I’d love some travel advice on driving to WDW from NYC area w/ 2 kids ages 8 & 12. We have 3 days (2 nights) on the drive down & 2 days (1 night) to return home.
Would love to distract & entertain them with a brief pit stop (historic sites, etc) every 4 or 5 hours?

CLARIFICATION: STOPS intended ONLY on the trip down to WDW…

Most Important Advice: Avoid Washington DC between the hours of 2PM and 8PM. Ditto 5AM-9AM, but the afternoon is worse.

If this means transiting the DC area during the overnight hours to avoid traffic, it is 100% worth it.

I mean, I live in the DC area and avoid the highways during those hours like the plague. And weekends are not much better.


I was totally confused by this comment, I was thinking “Washington is nowhere near New York!” I had no idea Washington DC wasn’t in Washington the state - I thought it was like New York, New York. I feel so dumb!


It’s ok… it’s entirely confusing for people who don’t know the geography.

Suffice it to say, the direct route from NYC to WDW passes straight through the DC Metro area. And traffic sucks unavoidably.

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I have studied the map now!


Any reason you aren’t just taking 2 days to get down there?

We always do trips to Orlando from Michigan in 2 days. It is about the same mileage as you’ll experience. If you were to use 3 days, I would think the trip back is better. I find the trip down, everyone is more willing to tolerate long drives due to the excitement of getting to WDW. The trip back feels tedious, so shorter drives make more sense. (We still just do two days, but we always make the second day of driving the shorter day.)


We did the drive down with a 10 and 6 year old in late August last year from southern NJ leaving after work on a Thursday and driving to northern NC; the next day arriving in Savannah for a full afternoon/evening which was a nice place; then arriving the next day in Disney for a full afternoon/evening of touring at Epcot; the plan worked out great because not once did we experience any traffic and doing only about 5 hours at a time of driving was not bad at all…I agree with Mousegirl and everyone else who told us about driving down: avoid Washington DC traffic at all cost (and to extent Richmond VA as well)…you should try to travel during non-rush hour times…I assume you are taking 95 down…Charleston and Savannah are really nice stops…the drive back was not as good because we hit some traffic in Va/DC area on the weekend and the kids did not behave as good as the drive down…pack snacks and cooler for car and pack an overnight bag for the family so you don’t have to take everything out at night at the hotels…HAVE FUN!!!


You are in luck. I live exit 82 GSP and most of my family lives in FL. I drive down once or twice a year. I find the best thing to do is drive at night so the kids can sleep or in my case the kid. I drive straight through depending were I’m going in FL. Miami or the keys I stop in Daytona relax at the La Quinta that has a hot tub and a indoor pool. If you want to drive during the day time you might want to take the Cape May ferry and then the Bay Bridge tunnel. This will by pass DC. and the ferry might be a nice break for the kids. A must stop for anyone driving down for the first time is SOUTH OF THE BORDER. Gas up in NJ and also in GA for they are usually the cheapest for gas on the east coast. I find it easier to drive down but coming back I have to stop for two nights. I have sleep apnea and find it difficult to get a good night sleep in most hotels, so I always get a late start the next day. The best advice I could give is get a AAA membership. They have discounts at hotels, car services and they will map out your trip. I learned my lesson two years ago going down for Christmas I lost a tire going down and one coming back. I will not travel with out them again. Anything I forgot or any other question let me know, glad to help.

No reason on taking two days - just thinking about kids wanting or need a break/stretch.
they are excited to get to their destination.

I’d still lean toward doing two days on the drive there, but three days back rather than the other way around.

One trip, on the way back, we actually stopped at Mammoth Cave (which is along our driving route) and did a cave tour, etc. But if we had done that on the way down, I think the kids might have enjoyed it less because they just wanted to get started with Disney, etc.

But that’s just us.

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Hello, fellow New Yorker! Although we live in Upstate NY near the Finger Lakes region we have made 6 trips to Disney by car from NY in the past decade with our children ranging in age over the years from ages 1 up to 10 years old and so I will give you our best tips on traveling to Disney by car with children from NY. Some of it may apply to you and some of it may not?

First, if you can spare the luggage room it will pay off to pack your own stroller vs. purchasing one or at least we found that to be the case. Because it can get expensive purchasing one at Disney and you can only get it when in the parks and not in between buses and the resorts which is a great deal of walking and standing in it’s own right. The first time we went, we took the standard “Military Grade” fold down large one with cup holders, 10 inch rims and dice hanging on the rear view mirror! LOL…. and it took up a sizable amount of space in the car and was a pain to fold up and carry on the buses. So over the years we realized a more compact stroller with a cup holder attachment and storage underneath works just as well and is much easier to pack in the car and fold up and go. We were worried about stroller theft so we bought one of those stroller cable locks, but not sure we really needed it unless you have like a super expensive stroller made of gold? For the most part, nobody messes with them that I could tell other than the cast members re-arranging them to make room which I am sure they loved finding a shackled up stroller!

For the actual road trip, we have found that the journey is as much fun as the destination. For me, it is amazing when you have the time to actually talk to your family and play some road games and sing some songs and stop to smell the roses once in awhile! I guess I am a regular old-fashioned National Lampoons Vacation kind of guy? But even then a well-planned road trip with activities and such can have its dull moments. so load up your devices with plenty of music and podcasts or even books on tape from audible or whatever. We also found that a portable DVD player and headphones went a long way in keeping the kids from turning on us! Over the years the DVD has given way to iPads with apps and preloaded Netflix videos… But you get the idea. There were also times that we made our children turn the devices off and actually look out the window because there is no better way to see our country and just how big it is than to look out the window and watch it go by!

We also pack plenty of snacks and even have packed sandwiches in a cooler and used frozen Capri Suns as ice that would eventually melt into drinks for the kids to maximize space. Also pack paper towels and at least one garbage bag and even a small first aid kit, as well as a smaller quick bag for quick change clothes that have extra socks, shirts and underwear in them since children seem to turn into vomiting, leaking, spilling monsters when in a car for long periods of time! I also wear comfy socks and slippers or something that is easy to slip on and off in the car. This makes a huge impact on long-term comfort. At least for me I can feel my feet start to swell after sitting for a long time and having the ability to easily slip on and off shoes help when making quick rest stops along the way. Comfy clothes while traveling is just a given anyway but should be noted as well.

We do not stray far from I-81 and I-95 and I would always stop at every rest stop and make those little bladders go even if they say they don’t have to… 9 times out of ten they will say they have to pee 5 minutes back on the road either way anyway! And when we needed gas I used the app GasBuddy, this helped us plan out some of the stops along the way and also helped us keep the gas budget reasonable. With that said I have family in Fayetteville NC, so we often split the trip up using that as a pit stop along the way which is 10 hours according to google but with rest and meal breaks that is more like 12. Then hit up the last leg of the trip in about 8, more like 9 hours to Disney. And then did just the opposite on the way back. So if you do not have a family to invade along your route I recommend getting a hotel in about the same distance somewhere in lower NC. We would usually find something with a continental breakfast so we could eat and get on the road. And for this we also packed a spearate bag of clothes so we were not tearking the car completely apart to get to stuff.

Definitely, try to avoid Washington D.C. as already suggested. When we come down from I-81 we hit the outskirts of it to merge with I-95 and It Suuuuuuuuuuucks and I do not know how anyone can live like that? So for you coming from NYC I can only imagine coming straight through it is equally as bad if not worse. So definitely head the timetable advise that was given to you and try to coordinate your NYC departure at a time that you are passing through that area if possible. Otherwise, be prepared for the most ridiculous traffic I have ever witnessed in my life!

Once you get down south gas gets cheaper and the speed limit gets up to 75 in places which is great until you hit regular speed limits again and it feels like your crawling! I would also say avoid South of the Border, it is just a small tourist trap and not worth the stop at least in my opinion?

We also would google map and plan out a pit stop for groceries at a local grocery store before actually getting to Disney property considering as we discovered our very first trio that Disney is pretty much its own city with its own roads and street signs. We would buy supplies and groceries and stuff to eat in the room that does not travel well or take up a lot of room. Like a case of water, bread, cold cuts, cheese and other perishable items that don’t pack well without coolers that also take up a ton of room. Just remember the fridge in your room is not that big and does not have a freezer and even though you can buy grocery items form your resort assuming you’re staying at a Disney resort. if you can save the money and have the time and means to do so why not? And in the last few years although we have not tried it yet there are services like Amazon Prime where you can have groceries delivered to your room and there are a ton of articles on that subject. But the biggest money saving tip out of all of this is to buy a case of water before getting there as water is expensive at Disney.

There is also a huge Disney outlet you will see signs for, it is worth researching that and considering stopping for some merch for your kids or for gifts for friends and family since the prices are much cheaper than in the parks or at Disney Springs. Which by the way is another great thing about driving in that you will end up coming back with a whole bunch of Disney stuff. Stuff that would be difficult to bring back on a plane but easy to cram into your car!

Hands down, at least for us a Disney road trip is just as epic as the vacation and when you drive under the Welcome to Disney arches after traveling close to 1200 miles, there is something much much more magical to it for the whole family and I think the kids just have a greater overall memory because of it. We are headed down again this November and I can not wait to do it all over again!

Then again I have never gone by plane to Disney so maybe I am being ignorant? But sometimes ignorance is bliss and affordable! I hope some of my tips were helpful and I am sure my wife would say I missed about a hundred of them since she is the brainchild behind most of them!

Happy Travels!

On one of our more memorable last trip we took things a step further and surprised our kids with a trip to Disney and Universal and even some other stuff here and there! In case you are interested and have the time here is a video I posted of it on Youtube a few years ago, enjoy!




No problem! I hope it proves to be helpful advise!

We’ve done the drive from NC to AL a lot and while I have no advice for strictly driving to Disney…

Does driving from NYC to FL put you driving through Charlotte? If so then try to avoid Charlotte between 3:30-7 or so. Traffic is horrible in Charlotte, worse than any other Southeast city I can think of with the exception of Atlanta, which I don’t think you’ll have to pass through. On the way down or up (whichever you take 3 days for) you could maybe stop in Williamsburg?

And for the car…audio books are our go to. You can easily pass 4-5 hours on one audio book that everyone is into. Check out readaloudrevival.com and the “audio books” tab…she usually has good insight as to if it’s a good version of the audio book or not.

Yes! We always have to pass through Atlanta, and always plan on a long delay. Only once did we happen to hit Atlanta where it was rather smooth sailing. Usually it adds about 1-2 hours to the total drive time. In February, it was about 1 1/2 hours to go 10 miles because there was an accident that closed all lanes except the two outermost lanes (the HOV lane, and the exit lane). We just settle in a plan for it. I’m shocked ANYONE wants to work/live in Atlanta! :slight_smile:

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Great tips. Thanks. We’re driving from Niagara Falls so luckily have the option to miss DC. We’ll be staying in Charlotte the first night so hopefully will be able to miss the traffic if we have an early start the next morning.

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My husband hates the traffic in DC so much, we’re actually going to swing over to 81 and go through Charlotte as well. Have you ever stayed overnight in a town called Rock Hill, South Carolina, We are trying to get just south of Charlotte before packing it in for the night.

We did the drive home to southeastern PA once and hated it. We do however, love the AutoTrain. Have used it twice and will do a third trip this summer. If you book regular seats early enough, it is cheaper than flying!

The train has two stops, Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL. We check in at Lorton before 2pm and arrive at Sanford the next morning just after breakfast. Dinner and breakfast are included and we arrive rested and ready to hit the parks (after a shower). :slight_smile:

We live in Upstate SC so we travel the area you will hit as you are about halfway through your journey. I can tell you that there is not much to make a quick pit stop and see off I-95. You are traveling past Savannah and some great areas but there isn’t much that you can find close to the interstate in my experience. In the past, we have stopped when entering Georgia to get peaches and the Florida Welcome Center used to offer free orange juice, which is a fun little bit of state information for kids. We have talked about stopping in St. Augustine Florida to see the fountain of youth but I haven’t done that yet so I couldn’t tell you how easy it is to access, plus you are getting so close to Disney by that point…Also, we usually take the toll road (catch it around St. Mary’s FL) for the last stretch to get to WDW because it is a much easier drive than downtown Orlando, despite whether it is longer or costs money. Our kids used to love counting out the quarters for the toll stops because it showed them how much closer we were getting. I do second some of the suggestions for South of the Border but be mindful that there have been some crime issues at some of them, so be extra careful. Think about picking something specific for each state as you go - with the two I mentioned above, but also maybe some salt water taffy in SC, etc. Enjoy your trip! The journey is always something you will remember too!