Disney-loving foursome took their first family trip to The Happiest Place on Earth in 2013 and Candice is eagerly planning their return. Candice also works full-time at a community mental health center and enjoys taking photographs and blogging at Mommy in the Midwest.