To go to Florida for VEX Worlds (which my 13 year old competed in, and my husband coached) and our first family trip to Walt Disney World we drove a car over 1,000 miles each way for a total of about 40 hours spent in the car. I am amazed at how easy it was for the kids to manage themselves and keep occupied in the car, and while we anticipated stopping a lot we planned out stops every 3 hours or so, and that worked out magically.
GM acted as a sponsor for the VEXMEN (the teams my hubby runs, and my son participates in) by loaning us a Suburban to drive robots and parts to Disney World. This saved the club a small fortune on shipping costs, and allowed us the ability to save since we didn’t have to buy 6 plane tickets.
We borrowed a Suburban in gray that was FULLY loaded. DVD player for the kids with Bose surround sound, XM, Nav, even heated and cooled front seats (a feature we didn’t use but I accidentally discovered on the way home. We dubbed it Blackbrid to go along with the XMen theme of our club.
Isn’t she beautiful? I totally miss the Bose sound system.
We started out on Tuesday morning at 4:30 am. Our goal had been to leave around 4 I was told, but in reality we knew it would be 30 minutes later which was still way too early for someone who likes to sleep in. (that would be me) We had packed everything over the weekend, and I was pretty proud of the fact that I managed to organize all our clothes and stuff we needed in a mostly efficient way.
Due to space issues, and my desire to not cart around a suitcase per person I used one large suitcase to pack everyone’s clothes. I packed all our bathing suits, googles, and 6 days worth of clothes and pajamas for everyone in the suitcase. We would be at Disney for nearly a week, and then spent several days at a rental house with a washer-so I was able to pack lighter than I otherwise could have.
I packed an overnight bag for our overnight stop with pjs and a change of clothes. Toiletries and socks and shoes were all easy to access in other containers. We also packed a good deal of snacks, and each of had our own bag. Mine was my purse, and each kid and my husband had a backpack.
Road Trip Rest Stops
Somehow I’m not as Type A as I used to be and we barely planned 90% of the trip-the part we did plan was the stops we would make and when we would leave. Using Google Maps my hubby handily found some interesting spots to stop along the way, and recorded them in his email. It was as easy as adding the addresses to our nav and off we went.
We chose stops that we thought would be fun or familiar. Starbucks for the first stop for breakfast and clean bathrooms. It turned out to be a perfect choice since it was clean, and of course everyone there was cheerful (they do get free coffee after all).
We switched drivers and headed back out on the road about 20 minutes later, and had another nice drive with a quick stop at ChickFilA for lunch which just happened to be right across from another Starbucks. (handy since I needed to hop on the ‘net breifly) The kids ate and then ran around in the play area for 15 minutes before we got back in the car.
Next we stopped at the uber cheesy South of the Border. The kids thought it was amazing. I thought it was kind of run down, but considering how much fun they had looking at treasures (and buying a few) it was well worth the stop.
Last stop was our hotel for the night in Savannah. We dropped off bags, washed up and headed downtown for a fun night on the town. I’ve never been to Savannah, and we all just loved it. It was especially nice to leave our house where things were not in bloom and it was downright cold and spend that evening walking around without jackets and seeing leaves and flowers in their full Spring glory.
Day Two-heading to Orlando
The next day was easier to get the kids in the car and keep them happy. After a brief drive out of our way for Starbucks (again) we got on the road and headed South. It was a much shorter drive and we opted not to stop for lunch and instead plied the kids with snacks and movies for a nice quiet ride stopping twice for gas and bathrooms. The trip down couldn’t have been any smoother or simple and I was really pleasantly surprised by how well everyone did being in the car that long.
We were so thrilled to arrive at Disney World. It was the kids first time there, and both my husband and I were excited to see the kids experience the Disney magic for the first time.
After our trip (more on that later) we had a long road ahead of us to get home. Something about driving home always feels like it’s taking longer, but in this case we had a bad sense of timing. We left on Saturday morning the day before Easter, and both that Saturday and Easter Sunday were spent driving after a brief stop in South Carolina for the night.
I almost don’t want to relive this part of the trip because we were stuck in traffic so much of the time. It took about an extra 4 hours overall to get home. We left Florida at 10am and drove to South Carolina which took about 8 hours. The next morning we left at 8:45am and didn’t arrive home that night until 10pm for a total of 13 hours. Planning where to stop went out the window as the traffic increased in certain areas and made it tough to get to where we wanted to stop. I have to remind myself to never ever drive anywhere on a holiday weekend again!
The silver lining though is that the Suburban was just as comfortable on the way back as it had been on the way down and we were able to keep the kids occupied with games, and screens pretty handily.
We were sad to see “Blackbird” go, but after the trip was done we turned it back in.
Gas mileage vs. flight costs
Overall we spent about $325 on gas during our time with Suburban. We were pleasantly surprised that the gas mileage was similar to my car (a 2008 minivan) and fillups weren’t as painful as we thought they might be even with increased gas costs.
Plane tickets for each of us would have run between $70-$120 roundtrip depending on when we bought the tickets. Add in baggage costs and the cost to ship the robots and parts we took along and we’re looking at approx. $750 or more.
Is it worth it to drive versus flying? I think it depends on your individual situation and where you live but for us it made good financial sense to drive. We also saved on wear and tear of our personal vehicle thanks to GM’s sponsorship.
I’ll be writing more about our trip over the next week or two, so stay tuned for details and more practical advice on Disney World.
Disclosure: The Suburban was provided for our use by GMNortheast. All opinions and experiences are my own, and I was not compensated for this post.