Humble Beginnings: The Disney Road Trip

If you didn’t know, I originally hail from Northern NJ and our first initial trips to Disney World were not by plane.

Nope, my dad used to drive us all the the way from Clifton, NJ to Orlando, FL.

Florida Road Trip - Dad Driving

I would imagine my parents chose to drive over flying because:

  • cost of flying > cost of driving (esp. for 4 people)
  • we had a huge conversion van with a TV/VCR and a lot of comfort/storage for long car rides
  • we had another family to travel with
  • ability to get to Sea World, Universal, and other places in Florida without having to organize transportation
  • the Magical Express didn’t exist yet + we would have to find transportation to our hotel (added cost!)
  • so my sister could take home as many plush animals as she wanted (probably not)

In a few days, James and I will be headed on our own road trip, following the same route but primarily because of reason #1: budget. This time of year (woo spring break) makes flights very expensive, and even when we were searching for other locales to visit… the cost of flying was just outrageous.

That was how the (insane) idea of the road trip was born!

I really do have the best memories of those early trips with my parents, spending long hours in the car reading books and watching a ton of Disney movies. There was the one time my dad got a flat tire in the middle of South Carolina and a nice man stopped to help him. Gee, was it hot out! Or the time my sister kept getting car sick from eating all the Cheetos (we still make fun of that one a lot.)

Florida Road Trip - Reading in the Car

My parents would plan it as a two-day trip both ways: normally with a stop in South Carolina in between our start and end points. (This meant a lot of swimming in hotel pools for us, so we were psyched!)

Today I’d thought I share some of our favorite pit stops along the way… maybe you’ll be inspired to take your own 1113-mile journey too!

Cape May-Lews Ferry

We only did this our first trip but I still remember it really well. A nice way to stretch out your legs and enjoy the sea breezes, drifting from New Jersey to Delaware. The website says it saves time, but I’m not always sure it’s the case. It’s definitely a nice excursion.

Camden Yards (Home of the Baltimore Orioles)

Camden Yards

My family is made up of huge baseball fans, and sometimes I think my dad was tricky about these road trips because he wanted to visit more baseball stadiums! (Kidding, Dad!) This is actually one of my favorites — the tour of the stadium is great, and on one road trip we stayed in the night in Baltimore and took in a game. (It didn’t even matter to us that the Yankees weren’t playing.) It’s one of my favorite baseball parks.

Inner Harbor in Baltimore

The last time I was in this area there was still an ESPN Zone over here… now it’s long gone but it’s still a nice place to walk around for food or restaurants. There’s an aquarium, too!

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

A bridge might not seem like a good idea, but I remember stopping here and having a cute little lunch. (It was also perfect timing because my sister was feeling not so great after all the driving.)

{  Apparently we only used the Carolinas to sleep. }

St. Augustine, Florida

Florida Road Trip - St Augustine

During our last few road trips stopping in St. Augustine was a must. We loved being so close to the water, scouting out a new restaurant and just taking in a new locale in Florida (that was, of course, totally different from Orlando). I always wanted to go back for the ghost tours but never got a chance to.

Tropicana Field (Home of the Rays)

Tropicana Field

The Rays were still the Devil Rays when we took a sojourn (during a major thunderstorm) to see them play… I don’t think they were very good at that time either. I love this stadium! Being from up north, I’d never been to a stadium with a roof! So that was pretty awesome… especially since our trip was during the dead heat of August. (I also loved the mosaics here.)

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Being in close quarters with your family when you are a teenager and on the brink of much moodiness (hi that was me) was never easy. But I did find something kind of romantic about it (I was always writing in my journal when I could get my nose out of a book) and there was always a place to nap in our car if I really needed a break.

Reminiscing today has made me even more excited to share my upcoming road trip adventure with you! (Hint: we are not stopping in any of these spots.)

I also should take a moment to thank my dad who was a champ and always got us to Florida in one piece! Thanks Dad!

Have you ever driven from your home to Florida? What are some of your favorite stops?

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

5 thoughts on “Humble Beginnings: The Disney Road Trip

  1. Even with teenage moodiness, it sounds like you didn’t let that stop you from making and keeping great memories. I only made the drive from NY to WDW once. It was summer, and I was with nine extended family members in a windowless, carpet-lined van. Almost all memories from the trip have been subconsciously blocked. For the best, I believe…

  2. Great memories even that flat tire in Carolina. Helper just wanted to praise Jesus! Cant forget St augustine and close parking at the hotel. Ask your Mom! Well anyway have a safe and enjoyable trip. Check your spare and bring some H2O and oh yea bring toolbox you never know!!!!!!!!!!

    Love Dad

  3. Wow Estelle, this was a terrific blog! And I bet it warmed your parents heart too with your fond rememberences.
    Obviously I can’t say I’ve driven to WDW (from Australia- NOT a good plan), but I do have some memories of us driving CROSS COUNTRY from Queensland to Western Austalia for a huge family reunion in 1988, and then moving to Perth WA in the ’90s. We had a mini-van for ‘space’ for us bickering and fighting 3 kids, and in the Move West also include our cat in the passengers. It’s a FOUR day drive across Australia at a good pace.
    I wish you and James a wonderful and safe road trip, I’m sure you will make many new terrific memories. Can’t wait to hear about it! -Q.

  4. I started visiting Disney World a week after it opened. My dad drove us twice a year from Ohio, straight down I-75. We would pack the car the night before and TRY and sleep. We’d get up around 2:00am and head out. We always had lunch just south of Atlanta (remember, this was back in the 70s when the speed limit was 75), and be at Disney by 7:00pm for dinner.

    I’d love once we got into southern Kentucky and started seeing all the billboards for Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain. Once into Georgia I started searching for signs announcing the Magnolia Plantation and their pecan rolls. Oh how I loved the Magnolia Plantation. I purchased a white straw purse when I was about 9 and it was covered with seashells. I also had to get some Orange Blossom perfume. And of course, the Florida Welcome Station with the free cup of orange juice.

    I miss those road trips. My husband and I often talk of renting a car and doing it from NYC, but when all is said and done that is much more $$ than flying.

    Have a great time on your trip, I’ll be thinking of you.

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