We stopped flying to WDW when my daughter was old enough that we would have to get a ticket for her.
So for the past 11 years, we have been driving to Disney. To make it worse, I can’t stay awake on long trips, so my husband drives the whole thing himself! ( He actually does this because he wants the control of driving his truck, but hey, I’m not complaining!) When we start out, we have some Disney sounds we like to listen to, of the Magic Kingdom train whistle and the “all aboard!” I dress my kids in comfy clothes and we have a blu-ray player for them, so they just relax with their neck pillows on and totally veg out. At home, they might watch a couple of movies a week, but hardly any tv, so my kids feel like it’s a treat to sit and watch movies for hours on end. They also have their little devices to play games on, and again, I make them earn screen time at home, so free screen time is already vacation to them. I don’t mind, because I know they aren’t going to be doing much vegging out at my parents or Disney for the rest of the trip. We’ve picked out their favorite snacks, we have a small cooler of drinks, and they are content. They also like to listen to Adventures in Odyssey radio dramas, which are perfect entertainment for the road.
We only need to stop twice for gas, and we eat dinner then. When it starts getting late, I tell them it’s time to sleep. We generally will then put some Disney music on, and let them try to get some rest before we stop in the wee hours of the morning at a hotel. They each have a blanket as it can get chilly on the drive. It is sometimes too tempting for my daughter to stay up to see if she can spot the first palm tree, but at least we know we will be at my mom’s relaxing the next day, not running through a park.
Since Disney is on the way to my parents, we stop at the Wilderness Lodge or Downtown Disney for a quick lunch before driving the rest of the way to my parents.
Our last day on Disney property, we check out and then hit a park or most often, Downtown Disney. We spend one last wistful morning soaking up Disney magic, and then drive part of the trip home, stopping to sleep at a hotel on the way.
BUT< We have occasionally taken the auto train either there and/or back. This really cuts down on driving, although it doesn’t save us time. We drive 5 hours to the station, take the luggage we need on our trip, and they pull the truck into a train car. We sit in the double decker train in seats. The pros of this is that we are all able to relax together, watch movies as a family, you can close the blinds so that you can see the movie better than when you travel in a truck during daylight. I’m able to read in the train without getting carsick, which is nice. I also can read to my son, and he can sit on my lap, which we can’t do in the truck. What you find looking out the window on the train is so much more interesting than what we see on the highway. We also go to the dining car for dinner, which is a better meal than we would get at a fast food place. The kids absolutely love it. I mean, come on! Traveling by train is an adventure all on it’s own, right?
The biggest con for me concerns sleeping on the train. I find it so hard to sleep in a public place where people are constantly walking through to get to the lobby, or the bathroom, or who knows where. The seats recline, but I don’t find it comfortable. Plus, I am constantly worrying about my son falling off the seat onto the floor, someone stealing our bags, or the train flying off the track, because they take those turns at incredible speeds and I fear for my life! It really matters where you are seated. One time, the train was pretty much empty, there were only 3 other people around us, so everyone spread out. Also that time, we were on an end car, so no one was passing through to get places, opening up the door, which is sooooo loud, since you have to smack a metal button to open it, and then you can hear the clackity clack of the train incredibly loud while the door is open, spewing cold air into the car. So I was able to pull my hat over my eyes and sleep. That was also the time I caught my little guy by his foot just before he hit the floor head first! So scary! We got a family sleeper car last time we traveled by train, and that was my favorite by far! We had a locking door, and I wasn’t as worried about the kids. I still feared for our lives during the middle of the night curves in the tracks, and I think in a year or 2, we wouldn’t be able to fit to sleep in that car, even though my boy is truly tiny. It was a small compartment!
Another con is that you are bound to the train’s schedule. They only travel their routes on certain days, and once you have arrived at your destination, you have to wait for your vehicle to be unloaded, and it always seems like you are the last to hear your number called!
But no matter how we travel, it is ALWAYS worth the trip!