From Canada, it's a 960 miles (1,500 km) drive down Interstate-75 to Florida. Our book Along Interstate-75, is specially designed to remove as much stress as possible from your shoulders. Over the years, Kathy and I have driven
hundreds of thousands of "long distance" miles in North America, and picked up many useful travel tips along the way. In fact, Along I-75 is the culmination of almost 40 years of driving experience, to and from the Sunshine State.
Many tips result from our own experiences (we've probably made every mistake possible; the key is not to make them twice); others have been the result of chatting with "locals" who share their neighborhood secrets.
In January and February, 2005, Kathy and I made an epic car journey when we traveled around Florida gathering information for our new book, Along Florida's Expressways. We drove a total of 4,916 miles - each Florida interstate and toll route had to be driven in both directions - and stayed at a different lodging every night. We packed and unpacked the car 43 times during this trip, not counting the additional 2,259 miles to drive south on I-75 to Florida and back north again! We had learned so much over the year that it was quite enjoyable. We would like to share some of these tips with you . . .
Stay in Control of your Journey
Psychologists studied a phenomenon known as travel stress, and found that in many cases it all comes down to one thing - how much or how little control you have over your journey. Here are some of their interesting observations . . .
Before you leave
- The most enjoyable time in any vacation is the few weeks before you go! You are excited, full of anticipation - all this a result of planning the trip. Yes, there may be some last minute worries but basically, you are on "home ground" and in control.
- During your drive, you have lots of control but some travelers negate this by putting high expectations on themselves. Planning to drive too many miles each day, driving to a tight time schedule - all these can heap on stress where there is no need. Loosen up ... after all, Florida is still going to be there even if you are an extra day on the road.
- Being occupied with something interesting makes time seem to pass quickly, and ... entertainment is the best way of being pleasantly occupied. Many of our readers tell us how helpful our mile-by-mile travelogue is in this regard; the passenger often reads to the driver and both can enjoy interesting stories about the passing countryside.
- Amicable contact with fellow humans greatly reduces travel stress. And if you know their first names, it's an instant "ice-breaker." This is why we include the names of those welcome center folk in our books. Use them.
- Several weeks before you leave, make a list of all the things to do: cancel papers, unplug all unnecessary electrical items, etc. Arrange for someone to check your house (did you know this is often an insurance policy requirement?), clear away any newspapers and perhaps use your driveway.
- Plan your drive: How many miles per day? For many, a reasonable daily drive is 450 miles (725km). Remember, our colored maps are 25 miles per page so 450 miles is 18 pages. Psychologically, it's much less stressful to drive "by the page" rather than "by the mile."
- Make sure your car is operating reliably: nothing creates stress more than an unreliable car many miles from home - have it serviced. Tell the service manager you are going on a long drive. Have the tire pressures checked and make sure that the wheel lug nuts are not over-tightened (in case you need to change a tire beside the road).
- Plan the way your car is packed ... and use the same plan for each trip. Over many years of car travel, we have learned to keep an individual overnight pack for each person, on the backseat of our car (we use wheeled back packs with pull out handle (we lovingly call them, "wheelies"). They are very easy to unload at the end of each day. In mine, I keep a change of clean "road" clothes, overnight needs, toiletries, medications, reading materials, flashlight and my laptop computer (plus everything I need to get my daily email). The car's trunk contains our main suitcases ready to be unpacked when we reach our final destination. While on the road, we will transfer clothes between the main cases and our wheelies, every 3-4 days.
- Have you ever arrived at your first night stop over to find you have left something you need at home? Solution - we pack our wheelies two days before we leave, and live out of them for at least one night at home. Any missing item will be noticed while you can still do something about it.
On the Road
- Plan a rest stop every two hours. Unless you have a disabled passenger onboard, drive past the restrooms and park as far away as possible - the walk back is good exercise and you won't have to back out into dangerous traffic when leaving.
- Dozing at the wheel is a major killer. If you're tired - switch drivers! If this isn't possible, either take caffeine tablets, drink a cup of coffee or have one of the "power" drinks. See below for a chart of caffeine values.
- Time shift, time shift, time shift. Unless traveling with children, you don't need to eat lunch at the same time as the rest of the world. Try leaving an hour earlier in the morning, have an early breakfast, stop for lunch at 11a.m. On our 450 mile/day plan, you can be off the road and into a reasonably priced lodging by 4 p.m.
- Remember "human contact?" Take Along I-75 into restaurants with you; place it on the table; carry it into welcome centers. Its cover is immediately recognizable; you'll be surprised how many friendly people you will meet this way. Often other readers will stop for a chat. It's like walking a dog - a great ice-breaker.
- When pulling up behind a car, always stop where you can still see the bottom of their rear tires - do NOT creep forward. This leaves enough room so you can always turn out of a traffic back-up if necessary.
- And don't forget we have all those convenient parallel routes (the brown "escape routes") shown on our color maps, should you need to get off the interstate.
Dave Hunter is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), founding Member of Travel Media
Association of Canada (TMAC) and loves maps, history, driving and discovering unusual people and stories along the way. Combined with his knowledge of computers and fondness for writing, this led to his driving guidebooks, "Along Interstate-75." and "Along Florida's Expressways." Dave has been driving to Florida via I-75 since construction was started in the 1950s, and his books have quickly become the must-have guides for anybody heading out for a long distance drive on the I-75 corridor to Florida. The US Federal Highways Administration consider Dave to be North America's only expert on the travel aspects of Interstate-75; their staff in McLean, Virginia refer to him as the "Charles Kurault of I-75."
- Luggage Cart 101: I'm always amazed at the way people use motel luggage carts. Remember physics at school? Pulling is always more efficient than pushing. Always have the two "swivel" wheels in the front and fixed wheels in the back. Exceptions, when entering an elevator or your room, always push the cart with the fixed wheels leading.
- Check the bedside alarm clock setting when you arrive in your room. The previous guest may have had an early departure and often, the alarm is still set. Stray light coming through the window? We always carry a few wooden clothes pins to fix such problems.
- Security Tips: When you arrive, close your drapes if outside passers by can see into your room. Turn on the TV to CNN; keep the sound low so that anyone standing outside the door cannot hear the actual words but knows that somebody is talking. Leave it (and your lights) on when not in the room. Never hang "clean room" signs on your door knob. They advertise that the room is probably empty. Always make cleaning arrangements with "housekeeping," by phone.
If you go
Are public rest rooms unhealthy? Yes, according to a recent report by 2 microbiologists, who indicate the following "hot spots" of high fecal bacteria counts - all door handles, toilet & urinal levers, taps & sanitary napkin disposal units. In
addition, flushing an open toilet (i.e., lid not closed) or using a hand dryer can send a miasma of harmful pathogens into the air, contaminating surrounding surfaces. Their recommendations: take paper towel in with you so you can avoid touching handles and taps. "Wash" your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you return to your car. Our prize for the best-designed and cleanest I-75 restrooms goes to the Kentucky Travelers' Center at exit 77.
How do soldiers stay awake for long hours? They use Stay Alert chewing gum!
Developed at Walter Reed especially for the US Army, each stick contains 100 mg. of caffeine; enough to keep a 150 lb. soldier alert for several hours. A stick can be chewed every 2 hours to a maximum of 10 a day. The gum has an advantage over pills since the mouth absorbs medication 4 times faster than the stomach. Get your supply at
Here's a chart of other popular caffeine products:
Coca Cola, Classic
Mountain Dew Code Red
Starbucks, coffee, short
Tea, Indian, brewed
(From a study by the US Food and Drugs Administration)
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