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I take two very different trips to Walt Disney World. The first is the family trip with my husband and kids. We live in North Carolina and we drive the ten hours to Disney. The second is my girls-only trip to the World where my sister and I go together and we fly – me from N.C. and she comes from New York. You would think that flying would be the hands-down favorite but I have to say that it is honestly not that cut and dried.
Okay, the drive. We have a small SUV, we have the luggage carrier, and we have the portable DVD players. My husband and I trade off the driving and I pack up bags for everyone with things for them to do to prevent boredom. For me it is a bag of books and my i Pod. For my husband it is crossword puzzle books, and the kids have a large assortment of DVD’s to choose from plus whatever portable hand-held device they are in to at the time of our trip.
I pack up a large cooler with everything we could possibly want or need to eat – if we were driving cross-country. I don’t know what it is but something about being in the car makes everyone want to eat! I make sandwiches (sometimes two to three per person) and then have an assortment of snacks and drinks to keep everyone happy. The cooler is accessible at all times and while we normally try to time our breaks so that we can get gas for the car, use the bathroom and sit someplace and eat, sometimes we just can’t wait that long to break in to the cooler.
We leave our home around seven in the morning and can be in Orlando by five or six in the evening. To save money, we usually stay in an inexpensive motel close to Disney but not on property. Spending the evening recovering from the road but without the temptation to go sight-seeing, helps make our first day in the parks one where we are all refreshed. The bonus to this plan is that we can check out of our cheap motel early in the morning (around 8 a.m.) after our complimentary Continental breakfast, and then go and drive the ten minutes to our Disney hotel and check in and be in the parks by ten!
Flying is a completely different experience. I have to be up crazy-early because I want the first flight out in the morning. I live closer to Florida than my sister but my airfare is always more expensive. What I spend on airfare is usually twice as much as it cost to drive round trip! To be at the airport at least an hour before my flight, going through security (which is not high on anyone’s list right now!) and then waiting to board is almost painful for me. I cannot imagine how I would keep the kids occupied during this time!
Most times I cannot get a direct flight so I will have to stop someplace and then finally, finally! I get to Orlando International Airport. The beautiful thing that is the highlight of the entire flying process is Disney’s Magical Express. Once I arrive in Orlando, I do not have to go to baggage claim because Disney takes care of that for me.
My sister and I try to coordinate our flights so that we arrive within thirty minutes of one another. One time her flight was delayed for 90 minutes and I had to sit at the airport and wait because I had her Magical Express documents! But once we meet up, we head down to the designated area and board our bus that takes us to our resort.
The downside to the Magical Express is the day of your departure. You are normally picked up three to four hours before your flight! This can cut a major chunk out of your final day if you still have stuff that you want to do.
So really, what I’ve learned is that it is certainly cheaper to drive than fly. If you can do the drive in a day, it is worth it. With proper planning and supplies, driving can be a pleasant experience. Flying, to me, did not save me that much time between the drive to and from the airport, the early arrival, fly time, layovers, etc. Flying is easier when it’s just me flying solo. With a family traveling, I would imagine that it would all depend on where you’re coming from geographically.
In the end, weigh out all of the pros and cons of each mode of transportation, especially if cost is an issue. Flying, while it may get you to Disney faster, can really add up financially. With the cost of luggage fees, tickets, taxes and all compared to the cost of gas for your car it comes down to time is money and what your time is worth to you.