Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Driving to Disney Series / Step #3 - The Final Report

Well...we did it....and it was a success! We drove from Cleveland, Ohio to Orlando, FL to spend one day in the Magic Kingdom. Yes, it seems silly - four days in the car for one day at a park. The math doesn't add up. But after this LONG and very cold winter it was totally worth it for one day of warmth and happiness. Read on for the details of how we made it happen :)

**If you hadn't seen my previous posts about our plans to drive to Disney World you can find them here and here.

Our trip started out by a surprise by my parents. My dad sent me a text offering their minivan for our trip so we would be more comfortable. I knew that with all of the activities and snacks that we had planned for the kids, that the extra room would be wonderful, but it also added on the extra expense of gas. After talking it over with my hubby, we agreed that the minivan would be a good choice.

My dad came over to swap out the cars and I started packing on Saturday while my husband was working. We all had one "overnight" bag with jammies and one outfit for the next day for our stopover hotel. Those were on top with the goody bags that I had prepared. We pulled one up at a time. It worked out great!!

Another thing that I prepped was our clothespin timeline. I pulled up a bing map of our drive and figured out the cities that we should be at after each hour of driving. When I say should, I mean if we had no stops (which was rare in between pins). For us, this meant that we had 15 pins total.

  1. New Philadelphia, OH
  2. Marietta, OH
  3. Ripley, WV
  4. Beckley, WV
  5. Wytheville, VA
  6. Fancy Gap, VA
  7. Statesville, NC
  8. Rock Hill, SC
  9. Columbia, SC
  10. Walterboro, SC
  11. Savannah, GA
  12. Brunswick, GA
  13. Jacksonville, FL
  14. Palm Coast, FL
  15. DISNEY (On this pin, I just colored a little Mickey head.)
On the drive home I just reversed them and the Mickey head was now "home".

Each clothespin we took down we had a little celebration...and it kept my son from asking "are we there yet?" because he could clearly see how much longer we had to go. Here's a picture of my hubby and I. You can see how and where we installed it into the van:

We left at 3:30am on a Sunday. One of the first things I did was to pull up an app on my phone called Waze. Waze is an interactive community based navigation and traffic app. You can use it while driving to notify you of upcoming turns, police, hazards, etc. If you have a passenger, that person can update the app anytime you see a hazard, traffic jam, police and then you will receive points. Not that we are speed demons, but sometimes if we were going 7-8 over it was nice to know if an officer was up ahead. Hey...you never know if that officer is having a good or a bad day!! It also alerted us if there was objects in the road or a car on the shoulder. I cannot say enough good things about this app!! I LOVE IT!!!!

Other apps that came in handy were:
  • GasBuddy - It tells you where the cheapest gas options are.
  • iExit - It tells you what hotel, dining and gas options are at each exit
  • Rest Stops - It tells you how far till the next rest area and what they have there
  • TripAdvisor - Helped us with hotel options and dining choices
  • US PL8S - Boredom buster...the old plate game
  • Roadtrippers - We had three similar apps and used this one the most

Now, onto the activity bags. After this trip, we will pack these a little differently. My son loved the invisible ink type of books that we had. He barely used his innotab reader and he didn't like the iSpy bottle at all. We will plan on more coloring options and invisible ink for next time. The kids also didn't watch many movies. We had about 10 Disney Junior DVDs and a movie or two, but they only watched maybe an hours worth total the whole trip. After starting the movie Planes (one of our sons favs), he had requested that we turn it off and put more music on. Go figure! My daughter was happy watching out the window and looking at board books for the most part. We did listen to a lot of top 40s type music. We must have heard Timber and Dark Horse fifty times each before we even arrived to Florida. Ear worm central!

Another thing that we had fun with was a road bingo game that I found as a printable. Because my little guy had never played Bingo, I just showed him the page and told him to try to find as many of the items as he could. He had fun crossing off things as he saw them; including a semi, a bridge and a cow. I plan on making my own sheet next time with trip specific items. On our drive we go through tunnels in the mountains, those will be added. We also see many trio of crosses. There are more in WV than any other state, as the man behind them was from WV. Also, the Ohio barns! I can't wait to put this together for our next trip! :)

Many of you on Facebook were wondering about our stopover points. We played it by ear to see how far we got. I had done some research to see what stops had the best options for hotels...so we had an idea. We knew we wanted to be to our hotel exit before dinner each night on the road. That way the kids would be settled and we could get a good meal before bed. On our drive down, we made it to Waterboro, SC. I had gone off of reviews on Tripadvisor, and found the Econo Lodge. The rate was just around $60 and it was clean and comfy. The man that answered our call regarding the pack n' play was also there to great us on our arrival and was VERY nice. I would totally stay here again!! The only problem that I had with this stop - there wasn't any local food options! We were trying to find a little Mexican place that had great reviews, however it appears that it was no longer standing. The lot where it was showing on the map was freshly bulldozed and had a "lot for sale" sign. We settled for Cracker Barrel which was PACKED, but very friendly and tasty.

On our way home, we wanted to make it to NC before we stopped, however we wouldn't have been in the Rock Hill area until after dinner so we settled for Columbia, SC. Again, I turned to Tripadvisor for a hotel. This time I found good reviews for a La Quinta so I booked it on Priceline for a slight discount. Being a larger chain and on a weekday, I didn't worry about the pack n' play. After checking in, we found that they had none available and ended up buying a bedrail at Wal-Mart instead. It worked out fine, I guess. One thing I didn't care for at La Quinta however, was the STRONG smell of chemical cleaners and deodorizers. They are a pet friendly hotel, so I'm sure it is a cover-up for pet smells. I had a headache after one hour in our room. I'm super sensitive to smells...so this may not bother everyone. For food, we ended up in a local Mexican restaurant, Taco Time. Now, I understand that we are spoiled by our local place, Fiesta JalapeƱo, however this place was nowhere near as good as we are used to. The produce was fresh, however my husband and I both ordered shrimp I believe it was previously frozen and not fresh shrimp (I could be wrong). Just kinda "meh", compared to what we are used to. We will probably NOT stop in this area again if given the choice.

Fun stops! We had a fun stop planned for St. Augustine on day two. We wanted to take our little guy to the Pirate Museum. My husband and I loved it, however our birthday boy was kind of freaked out by all of the skeletons, figures and an animatronic Black Beard head. It was a good stop and I'm glad we did it...once.
St Augustine Pirate  and Treasure Museum

We also toured Castillo De San Marcos, which is across the street. We spent much more time there and it was quite enjoyable. You can more read about it here. I highly recommend this stop, if you have time and are in the area.


That pretty much sums up our driving portion of the trip. Given the large amount of press for Disney's Art of Animation Resort, I don't think I will do a post on it. Let me know, though if you are interested!!


As always, questions and comments are welcomed!

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