Road Trip from Kansas to Florida
November 12, 2007 9:49 PM   Subscribe

Road trip Kansas -> Florida -> Kansas (Nov 18'th - 23'rd). We need recommendation and advice with accommodation, attractions, any things else.

We had a great road trip last time, thank to your inputs and we are doing it again.
Four college students from Kansas plans to go on a road trip from Kansas to Florida and back (Nov 18'th - 23'rd). We need recommendation and advice with accommodation, attractions, any things else.

What we have
- 2 Drivers
- GPS Unit
- AAA membership
- Sprint Mobile Phone
- 2 or more Digital Cameras
- America the beautiful National Park Pass

1) Please give any advice on what route we should take. We prefer to go on one route and come back in another.

2) we are on a budget. so we need to find cheap accommodation.

3) about the attractions on the way and in Florida? (any coupons for attractions, meals and hotels?)

4) Places to eat?

5) Any general tips and trick that will be useful for us.

Thanks you in advance
posted by WizKid to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
Would greatly help to know what part of Florida you are heading to.
posted by brain cloud at 9:56 PM on November 12, 2007

which part of kansas are you coming from, as well? There's some weird shit in the central part, but it doesn't make as much sense if you're heading east from Lawrence.
posted by dismas at 10:47 PM on November 12, 2007

Florida is deceptively "big," for drivers unfamiliar with the geography:

Pensacola (West) to Jacksonville (East) on I-10 = 358 miles
Pensacola (West) to Fort Meyers (Southwest Gulf Coast) on I-10/I-75 = 593 miles.
The western side of a loop around the whole peninsula that starts in Pensecola, stays along the Gulf coast to Panama City, heads east along the Gulf to Apalachee Bay south of Tallahassee, and drops south from there along Highway 27 and then 19 to Clearwater/St. Petersburg/Tampa and down to Fort Meyers is perhaps more scenic, but a lot slower, and more like 700 road miles. A full "loop" around the state, leaving out the Keys entirely, and sticking to the Interstates as much as possible, is about 1550 miles, and you'd miss Orlando, the Everglades, and a lot of cool attractions like the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, the real mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs, and hot damn pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill in De Leon Springs State Park. Not to mention all the big tourist destinations, like Cape Canaveral, Disney, Daytona, St. Augustine, etc. Plus you'd be driving, all the time, for your vacation, if you could stand to do marathon single day "leaps" from Kansas to West Florida, and then back from West Florida to Kansas, leaving 3 to 4 days to do your "loop" around Florida. Thousands of people do that kind of thing, all the time, and it's your trip, but....

Strong vote from me to pick some easier destination in the northern or western part of the state, enjoy your time here on our beaches, maybe see a sunrise over the Atlantic, and a sunset over the Gulf, and eat some good seafood, while buying some Don Featherstone pink flamingos from a road side stand, to take home in commemoration of your adventure. Buy a Rand-McNally road atlas, and have some fun exploring the maps, planning your trip, and get back to us with a basic plan. There's a million things to do, places to eat, and stuff you could see. 5 days is barely enough time to dip your toes in all the salt water bodies bordering the state.

Whatever you do, skip the neck tattoos.
posted by paulsc at 2:33 AM on November 13, 2007

Here are some non-panhandle winter naturesque attractions in no order:

Cedar Key would be a decent place to relax after some driving. Rent some canoes and head down the Suwanee River. Go hiking through Big Shoals or along the Ichetucknee. Spend a day in Fernandina Beach. Ride horses on deserted Cumberland Island.
posted by trinarian at 5:02 AM on November 13, 2007

Wizkid, yes, tell us what part of Florida you are planning to visit.
posted by LoriFLA at 5:16 AM on November 13, 2007

@ brain cloud & dismas

Manhattan, KS to Miami, FL
posted by WizKid at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2007

Thanks for the replies and keep them coming :-)
posted by WizKid at 11:22 AM on November 13, 2007

Kansas City -> Miami = 1471 miles, so Manhattan, KS -> Miami would be 1590 miles, sticking to the Interstates. So, that's 3200 miles of driving in six days. Rand-McNally estimates 25 hours driving time, each way. Coming back by a different route, say along I-95 on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, or along the Gulf Coastal roads, will add several hundred miles, and many hours of driving to a return trip, but you say you want to come back a different way; plan accordingly. I-75 and the Florida Turnpike, comprising the last 565 miles of that Rand-McNally route is basically a long run of flat, boring Interstate type highway through red Georgia clay, Florida black sand and pine barrens, without much scenic relief, broken mainly by passing cities like Gainesville, Ocala and Orlando. A bit east of Ocala is Silver Springs, which can be a nice break, if you get there during morning hours, in nice weather.

If you shoot down to Miami in one marathon shot, switching drivers, take a day to recoup in Miami, and start back, you could still do a couple of days of poking around on the way back, and still have time for a shorter marathon drive back to Kansas, launched from north Florida or Georgia. If you headed north on I-95, you could take in Palm Beach, Daytona, Cape Canaveral, and maybe St. Augustine, before beating back west to the I-75 corridor, and heading for Kansas. Heading west from Miami as a route home, you could see the Gulf coast, driving west through the Everglades along Alligator Alley, and then north through Fort Meyers, and then Sarasota, and St. Petersberg/Tampa staying generally along I-75 the whole way. That's probably what I'd recommend, although Alligator Alley can be 85 miles, and a couple of hours of straight, desolate boredom, particularly if the weather isn't great, or there is a major traffic problem (I sat with a thousand other cars for 4 hours once, as there are few places to turn off/turn around). Tampa/St. Pete has a number of interesting attractions and areas, including the Salvador Dali Museum, and Ybor City. If you can take the time, Mama's Greek Cuisine in Tarpon Springs (northwest of Tampa) is a great place to eat, but whether or not you'd enjoy the Spongeorama depends on your appetite for Americana, and roadside kitsch.

Florida has many nice state parks, but few National Parks, especially National Parks with accommodations near areas you've indicated you'll visit. If you're into camping, there are a number of state parks (for ones around Miami, look for listings in the Southeast Region), some of which even offer cabins, if you are lucky enough to get a reservation. Although state park accommodations can be hard to get, there are often relatively inexpensive motels and restaurants nearby, that cater to tourists.

As for coupon packages, you'll see road sign offers like crazy in south Georgia on I-75 for Disney/Orlando/Kissimmee area discount books, but for 2 people, on a short time trip, heading through to Miami, I doubt any savings you'd get would be worth the time and cost of the coupon books. A lot of those "deals" are keyed to 4 or more person family vacations, staying near the DisneyWorld attractions for a full week or more. But planning ahead and reading the fine print are the key to using discount coupons, so get started via Internet right away.

Be aware that Florida has higher state gas tax than Georgia or Alabama, so that gas is a little higher here than in adjacent states. Some Florida cities also assess locally set lodging , sales and meal taxes, so you may want to take those into consideration when planning lodging.
posted by paulsc at 1:43 PM on November 13, 2007

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