Your family’s summer road trip to Walt Disney World is just around the corner, and you may be beginning to identify with the Clark W. Griswold family from “National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation.” On the other hand, with a little planning, your trip may not be a comedy of errors. Head to your local video store, rent a copy of “Summer Vacation,” enjoy a family visit to Roy Wally World, and learn how NOT to drive cross country. Later, some of these tips may help you:
Have a place to sleep. Nobody likes a night hunt at a motel, so if you book early, you will be the hero of the family. If you prefer to keep your hours 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 make sure there is a room waiting for you.
Keep the kids busy. Many families bring enough games and activities for the entire trip, with some investing in DC-powered TV / VCR combinations or portable DVD players. Books on tape (or CD) are another great idea. The Harry Potter books are more than enough for a two-day trip in each direction.
Be careful. Nothing is more expensive or frustrating than a breakdown when you are away from home. Check your car before you go: check the tires, brakes, transmission and air conditioning, change the oil and top up all fluids. Be especially careful if you are driving your motor home or pulling a trailer; schedule a review several weeks in advance, in case you need a special part.
Be save. Let’s not fool ourselves. Driving is even more dangerous than flying. Improve your family’s odds by changing drivers frequently and traveling no more than 500 miles a day. 24-hour marathon tours may take you earlier, but you’ll pay for it with 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. Make the most of your AAA membership and take advantage of their travel discounts, the latest road construction news, all the maps you could want, and their famous Trip-Tik route planning service. If you don’t have a membership, a long drive is a good excuse to get one.
Have fun on the go. Why suspend your vacation until you get to Disney? Plan visits to nearby points of interest. What roads lead to Orlando and what are the sights?
East Coast travelers generally travel south on I-95, switching to I-4 near Daytona. Popular side trips on the trail include Washington DC, Williamsburg, VA, Cape Hatteras, NC, Charleston, SC, and the Daytona / Cape Canaveral area of Florida.
Drivers a little further inland (to the west of 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 lovers, stay on I-81 to Knoxville, TN, where it joins I-75 for the march through Georgia. National parks and Civil War battle sites dot the route from Gettysburg, PA, to the Shenandoah Valley (did you know Disney once wanted to build a theme park here?), And then through the Smoky Mountains.
I-75 is on the plans of almost anyone from Ohio to Chicago, St. Louis and beyond, as almost all preferred routes merge with I-75 before reaching Georgia. The Chattanooga Tennessee / Northern Georgia area has a variety of interesting historical and natural sites, and is a perfect choice for your mid-way stop. Those further south and west inevitably gravitate towards I-10, which hugs the Gulf Coast until it also meets I-75 in Florida (who can resist a stop in New Orleans?). Once on I-75, travelers heading to Disney World head south past Ocala, Florida to the Florida Turnpike, which cuts southeast toward Orlando and I-4.
We hope your road trip is the best kind of adventure!
Copyright © Jennifer Marx, PassPorter Travel Press. All rights reserved.