Driving to DW from PA

Hi everyone,

So it looks like there will be a good chance that we will be driving our minivan from PA to DW for our weeklong trip starting the weekend after Thanksgiving this year. We have Rewards points with Southwest from our cancelled flights last May, but they are probably not going to be enough to cover flights at this point, as prices seemed to be double what they were when we bought them over a year ago. So we will save them for a trip elsewhere in the future and use our Chase card to accumulate more points.

So anyway, I wanted to see if anyone had any tips for our probable road trip, as we have never driven to Florida before. At this point, we plan to leave Southcentral PA on Friday and get to DW on Saturday, about a 14ish hour drive. On the way home, we are leaving the following Saturday and getting home Sunday. It will be me, DH, DS13, DS13, DS9 and my best friend traveling together.

We do a similar schedule with a16- hour drive. Are you starting later in the day and driving straight through or starting earlier and stopping for the night?

Probably starting earlier on Friday and stopping for the night on Friday. Our ASMo reservation starts on Saturday. That way no one is exhausted when we get there.

We drive almost every time we go to florida. When I was a kid we went to Orlando at least once a year to visit family, and I’ve only ever flown to Florida twice. We come from the Cleveland Ohio area, so I imagine the route is kind of mostly similar to what you will be taking. It isn’t bad at all. It takes about 14 hours if we don’t make any stops at all, but I usually plan on taking at least 16-17 hours just because stopping for bathrooms and food and stretching (and getting car sick, if I’m honest) really adds up. At this point it is usually me, DH, DS12, DD10 and DD7.

The worst part of the trip for me is driving through the appalachian mountains. I get insanely car sick. So if anyone is prone to sickness at all, I advise dramamine, sea bands, candied ginger, if it’s an adult let them drive, etc. If it’s a child maybe tell them to hold off on using their tablet or reading at that point.

I also recommend having a cooler of drinks and treats and snacks handy. I try to find things that the kids like but we don’t get often, like Little Debbies, but also healthy things like fruit. We also do tend to stop fairly often regardless of the time we leave, just because it is healthy to move the legs for a minute, and it helps mitigate the number of emergency bathroom situations. It also helps us keep things organized because when we stop, we clean the van out and reorganize all of our entertainment. We’ve tried various organization methods- things that go between seats, things that go over the back of seats… it all just ends up on the floor and all over, so whatever. Our kids each have a small fleece blanket and small pillow that they use on car trips. I always have paper towels, wipes, and plastic bags in the van for long haul trips and I have used them for different things on different trips but always I use them for something.

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Thanks! We won’t have to travel through the mountains, but I know what you mean after driving to Pittsburgh.

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That’s what we do.

We find that when we stop for food or a RR break, it can easily become 45 minutes to an hour of lost driving time between the kids’ pit stop and getting fast food. We’ve started packing meals in advance and/or packing a cooler and making a picnic meal at a rest stop to save time (and money and is at least half way healthy). We also have a car-top carrier that holds the luggage for the week, but keep an overnight bag or two in the back of the van just for the first and last nights so we only have to pull out/put back a couple things for the nights we are quickly in and out of the hotels.

Like @MagicFinder, we have pillows and blankets for the kids, plastic containers w/activities for the kids that end up all over and under everything. Some movies. Wipes and cleaning supplies are a must as the road trips cause the kids to evacuate themselves from all the places they can. :frowning: At least we’ll have a lot of good stories for graduation and wedding receptions.

Are you taking I-95 most of the way? We go out of our way to avoid Atlanta and end up on I-95 going through Savannah and Jacksonville and find that to be a decent drive.


We looked quickly at the route past Richmond and, yes, it looked like I95 would be best. We are avoiding I95 between DC and Richmond and taking a back way we use for part of the drive we have done for the Outer Banks.

For us the trip from Michigan to Orlando is about 16 hrs, plus stopping time, so we do it in two days (since I am typically the only driver…my wife hates being the driver, and so I do it all). We also plan about 10 minutes extra for every hour of drive time to account for gassing up, restroom breaks, and eating.

Bring along music that will keep whoever is driving upbeat and awake as you get close to the end of the day. The sleepiness is real, and you don’t want a Nation Lampoon’s Vacation situation! For me, it usually means listening to Les Miserables so I can sing along. Singing keeps me awake.

The drive there isn’t as bad as the drive back. The drive back is tedious and you just want it over. Maybe listen to audiobooks to help pass the time.

Definitely stop and get out and stretch every chance you get.

Oh…and make sure you have change and dollars to pay the tolls!

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These are all very good points

We drive straight through from NJ. I leave around 6pm and drive through the night to avoid traffic in DC. The way back takes longer for what ever reason we stop once or twice, and I do 90% of the driving.

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I have lost track how many times we have done the trip from WNY - it is about 21 hours if we did not stop. Since we do stop for meals it takes a full 24. We normally start out 5PMish to be at our rental at 5PM. We go west to Erie and then down through Pittsburgh. I strongly prefer that route, though the worst is from Pitt through WV. I normally do that leg of the trip and like it to be in the late hours for traffic reasons.

I take a solid nap the afternoon that we are leaving. We normally make a meal for dinner of whatever left overs are in the fridge, then start the dishwasher and take out the last load up garbage as we head out the door.

DH drives til about 9PM, then I take over from about 9PM - 3AM so he can try to sleep. I have the child most likely to keep me happy and be helpful sit up front with me. DH takes over again and drives til 7AM. We try to hit a Bob Evans as soon as they open (it’s not something we have here). We are normally well into NC by then.

We’ve also done many road trips.

My kids have been many different ages, and their preferences seem to change all the time.

About 10 years ago I picked up a handful of portable DVD players on Black Friday - this was before we had iPads and laptops. I am very generous with movies.
We’ve done it where we get snacks each time we enter a new state.
I’ve printed off maps that hey could color in as we cross into new states.
I’ve picked up workbooks at Dollar Tree some years and made packets. When they got bored I’d hand off a packet and have a reward associated with it. Candy. Small amounts of money. Small gift thing I’ve pre-purchased. (Glow sticks, sticker books.)

These days we’ve gotten very good at road trips and I barely prepare anything anymore. New coloring books. Load up their MP3 players with stuff we’ve acquired since the last trip. I would guess your 13 yo can figure out what they to do for that quiet time in the car.

I read someone say once they showed their kids big bags of candy when they left home and told them every time they fought they’d chuck one out the window and they could only have what was left when they got to the destination. LOL.

I also sometimes let a teen move up to the front and shake things up a bit.

I agree with Ryan - the way there is way better than the way home.
We tried to go straight through on the way home once and never again. Now we split it up. There is NO good cheer left for my family by that point.

Keep people from getting hungry is a great rule of thumb.

Also - Walmart’s make fantastic stops. Everyone can go to the bathroom at the same time - no lines like gas stations. Can also grab food if you want. We sometimes pick up a thing of their fried chicken, a potato salad, cold sodas, package of cookies. Or a prepared Pizza and cookies. I always have paper plates and napkins. We don’t always enjoy Wendy’s and McDonalds.

My van always looks like a riot occurred. I have long since stopped trying to maintain order. There are 8-9 of us on road trips and it is not pretty.

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If you do this, I would encourage you to get a hotel that serves breakfast if possible. And don’t “make yourself comfortable” in the hotel.

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The candy idea is hilarious. For us, on the way home, extra video game minutes would probably work well. :laughing:

We have a Bob Evans here. We rarely eat there. We prefer Cracker Barrel’s breakfasts.

We rarely eat out, period, so that’s a huge part of the treat no matter what.
My kids remember “Piggy Pancakes” at Bob Evans.

I have 2 tips.

Check the route you intend to travel to see if Florida charges any tolls long the way, especially around Orlando. We just got back from driving to WDW last week. Much to my surprise I discovered that Florida removed the toll booths on the Florida Turnpike (HYW 91) and installed a “pay by license” camera system since our last trip. Now I have a ton of extra quarters :money_mouth_face: and am left wondering if I will get a love letter in the mail soon from the Florida DOT with my toll bill in it. Interestingly, Florida kept the toll booths on HYW 429 that we also drove on, so I did get to pitch a few quarters.

Secondly, take precautions against credit card skimmers at gas stations. I don’t know how prevalent that is any more, but years ago I had urgent calls on my home answering machine every time we returned from a Florida trip from my Shell gas company MasterCard Fraud department. I even had my cc frozen in the middle of a stay at the Beach Club once. That was embarrassing. When I stopped using my credit cards to buy gas at the pump, the fraudulent use of my credit cards stopped. Now I pay cash or use my credit union’s re-loadable debit card that they came out with specifically for gasoline purchases. It is kept in a separate account for security in case it gets hacked. Anyway, its something you might want to investigate.


More power to you! We live just north of Philadelphia and even though we routinely do road trips west to Ohio and Indiana…did the trip home from Orlando once (very long explanation why) and vowed to never do it again.

Good Luck and Safe Travels!

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The credit card fraud thing is real. Kept happening to us as well, even around home. I switched over to a gas station only credit card (without the Visa or Mastercard association) so that the card could ONLY be used at the gas stations. Since doing that, the fraud has stopped entirely…and even if they did skim the information, it isn’t nearly as desireable for them to bother with. If you have a Visa or Mastercard, they can try to use the card anywhere. Many newer pumps allow contactless paying or accept chip cards which reduce risk of skimming. If nothing else, make the the tamper proof security sticker is in place on the pumps.

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I didn’t even think about the credit cards and gas pumps. We do have credit cards with chips, which I did hear helps with that.

At my Speedway here you just tap (or hover) at the pump. Look for the symbol.

Oh, you have probably been using it too :smile:

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Yes, I’m nervous about doing this, as we have always flown to Florida. The longest road trip we have done was about 7 hours when the kids were much younger (my youngest was 2). But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and we have Disney tickets from May 2020 that need to be used at some point. Hopefully this can be something that will be a fun family story down the road.

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