Driving Overnight

People think we’re nuts (and honestly, so do we), but our favorite driving time is overnight. Yes, we arrive exhausted with two wired kids. No, we both barely get any sleep. But hear me out.

We live approximately nine hours from Disney World. It’s a full day’s worth of driving, plus some, when you factor in a three year old’s bladder and stopping for gas and food.

Todd’s vacation time is precious to us, so it really stinks to throw away two Disney days on driving. When we drive overnight, the girls sleep almost the entire way and we can still have half a Disney day when we arrive. It’s worth the lost sleep for us.

If you’re contemplating the overnight drive, here’s what we’ve learned!

Tips for Before the Drive:

  • Take a realistic look at your sleeping patterns. I’m a night owl, so the dead of night isn’t as hard for me as it is for Todd, who’s used to getting up at 4:30am for work. We make a drive plan based on that.
  • I’m a work at home mom, so I spend the day before getting the car packed, getting gas, and running any last minute errands, while Todd is still at work. That way, when he gets home, we can hit the ground running.
  • I give each of the girls a backpack for toys and creature comforts. Lucy obviously can’t pack her own, but Ruby has free rein to pack whatever her little toddler heart desires. These bags assure they’ll be entertained when they wake up, but also that they’ll have small things to play with at the resort! I also put blankets and their favorite stuffed animals in the backseat for both of them to snuggle with during the drive. We also have a DVD player in the car and bring their iPads, but they’re rarely used.
  • I also do the same – we use our park bag as our travel bag, with magazines, phone chargers, candy, and other things we want accessible for the drive and right at check-in.
  • I make sure our toiletries are accessible in the back of the car, so we can brush teeth and put on deodorant! I also pack a large ziplock with the girls’ clothes for the next day, so we can get them dressed in the morning!
  • When the girls take their afternoon nap, I crash too. If I’m lucky, a friend will come sit with them, so I can get some extra sleep too. I also don’t set an alarm for departure day morning, so we all sleep in as long as we can.

Preparing to Launch

  • We have a “normal night” at home. We eat dinner (usually takeout, no dishes to clean), give the girls a bath, and put them in pajamas. Todd and I also take a shower and put on comfortable clothes for the drive.
  • We throw any perishables left in the fridge into our PackIt cooler tote with ice packs. We throw our First Aid ice packs in there too, to be kept in our room’s mini fridge for boo boos!
  • One last minute packing check, trip to the potty, and we are off!

Surviving the Drive

  • We leave at bedtime. The girls are usually balls of nervous and excited energy, but they’re out cold by the time we make it out of Louisiana.
  • We make the most of our stops. If we pull over to switch drivers or use the restroom, we fuel up, get out fresh drinks and snacks, etc. This drastically cuts down on extra stops.
  • Our drive plan fits our sleep schedules. Todd is good to stay up until about midnight, so he drives for the first stretch and I rest. When he gets tired, I take over and he crashes for the night. Usually around 6am, we switch back. I end up doing most of the driving, but I’m okay with that. I actually love road tripping and grew up doing it, whereas he didn’t.
  • The best travel pillow we’ve found is actually my Boppy pillow for breastfeeding. It’s basically a giant travel pillow anyway! It pulled double duty on our first two trips when Lucy was still nursing and I’d nurse her when we stopped.
  • When the girls wake up in the morning, we stop for breakfast and get them dressed. I make a small goodie bag of snacks and Disney related items from the dollar store for them to open and play with for the rest of the drive.

Driving Home

  • We are annual passholders, so we always want to squeak in a little extra park time on departure day. We make a reservation for a great breakfast and then hit Magic Kingdom to say goodbye to the castle. We grab FastPasses that morning (or along the way during the trip) for whatever we might have missed on our other MK days too.
  • We aim to leave the park around 3-4pm, so we can get ahead of any rush hour traffic, but not run into any other city’s either. We get gas on our way out and can drive straight through until dinner. We stop for dinner, potties, and gas and then hit the road again. The girls usually fall asleep in the next couple of hours. We usually get home around 2am and everyone crashes in the comfort of our own beds!

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