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Surviving I75 to Disney World

September 7, 2015
I75 Atlanta

Tips:

  1. Buy the book Along I75 by Dave Hunter.
  2. Drive by the book, it is divided into pages, each one being 30 min.  Have someone monitor the page, announce when you flip to a new page and read out loud some of the fun facts about that part of the drive.
  3. Stop every 3 hours whether you need it or not and at least get out and walk around the car a couple of times to stretch your legs.
  4. When travelling with kids find exits (using Along I75) that have Playland restaurants and stop at them for meals, but have the kids play while you order and then take the food to go.
  5. Get travel/art trays for the kids to eat and do activities on while on the road.
  6. Drive thru Atlanta and Cincinnati on the weekend or outside rush hour.
  7. bring blankets and pillows for the kids (especially if driving thru the night)
  8. Drive on the weekends to avoid traffic related slowdowns
  9. Buy or make the kids a variety of coloring, art, craft books and pull out a new one out every few hours.
  10. Avoid giving the kids activities with small parts like Lego or bead sets, you will loose them and have a very upset kid while trying to concentrate on the road.
  11. Get the kids an old or cheap digital camera and have them document the trip down.
  12. Stock a small cooler with pop and water for the drive.  Pop and water are not cheaper in the US grocery stores and buying a drink at gas stations is very over priced.
  13. If driving multiple days, pack a separate small overnight bag for the stopover along the way.
  14. Use the Gasbuddy app on your phone, you will find that the first gas station off the interstate is always more expensive and sometimes there is another cheaper one less than a block away.
  15. Use your cell phone to find gas, food etc. there is good cell service all along the I75. If you are coming from Canada, don’t get sucked into paying your cell provider US roaming rates or buying an overpriced US plan from them, get your phone unlocked and go to Roam Mobility to save a bucket load.
  16. When driving thru Atlanta, use the HOV lane, but don’t panic, there are parts that separate from the I75, they will rejoin again.

Driving schedule:

There are a number of schools of thought on this and it all depends on your preference and schedule.

  1. Drive straight thru over night, from Toronto it is about 22 hours (without stops).  I dislike this one as you feel like you are jet lagged for the first day when you get there and will loose the whole day trying to sleep while the kids are climbing up the walls wanting to go to see Mickey.
  2. Split it up into two or three days and stop at a hotel/campground along the way so you are only doing 8-12 hour days.  Spreading out too much just takes too long for a 1 week visit.

My preference is a hybrid of this and our trip starts in South Western Ontario, so the schedule will be a few hours behind ours if starting in Toronto.  If we are going for a week, we will plan to start our drive early Saturday AM.  We start by packing up the car the evening before we leave.  We go to bed same time as the kids in the evening and get about 4 hours sleep.  We will wake up around 12-1am on Saturday and get quick showers, load up the electronics and cooler into the car, turn off the utilities in the house and then very last thing before we lock up, go get the kids and load them up.  If they are younger they will sleep the rest of the night in the car.  This allows us to be on the road by 2am and across the border at night.  We will usually head for the Windsor/Detroit

Drive thru Kentucky

Drive thru Kentucky

border, it is better manned at night and we do not like driving thru downtown Detroit when going the Sarnia/Port Huron crossing.  This method will get us to the Ohio state line by sunrise and we will usually stop in upper/middle Ohio for breakfast, usually somewhere around Findlay to Dayton. This first part is quite easy driving as the roads and border are dead.   We will be able to get thru Cincinnati before most people get up.  We will end up in Kentucky early to mid AM and will cross into Tennessee around lunch time.  My wife will usually take over driving for the Kentucky stretch, as it is a good time of day, good traffic levels, no big cities, easy to navigate and not too hilly.  I will usually nap for a few hours while she drives this stretch.  Depending on how many times you stop and for how long, dinner time will pop up around the Georgia state line to Atlanta.  Usually we can get to McDonough GA (south of Atlanta) for our overnight stop around dinner time which means clearing Atlanta late afternoon to early evening of the first day.  There will be some traffic on the weekends, but you will not lose

Drive thru Atlanta

Drive thru Atlanta

too much time, maybe 15 minutes due to traffic.  Make sure you stop at a hotel or campground that had a hot tub, you will want it after being in the car for so long.   This means at the point of your overnight stop, you have cleared the two big busy cities, and put 2/3 of the trip under your belt.  This leaves you with only 6 hours of driving left.  If you leave early in the AM on day 2 you will reach Disney mid afternoon, likely still enough time to do something around Disney after you check in, even if it is just dinner and shopping at Downtown Disney, but why not hit the fireworks at Magic Kingdom the first night, Sunday nights are often less busy.  When travelling the last leg of the trip, there are still a few things to consider.  With this drive, the Florida Welcome Center is at the halfway mark, about 3 hours so is a good place to stop for a break and get a free glass of OJ and get a picture at a palm tree.  It is also a good point to remind the family that Disney is not right on the Florida State Line, you still have 3 hours left.   In the last part of the trip, Orlando traffic comes into play.  I recommend taking the Florida Turnpike to the 429, they

Florida Welcome Center

Florida Welcome Center

are both toll but worth the cost to avoid the I4 traffic thru Orlando, they are quite a bit cheaper than the 407 in Toronto.  Make sure you have change (coins) for the toll, $5-10 should be enough.  This takes you around the west side of Disney where there is much less traffic.  Make sure as you go up the hill onto 429, look out the driver side, you may see the Castle, Epcot’s sphere or the Tower of Terror, but remember you are not actually there yet, Disney is huge, it is the size of a city.  Get off 429 at Western Way and as you get off the ramp go right and as you come around the bend you will see the famous entrance gate (have your camera ready).

We have found that this method gets us there very fast, but we do not have to deal with sleep deprivation at the start of the Disney trip like you would if your drove straight thru.  Some people who drive thru end up sleeping the entire first day because they are so tired, why not do that sleeping in a $100 a night room or $20 a night campground and arrive at Disney refreshed and ready to party.  On the return trip we tend to split it 50/50 as we are not in a rush to get somewhere, which means staying the night on the way home around northern Georgia.  Our favorite hotel stop on the return is the Holiday Inn Dalton GA, ask for an upper floor on the highway side, you will be able to see the sun rise over the Smokey Mountains the next AM.
Entering Disney World

Entering Disney World

Sunrise over the Smoky Mountains

Sunrise over the Smoky Mountains

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