"For 2,000+ Mile Round-Trip Drivers Only!" (Part V)

pwdebbie

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 20, 2007
Leaving in 26 days for drive 52. Heading out from Michigan on Feb 15. First night is planned for a Hyatt Place in Nashville, TN, The next day is TN Aquarium and lunch at Lupi's Pizza (Chattanooga), spending that night at Hyatt in Orlando near the convention center.

Checking in to Polynesian for 2 nights, Old Key West for 7, back to convention center for 4 nights and finally Riveria for 7. All this with 5 kids (oldest is 9) and a pregnant wife, should be quite the adventure.
Sounds like a wonderful adventure! I am guessing you homeschool?
 

LBHouse

Mouseketeer
Joined
Sep 19, 2011
I am guessing you homeschool?
We sure do. We own our business and very much enjoy the flexibility and quality we can achieve with homeschool. Love DVC for the flexibility and space to keep school going while we vacation.

I always wonder what the castmembers think when they come into our rooms and we have practically set up a school house @ the kitchen table...
 

Shir Kahn

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 27, 2006
Well, my wife and I decided to do another drive down during spring break! 2070 miles (4140 round trip!) for the something like the 12th time since we started going to WDW! Can't wait! We have annual passes, but only get to go down a few times a year due to the wife's work schedule. We missed the Star Wars opening by a few weeks on our last trip!
 
  • TheHamm

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2017
    We are driving down again in March. After some reflection on our December journey, I see some points for improvement and thought I would ask for your advice.

    (1) My original plan was to drive until we were tired and stop overnight. We were less tired than I anticipated and I quickly booked something at 11:45pm for fear that the reservation systems would not let me book for what would be considered a December 26 arrival with a December 27 check out if it were 12:01am December 27th. Can anyone comment on their experience with this?
    (2) We lost time on stupid stops. For example, we left WDW in the early morning dark, the kids were awake and hungry at 9am. We stopped at McD's somewhere in GA thinking it would be a quick potty break and a way to get scrambled eggs (probably the only thing other than yogurt my kids would eat there). The bathrooms were not clean and eggs took 45 minutes. As someone who does not really do fast food, what are better options? Where do you stop to eat or grab food to eat in the car? We did better with stops at Panera (although this seemed to stop somewhere in KY and they were not particularly fast either) and a corner bakery (bagles and cream cheese in the car were a messy hit)
    (3) Overall, the worst weather was in the mountains. I am concerned this will again be true, but wanted to crowdsource how people handle what I can imagine would be icy roads taking I-75 through the southern/southern-ish states. Do you muster through or stop? I have skills driving in ice and snow, but not icy, snowy mountains which may or may not get salted.
     

    pwdebbie

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 20, 2007
    We are driving down again in March. After some reflection on our December journey, I see some points for improvement and thought I would ask for your advice.

    (1) My original plan was to drive until we were tired and stop overnight. We were less tired than I anticipated and I quickly booked something at 11:45pm for fear that the reservation systems would not let me book for what would be considered a December 26 arrival with a December 27 check out if it were 12:01am December 27th. Can anyone comment on their experience with this?
    (2) We lost time on stupid stops. For example, we left WDW in the early morning dark, the kids were awake and hungry at 9am. We stopped at McD's somewhere in GA thinking it would be a quick potty break and a way to get scrambled eggs (probably the only thing other than yogurt my kids would eat there). The bathrooms were not clean and eggs took 45 minutes. As someone who does not really do fast food, what are better options? Where do you stop to eat or grab food to eat in the car? We did better with stops at Panera (although this seemed to stop somewhere in KY and they were not particularly fast either) and a corner bakery (bagles and cream cheese in the car were a messy hit)
    (3) Overall, the worst weather was in the mountains. I am concerned this will again be true, but wanted to crowdsource how people handle what I can imagine would be icy roads taking I-75 through the southern/southern-ish states. Do you muster through or stop? I have skills driving in ice and snow, but not icy, snowy mountains which may or may not get salted.
    Since you drive, bring a cooler and go to a grocery store to pick up some basics for the trip home. We pack a cooler with hard-cooked eggs, yogurt, fruit, cheese, lunchmeats, tuna salad, etc. and a bag of ice. Pick up some bread and crackers and chips and that should take care of your meals. Also, many convenience stores carry grab-and-go meals and have restrooms as well. I'm not sure what would be along your route but for us it is Royal Farms (great fried chicken), Sheetz, and Rutters. You can get gas, take a bathroom break, and grab a meal (either eat there or take along) in one stop.

    Also, if you have dining plan credits left, use them up the night before by getting some grab-and-go stuff at your resort to provide some food for the beginning the long journey home.
     

    TheHamm

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2017
    Since you drive, bring a cooler and go to a grocery store to pick up some basics for the trip home. We pack a cooler with hard-cooked eggs, yogurt, fruit, cheese, lunchmeats, tuna salad, etc. and a bag of ice. Pick up some bread and crackers and chips and that should take care of your meals. Also, many convenience stores carry grab-and-go meals and have restrooms as well. I'm not sure what would be along your route but for us it is Royal Farms (great fried chicken), Sheetz, and Rutters. You can get gas, take a bathroom break, and grab a meal (either eat there or take along) in one stop.

    Also, if you have dining plan credits left, use them up the night before by getting some grab-and-go stuff at your resort to provide some food for the beginning the long journey home.
    Thanks for your input! We drive a small car, so there is probably not room for a cooler (I tried, DH vetoed). We did pack dry snacks but the fruit, cheese, and lunch meat would have been a good addition. I did see a Sheetz, but I am not familiar with what it was so I passed it by- I will take a look next time!
     

    LBHouse

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 19, 2011
    We are driving down again in March. After some reflection on our December journey, I see some points for improvement and thought I would ask for your advice.

    (1) My original plan was to drive until we were tired and stop overnight. We were less tired than I anticipated and I quickly booked something at 11:45pm for fear that the reservation systems would not let me book for what would be considered a December 26 arrival with a December 27 check out if it were 12:01am December 27th. Can anyone comment on their experience with this?
    (2) We lost time on stupid stops. For example, we left WDW in the early morning dark, the kids were awake and hungry at 9am. We stopped at McD's somewhere in GA thinking it would be a quick potty break and a way to get scrambled eggs (probably the only thing other than yogurt my kids would eat there). The bathrooms were not clean and eggs took 45 minutes. As someone who does not really do fast food, what are better options? Where do you stop to eat or grab food to eat in the car? We did better with stops at Panera (although this seemed to stop somewhere in KY and they were not particularly fast either) and a corner bakery (bagles and cream cheese in the car were a messy hit)
    (3) Overall, the worst weather was in the mountains. I am concerned this will again be true, but wanted to crowdsource how people handle what I can imagine would be icy roads taking I-75 through the southern/southern-ish states. Do you muster through or stop? I have skills driving in ice and snow, but not icy, snowy mountains which may or may not get salted.
    1. We use hotel points earned through my business to stay at Hyatt hotels. This means we usually have our hotels booked for the way down. On the way home we will book based on when we leave Disney and when we need to be home.
    2. Fast food is awful for road trips. Often we will order Panera on-line and pick it up to go. If we do fast food its always chick-fil-a with a play area. Kids play we eat, they get tired out and eat in the car. We are also huge fans of a cooler with snacks. Grab a soft sided Yeti cooler and fill it up.
    2. BATHROOMS...so gross. I dont understand why stations cant clean there dang bathrooms. I've found the bigger truck stops typically have the best bathrooms. Think pilot/flying J/loves. Other places like the big fancy RaceTrack stores are nice too.
    3. We have only had an issue with weather once in KY, the state couldn't get the hwy plowed so we literally followed a bobcat type truck with a plow through the mountains at 8mph. It was a very surreal experience. I always just watch the forecast and if there is a storm coming we head to Florida a day or to early to beat it...or stay a day or two late. You can also watch traffic and take a route further East or West depending on how the storm comes through.
     
  • LadyBeBop

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2009
    We are driving down again in March. After some reflection on our December journey, I see some points for improvement and thought I would ask for your advice.

    (1) My original plan was to drive until we were tired and stop overnight. We were less tired than I anticipated and I quickly booked something at 11:45pm for fear that the reservation systems would not let me book for what would be considered a December 26 arrival with a December 27 check out if it were 12:01am December 27th. Can anyone comment on their experience with this?
    No experience here. However, I think most major hotels run their days from 6 AM to 5:59 AM. You were still smart though. Tiredness, that time of night, can erupt in a split second.

    (2) We lost time on stupid stops. For example, we left WDW in the early morning dark, the kids were awake and hungry at 9am. We stopped at McD's somewhere in GA thinking it would be a quick potty break and a way to get scrambled eggs (probably the only thing other than yogurt my kids would eat there). The bathrooms were not clean and eggs took 45 minutes. As someone who does not really do fast food, what are better options? Where do you stop to eat or grab food to eat in the car? We did better with stops at Panera (although this seemed to stop somewhere in KY and they were not particularly fast either) and a corner bakery (bagles and cream cheese in the car were a messy hit)
    Panera is better than McDs. But it's so expensive.

    Download the iExit app on your smartphone. That shows all the restaurants, fast foot joints, supermarkets/delis and rest areas around you. Very easy, very intuitive.

    (3) Overall, the worst weather was in the mountains. I am concerned this will again be true, but wanted to crowdsource how people handle what I can imagine would be icy roads taking I-75 through the southern/southern-ish states. Do you muster through or stop? I have skills driving in ice and snow, but not icy, snowy mountains which may or may not get salted.
    I'm assuming you mean the stretch of I-75 in Tennessee just south of the Kentucky border. That is a major N/S stretch. They'll salt it.

    I do agree with keeping tabs of the weather. If it appears they'll be bad weather through the mountains, you can take the Carolina route. If you're driving home, you have to commit early, because you'll be taking I-4 to I-95 to start your journey home rather than I-4 to the turnpike. Going down, you don't have to commit until Corbin, KY, about 30 miles north of the mountains.

    Where do you drive from. I'm just south of Cincinnati.
     

    TheHamm

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2017
    1. We use hotel points earned through my business to stay at Hyatt hotels. This means we usually have our hotels booked for the way down. On the way home we will book based on when we leave Disney and when we need to be home.
    2. Fast food is awful for road trips. Often we will order Panera on-line and pick it up to go. If we do fast food its always chick-fil-a with a play area. Kids play we eat, they get tired out and eat in the car. We are also huge fans of a cooler with snacks. Grab a soft sided Yeti cooler and fill it up.
    2. BATHROOMS...so gross. I dont understand why stations cant clean there dang bathrooms. I've found the bigger truck stops typically have the best bathrooms. Think pilot/flying J/loves. Other places like the big fancy RaceTrack stores are nice too.
    3. We have only had an issue with weather once in KY, the state couldn't get the hwy plowed so we literally followed a bobcat type truck with a plow through the mountains at 8mph. It was a very surreal experience. I always just watch the forecast and if there is a storm coming we head to Florida a day or to early to beat it...or stay a day or two late. You can also watch traffic and take a route further East or West depending on how the storm comes through.
    Thanks, we ended up sticking to the Pilot for gas/bathroom, but I am not familiar with Loves or Race Track. I did appreciate the climbing area at the terrible McD's, I have often thought there should be a crowd sourced map of such things.

    Panera is better than McDs. But it's so expensive.

    Download the iExit app on your smartphone. That shows all the restaurants, fast foot joints, supermarkets/delis and rest areas around you. Very easy, very intuitive.



    I'm assuming you mean the stretch of I-75 in Tennessee just south of the Kentucky border. That is a major N/S stretch. They'll salt it.

    I do agree with keeping tabs of the weather. If it appears they'll be bad weather through the mountains, you can take the Carolina route. If you're driving home, you have to commit early, because you'll be taking I-4 to I-95 to start your journey home rather than I-4 to the turnpike. Going down, you don't have to commit until Corbin, KY, about 30 miles north of the mountains.

    Where do you drive from. I'm just south of Cincinnati.
    I would happily pay for Panera as my kids eat there every time, but they were not on route for the southern half of our trip.
    I am very excited about the iExit app. The website version looks quite helpful, and I think it will lead to less arguing in the front of the car of 'do we stop here? Who knows what will be next?!'

    Indeed, this is the section of I-75 I was concerned with. I have had poor luck in Atlanta's winter-ish weather in the past, and I would prefer to avoid that as well. I had thought what hit Knoxville would probably also hit the I-77 area as well, but I have zero knowledge of that route and its terrain.
     

    LadyBeBop

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 28, 2009
    I'm assuming you're north of the KY/TN border.

    My alternative route doesn't go I-77 at all. And it avoids Atlanta. It's slightly longer than I-75 all the way. But not by much. Maybe an hour. There are mountains though. Border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Not as high, but not nearly as straight as I-75. Plus there is a straight up and down mountain on a four lane highway in Tennessee.

    Route in a nutshell:

    I-4E to I-95 N.
    I-95N through FL and GA to I-26 in South Carolina.
    I-26W through SC into North Carolina to I-40.
    I-40 through NC into Tennessee to I-81. (These are the mountains I told you about).
    I-81 in Tennessee...only about 10-15 miles to US 25E.
    North on US25E for about 100 miles. Most is four lane highway, where you can go between 55 to 60. However, there are a few towns. Watch out for signs. There are a few turns (in particular, Tazewell). You'll be going through a mile-long tunnel from TN into Kentucky. 25E leads you to I-75 in Corbin.

    Any questions, ask away.
     

    TheHamm

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2017
    I'm assuming you're north of the KY/TN border.

    My alternative route doesn't go I-77 at all. And it avoids Atlanta. It's slightly longer than I-75 all the way. But not by much. Maybe an hour. There are mountains though. Border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Not as high, but not nearly as straight as I-75. Plus there is a straight up and down mountain on a four lane highway in Tennessee.

    Route in a nutshell:

    I-4E to I-95 N.
    I-95N through FL and GA to I-26 in South Carolina.
    I-26W through SC into North Carolina to I-40.
    I-40 through NC into Tennessee to I-81. (These are the mountains I told you about).
    I-81 in Tennessee...only about 10-15 miles to US 25E.
    North on US25E for about 100 miles. Most is four lane highway, where you can go between 55 to 60. However, there are a few towns. Watch out for signs. There are a few turns (in particular, Tazewell). You'll be going through a mile-long tunnel from TN into Kentucky. 25E leads you to I-75 in Corbin.

    Any questions, ask away.
    Thanks! Very helpful.
    Unlike me not answering your question- I am coming from the Detroit area.
     
  • Shir Kahn

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 27, 2006
    Well, our plans have changed. We're not driving down now, we're flying. On one hand, we're getting about 4 extra days on our trip, but on the other hand, I was looking forward to our road trip! Might have to set up a summer trip too now!
     

    BC1836

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 20, 2006
    Well, our plans have changed. We're not driving down now, we're flying. On one hand, we're getting about 4 extra days on our trip, but on the other hand, I was looking forward to our road trip! Might have to set up a summer trip too now!
    Veteran drivers on this site are familiar with you and your record-setting drive! [See the all-time records on page 1.]

    All the best! :thumbsup2
     

    ddluvsdisney

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 29, 2010
    We'll be making the drive down from MA in 18 days!! I can't wait!
    I've lost track at how many times we've down it now but I think this will be #10.
    We'll be there for President's week since that is MA schools winter break. Looking forward to ditching the cold for sunny warm FL!!!
     

    ninafeliz

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 30, 2001
    We’re leaving Friday morning to drive down from NW PA, hoping to get to Savannah like we did when we drove down in June. We stayed at an Embassy Sites there that we really liked. Crossing my fingers the weather will cooperate, it looks like there is the potential for it to not be great but I’m hoping either it’s wrong or that’s more Saturday than Friday 🤞
     

    Ryan Mendoza

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jan 14, 2017
    Leaving in 26 days for drive 52. Heading out from Michigan on Feb 15. First night is planned for a Hyatt Place in Nashville, TN, The next day is TN Aquarium and lunch at Lupi's Pizza (Chattanooga), spending that night at Hyatt in Orlando near the convention center.

    Checking in to Polynesian for 2 nights, Old Key West for 7, back to convention center for 4 nights and finally Riveria for 7. All this with 5 kids (oldest is 9) and a pregnant wife, should be quite the adventure.
     

    Ryan Mendoza

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jan 14, 2017
    Leaving in 26 days for drive 52. Heading out from Michigan on Feb 15. First night is planned for a Hyatt Place in Nashville, TN, The next day is TN Aquarium and lunch at Lupi's Pizza (Chattanooga), spending that night at Hyatt in Orlando near the convention center.

    Checking in to Polynesian for 2 nights, Old Key West for 7, back to convention center for 4 nights and finally Riveria for 7. All this with 5 kids (oldest is 9) and a pregnant wife, should be quite the adventure.
    We’re from Iowa and plan to stop in Nashville night one staying at a Hyatt as well! The next day we were going to stop in atlanta to visit some family and then make the 3 hour drive to Valdosta GA. Should we just drive the whole way to Orlando and stay in Orlando hotel and skip Valdosta? Or break up the trip like we originally planned?

    valdosta ga is hotel I don’t have points for so id love to cancel but worried about young kids in car that long. We have 7 month old, 3, and 4 year olds.
    any tips are welcomed!
    Thanks
    Ryan
     

    LBHouse

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 19, 2011
    We’re from Iowa and plan to stop in Nashville night one staying at a Hyatt as well! The next day we were going to stop in atlanta to visit some family and then make the 3 hour drive to Valdosta GA. Should we just drive the whole way to Orlando and stay in Orlando hotel and skip Valdosta? Or break up the trip like we originally planned?

    valdosta ga is hotel I don’t have points for so id love to cancel but worried about young kids in car that long. We have 7 month old, 3, and 4 year olds.
    any tips are welcomed!
    Thanks
    Ryan
    So our trips change and evolve as the kids grow and change. Lately we have been pushing farther south on day 1, so we can get closer to Orlando on day 2. I really like waking up and knowing its only a few minutes to our resort. Eat a leisurely breakfast and head over mid morning. If Hyatt had a hotel in Gainesville/Ocala area we would likely stop there. I really like using those point though so we will push to Orlando.

    Our kids have always been good sleepers, but even so I find its best to be at the hotel and in bed at a normal time. They just cant handle missing that mama time right before bed. Especially the 7mo old. It's 9pm for us, and that lets us get up and on the road by 7 most days. Do you/wife let the littlest one cry or does crying equal pulling over and feeding? Those are the hardest stops for my impatient self.
     

    Ryan Mendoza

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jan 14, 2017
    So our trips change and evolve as the kids grow and change. Lately we have been pushing farther south on day 1, so we can get closer to Orlando on day 2. I really like waking up and knowing its only a few minutes to our resort. Eat a leisurely breakfast and head over mid morning. If Hyatt had a hotel in Gainesville/Ocala area we would likely stop there. I really like using those point though so we will push to Orlando.

    Our kids have always been good sleepers, but even so I find its best to be at the hotel and in bed at a normal time. They just cant handle missing that mama time right before bed. Especially the 7mo old. It's 9pm for us, and that lets us get up and on the road by 7 most days. Do you/wife let the littlest one cry or does crying equal pulling over and feeding? Those are the hardest stops for my impatient self.
    Thanks for the response. I’ve been obsessing over this decision all day.
    Nashville seems like the best stop for us on way down. It’s 8 hours exactly. If we pushed we’d want to stay in Atlanta which is another 4 hours, so not ideal.
    I love the idea of getting to Orlando Hyatt night before check in to leisurely start day. I just don’t know if we can handle 10 hr drive after an 8. The 3 and 4 yr old should be fine with movies, tablets and games, But I’m sure baby will get pretty mad. She’ll deal with it though, and pulling over to eat should be easy because my wife still nurses her.

    Option 1- Day 1. SE Iowa to Nashville. 8 hours.
    Day 2. Nashville to Valdosta, GA. 7 hours. Day 3. Valdosta GA to Polynesian. 3 hours.

    Option 2 - Day 1. SE Iowa to Nashville. 8 hours. Day 2. Nashville to Orlando Hyatt. 10 hours. we thought stopping in Atlanta for kids to play around lunch. Driving 3 hours to a chic filet for dinner. Drive 3 hours and arrive pretty late into Orlando.

    both Hyatt’s would be free with points. Would need to rent room in valdosta.

    Please save me from my indecisiveness!!!
     

    LBHouse

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Sep 19, 2011
    Thanks for the response. I’ve been obsessing over this decision all day.
    Nashville seems like the best stop for us on way down. It’s 8 hours exactly. If we pushed we’d want to stay in Atlanta which is another 4 hours, so not ideal.
    I love the idea of getting to Orlando Hyatt night before check in to leisurely start day. I just don’t know if we can handle 10 hr drive after an 8. The 3 and 4 yr old should be fine with movies, tablets and games, But I’m sure baby will get pretty mad. She’ll deal with it though, and pulling over to eat should be easy because my wife still nurses her.

    Option 1- Day 1. SE Iowa to Nashville. 8 hours.
    Day 2. Nashville to Valdosta, GA. 7 hours. Day 3. Valdosta GA to Polynesian. 3 hours.

    Option 2 - Day 1. SE Iowa to Nashville. 8 hours. Day 2. Nashville to Orlando Hyatt. 10 hours. we thought stopping in Atlanta for kids to play around lunch. Driving 3 hours to a chic filet for dinner. Drive 3 hours and arrive pretty late into Orlando.

    both Hyatt’s would be free with points. Would need to rent room in valdosta.

    Please save me from my indecisiveness!!!
    Also 8 hours from Nashville and staying at Polynesian. For us we would certainly push through Georgia. We atleast try for Gainesville or Ocala. That gets us within 90 minutes or so. There is a nice Residence Inn in either city. We can use points but the Hyatt points are so much easier to accrue and spend.

    Honestly, I ALWAYS plan the first night and will often leave the second night un-booked and just make a reservation while driving. If the roads are bad, traffic suck, or the kids are being awful we pull off earlier. So much just depends on the littlest ones. My youngest is 1.5yo, wife still nurses but only at bedtime. We can toss him some crackers or snacks and he can be happy for a bit. Cant really do that with a 7mo.

    We almost never stay in Atlanta because we would be leaving right during morning rush hour and that is just a bad bad idea. I like to get through there about 2pm-3pm. If you stop to see friends in ATL, make sure you get well south of town before 4pm. I find the absolute worst traffic is always near and south of the airport. Just miserable. Far worse than downtown.
     

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