Reputable Place to Stay On Drive to Florida
March 18, 2015 8:42 AM   Subscribe

I'll be driving from Wisconsin to Panama City Beach, FL next week and we are looking for a place to rest our heads somewhere around GA or TN. Can you recommend a hotel on (or close to) the highway where we won't be shanked in the middle of the night? Our route will be on I-65, thanks in advance!
posted by robadobdob to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
I-65 will travel through Nashville, and then through Birmingham, AL.
You'll be on 65 at least until Montgomery, AL, and then would probably shift to 231.

South of Nashville, you'll be traveling through Brentwood, then Franklin, and then there's a whole lot of nothing until you get closer to Huntsville, AL. I think the last big chain hotel in TN after passing under SR840 is a Hampton or Marriott around the Spring Hill/Columbia area.

Huntsville will be a little bit off the track, but will have plenty of decent spots. Birmingham has a whole slew of hotels.
posted by jquinby at 9:19 AM on March 18, 2015

I just drove from Chicago to Daytona at the beginning of February with my sister and my small dog. We stayed at a LaQuinta in Lebanon, TN (off I-40) on the way down and a Marriott Residence Inn (somewhere in TN) on the way back home and lived to tell the tale. Seriously, if you stick to a major chain and trust your gut (if it looks/feels hinky when you walk in, don't stay there), you should be fine.
posted by sarajane at 9:21 AM on March 18, 2015

My wife and I tend to stay at LaQuinta Inns, because we have dogs, and they allow dogs to stay with you for free throughout the entire chain (except in their Manhattan location). We've stayed at very nice ones and we've stayed at very scary ones (Jacksonville, FL -- stay away!) So, even within a major national chain, hotel quality can and does vary widely. I'm going to echo sarajane and say "Stick with a major chain and trust your gut."

We live in the Baltimore area, so our trip to Florida was primarily along 95, and I can't give you specific recommendations along 65.
posted by tckma at 9:30 AM on March 18, 2015

Best answer: We have done a few trips in/though that area over the years and never really pre-planned our stays....we would drive till it got reasonably late (5-6pm) and picked the nearest decent size town off a highway exit and stayed at a name brand place (Hampton Inn) and always had a fine stay. Say what you will about their business models but a quick check on yelp or trip adviser could at least give you a general idea if a place is decent or not.
posted by Captain_Science at 9:31 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not sure what time of day you'll be travelling, but I've done the trip from Chicago to Atlanta quite a few times, and have always found that the section of road stretching from Nashville to the Georgia state line is VERY stressful at night. Exits are few and far between, traffic can be heavy, and traffic (including 18 wheelers) tends NOT to slow down even when the road winds up (and then back down) the mountains.

Your mileage may vary, of course...I'm a 42 year old dad with glasses who does the drive in a minivan with two toddlers and a wife who can add to the stress because she hates the interstate.

TL;DR - If you're driving at night, I'd stop before you get out of Nashville.
posted by richmondparker at 10:10 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

My parents (also from Wisconsin) do this drive several times a year and stop at the TownePlace Suites Nashville Airport. I think they picked it because it has a decent dog fee and they travel with a dog, but they've been happy with it.

My mom also echoed richmondparker's advice that you want to be fresh for the Nashville to Georgia state line stretch because of the traffic and the mountains, and then you get Atlanta after that!

Have a safe trip!
posted by notjustthefish at 10:26 AM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I can, I'd like to suggest you don't make reservations or plan to stay at a specific hotel. The problem with that is that, no matter if you're tired early and want to get off the road sooner, or if you're still fresh and ready to roll another hundred miles or more, reservations mean you must stop at the particular place. Sure, maybe keep some possibilities at various locations in mind, but don't stress yourselves out that you must stay at a specific hotel: don't make >The Hotel< the ruler of your roadtrip.
posted by easily confused at 10:41 AM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also, Cory Doctorow just posted a review of a book called "Along Interstate 75" that you might find helpful. It would only be helpful once you cross the Georgia line, but it's gotten VERY good reviews on Amazon.
posted by richmondparker at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2015

Coming back to look at some of the answers here, and the two answers immediately above this one made me want to say:

Yes, it's nice not to have reservations, but I had some problems with this when I drove cross-country. To wit, in places where hotels are few and far between, you will almost certainly encounter full hotels and for those that aren't full, you're stuck with whatever rate they give you. I had this issue in Colorado (finding a hotel when I was very tired) and Arizona (passed up several hotels with very high rates). Best to have reservations. Make sure you get enough sleep to be rested for the drive.

If you can find a copy, even a used copy, I'd recommend The Next Exit. It details what's at every exit everywhere on the US Interstate Highway system -- hotels, restaurants, gas, et cetera. I got an old copy from a few years back off of Paperback Swap, and it turned out to be quite useful along our drive to Florida.
posted by tckma at 12:39 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't have to drive all the way in to Huntsville. There are hotels right on the interstate there in Athens.

Whatever you do, do not stay at any hotel near the Titans football stadium in Nashville. The ones around the airport are totally fine but a little out of the way if you are on 65. In the Nashville area, I would stay in Cool Springs. There are quite a few to choose from, it's safe and you can get a decent meal there too.

Have a great trip!
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:39 PM on March 18, 2015

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