Guest Author: Rachel Purcell
Hello fellow Disney lovers! My family and I live just north of Omaha, Nebraska. My family consists of myself, my husband of 13 years,Ron, and our 12 year old son Hunter. Every winter as we are getting snowed on and freezing every time we walk outside, we dream about our next Disney vacation.
The last time we flew to Disney was in 2007. Our flight took us up to Minneapolis for a layover on our way to Omaha. The plane had terrible turbulence which caused me to fly out of my seat and everybody around us to cry, scream to our Lord to save us, etc. Needless to say, it was scary. We decided after that trip that we all would like to try to make the long drive down to Florida. Ron said that “Our drive would be part of our adventure!” Boy was he right!
We live approximately 1,500 miles from Disney and we prepare for our trips by first setting our trip date. We have to take in account 2 nights before check-in for the drive and 1 night after we leave to drive home. Next, we lined up our rental car, which we have always rented. The last time it cost us $300.00 for a two week rental on a full size car- this is plenty big for our family plus we like the assurance of knowing that it is a brand new car for such a long drive. Then, we make sure our Atlas is up to date and print off our Google maps. Yes, we travel by map – we haven’t entered the GPS age yet! We have planned our trip to avoid Atlanta. Some may disagree, but we have decided that the stress of getting through that city just isn’t going to be part of our trip. Our route may be a bit longer, but we enjoy it. Then finally, we book our hotels on the way down.
As for our packing – we take 2 suitcases. We travel during the summer, so this is plenty of room for shorts, t-shirts and necessities. It’s also nice to have some extra room in them to bring home a few souvenirs. We also pack plenty of snacks and a cooler for the car. Our snacks consist of pretzel rods, combo’s (pretzel and cheese), licorice and our favorite go-to snack of beef jerky. This is crucial for a trip this long. One time we were stuck in traffic in Birmingham, AL for two hours- during dinner rush. Our dinner that night was beef jerky and pretzel rods with a cold can of pop so we were so thankful that we had these things to eat! No, not the most nutritious, but we all still laugh and remember our “snack dinner” fondly. We know try to coordinate our time better to avoid cities at rush hours.
Our trip starts when Ron gets off work at 5PM. Hunter and I (with the great help from my Mom – Jan) will have the car ready and packed. Ron will get home, and we will take off for our first night – Kanas City. We arrive there at about 9PM. We sleep a few winks and are back up at 3AM to take off for our huge drive day. We will drive to Dothan, AL for the next night. This takes about 16 hours accounting for our stops. We stop every 2 hours to take a break from the car. Whether it’s a gas stop, a game of football at a rest area, or just to get out and do jumping jacks. These breaks are usually for 10 minutes. Lunch and dinner breaks last about 20 minutes at a fast food joint. (Can’t wait to hit our Whataburger in Alabama!!). The final day, we leave at about 7AM and arrive at Disney at about 1PM. On the drive home, we leave Disney at 7AM and drive all day, usually staying somewhere in Mississippi and then finish the drive the next day. We never book hotels coming home, but just “play it by ear” for how far we want/can drive. So, in total, it takes us about 26 hours each way for our drive. We always stay at Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express or La Quinta. We have always had great, clean rooms with fine service. The costs for our rooms always are under $100 with codes that we find off the internet.
I kept all my gas receipts from our last trip. Going through them, I found that our cheapest gas was found in Alabama for $3.46/gallon. The most expensive was in Florida at $3.86/gallon. This was due to the fact that we accidently got off the exit by “Café Risqué” and paid out the WaZoo for gas that we found was cheaper just one exit down – I guess we lived and learned there! Our gas for our round trip in a Chevy Impala was $427.00.
So, if you are totaling this all up, not including food, our drive will cost right around $1,000 including gas, car rental and 3 nights for hotels. Our cost to fly from Omaha was always right about this amount, so it is just a cost that we budget into our trip.
My husband and I like to think of ourselves as adventurers and we are raising our son to be the same way. The drive truly is “part of our adventure” now. We have seen sights that we never would have seen otherwise – the fun, winding hills in Arkansas, Memphis – where our king of rock and roll lived, beautiful magnolia trees in Mississippi, the awe of the mist floating in the trees in Alabama, the feeling of seeing the sign that says “Florida” and finally driving under those Disney arches. Our country is so beautiful and we feel lucky that we have the chance to see it.