For our family, simply getting to Orlando (or Anaheim for that matter) is an undertaking. We live in the middle of Illinois—936 miles from Orlando. With 6 people, we generally assume it’s less expensive to drive when we travel, an assumption that was probably formed in childhood back when gas cost less than $1/gallon!

Quite a haul!

I’ve done the math and it actually cost the same amount to fly to Orlando as it would to drive, without even considering the time and stress factors:

According to Google Maps, it’s a 19 hour drive. Our kids have a hard limit of 3 hours in the car before one of them starts getting car sick and the rest try to kill each other. Assuming we left before dawn to maximize the time the kids are asleep or at least drowsy, we could do it in two days:

Day 1:

Leave at 4am, drive for 3 hours and stop for breakfast around 7am. Find a park for some sensory time. Back on the road around 9am.

Swinging calms my sensory seeker.

Drive until noon, stop for lunch and sensory break. Back on the road around 3.

Drive until 6, stop for dinner and a hotel with a pool.

Day 2: a lot like day 1, getting to Orlando in time for dinner and maybe fireworks, assuming Mom and Dad aren’t too wiped out.

So that’s two full days on the road, one hotel stay. Since the road trip is pre-vacation, I don’t necessarily have the same desire for a touch of luxury as I do when we’re actually at Disney World. A Holiday Inn or a Super 8 will do. With our family size, however, we would have to get two rooms and hope they’re adjoining. The same goes for meals, although those (like everything else in our family) are complicated.

Here’s how the budget works out for the round trip:

  • $400 for road food for 6 people X 4 days (I budget $100/day when we travel.)
  • $500 for hotel (2 nights, 2 rooms at 90-100/room, plus taxes)
  • $500 for 5 tanks of gas at $4/gallon

Our plane flight cost just over $1000 – for once, the more convenient option is actually a lot less expensive! Once we did the math, the decision was a no-brainer. Bill could take a lot less time off work (meaning he has time off for our next trip!), and we didn’t spend half our vacation just trying to recover from the road trip.