Vote of the week: How much time will you spend in the car on a roadtrip?

September 23, 2010, 10:52 PM · Now that we're officially into fall, I'd like to take a moment to ask you about your summer vacation.

Did you go on a roadtrip? If you've been following the site, you likely know that we did, and it was a big one - seven weeks and 8,000 miles. But even though we covered a lot of miles on our trip, we didn't have that many long days within the car. We tried to break the trip into smaller chunks, with several days off the road in between our driving days as well.

The Niles family Prius
Our roadtrip machine

I'm comfortable with epic stints behind the wheel - when I was in grad school, I once drove from Orlando to Houston in a single day, stopping only to gas up and hit drive-thrus at meal times. (Human "pit stops" were reserved for when the gas was pumping.) That was over 1,000 miles in a day - my personal best.

But with a wife and kids now, the family can't comfortably endure that much driving in one day. We stretched on this trip to make it from Cincinnati to Orlando in one go, but that was with a 5 am start for a 15-hour day. Most driving days, though, we were comfortable spending up to nine to 10 hours in the car, averaging between 600-700 miles.

How long are you, and your family, comfortable in the car on a single day during a roadtrip? That's our vote of the week.

I've offered the options below in miles, but it might be helpful to think of them in terms of hours. Let's figure that, with highway speeds and occasional stops for food and gas, that you might average a touch over 60 miles per hour. That would place the first option at up to four hours in the car, the second at about four-to-eight hours, the third at eight-to-12 hours and the over 750 miles option at more than 12 hours a day in the car.

Or, if you don't care for roadtrips, and are more comfortable on a plane or train for out-of-town trips, that's an option available to you as well.

Let's hear more detail in the comments. What's the longest you've spent in the car on a one-day haul? Got any funny or frustrating roadtrip stories? We'd love to hear them.

Replies (23)

September 24, 2010 at 12:20 AM · Just around 750 miles for us. We once tried going the 1200 miles from San Francisco to El Paso but thats too much for us, we cut the trip in half and stopped in Blythe, CA for the night.

The longest time we spent in a car was like 16 hours coming home to West Texas from Vegas. Instead of taking ol' I-10 like normal people do, we decided(ok I decided) to take some back roads through Arizona and New Mexico. Not only was it longer and speed limits lower but it got down right scary through the desolate roads and this one eerie gas station we stopped.

We always chicken out when we plan a trip to Orlando and take a plane instead. One day we'll drive the 1700 miles or so, but most definitely make a stop for the night in New Orleans. Props to the people that drive extreme long distances, non-stop.

September 24, 2010 at 1:10 AM · Must be nice to take off for 7 weeks. This summer roadtrip I drove 2000 miles back and forth to work...
September 24, 2010 at 6:10 AM · Great question. I live in Norfolk, VA and was actually debating the Cedar Point trip. Plane tickets were a bit high, and 10+ hrs 605 miles each way just was too much for me. Ended up driving to Hershey instead 5 1/2 hrs and 320 miles each way. Maybe next year I'll suck it up and drive to CP. 11 hours in the car each way just gives me cold sweats.
September 24, 2010 at 6:47 AM · This past Feb we did the trip from southern N.H. to Orlando in two days on the way down (900mi day 1, 450 day 2) but on the way back we did 1350mi in 24 hours. We left the Caribbean Beach Resort at 8am on a Saturday and hit our front door at 8am on Sunday.

Other than the pit stops, we stopped in N.C. for about an hour or so to eat supper. By 6 am Sunday morning I was really fighting to stay awake but at that point I didn't want to waste the money to stop at a hotel when we were only about 2 hours from home.

I would definitely do it again but I would say that right about 1000miles was my limit before i really had to push it to keep going.

September 24, 2010 at 6:59 AM · We live 11 hours away from Disney World and that's just about a day's max for us. If I were to drive to Disneyland I would have to break it up into 9-10 hour chunks.
It must be said that it is much easier to travel these days with kids now that they have multiple entertainment devices available to them (movies, video games, cell phones). When I was a kid you just had to make do with staring out the window if reading while riding in a car made you sick.
September 24, 2010 at 7:02 AM · Who took off for seven weeks? I kept posting the whole time. ;-)
September 24, 2010 at 7:34 AM · I've made the drive from Charleston SC to Cedar Point twice, which is about 12 hours. both times, it was leave by 5 AM, stop only for gas/food/restroom.

As long as I have time to recover it's not bad. One of those trips was drive Friday, spend Saturday and Sunday in the park open to close, then drive back Monday. I wouldn't do that again. I was too tired on the way home. (Besides, if I buy a season pass for cedar fair parks, I could hit both Kings Island and Carowinds along that route without much of a detour. Why would I ever miss that opportunity.)

September 24, 2010 at 7:42 AM · It depends on how tight the schedule is and how long I have for vacation. The one thing I can't do is get up really early, drive 10 hours and then be expected to go to a theme park for the rest of the day directly after arriving (which I have done). Driving kills days, and if I only have a few days off, I'd rather pay for the plane tickets and make it quick and easy.
September 24, 2010 at 7:59 AM · Tracy -

Yeah, I imagine the drive back was pretty horrible. That's probably the thing I dread the most. Driving there you'd be all full of excitement to get there.

September 24, 2010 at 8:43 AM · I think my most insane day was driving from Columbia, SC to Orlando and back (Christmas shopping and a two hour stint at Universal). We left at 7am and got home about 2am. But it only comes out to about 900 miles and the parks made for a nice break. The most horrific day on the road was driving from Six Flags St. Louis back to Columbia. 12 and a half hours that felt like it was NEVER going to end.
September 24, 2010 at 8:44 AM · That depends on ones location. I prefer trains and i got that choice. Other countries/regions got even better train connections im closer to the next Autobahn than to the next train station. My trains are relativly slow and expensive by European standards, but they are at least regular and on time. Train travel time is essentially free time and a lot saver. Driving a car fast at the Autobahn not so much. If id have to deal with American public transport in general or worse the one in Orlando, i bet id start to do long car trips aswell.
September 24, 2010 at 10:06 AM · Growing up, we would always make the ~14 hour Disney trip from Bowling Green by car, and we never stopped on the way.

My dad would drive straight through, we would usually leave around sunset or just before, my parents' plan was for the kids to sleep in the car for the first bit of the trip, then get a hotel in the Disney area and get a good sleep, then enjoy the park the next day.

It always worked pretty well--my dad wouldn't even switch off driving with my mom, he was at the wheel the entire time.

When my wife and I make our first trip from a bit further north (Dayton, OH) we are going to try about the same strategy. Either leave around midnight or early in the morning. I've budgeted two days each way, but it would be nice if we make it in one. I need to teach her to drive a manual first, thoug, so we CAN switch off if we need to.

September 24, 2010 at 12:20 PM · What can I say? I like driving, and haven't been on a plane since 1977. Longest I drove..talking time, not miles...was heading to Orlando from Bayonne, NJ...left at about 5 am, stopped for the night at about South Carolina, just north of the Georgia border. My buddy could not drive at that time, so it was all me. I've made the 10 hour trip to Cedar Point multiple times, as well as making it from Bayonne to Kings Island and Dollywood on separate trips.

Shows how things have changed..a few weeks ago, I attempted to drive back to Bayonne from Gastonia, NC..south of Charlotte/Carowinds...and could only make it halfway (Ashland, VA, near Kings Dominion) My body, and especially my eyes, told me not to push it.

September 24, 2010 at 1:59 PM · Our family has taken a few trips from NJ to Texas and the longest We have driven with kids in the car is about 625 miles, about 12 hrs driving. I think thelogest I ever drove was NJ to Chicago about 725 miles.
September 24, 2010 at 6:13 PM · Living in the capital of NC we are halfwayish between the NE and Florida destinations. We are actually leaving for Orlando this sat 9-25, morning for the week and a 600 mile drive that take about 9 hrs with good weather and traffic..

This march we went north to NH for skiing at Loon, Waterville Valley and Bretton Woods in the White Mountains area of NH..

that was a brutal trip.. left friday afternoon with a stop in Potomac Falls VA out side DC, for the night.. then through DC, Baltimore, and NYC up through conn and out side Boston to ashland NH area where the Timeshare resort Cold Spring Resort was located..

Overall mileage was only about 800 according to google and 14.5 hrs.. but I can tell you it took like FOREVER.. the traffic in the NE corridor is HELL.. and this was a SAT..Still it took almost 16 hrs to do..

going through NYC across the George Washington Bridge and up Harry Hudson Parkway was cool for sure but its not for the faint of heart..

I, unlike my wife, prefer to go south for vacations, but for snow skiing that was the place to go driving, with so much good skiing within a 45 to hr drive.. next time I know what to expect and will be ready for the different nature of driving North..

That was about the limit to my drive distance and time in car for sure..

September 24, 2010 at 8:26 PM · All together this summer I went from virgina to vermont
September 24, 2010 at 10:05 PM · I prefer trips less than 500 miles. But I'll do more, if my family can take it. Like Bob, we drive in a Prius, but with my kids being 14 and 17, and my son being 5-9 and well over 200 pounds, it's a tight fit these days.

We did the Manassas to Tampa trip this summer, but broke it into two days, on the way down we used a stayover hotel in the middle of nowhere, on the way back we used Carowinds as an overnight stay to do their new Intimidator.

But what we lack in 1-day trips, we make up for in sheer number of stops I guess. This year we did a family trip to the mountains, followed by the Orlando trip, followed by a Busch Gardens/Virginia Beach Trip, followed by a Kings Island/Cedar Point Ohio trip, all in the month of August.

We've got a couple of shorter trips here in the fall, we just did the BG-Williamsburg and we're doing Hershey/Dorney park next weekend. Then it's just my daughter and I driving to KD every weekend (about 3 hours round trip) for our Haunt jobs.

September 26, 2010 at 8:09 PM · How do you fit luggage for a family of 4 for a 7 week vacation in a Prius??? We can hardly fit our luggage in our Saturn Relay with one of the middle seats removed!
September 26, 2010 at 9:36 PM · I did 800 all by myself driving from home to college once. Never did it again. The last 2 hours was through blazing thunderstorms and pelting rain. My whole body was buzzing by the time I got to my apartment.

My father drove from Memphis, TN to Elko, NV (1,750 miles) by himself, stopping only for gas and food back in '57 in a VW Beetle he bought while in the Army in Germany. Crazy.

September 26, 2010 at 10:44 PM · On luggage, we have one simple rule: No hard- or rigid-sided bags. Only duffels and soft backpacks - easier to cram into the back. We also planned on laundry at least every six days.
September 27, 2010 at 6:51 AM · I wasn't able to go on the trips due to money issues, but my friends have done some pretty epic car rides for coasters [I don't know exact mileage].

On Labor Day weekend a bunch of them drove from northen Ohio to Kemah Boardwalk & SF Over Texas. Needless to say, very little sleeping was done on the trip. A week after that they drove to NYC to SFNE [Agawam, Massachusetts] to Lake Compounce [Bristol, Connecticut].

I guess my longest trip has been from northern Ohio to Carowinds to Kings Dominion. We drove straight to the Carolinas [8 hrs, I think?], stayed in a hotel, spent the next day in the park, drove 5 hours that night to Virginia to sleep a couple hours, spent the next day at Kings Dominion, & drove home 7.5 hours that night. Exhausting but so, so worth it :)

September 27, 2010 at 1:43 PM · Ottawa to Orlando in 26 hours (about 1430 miles). However, we were a group of 4, so we switched off drivers ever 6 hours or so.
September 29, 2010 at 2:08 PM · Moving to Raleigh from the Seattle area took us 5 days towing a camping trailer and carrying 4 crates filled with cats and me just off chemo. I know that my daughter is made of sterner stuff than me! We made it to our house closing with just minutes to spare with the trailer still attached and the car still packed! Never again will I do a trip like that! Being sick didn't help. It was no fun just driving down freeways for hours. We would have made the haul in 4 days, which was planned, but when we stopped in Denver for the night, and I tried to get out of bed the next morning, I literally couldn't sit up or walk I was so exhausted so we had to stay another day. That's why we just made to closing. Won't try something like that again. I'd rather fly with hassel than drive wasting all those hours sitting in a car.

We are headed to Universal/Orlando from Raleigh, NC this fall and we are driving because my daughter doesn't want to hassel with all the airport security mess, luggage fees, etc. I don't drive and she wants to do it in one day so we asked her best friend to come with us. YEAH! That means Mom gets to tuck up in the back seat, read, sleep and play computer games while they do all the work. I'm liking this plan so long as I get regular potty breaks! I'm also glad the young women love roller coasters because this old body with a fused neck won't take those kind of rides anymore. Very unfortunate, but I am going to ride the Forbidden Journey and few other "tame" rides.!

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