Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

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Hockey10
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Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Hockey10 »

My wife and I are planning a road trip next winter (probably in January). We will be driving down the entire east coast of Florida to Key West, then up the west coast to Tampa. We have family in the Tampa area, so the second part of the trip will be spent with them.

My question is about the days we will be driving from the Jacksonville area to Key West to Tampa. Assuming we have 7 nights to spend on this leg of the trip, where should we stay each night? We prefer small, quiet towns as opposed to the excitement of say a South Beach. We don't mind checking in/out of a different hotel each day, as we gradually make our way to Tampa. We enjoy walks on the beach and being near the water.

Day Location
1 - Somewhere near Jacksonville
2 - ?
3 - ?
4 - ?
5 - Somewhere in the Keys?
6 - Somewhere in the Keys?
7 - Southwest Coast?
8 - 14 Tampa (with family)

Thanks in advance to the Florida Boglehead experts.
Michread
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Michread »

No Florida expert but just stayed in St Augustine and passed through DeLand which are both nice.

Be sure to visit the manatees in Blue Springs State Park near DeLand and take the boat ride through the St John’s River. In March, there were many alligators and birds to view - really nice ride!
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Nicolas »

Michread wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 1:55 pm No Florida expert but just stayed in St Augustine and passed through DeLand which are both nice.

Be sure to visit the manatees in Blue Springs State Park near DeLand and take the boat ride through the St John’s River. In March, there were many alligators and birds to view - really nice ride!
+1 for St. Augustine, and be sure to see the old Spanish fort!
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Pajamas »

Consider staying in bed & breakfasts instead of motels or hotels.

There are many articles on the internet about "best small towns in Florida".

If you want something not so touristy and a bit sleepy, get off the coasts. For instance, Okeechobee is a small town on a large lake. It is an example of the "real" Florida.

Check out out the top attractions:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions ... orida.html

Top restaurants:

https://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=r ... tby=rating
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by researcher »

Hockey10 wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 1:43 pm We will be driving down the entire east coast of Florida to Key West, then up the west coast to Tampa...
My question is about the days we will be driving from the Jacksonville area to Key West to Tampa...
Assuming we have 7 nights to spend on this leg of the trip, where should we stay each night?
That is not a lot of ground to cover in such little time.
I would personally move fairly quickly down the east coast and spend the majority of your time in the Keys.

Something like this...
1 - St. Augustine
2 - Cape Canaveral (see the Space Center)
3 - Islamorada
4 - Marathon
5 - Key West
6 - Key Largo
7 - Naples
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Gill »

researcher wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:07 pm
Hockey10 wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 1:43 pm We will be driving down the entire east coast of Florida to Key West, then up the west coast to Tampa...
My question is about the days we will be driving from the Jacksonville area to Key West to Tampa...
Assuming we have 7 nights to spend on this leg of the trip, where should we stay each night?
That is not a lot of ground to cover in such little time.
I would personally move fairly quickly down the east coast and spend the majority of your time in the Keys.

Something like this...
1 - St. Augustine
2 - Cape Canaveral (see the Space Center)
3 - Islamorada
4 - Marathon
5 - Key West
6 - Key Largo
7 - Naples
Researcher has you staying in four different places in the Keys. I don't see any need to move three times. I'd reduce that to maybe just one place such as Marathon for three nights and see the Keys from there. The one night saved I'd spend in Sanibel. You might also consider Fort Lauderdale for one night and stay just two nights in the Keys.
Gill
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by researcher »

Gill wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:13 pm Researcher has you staying in four different places in the Keys. I don't see any need to move three times. I'd reduce that to maybe just one place such as Marathon for three nights and see the Keys from there. The one night saved I'd spend in Sanibel. You might also consider Fort Lauderdale for one night and stay just two nights in the Keys.
Gill
The OP states..."We don't mind checking in/out of a different hotel each day."

It would be much easier, enjoyable, and relaxing to stay at various places on the way to/from Key West.
That is much more preferable than driving 3+ hours (round trip) back/forth from Marathon to see various places in the Keys.

They Keys also offer more of a smaller town vibe, compared to the congested/overbuilt cities on the east coast, including Ft Lauderdale.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Gill »

researcher wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:21 pm
Gill wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:13 pm Researcher has you staying in four different places in the Keys. I don't see any need to move three times. I'd reduce that to maybe just one place such as Marathon for three nights and see the Keys from there. The one night saved I'd spend in Sanibel. You might also consider Fort Lauderdale for one night and stay just two nights in the Keys.
Gill
The OP states..."We don't mind checking in/out of a different hotel each day."

It would be much easier, enjoyable, and relaxing to stay at various places on the way to/from Key West.
That is much more preferable than driving 3+ hours (round trip) back/forth from Marathon to see various places in the Keys.

They Keys also offer more of a smaller town vibe, compared to the congested/overbuilt cities on the east coast, including Ft Lauderdale.
Just suggesting an alternative. The Florida Keys are 100 miles in length. It just seems excessive to me to stay in four different hotels over that distance. Also, he may not wish to spend over half his trip in just that small part of Florida. There's not an awful lot to do in the Keys other than fish and drink.
Gill
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Hockey10 »

Gill wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:28 pm
researcher wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:21 pm
Gill wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:13 pm Researcher has you staying in four different places in the Keys. I don't see any need to move three times. I'd reduce that to maybe just one place such as Marathon for three nights and see the Keys from there. The one night saved I'd spend in Sanibel. You might also consider Fort Lauderdale for one night and stay just two nights in the Keys.
Gill
The OP states..."We don't mind checking in/out of a different hotel each day."

It would be much easier, enjoyable, and relaxing to stay at various places on the way to/from Key West.
That is much more preferable than driving 3+ hours (round trip) back/forth from Marathon to see various places in the Keys.

They Keys also offer more of a smaller town vibe, compared to the congested/overbuilt cities on the east coast, including Ft Lauderdale.
Just suggesting an alternative. The Florida Keys are 100 miles in length. It just seems excessive to me to stay in four different hotels over that distance. Also, he may not wish to spend over half his trip in just that small part of Florida. There's not an awful lot to do in the Keys other than fish and drink.
Gill
Gill and Researcher - thanks for the different opinions. This will give us something to think about.

- Hockey10
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Gill »

You mention walking on the beach. You should be aware that the Keys essentially have no beaches other than a few man made attempts at a beach. Depending how important this is to you, you should possibly consider places like Daytona Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel. There are other beautiful beaches on the West Coast of Florida but I won't add to their publicity. You should also be aware that January is usually the coldest month of the year in Florida and often not weather where you wish to be on the beach.
Gill
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by AerialP »

For staying near Jacksonville, look a bit in to Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach. Excellent compact historic downtown, great restaurants, no highrises.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by tech_arch »

East coast:

First night I'd consider staying at Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville. A few hours south will bring you to St Augustine, which has a nice feel, beach, and fort for visiting. If you're into racing, the Rolex 24 at Daytona is usually in late January; if you're not, you'll probably want to stay on I-95 and keep driving. A couple of hours south again would bring you to Melbourne/Titusville/Cocoa Beach; if you have any interest in NASA, visiting Kennedy Space Center is a great day. After that is Jupiter, but I'm not sure there's anything to do there, but after that would be 3-4 hours to get to Key Largo. Key Largo and Islamorada are nice and the keys are definitely laid back. Key West is probably 2-3 hours south of there and, if you haven't been, I'd definitely recommend a night there. Be warned: most of the roads down there have low speed limits so the drive is longer than you'd expect.

West coast:
Sanibel and Captiva are great islands with beaches. From Key West, that's probably a day in the car (5-6 hours). After that, it's an easy drive to Tampa.

Day 1: Amelia Island
2: St Augustine
3: Melbourne/Titusville
4: Key Largo
5, 6: Key West
7: Captiva or Sanibel
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by researcher »

Gill wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:28 pm The Florida Keys are 100 miles in length. It just seems excessive to me to stay in four different hotels over that distance.
There's not an awful lot to do in the Keys other than fish and drink.
Do you realize that those 100 miles are almost entirely 2-lane roads, with speed limits of 35-45 MPH?
Depending on traffic, the round trip from Marathon to Key West could easily take 3+ hours.

I would argue that the Keys are far more scenic, relaxing and interesting than most of the east coast mainland.
Particularly since the OP is not interested in the hustle and bustle of larger cities.

And you missed the mark entirely if you think there isn't much to do other than fish and drink.

Here is just a small sampling...
- Great snorkeling/scuba opportunities
- Wildlife/sunset/eco tours (via boat, jetski, paddleboard, ect)
- Kayaking through the mangrove hammocks
- Great state parks (John Pennekamp, Bahia Honda)
- Historic tours of isolated keys (Lignumvitae Key, Indian Key, Pigeon Key)
- Interesting wildlife encounters (Turtle Hospital, Dolphin Research Center, ect.)
- A great national park (Fort Jefferson / Dry Tortugas)
- Historic home tours (Hemmingway House, Truman's Little White House)
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Gill »

researcher wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 3:46 pm
Gill wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 2:28 pm The Florida Keys are 100 miles in length. It just seems excessive to me to stay in four different hotels over that distance.
There's not an awful lot to do in the Keys other than fish and drink.
Do you realize that those 100 miles are almost entirely 2-lane roads, with speed limits of 35-45 MPH?
Depending on traffic, the round trip from Marathon to Key West could easily take 3+ hours.

I would argue that the Keys are far more scenic, relaxing and interesting than most of the east coast mainland.
Particularly since the OP is not interested in the hustle and bustle of larger cities.

And you missed the mark entirely if you think there isn't much to do other than fish and drink.

Here is just a small sampling...
- Great snorkeling/scuba opportunities
- Wildlife/sunset/eco tours (via boat, jetski, paddleboard, ect)
- Kayaking through the mangrove hammocks
- Great state parks (John Pennekamp, Bahia Honda)
- Historic tours of isolated keys (Lignumvitae Key, Indian Key, Pigeon Key)
- Interesting wildlife encounters (Turtle Hospital, Dolphin Research Center, ect.)
- A great national park (Fort Jefferson / Dry Tortugas)
- Historic home tours (Hemmingway House, Truman's Little White House)
Yes, I realize all of the above after living in Florida 41 years and visiting the Keys many times. You should work for the Florida Keys Tourist Bureau. :happy I still would not recommend four nights there for someone touring Florida in seven days.
Gill
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Hockey10 »

Gill wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 3:13 pm You mention walking on the beach. You should be aware that the Keys essentially have no beaches other than a few man made attempts at a beach. Depending how important this is to you, you should possibly consider places like Daytona Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel. There are other beautiful beaches on the West Coast of Florida but I won't add to their publicity. You should also be aware that January is usually the coldest month of the year in Florida and often not weather where you wish to be on the beach.
Gill
Gill - thanks for the heads up on the beaches. As far as the cold in January is concerned, the weather I am used to in January is similar to what George Washington experienced at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777 - 78, so anything in Florida at that time of year is a relief. :sharebeer
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by JBTX »

tech_arch wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 3:38 pm East coast:

First night I'd consider staying at Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville. A few hours south will bring you to St Augustine, which has a nice feel, beach, and fort for visiting. If you're into racing, the Rolex 24 at Daytona is usually in late January; if you're not, you'll probably want to stay on I-95 and keep driving. A couple of hours south again would bring you to Melbourne/Titusville/Cocoa Beach; if you have any interest in NASA, visiting Kennedy Space Center is a great day. After that is Jupiter, but I'm not sure there's anything to do there, but after that would be 3-4 hours to get to Key Largo. Key Largo and Islamorada are nice and the keys are definitely laid back. Key West is probably 2-3 hours south of there and, if you haven't been, I'd definitely recommend a night there. Be warned: most of the roads down there have low speed limits so the drive is longer than you'd expect.

West coast:
Sanibel and Captiva are great islands with beaches. From Key West, that's probably a day in the car (5-6 hours). After that, it's an easy drive to Tampa.

Day 1: Amelia Island
2: St Augustine
3: Melbourne/Titusville
4: Key Largo
5, 6: Key West
7: Captiva or Sanibel
I grew up in Florida and I kind of like this. I’d say Melbourne beach or Indiatlantic instead of Titusville.

Having said that, in January there is a good chance that everything except south Fl will be windy and cold. Water will be in the 60s. The east coast is windier and rougher than west coast. I wouldn’t bank on being able to spend a lot of time on the beach until you get to south and lower west coast of florida.

Also, just FYI, there aren’t really any sandy beaches in the keys, if that is what you are going for. Sanibel has lots of shells.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Miriam2 »

Hockey10 wrote: My wife and I are planning a road trip next winter (probably in January). We will be driving down the entire east coast of Florida to Key West, then up the west coast to Tampa. We have family in the Tampa area, so the second part of the trip will be spent with them.

My question is about the days we will be driving from the Jacksonville area to Key West to Tampa. Assuming we have 7 nights to spend on this leg of the trip, where should we stay each night? We prefer small, quiet towns as opposed to the excitement of say a South Beach. We don't mind checking in/out of a different hotel each day, as we gradually make our way to Tampa. We enjoy walks on the beach and being near the water.
researcher wrote: Something like this...
1 - St. Augustine
2 - Cape Canaveral (see the Space Center)
3 - Islamorada
4 - Marathon
5 - Key West
6 - Key Largo
7 - Naples
Don't count on getting from Cape Canaveral to Islamorada in good time. You will be driving through the most congested metro areas for over 100 miles from the northern Palm Beach County line to Monroe County, then a 2-lane highway looking straight into late afternoon sun. You won't have time for sight seeing. There are no scenic drives, no quaint picturesque villages along the way :wink: Be aware that using turn signals gives information to the enemy.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by 209south »

In January the air and water temps will be best in SE and SW Florida. If this is an exploratory trip you owe yourself a day on the beach and night on the town in South Beach...it may not be boglehead-ish but it will be memorable. I found the boat tour of Fort Lauderdale a pleasant surprise...amazing houses and boats to see if you're in the area. My condo is in Jupiter, which I'd characterize as a great place to live but boring to visit.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by ETadvisor »

Hockey10 wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 1:43 pm My wife and I are planning a road trip next winter (probably in January). We will be driving down the entire east coast of Florida to Key West, then up the west coast to Tampa. We have family in the Tampa area, so the second part of the trip will be spent with them.

My question is about the days we will be driving from the Jacksonville area to Key West to Tampa. Assuming we have 7 nights to spend on this leg of the trip, where should we stay each night? We prefer small, quiet towns as opposed to the excitement of say a South Beach. We don't mind checking in/out of a different hotel each day, as we gradually make our way to Tampa. We enjoy walks on the beach and being near the water.

Day Location
1 - Somewhere near Jacksonville St. Augustine
2 - ? Daytona Beach
3 - ? Vero Beach
4 - ? Pompano Beach/Lauderdale by the Sea
5 - Somewhere in the Keys? Key Largo/Islamorada
6 - Somewhere in the Keys?Key West
7 - Southwest Coast?Naples/Marco Island
8 - 14 Tampa (with family)

Thanks in advance to the Florida Boglehead experts.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by JBTX »

Miriam2 wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 6:56 pm
Hockey10 wrote: My wife and I are planning a road trip next winter (probably in January). We will be driving down the entire east coast of Florida to Key West, then up the west coast to Tampa. We have family in the Tampa area, so the second part of the trip will be spent with them.

My question is about the days we will be driving from the Jacksonville area to Key West to Tampa. Assuming we have 7 nights to spend on this leg of the trip, where should we stay each night? We prefer small, quiet towns as opposed to the excitement of say a South Beach. We don't mind checking in/out of a different hotel each day, as we gradually make our way to Tampa. We enjoy walks on the beach and being near the water.
researcher wrote: Something like this...
1 - St. Augustine
2 - Cape Canaveral (see the Space Center)
3 - Islamorada
4 - Marathon
5 - Key West
6 - Key Largo
7 - Naples
Don't count on getting from Cape Canaveral to Islamorada in good time. You will be driving through the most congested metro areas for over 100 miles from the northern Palm Beach County line to Monroe County, then a 2-lane highway looking straight into late afternoon sun. You won't have time for sight seeing. There are no scenic drives, no quaint picturesque villages along the way :wink: Be aware that using turn signals gives information to the enemy.
You definitely want to make sure you aren’t hitting those areas -del Ray beach and south through Miami, during am or pm rush hour. There are a couple of different routes going south, I95 or Florida turnpike. Turnpike is toll road. It may be better, but it really depends.

If I were to go on the above itenerary I’d probably swap key largo and Islamorada sequentially
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Flobes »

Wake up in ^Vero Beach.

In the morning, head southward to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, near Hobe Sound.

Rent a canoe or kayak, paddle in the mangroves. Enjoy the birds and wildlife and quiet calm. You know the difference between an alligator and crocodile?
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Nearly A Moose »

AerialP wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 3:18 pm For staying near Jacksonville, look a bit in to Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach. Excellent compact historic downtown, great restaurants, no highrises.
Yeah I'd consider both of those. If you're actually starting in Jacksonville (and I'd go with the options above instead), the San Marco area is nice and basically downtown for whatever that gets you. But I'd do Amelia or St. Aug or both.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by SaveStrong »

Recommendations for gulf are pretty far south of Tampa. Do you have a preference for coast or inland? Would suggest somewhere like Sarasota or Arcadia vs. Naples or sanibel depending on preferences and intent.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by alwi228 »

Naples, Naples, Naples. We only vacation to Florida a few times a year, so I'm certainly not an expert like a lot of people who have replied so far. But if you are looking for a city that is the polar opposite from beer bongs and techno music, Naples is it. It is a very upscale city, 5th ave/downtown is postcard ready, and the hotel we love is Naples Beach and Golf resort. Private beach and right on the water. Regardless, looks like you'll be having a great winter.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by badbreath »

researcher wrote: ↑
Something like this...
1 - St. Augustine
2 - Cape Canaveral (see the Space Center)
3 - Islamorada
4 - Marathon
5 - Key West
6 - Key Largo
7 - Naples
This is very good
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by cashmoney »

Nearly A Moose wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 8:51 pm
AerialP wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 3:18 pm For staying near Jacksonville, look a bit in to Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach. Excellent compact historic downtown, great restaurants, no highrises.
Yeah I'd consider both of those. If you're actually starting in Jacksonville (and I'd go with the options above instead), the San Marco area is nice and basically downtown for whatever that gets you. But I'd do Amelia or St. Aug or both.


I live in the San Marco area of Jacksonville and IMHO although its nice there is really nothing for a tourist to see here.I would skip downtown too unless you do not mind aggressive panhandlers.Locals do not go downtown for restaurants or nightlife.

I would spend a few hours in Fernandina and drive A1A ( one of the most scenic parts of AIA. ) to the Mayport Ferry that crosses the St Johns near the mouth of the river.Very cool.Continue AIA south through jax beach, ponte vedra to Vilano/St Augustine ( the stretch between ponte vedra beach and vilano beach is also one if the most scenic parts of A1A ).If you want to get a good idea of the jax beaches vibe drive on 1st st from 17th Ave N to 16th Ave South.Definitely spend a day in St Augustine.BTW the drive on A1A going south from st Augustine to palm coast is also very scenic.You can also drive on st Augustine beach for about a five mile stretch on your way south which is pretty cool.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Hockey10 »

JBTX wrote: Wed May 09, 2018 5:56 pm
I grew up in Florida and I kind of like this. I’d say Melbourne beach or Indiatlantic instead of Titusville.

Having said that, in January there is a good chance that everything except south Fl will be windy and cold. Water will be in the 60s. The east coast is windier and rougher than west coast. I wouldn’t bank on being able to spend a lot of time on the beach until you get to south and lower west coast of florida.

Also, just FYI, there aren’t really any sandy beaches in the keys, if that is what you are going for. Sanibel has lots of shells.
Thanks JBTX. This is exactly the type of info we are looking for.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by Watty »

One thing I have not seen mentioned is that there are lots of toll roads in Florida.

For about $5 you can get an electronic sticker to put on your windshield that will allow you to use the express lanes at the toll booths and you get a discount on the toll charged. I did not track the costs but I am pretty sure that the discounts were more than enough to cove the $5 cost. I found that this was very worthwhile and I got one from a vending machine at the welcome center at the state line but it would be easier to order it through the mail a month or so before your trip.

https://www.sunpass.com/downloadApplication

One problem you will have is the days will be short in January. If your typical day involves packing up and checking out of your hotel, driving a few hours, then having lunch then you may not have a lot of time in the afternoon before the sun is real low in the sky. I would try to spend two nights in as many locations as possible so that you would have a full day in each place.
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Re: Florida road trip - what towns to stay in?

Post by tech_arch »

Watty wrote: Thu May 10, 2018 8:27 am One thing I have not seen mentioned is that there are lots of toll roads in Florida.
This is true, but not too much on the coasts. Going down the east coast to the Keys you'll be on I-95 and US 1, neither of which have tolls. You'll cross Alligator Alley, a toll road, going across the state to Naples, and maybe use the Sawgrass Expressway a bit in Miami or Broward. Once you cross Alligator Alley you'll be on I-75 or I-275. If the OP visits Orlando then SunPass is a necessity as every road basically has tolls.

That being said, SunPass is a nice quality of life improvement for not having to stop for tolls or worrying about cash.
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