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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tip Tuesday: Driving to Walt Disney World

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

With airfares continuing to skyrocket, I thought I'd share a few tips this week about driving to Walt Disney World. My family and I usually drive to WDW (about 12 hours one-way), mostly because it's far less expensive (even with the recent jump in gas prices) than flying. Five airline tickets can be quite a pill to swallow.

Driving to Walt Disney World presents it's own special opportunities and challenges. In previous posts, I talked about driving around Walt Disney World and about how to take advantage of the Central Florida Greenway to avoid driving on I-4 through Orlando.

This week, I want to talk more about the though process when considering driving versus flying and what kind of time frame you should think about when planning your drive.

To Drive or not to Drive, that is the question
When considering how to get to Walt Disney World, there are several factors to consider when thinking about driving versus flying.

Some of the things to keep in mind when considering flying are:

  • Airline fares - how much is each ticket and how many tickets do you need?

  • All those fun fees - you're going to want to take some clothes to wear, so just how much will those bags cost you?

  • Airport destination - can you fly into Orlando International Airport (MCO) and, thus take advantage of Disney's Magical Express? If not...

  • Airport transfers - if you're not flying into MCO (because of a cheaper rate into another airport) then you'll have to find some way to get from the airport (Tampa, Sanford, Daytona Beach, Melbourne, etc.) to Walt Disney World, which leads to...

  • Car Rental rates - most people decide to rent a car if they're flying into an airport other than MCO. You'll need to factor in the costs for car rentals

  • Departure and Arrival times: Depending on when you can arrive (and, later, depart), you might be able to get an extra half-day in your trip. Also keep in mind the time required to get to the airport, go through security and collect bags at your destination.

Some of the things to keep in mind when considering driving are:

  • Mileage - You're hitting the road and you're going to be covering a lot of miles -- most likely hundreds of miles, if not more than a thousand, and that means you'll need a lot of...

  • Gas - Gas prices are about a predictable as Charlie Sheen's career right now. Prices continue to fluctuate greatly. You need to know how large your car's gas tank is, what your car's average mileage per gallon is, and then calculate how much gas you'll need to get to WDW and back.

  • Time - it's no surprise that driving takes longer than flying. Do you have enough time to drive or will driving eat too much into your available time?

  • What's along the way - I strongly encourage stopping along the way. You want to get to WDW safely, and that means taking a few opportunities to rest and stretch. A drive to WDW can turn into a family road trip adventure. Are there some fun places to stop along the way? No, this isn't National Lampoon's Vacation, but it might be a chance to see a few sights.

When you boil it all down it comes to one key decision: Time vs. Money. It's probably going to be cheaper to drive, but it's going to be faster to fly. Which is more valuable to you? Time or Money? Which can you afford to spend more of?

For me, and my family of five, we usually drive from Virginia. Here's the calculation that led me to decide to drive: Flying to WDW (MCO) costs as low as $225 (round-trip) per person out of our regional airport. Right now rates are much higher ($300+), but I'll go with the lowest amount here. Flying into MCO means we can use Disney's Magical Express and not incur any transportation costs. Total cost: About $1400.

We do have a low-cost airline that flys into Sanford. Those rates are about $49 a person one-way (about $99 one-way once you add in all the fees), but then there's transportation costs to consider (like renting a car). Total cost: $1200+

It's about 750 miles, or 12-hours drive time to Walt Disney World from the house (according to online mapping pages). Given that the car's gas tank can hold 20 gallons of gas and gets about 20 miles to the gallon, one tankful of gas is equal to about 400 miles of driving, which means I need two complete tankfuls of gas to drive one-way. Adding in an extra tank of gas for safety, the round-trip total is five tankfuls or 100 gallons of gas. As of this writing, gas is running around $3.55 a gallon for a total of $355 in gas.

When we drive to WDW, we like to break up the trip into two days. We usually leave on day one and drive at least half way (depending on when we can leave - sometimes it's not until late afternoon). Then we get up early the next morning and complete the drive. I like doing this so that when we get to WDW, it's no later than 1 p.m., and often much earlier. Also, I'm not dead tired from driving for 12 hours and can enjoy the first day in the parks. We do the same thing on the return trip. We leave WDW in the late afternoon and drive about half way. This gives us a good half-day at the parks before we have to head home. So, adding in the cost of two overnight hotel stays of about $100 each -- that's an additional $200 to the drive costs.

Adding in the cost of wear and tear is a bit of a guess. I found a AAA source that indicated the maintenance costs for a minivan was around 6-cents a mile (not including gas). So I'll use that number for argument's sake. 750 miles x $.06 = $45 each way ($90 round-trip)

Grand totals:
--- Flying: $1200-$1400
--- Driving: $645

Of course, I haven't factored in time yet. To put it simply, flying to WDW takes around 7-9 hours from the time I leave the house to the time I arrive at my resort, depending on layovers and Magical Express.

Driving can take as little as 12 hours if I go non-stop. More often it takes about 18-20 hours depending on how far we go before we stop for the night on travel day 1.

So the real question is -- how much is 10-12 extra hours at WDW worth? For me, it's not worth upwards of $700 or more. For others, it might be, especially if the drive time is much longer.

So there you go -- some of the factors you need to consider when determining how you're going to get to Walt Disney World. There is no right or wrong approach. It just depends on your priorities at the time.

No matter which way you go -- by air or by road, please do so safely!


Casey @ Yes They're All Mine said...

We always drive because we have such a large family and two kids with autism so a plane ride wouldn't be friendly for other passengers!

I am your newest follower and am a huge disney fan! You can fine me at I hope you have a wonderful weekend

Orlando @ International Transportation said...

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Villas near Disney World said...

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Paul Gardner said...

Let's not forget that the cost of an extra day (or 2) at a park (added on to the flying) could be significant to depending on whether you are adding it onto a 3 day pass or an 8 day pass (or similar). For us, an extra day on our trip results in an extra $40 (because we are up to the 8 day pass) but the difference on an extra day on a 3 day pass could be more. Also meals on the road are probably cheaper than an extra meal in the park.

We go in our camper from Pennsylvania. Usually also a 2 day affair as well (ok more like 2 and a quarter). We leave after work drive to the bottom of Virginia (or top of NC) and pull over and spend the night in the camper. (No Costs). In the AM we will get a good breakfast (Cracker Barrel is a favorite for us) and get on the road again. Usually we get almost all the way there that day, but pull over again that night. Get up in the AM and shuffle on in early to the campground. Even if we cannot get to our site right away, we can check in, park the vehicle/camper and take on the day at the park or whatever.

The camper also has an added benefit that we always have access to a nice and clean bathroom and even food when we want it. Of course the downside is that my mileage goes from a normal 12 MPG to about 6 MPG towing the camper. Still a better deal in the long run for us though.

Mark Motorhome said...

Our First time driving to Walt Disney World in Florida.

My wife and I purchased our motorhome in 3/2014. After 1 year of local camping. Our goal was always to make the trip to WDW Ft Wilderness. I think I have read every blog driving from the Philadelphia area to WDW. People say we can drive this in a day. Estimated Depart time is Sat 4:00am
Day 1 set the alarm for 2:30am Fri not 2:30am Sat whoops. And we finally get on the road by 5:00am. A quick stop at the local WAWA. Jump on 422 to 76 to 476 to 95 south. The 1st issue is that I am on a road that starts telling me no propane in the tunnel. But I have already read on the MD Trans Auth that I can use the tunnel.

Let’s just say we made it to the other side safely. It is still early on a Sat morning like 8 – 9 we make it thru the crazy traffic and road system surrounding our nation’s capital, no wonder nothing gets done in this country. Between Fredericksburg, VA and Just north of Baltimore MD are the biggest waste of time and gas. To drive around two places you don’t want to be. Note to self and others find another way. We wasted two hours sitting in traffic. Not for accidents or road construction we don’t even know what this delay occurred.

We made our first fuel stop. By this time we have come to the conclusion we will not be making this trip in one day. No big deal we never really thought we could. So our next plan it to drive to where we will only have a short drive into WDW the next day. So we will have a nice sit down dinner. Back on the road for a couple of hours then find a camp for the night. It is about this time we start to notice that most of the restaurants are of the fast food type. Exit after exit we read those blue signs for something we know will have sit down and the food will be good. We spot a steak house. I am stoked everyone else is happy. We get off at the exit. And either we miss a sign or miss read it. We are now on another highway next exit 20 miles. No way to turn around no OUTBACK in sight. It is an hour to turn around and make it to the OB. They tell us it is a 1 hour wait. That means we will be delayed for 2 ½ to 3 hours. That added to the previous delays it too much time to waste. So we settle for one of the fast food places. Back on the road.

We make it to St George SC and Camp in a RV park behind the hotel. Well I will not recommend this place to anyone. We discover the next morning, traffic and trains all night long. What did I expect for $30.00.

Day 2 Bound and determined not to make the same mistakes we made the day before. Our first new discovery it we didn’t bring the extra keys to the motorhome. We only have one set. So our thought is no big deal we will just ask about a hardware store to copy the keys we need.

FYI ACE hardware isn’t open on Sun’s in SC. Tractor Supply does not cut keys. Home Depot uses that new computerized machine that only cuts a select few keys. And the Camping World chain of dealerships/stores do not copy keys for the Campers they sell. Yep another hour or so wasted.

The Fla Rest stop was a waste of time. But it was a nice break we need and free OJ. Our last fuel two gas stations next to each other, One sign with the price up high and bold. I pull up to the pump and notice the price per gallon is 30 cents higher than the sign. So I move on to the next gas station. BUYERS BEWARE.

We are now on I-4 in Fla. No Disney signs any ads for the parks. What is going on here? Do they not guide all the crazy people who drive to Disney with signs bill boards? Hell that Pedro guy had more signs on I-95 then Disney does in Fla. Finally Exits 67 65 64 Disney world. Standard green highway signs. Nothing exciting nothing big just plane old boring green signs. We take our exit 67 and a few miles down the road, it starts to pour. We are going to miss our view (more for the kids) of the Big Walt Disney World sign. When we cross under it we are in the house of Mouse.

22 hours 31 minutes of driving, one overnight stay, $293 dollars for 116 gallons of gas.

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