Road Trip! Drive to Disney World!

There was a time when most middle-class American families vacationed by car. At some point airfares became quite competitive and family life got busier, so most families started flying to vacation destinations that were more than a couple of hundred miles away. But don’t discount the idea of driving to Disney World.

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Why Drive to Disney World?

First, it can save you a lot of money. See below for details.

Second, a road trip can provide great family memories. The slower rate of travel gives you time to talk and laugh together — and it allows your kids to get a better idea of what a BIG country this is!

A third advantage: you don’t have to rent a car when you get to Disney! reader Kim M writes:

“My husband and I have 3 children and have been Disney fans since before they were born. I wanted to share with you a great money-saver we have used now for over 8 years. Here is what we did to enjoy a fabulous Disney vacation (and continue to do each year now): yes, I am talking about DRIVING to Disney!

I know most families say we are crazy, but other friends have joined us now and wish they had done so long ago. We live in Connecticut and it is a drive, but well worth the trip if you plan accordingly. We own a small minivan which did help for space, but you don’t need a van.

If you decide to vacation with other families, consider caravaning. Bring walkie-talkies and this way you can have a conversation with the other automobiles. My kids had the best time with this. You can even play games with it – count the different state license plates, etc.

…. I pack each of the kids a special Disney-trip bag just for the journey (use your imagination) filled with travel games, books, puzzles, new toys. You don’t have to spend much to fill each bag. Another tip: we used the Harry Potter audiobooks. They were great!

My point is that we save on the average $1,000 each trip by driving. I can promise you every one of our friends that now drives has said we were right and it saved them a lot of money which they used on the trip. We all look forward to the drive and have our own games we play in the car.” reader David W writes:

“I’d like to offer some tips and encouragement for those contemplating a driving vacation to Disney. In a word: DO IT!

Even though gas prices are astronomical these days, it’s miles cheaper than flying for us. We’ll be taking a party of five, and we estimate our round-trip gas expense to be about $325 (2500 miles @ 25 mpg for $3.25/gal average). That works out to $65/person travel expense. Compare that to *any* flying rate during peak season — we figure the savings is literally in the thousands.”

Entertainment Along the Way

Several readers have pointed out that a small television/DVD combo can be purchased quite inexpensively and will keep the kids entertained for hours in the back seat. If you install one in your car, please be sure to anchor it very carefully to prevent accidents — remember, if it’s not solidly attached to something, it can become a missile if you stop suddenly! There are LCD flat screens that can be bolted to the ceiling or strapped to the back of the front seats, which may be the safest option. Thanks to mateysrule for suggestions.

Bringing Stuff From Home Saves You Money!

There are other ways that driving can save you money, too. A big advantage is that you can take along a lot of heavy things that you would never carry with you on an airplane, such as cases of bottled water. reader Charlotte R from Medina, Ohio, writes:

“We find we save money by driving rather than flying. Besides the obvious (saving on airfare), we save on food and stroller rental.

I pack 2 coolers. Instead of using ice to keep our supplies cold I freeze bottled water. Not only do [the bottles] cool the food, we then also have a cold supply of water for the parks. Surprisingly the bottles will stay frozen up to a week when kept in the cooler. I also found you can freeze those “juice bags” for the kids (i.e. Capri-Sun).

We have 2 small children (2 and 4) so we take our own double stroller to the park. That way we aren’t having to try to carry and control 2 kids while waiting to get to the stroller rental area, plus the kids are a lot more comfortable. Having our own stroller allows us also to bring in our small cooler with our frozen water & snacks.”

Good choices for food to take in the car don’t require refrigeration and are easy to eat without a table: individual cups of cereal; peanut butter (with bread or crackers), apples, bananas, granola bars, beef sticks/jerky, juice boxes. You can keep milk on ice in a cooler, or consider bringing the small boxes of milk that don’t require refrigeration. These food items can also be used once you arrive in Orlando, to provide breakfast in your hotel room.

Planning and Navigating reader David W writes:

Plan your drive using online mapping resources like,, or They can give you detailed directions, mileage and time estimates, and alert you to interstate highways versus state roads. You can plan ahead for brief stops for lunch, gas, or simple bathroom breaks.

When planning drive times, take into account the loss/gain of an hour if you cross time zones. If Mapquest tells you a drive is, say three hours, that’s actual driving time, but crossing a time zone may make it four ‘clock’ hours. That may be important when scheduling check-ins or making reservations at restaurants.

Invest in an inexpensive, portable GPS system for the trip. Even if you have detailed maps, a GPS system can tell you in advance when you’re approaching an important exit, giving you time to make any necessary lane changes safely AND not miss that important turn-off! Hand-held GPS systems can be had these days for less than $200 at most major electronics retailers.”