Are You Safer Flying or Driving to Disney?
Friends, we made it! Walt Disney World theme parks have reopened, which means we can finally visit them again!
As MickeyBlog has discussed extensively, Disney’s safety measures make many guests feel safer than any other business in the area.
Orlando residents have joked that they wish they could live in the Disney Bubble until the pandemic ends.
So, you have plenty of reasons to visit. The trick is how to get there.
We all have concerns about flying in the age of Coronavirus. Is driving any better? My Magic 8-Ball refuses to comment.
Still, I’ve recently had to choose, and I thought I would relay my experience. Here are the factors we considered in deciding whether to drive or fly.
How Long Is Your Drive?
Let’s be realistic here. For many of you, driving isn’t even an option.
Those who live more than an 18-hour drive away from Walt Disney World are unlikely to grab their keys and go.
Then again, some folks have toyed with the notion even though they’d need to go cross-country.
I’ve seen many of the airplane surveys, and I know for a fact how scared many of us are to fly. In truth, I’m one of them.
I’ve studied the outbreak data, and airports scare the stuffing out of me.
So, my wife and I researched our drive. According to Google, we’re nine and a half hours away from our Disney resort.
Of course, that trip plan presumes we don’t hit traffic in Atlanta or Orlando.
Also, we’d need meals, bathroom breaks, and maybe a stop or two to stretch our legs.
If you’re one of those diehards who can drive long distances without stopping, you’re made of sterner stuff than me.
Anyway, we calculated that we’d need about 11 hours for the drive, 12 if we encountered bad traffic.
For me, that’s right at the cutoff point for too long to drive. So, we didn’t rule out the idea of driving immediately.
Would You Have to Stay Overnight in a Hotel
But we also kept a secondary concern in mind. Let’s say that we do hit bad traffic and need to stop for the night. How problematic would that be?
The answer depends on your budget. I’ll explain it with an anecdote.
I have the weirdest memory from childhood of a family trip to Walt Disney World. At the time, the ride required about two more hours of driving.
Mom and dad caught a bad break with traffic and stopped for the night at the first hotel they saw off the interstate.
Even as a child, I recognized that this place was the nastiest hotel in the state of Georgia.
The attempted stay proved so disastrous that dad found his second wind, and we drove the rest of the way.
Now, let’s talk about hotels during the pandemic. When you stay at a Disney resort, you know that you’re spending the night at a remarkably safe place.
Disney’s health protocols elevate the company above everyone else in the industry.
With other hotel chains, well, you’re rolling the dice. Thanks to TripAdvisor, you can at least check the recent reviews.
This information will identify whether the cleaning staff is doing its job.
However, you still increase the odds of infection when you stay at any random hotel. And let’s be real here.
As you go cheaper on the price of a hotel room, the cleanliness factor will only decline.
So, if you must spend the night at a hotel as the cost of doing business for driving, you should think hard.
After all, you’re skipping the airport to limit risk. Turning around and spending the night in a random hotel qualifies as a lateral move at best.
Would You Have Layovers?
Of course, we should evaluate the corollary on the flying side.
The same principle applies. Your flying risks come in two forms. One occurs at the airport, and the other comes on the flight.
In both instances, you’re indoors. At the airport, you should maintain social distancing. Thus far, this concept hasn’t proven challenging.
Even so, let’s acknowledge the fact that the situation remains fluid.
Airline executives repeatedly vent about the financial losses stemming from capacity limits.
You want that middle seat to remain empty so that you’re not sitting beside a stranger in close quarters.
Meanwhile, that dude in the boardroom doesn’t care about your health as much as his company’s bottom line. So, please remain wary about this aspect.
Also, social distancing isn’t great during flights anyway. You’re stuck together with a bunch of strangers who should wear masks.
Will they? Who knows? If they don’t, you’re relying on airplane personnel to make them.
Importantly, when you have a connecting flight (or two), your odds increase by, well, double that you’ll catch COVID-19 at an airport.
Even though we’re relatively close to Disney, we’ll require a connecting flight. I can assure you that this aspect caused us to flinch more than anything else.
In fact, the Miami Marlins just suffered an outbreak, and the players believe it happened at an airport where we’ll spend a couple of hours.
If we drive to Disney, this news story will tower above the others as the reason why.
Would You Rent a Car If You’re Driving?
While we’re on the subject of unnecessary exposure, will you drive your own car or rent one?
Many vacationers prefer to drive a rental to save wear and tear on their own cars. Plus, they can get a bit rougher with a rental during the trip.
Anyone who falls into this category faces another worry.
You’re now relying on the safety measures of the rental car service, too. Once again, you’re increasing the odds of exposure.
I should stress that your chances of getting COVID-19 remain low.
However, I think that you should take your own car if at all possible this trip.
Rentals aren’t what I would describe as high-risk, but there is some additional/needless risk.
How Many Days Is Your Trip?
Here’s a subtle but essential conversation topic. How many days are you staying at Walt Disney World?
I’m presuming that you must drive at least a decent amount of time. As such, your trip length will impact your vacation.
Let’s say that you’re making a five-day trip to Orlando. You could waste the body of two days driving.
So, you cut your actual park time down quite a bit by driving.
This factor becomes less significant for longer trips.
You’ll still have plenty of park time when you vacation for a week or more. So, it’s a greater concern when you plan a shorter trip.
Our current vacation plan calls for five days and four nights at Walt Disney World.
If we drive 20 hours or more, we’re adding two more days to the trip, one on each end. Otherwise, we’d spend our first day at Disney asleep in our hotel.
Stuff like this explains why driving vs. flying is a challenging calculation during the pandemic.
Would You Feel Safer Flying or Driving?
Look, I cannot answer this question for you. If I’m honest, I still haven’t decided for myself.
I will tell you that my wife and I bought plane tickets.
Our preferred airline offered ticket protection. Should we cancel, we will have up to a year to use the tickets. Also, we’d suffer no fees for changing.
We bought travel insurance, too. I’m always on the fence about this stuff, and I almost immediately regretted our decision.
The day after we bought this insurance, we received a rather angry email informing us that it doesn’t cover Coronavirus.
We wouldn’t have purchased travel insurance if we’d known that, which is likely why they told us afterward rather than in advance.
So, I cannot provide a full-throated recommendation for travel insurance. However, you should consider it, depending on the coverage you can get.
Even with plane tickets in hand, we’re still on the fence about flying. We probably won’t decide until a couple of weeks before our trip.
As a general rule, I would prefer to fly, as it takes one-third of the time.
However, airlines haven’t done a good job of building trust during the pandemic.
Can You Make Your Environment Safer?
Whether you fly or drive, you absolutely can protect yourself.
My next article will discuss several ways to sanitize your car, plane, hotel room, and so forth. Stay tuned!