Although I’ve written quite a bit about flying to and from Orlando, that doesn’t mean that I have never made the drive here! Before we lived in Florida we drove here a lot, especially when we were looking for a home. I’m not going to give tips on what type of snacks you should bring or what the best version of License Plate Bingo is. Instead, I want to give you a couple of tips that you might actually find helpful.
Florida Welcome Centers
There are five Florida Welcome Centers, and chances are that you will drive by one. Make sure you stop! Try to get there after 8:00am and before 5:00pm. (Hours may vary by center and time of year.) You’ll be able to find brochures and booklets that will get you even more excited about your vacation. If you’re planning on spending an off day away from the parks but aren’t sure where to go, there are coupon books that will give you ideas and save you money. At the Welcome Center you can get a free sample of either orange or grapefruit juice. There are even picture opportunities. The Florida Welcome Centers are designed to get you excited about entering the Sunshine State, and they do their job well.
There’s a good chance that you’ll spend part of your drive on I-4. Be careful. We’re in the middle of what is known as the I-4 Ultimate Project. Because of it the lanes weave around, and exits and entrances have moved. You can find the latest information here. People drive like idiots on I-4. Don’t be one of them.
There are plenty of toll roads in the Orlando area. There are two different systems that collect these tolls; SunPass and E-PASS. If you have a transponder for either one, you can use it on any toll road that accepts the other. If you’re really interested, you can learn more about the programs here. Major toll booths accept cash as well. Smaller booths might not, but your license plate will be captured and you’ll be billed. (That includes a convenience fee.) E-Z PASS and Peach Pass are accepted on some (but not all) toll roads as well.
If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, remember that you will have to pay to park overnight. Your theme park parking will be free. If you are not staying on Disney property, you’ll pay to park at the parks (gotta love alliteration) unless you are an Annual Passholder.
Give yourself extra time if you are on a schedule. Traffic in the Orlando area can be a nightmare. It’s not so much traditional business hours that get backed up, many people in this area work in hospitality so they don’t follow those type of hours. I think the traffic is mostly because this area grew so quickly, and people keep coming. That’s what the I-4 Ultimate Project is all about. Let’s hope it makes a difference.