Like many others before you, flying has just become too expensive or too much of a hassle and you’ve decided to make the drive to Walt Disney World. Now, with a 4-hour pre-flight pickup from Disney’s Magical Express, you’re convinced this is the right move to make. I don’t blame you either; as they ask in Spaceship Earth—”Is it more about the destination or the journey?” So to help you with your journey, here is a helpful overview of what to expect.
#1. Construction Delays and Toll Roads
Yes, it is inevitable that roads need repaired and expanded, and lane closures sure enough will increase your destination arrival time. Maps and apps on your phone can help direct you to the fastest route, but a good rule of thumb is to add about 10% of your total travel time before you start out, because you’re also going to stop for restroom breaks and to eat. If there’s a city bypass (like Atlanta, Macon, Jacksonville, etc.), take it. You never know what could pop up in the city and I’ve face-palmed a few times when I didn’t, even though I knew better.
Buying a Sun Pass or E-Z Pass to take the toll roads once you’re in Florida will cut down on travel time and traffic. It’s a good investment anyway (about half-off of advertised tolls) and a time saver by bypassing the cash booths on all the toll roads.
#2. You (Probably) Have Out-of-Town Plates
With so many Southern States having budget deficits, the lean on law enforcement to emphasize ticketing vehicles for revenue has become too common. Firsthand, I can say that Virginia’s highway patrol actually boasted about being known for this economic strategy. To keep off of the patrol’s radar (pun intended?), stay in the right hand lane unless passing a vehicle (because there are new laws enforcing this and you should do it anyway) and make sure to give semi trucks plenty of room before getting back into the lane (also a law). Remember the old adage that refers to going over the posted speed limit and keep it in mind: “5 you’re fine, but 10 you’re mine”. If you do get pulled over, be cordial, but don’t answer any questions. It’s no one’s business where you’re headed or what you’re doing. If you know your rights during a traffic stop, the faster (in theory) you will be back on the road and on your way.
#3. Cargo Weight Capacity For Your Vehicle
It should go without saying that your tires being properly inflated, checking for damage, and making sure all lights functioning is basic vehicle maintenance, but it’s really important before making a long journey. Another thing to check is what your vehicle’s cargo capacity limit is and estimating what you’re bringing on your trip and its weight. Tent camping at Ft. Wilderness this past year was indeed a different experience for us, and it started with weighing everything (luggage, tent, tarp, cooler, and ourselves, too) and coming close to capacity for the little compact car we were taking. The gas mileage was better than if we had taken a different vehicle, but saving on gas helped us splurge on meals while in the parks. Automotive specifications for make and model are easy to find online.
#4. Having a Proper Disney Travel Mix
Monotony, sleep deprivation, and driving fatigue does happen (especially after 8-12 hours), so stopping every 2-3 hours is essential for safety. Just stretching your legs and walking around is nice for a change. Some rest areas are welcome centers and have a little more to do than just the regular stuff.
Most vehicles now have USB, Bluetooth, or Aux cable attachments to their stereo system; having an ongoing playlist is important because you’re not taking your eyes off the road by switching CDs or radio stations. Having a proper Disney travel mix is great, since it can spark enthusiasm for your trip and make you anticipate re-visiting attractions. Entrance and Area Loops are the largest in length of time, and putting a few movie soundtracks in between can keep things fresh if you want to sing along. If you’re a Disney History buff or like podcasts, Connecting With Walt is a great addition to any playlist (of course we usually save these for when we’re waiting for, or on, Disney transportation to the parks). Make sure you have enough total play time to get you through round trip.
#5. Wait to Buy Groceries
You never need an excuse to go to Publix, but having a cooler weighing your vehicle down with perishables is unnecessary, especially if something is on top of it blocking your line of sight out of the back window. Buy your groceries once you get close to Walt Disney World or, if you have an Amazon Prime account, you can have them delivered to the front of your hotel (unless the policy changes—check ahead). I’ve heard of families bringing an extra dorm fridge with them and a microwave (even though your hotel’s quick service location should have one nearby) or toaster. Test out what makes sense for you and your group a few weeks beforehand to help you make the right decisions.