Your family’s summer trip to Walt Disney World is just around the bend, and maybe you’re starting to identify with the Clark W. Griswold family, from “National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation”. Then again, with a little planning, maybe your trip won’t be a comedy of mistakes. Head to the local video store, rent a copy of “Summer Vacation”, enjoy the family’s visit to Roy Wally World, and learn NOT to drive across the country. Then you might find some of these tips helpful:
Have a place to crash. No one likes a late night motel hunt so if you book in advance you’ll be the hero of the family. If you prefer to keep your schedule flexible, create a list of alternative stopping points that offer decent meals and accommodation (don’t forget the phone numbers). Call ahead in the afternoon, once you have a better idea of how the day is going, to be sure there is a play waiting for you.
Keep the kids busy. Many families bring enough games and activities to last the entire trip, and some invest in DC-powered TV / VCR combos or portable DVD players. Books on tape (or CDs) are another great idea. The Harry Potter books are more than enough for a two day trip in each direction.
Listen. Nothing is more expensive or frustrating than a breakdown when you are away from home. Service your car before you go – check the tires, brakes, transmission and air conditioning, change the oil, and top up all fluids. Be extra careful if you are driving your motorhome or towing a trailer – schedule a check several weeks in advance, in case you need a special part.
Be careful. Make no mistake about it. Driving is even more dangerous than flying. Improve your family’s chances by changing drivers frequently and driving no more than 500 miles per day. 24-hour marathon rides can get you there sooner, but you’ll pay the price for risk and exhaustion. And face it, after an energetic Disney vacation, the last thing anyone needs is a sleepy driver behind the wheel on the way home.
Do AAA. Get the most out of your AAA membership and take advantage of their travel discounts, the latest highway building news, all the maps you could possibly need and their famous Trip Itinerary Planning service. -Tik. If you don’t have a subscription, a long road trip is a good excuse to get one.
Have fun along the way. Why put your vacation on hold until you get to Disney? Schedule visits to nearby points of interest. What roads lead to Orlando and what are the sights?
East Coast travelers typically navigate south on I-95, switching to I-4 near Daytona. Popular excursions along the way include Washington DC, Williamsburg, VA, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Charleston, SC, and the Daytona / Cape Canaveral area of Florida.
Drivers further inland (as far west as Pittsburgh) choose routes that include I-77, I-79, and / or I-81, eventually joining I-95 in South Carolina. For a great back road for history and nature buffs, stay on I-81 to Knoxville, Tennessee, where it joins I-75 for the walk through Georgia. National parks and Civil War battle sites dot the road from Gettysburg, Pa. Through the Shenandoah Valley (did you know Disney once wanted to build a theme park here?), And through the Smoky Mountains .
The I-75 is on the plans of almost everyone, from Ohio to Chicago to St. Louis and beyond, as nearly every favorite road merges with I-75 before reaching Georgia. The Chattanooga Tennessee / North Georgia area has a variety of interesting natural and historic sites, and it’s a perfect choice for your halfway stopover. Those further south and west inevitably gravitate towards I-10, which runs along the Gulf Coast until it also meets I-75 in Florida (which can withstand a stop in New Orleans ?) Once on I-75, travelers to Disney World head south past Ocala, Florida to the Florida Toll Freeway, which intersects southeast towards Orlando and I-4.
Hope your road trip is the best kind of adventure!
Copyright © Jennifer Marx, PassPorter Travel Press. All rights reserved.