Posted on February 25, 2015

Disney World Road Trip Itinerary – PA to FL and Back!

Disney World Road Trip Itinerary

Want to see how much money we paid round trip to drive to Florida from Pennsylvania?  Scroll to the bottom of this post for a complete breakdown!

disney world magic kingdom entrance pricing

I received one question over and over again on Facebook and Instagram during our last vacation. “Can you please tell me where you stopped along your road trip and what your travel times looked like?” It sounds like there are a lot of you out there who are considering a similar drive. Yesterday completed our 4th drive from PA to FL and back, always with at least one kid in tow. Other lengthy road trips include a drive from PA to Arkansas in 2009 with a 6 month old Lily, from PA to Niagara Falls in 2009 with a 9 month old Lily and a drive from PA to Texas in 2010 with a 2 year old Lily. We have also made the drive from PA to the Outer Banks in NC 3 times – twice with just Lily, once with both kids. We are certainly no strangers to road tripping!

Road trips versus airline travel can be a great way to save some money, but this depends on several factors including current gas prices, how many hotel stays (and at what cost) you require to get from Point A to Point B and also how much money you spend on meals and snacks along the way.

While I have MANY post ideas planned for the months to come – everything from Disney reviews, to Disney and general road trip tips and tricks, this one is going to be a little more bare bones. Less detail on individual places that we went, but a complete comprehensive breakdown of how we spent all 10 days on the road. I will even list certain Disney highlights on the itinerary, including what parks and restaurants we visited during our days away.

We traveled from 2/13/15 through 2/24/15. We drove with one 6 year old and one 16 month old from the Philadelphia suburbs in Pennsylvania to Orlando, FL. Our trip included a five night stay in the Disney Parks, one night in Cocoa Beach, FL, and three nights on the Disney Dream cruise ship.

Our goal for the road trip this year was to minimize the amount of stops that we made and, when making stops, keep them as short as possible. We tried to focus on using highway rest stops for bathroom breaks whenever possible, instead of pulling off of exits to find, say, a fast food restaurant, for bathrooms. This not only cut out wasted time driving off of the highway, but also cut some frivolous spending on drinks and snacks.

Total miles from our house to our Disney resort: 1034
Total travel time prediction as per Google Maps with NO stops: 16 hours

Day 1
5 AM – Left house (had packed car the night before, filled up the gas and changed the oil the day before) It was incredibly FRIGID and WINDY as we got started!
car temperature winter
7:05 AM STOP – Bathroom stop at the Maryland House i-95 Travel Plaza
9:25 AM STOP – Bathroom/gas/snacks stop at the Wawa in Stafford, Virginia off I-95 Exit 143A-B
landon and devon
1 PM STOP – Bathroom/lunch stop at rest stop at Johnston County Rest Area on I-95 at Mile Marker 48. We packed rolls, lunch meat, cheese and chips. Bob assembled the hoagies of the back of the car and we ate them after we got back on the road!
rest stop lunch sandwiches
2:15 PM STOP – Gas stop off of I-95 Exit 31 (Saint Pauls, NC)
6 PM STOP – Spent the night at the Inn at Ellis Square in Savannah, GA
Total Drive Time – 13 hours
inn at ellis square savannah georgia hotel

Day 2
10 AM – Left Savannah, filled up gas tank before getting back out onto I-95
11:55 AM STOP – Drinks/snacks at Starbucks (1044 Dunn Ave Jacksonville, FL)
lily landon starbucks valentines day
3 PM STOP – Final destination at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower in Lake Buena Vista, FL
Total Drive Time – 5 hours (hit major traffic along I-4 in Orlando, FL. Lost at least 45 minutes due to slow traffic.)
TOTAL DRIVE TIME FROM PA to FL – 18 hours
disney world magic kingdom entrance

Disney – had dinner at the Spirit of Aloha dinner show at Polynesian Resort
spirit of aloha dinner disney mama cheaps

Day 3
Day spent at Magic Kingdom
LunchTony’s Town Square
DinnerGrand Floridian Cafe
DessertTomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party

Day 4
Day spent at Epcot
BreakfastAkershus character meal with Disney princesses
landon and ariel disney epcot akershus
lily akershus princess breakfast aurora sleeping beauty
Disney Visa Character Meet and Greet
LunchChefs de France
Dinner – Room Service back at Bay Lake Tower

Day 5
Day spent at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
LunchDisney Junior Play ‘n Dine character meal at Hollywood & Vine
lily landon jake pirates disney junior hollywood studios disney
DinnerCalifornia Grill at Contemporary Resort

Day 6
Day spent at Magic Kingdom
LunchBe Our Guest Restaurant (using Fast Pass – straight to table option!)
disney magic kingdom be our guest restaurant grey stuff

Day 7
BreakfastChef Mickey’s character meal
chef mickeys breakfast contemporary
Checked out of Bay Lake Tower at 11 AM.
Drove to Disney Character Warehouse Outlet Store (Orlando International Premium Outlets 4951 International Drive
Orlando, FL 32819) for some shopping. Grabbed lunch at a fast food restaurant and ate as we drove.
disney character warehouse orlando premium outlets
3 PM – Checked into the Country Inn and Suites (9009 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920)

Day 8
Boarded the Disney Dream!
lily disney dream cruise ship

Days 9/10
Cruising!

Day 11
8:45 AM – Started the drive home
gps
11 AM STOP – gas/snacks stop in Jacksonville, FL
* Lost at least an hour in near-standstill traffic due to bad accident further up the highway
3 PM STOP – bathroom stop at rest stop on I-95 in SC
6 PM STOP – dinner/bathrooms at fast food restaurant off I-95 in Dillon, SC
7:45 PM STOP – bathrooms/drinks/gas at Sheetz in Smithfield, NC
9:30 PM STOP – Spent the night at the Country Inns and Suites off I-95 in Emporia, VA.
Total Drive Time – 12 hours 45 minutes

Day 12
7 AM – Got onto I-95
11:30 AM STOP – gas/snacks at the Maryland House i-95 Travel Plaza
1:15 PM – HOME!!!
pennsylvania state border
Total Drive Time – 6 hours 15 minutes
TOTAL DRIVE TIME FROM FL to PA – 19 hours

p.s. Have fun cleaning the car after a road trip this long with kids. We’ll be sending our car to be detailed very soon!

car mess

Update!  Cost Breakdown!

You asked, and I aim to please.  LOL!  Here is a price breakdown on our round trip drive for food, gas, hotels.  There is a big variable that you have to keep in mind if you are thinking about cost and driving.  That, of course, is current gas prices.  At just over $2/gallon this last trip was by far the cheapest we have ever driven to Florida from Pennsylvania.  This year we paid easily half of what we paid for gas last year!

Totals are over a 4 day span, 2 days down, 2 days to get home.

Total spent on all food (meals, snacks, drinks): $122.33

This includes a dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack in Savannah.  Saved a ton of money by packing snacks, drinks and stuff to make sandwiches for lunch on the way down.

Total spent on all gas: $227.20

Saved a little on our first gas fill up thanks to a $25 Wawa gift card we had!  But still, $200 and change to drive to AND from Florida?  FANTASTIC!

Total spent on two nights at hotels: $121.07

Cashed in Wyndham points I had been saving to stay at the Inn at Ellis Square completely 100% FREE.

Paid $121.07 for a 1 BR suite at the Country Inns and Suites off I-95 in Emporia, VA.

EZ Pass reset during our trip: $35

I lost track of what the exact tolls cost, the majority of them ocurring between PA and Wash DC, but they were not more than $35.  Once my EZ Pass account dips below a certain amount ($10?) it reloads with $35.

Complete total cost to drive from PA to FL and back: $505.60

Compared to current airfare for 4 (R/T PHL to MCO) as per Travelocity: $1,990.80 ($498/ticket)

OUCH!!!  Keep in mind – that is ONLY the price of airfare.  That does not include food, gas to airport, airport parking, shuttle or car rental in Orlando, etc.

This one was a no-brainer for my family.  We are fortunate not to have time constraints with work which give us the flexibility to take 2 days to get to FL and 2 days to come home.  I know that time is a big factor for many families when deciding if they should drive vs fly.

But there you go.  Those were the numbers that we faced.  We could have saved $498 on airfare if we didn’t buy Landon a ticket since he’s under 2.  But if you want realistic numbers, I’ll tell you right now there’s no way we’d be wrangling that wild 30-lb manbaby for an entire flight.  NOPE.  Not happening.  Landon would get his own seat.  :D

More road trip goodness:

Toddler Road Trip Activities: How $2.25 Bought Us 4 Hours of Happy Silence

car road trip boredom buster toddler landon plays cards title

Disney Outlet Store Orlando – Up to 70% Off Parks Authentic Merch at Character Warehouse

disney store outlet orlando

Some reader faves…
disney cakes and sweets magazine free giftsdisney cruiseDisney World Resorts Bay Lake Tower Deluxe Studio Villa Reviewdisney descendantsdisney store outlet orlandoDisney Dollar Tree Must Buys Before Triplily castaway caydisney snacks magic kingdom How to Ship Snacks (and More) to Your Disney Resortchild swap disney disney world ride rider swap cropped titledisney world autograph mattes epcotdisney world magic kingdom entrance pricingLandon Haircut Magic Kingdom Harmony Barber ShopFREE Disney Vacation Planning DVDcar road trip boredom buster toddler landon plays cards titlelily magic kingdom castle title

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Disney World Road Trip

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  • Christy

    This is great information on the time component. Would you also be willing to share the cost for your drive, including gas, hotel and any other incidentals?

    • I will add that in after we dig through our receipts! The only caveat will be that gas prices fluctuate so much, so that may or may not compare to other people’s trips!

  • Tracy

    Ummm…hoagie building behind the car is genius!!! lol

  • Amy

    Any tips on how you kept the kids happy? We may be driving to Disney in the next year and wanted any ideas you may have to share. Thanks!!

    • Definitely!! Look for several posts in months to come on this subject – I have lots of ideas!

  • krystle

    Would you say that there was any advantage to leaving at the time you did? We were considering leaving after dinner time.

    • Not really. In other years we have left late afternoon. When we leave late afternoon, we drive until about 9 pm and usually end up staying at the Country Inns and Suites in Emporia, VA that is my post as our hotel on the way home. Then we leave VA by about 7 am the next morning and end up in Orlando around dinner time. Leaving early in the morning from home just flip flops the trip – you do the brunt of your driving, going the farthest distance, on the first day instead of the second.

      • krystle

        My husband thinks he could do this trip straight through. Something tells me that’s not wise. I mean we could take turns but he would refuse that.

        • We did the drive home straight through once – I know a lot of people who do the same. It was REALLY rough for us – we were SO tired and beat. Then to have to schlep in the house at like 1 am after leaving Orlando around 6 am… it was hard. We have not done it since. Even this week… on Monday around 5 pm we were kicking around trying to get home. But ultimately by 9ish we were rapidly deteriorating and still had 5-6 hours to go. The stop that night was a wise choice for us and we were home by lunchtime on Tuesday.

  • Veronica R

    Thanks for sharing the cost breakdown! I wondered if we would have saved by money be driving this past September and just as I suspected in our situation we would not have. We are in the Philly burbs also and we decided to fly as we didn’t have the extra days to drive. I was able to take advantage of new credit card bonus points offer and I was able to get 4 round trip tickets for under $500! (I also stalked the airline prices for several months before hand and bought when I thought they wouldn’t go any lower). We also had someone drop us off at the airport so we didn’t have to pay for parking though we did pay for a full tank of his gas. Hoping to do Disney again soon!

    • That is indeed a fabulous deal!!! My sister got a similar deal for her upcoming trip to WDW (no rewards though, just a crazy cheap price dip from the airline!!) $400 R/T for 3 tickets and a 19 month will go on their laps. But her flight times are crazy – leaves Philly at 5:30 am so they need a hotel the night before. Need a shuttle to the hotel in FL, etc. Then her flight back doesn’t leave for PA until 9:30 pm. There’s no way my kids or us adults would stay sane with those travel times no matter how cheap. Another difference for us is that we did the parks and then the cruise.. so our car was super handy for not just getting to the ship but also grocery and souvenir shopping outside the park. We would have had to get another shuttle to the ship or rent a car.
      You got a fantastic deal on airfare – if we were in a time crunch it would have been hard to say no to that price (and I hate flying! LOL). Thanks for sharing!

  • Melissa Barnhart

    Hi, I have a quick question. I remember reading in one of your older blogs that you recommend a certain store in Orlando (maybe it was Walmart?) to buy cheaper Disney items than buying them at the parks. I can’t find that old post. Can you help me? Thanks!

  • Lisa B

    So glad I found this blog. We are driving to FL from Jersey and back. First time Disneying for all of us. What are your thoughts on leaving overnight? We were planning on leaving before bedtime and will have our 8 year old and 23 month old with us. I can’t imagine an entire day in the car with them awake. Thanks for sharing your experience! Very helpful.

    • I have several friends who drive straight through and also drive overnight. If the husband or I could stay awake (we start getting zombie-like around 2 am on the road LOL) and if I knew it wouldn’t take me a day to recoup from the all-nighter, I would totally try it. As it is, we learned the hard way many road trips ago that we are useless travelers much past midnight. Ever since then, we try to pull off for the night by 9 at the latest. 7ish pm is ideal check-in time for us – gives the kids time to stretch their legs and wind down before bed. We get a good night’s sleep and are up and out early (6-7 am) the next morning to continue the journey. Have a great trip!

  • Stephanie

    I just happened across this page while searching Florida to Pennsylvania road trips and I had to thank you for all the detail you put into it, and I also appreciated the cheap road trip activities link!

    • MamaCheaps

      You are so welcome – I am glad to hear it was helpful! Happy trip planning! :)

  • Meg V

    This post was so helpful! (And yay for gas prices being low a year later!) We are doing the PA to Orlando this Feb. We have two days to drive in each direction. Problem is we can’t leave PA until about ~9:30am on the first day. Seems like we could get farther than Emporia, VA but maybe not as far as Savanah with a 2.5yo in tow.(?) My hubby is reallllly hoping to make it that far the first day, despite departure time. Maybe we should just get the bulk of the drive done yet I’m skeptical…. And totally unsure what other options we would have (?) Can you advise on this at all??? the ride-planning is proving just a little challenging!

    • You might be able to make it to Savannah! Would all just depend on what kind of traffic you hit and how late you want to drive into the evening. Since you’re driving down i95, there are so many options for hotels between Emporia and Savannah – so if you’re flexible and can make a hotel reservation on the fly as you drive, you could always leave it open-ended!

  • Melissa Conley

    Thanks for sharing the details. I’m not from PA but will going down to WDW from MO for cruise and stay at the park. Where did you keep your vehicle during the cruise? And was there a cost? We are cruising first then the park.

    • There is plenty of parking right at the cruise ship terminal. You can park across the street in the garage (was around $60 for our 3 night cruise) or upgrade to the priority lot (right next to building) which was around $80 for our 3 night. There are also a bunch of hotels up and down that main highway along Cocoa Beach that offer parking with shuttle packages.

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