We spend a lot of time on this site talking about what we do when we get to Walt Disney World. That makes sense, considering the elaborate algorithm and space age technology that Len developed to perfect Touring Plans. If you’re like me, though, you’re usually just as concerned with how you’ll get there.
The decision usually comes down to two choices – do I fly or do I drive? This is a particularly thorny question when you’re like me, and you live close enough to do either. I’m just north of Atlanta, so a drive to Disney can be done in one good afternoon, anywhere from 7 to 9 hours, depending on traffic and the willingness of my travel companions.
Driving usually wins out for me, because by the time I get to the airport early, take the hour long flight, Disney’s Magical Express and Online Check-In, I only save about 2 or 3 hours by flying. If you are going to drive to Disney, though, there’s some things I recommend you keep in mind.
- Know your exits – I have trod the path between Atlanta and Lake Buena Vista on I-75 and the Florida Turnpike so much that I know every exit between here and there and what it contains. For example, I know that Ed and Barb’s Cream Donuts is at the end of the road on exit 427 in Florida, and it closes by 1 p.m. So if you want a key lime or strawberry cheesecake donut, you better leave Disney early when headed back this way. Knowing what exits have what is key to driving survival.
- Know traffic patterns – This is especially true if you are leaving or driving through a major metropolitan area like Atlanta. Sometimes there’s no choice, but leaving after work on a holiday weekend or on a Friday night is never a good idea. Traffic backs up in several locations between my house or office and Macon, GA, about 75 miles away. Knowing what time of day to go can save lots of time.
- Know your travelers – Are you driving solo? With a spouse or significant other? You can make really good time. Driving with kids? Maybe not so much. If you have kept the first two tips in mind, you’ll understand how to manage the drive to stop and let the kids entertain themselves, or conversely, where to stop for coffee to fuel the rest of your drive. You’ll also know how far you can make it without stopping for the night.
Those are my three rules for any car trip to Disney. But there is all sorts of fun you can have on one of these trips. I used to be a huge fan of the Ocala Welcome Center that Disney hosted at exit 350 off I-75 in Florida. There was a giant Mickey outside the building that we would always take our picture by, and we would go inside and watch a preview video of what we would see when we arrived at Walt Disney World.
I also love playing car games, like the Alphabet Game, with my wife or kids. That’s when you try to spot the letters of the alphabet in order on billboards along the side of the road. The I-75 route has plenty of them, so it’s not too challenging, but still fun. It gets cutthroat when trying to find a “Q,” let me tell you.
I’m also a connoisseur of fine dive restaurants and off the beaten path places to eat. Through the years, I’ve traveled all over finding these sorts of places, with the help of books and websites like Roadfood. There’s some pretty good ones along the way. I mentioned Ed and Barb’s Cream Donuts in Lake City (exit 427), but there’s also the New Perry Hotel in Perry, GA and NuWay Wieners in Macon, GA.
No matter which drive you take to Walt Disney World, it’s always good to make the journey as much fun as the destination. I know that isn’t easy, considering where you’re headed, but it’s fun to try, isn’t it?
What about you? Do you drive to Disney? What kind of tips or tricks do you use to pass the time?