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Old 11-01-2015, 02:44 PM   #1
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First RV Trip NJ -> FL around Christmas. Would love input!

I would love to pick some experienced travelers brains.

We are a family of 6, my wife and I and four children 10 and under. An RV has been on the bucket list, so we figured trying a trip to Florida from NJ would be a good test run. We are experienced tent campers, but have no experience with RVs.

We are thinking roughly 9-10 days returning just after Christmas and I would be willing to drive ~8 hours a day.

My initial thought is to drive the family car down to Richmond or below and rent an RV and continue to South Carolina, maybe Myrtle Beach for at least a night. This would save us some money and get us out of winterizing area I think. Then we would continue down to Legoland(Lakeland FL) and enjoy. If we need to head to Key West for it to warm enough, that is a thought.

We are more of a nature/attractions family than a city/entertainment. Grand Canyon would be preferred over say Disney. We would be cooking a lot in the RV and stay in campgrounds.

Other than that we donít have too much planned.

Thoughts? I really am not sure what kinds of things I need to be thinking about.

-Is Cruise America the best way to rent?
-Is 8 hours a day too long?
-Is South Carolina and Florida really enjoyable in late December?
-Is Florida too crowded that time of year?
-An attractions recommendations?
-Driving family car and staying in resort better? Wife might like this better
-Renting too expensive?

Thanks for the help!

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Old 11-02-2015, 01:37 AM   #2
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happy rock,
Florida is pretty crowded in the winter.
we use allstays.com to plan travel extensively.

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Old 11-02-2015, 07:18 AM   #3
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Renting an RV can be pretty expensive, where they really hit you in the shorts is with the mileage charge. I probably wouldn't hit Myrtle Beach in Dec. because it can get cold not to mention it's a bit out of the way if you're heading to FL. 8hrs. driving isn't really all that hard, but it could be for the kids being cooped up that long, plus you have to account for fuel stops and eating, so the days would probably be longer than 8hrs. total. You're plan of traveling clear to Key West might be a stretch in the time you've allotted. Jersey to Key West will be a little over 1,000mi. Figuring 8rs. driving averaging 60mph it's a little over 2 days driving time without any stops, multiply by two, and 4 1/2 days of your 9-10 will be gone. That'll leave you approx. 5 days to do all you want to do. It can be done, but you'll be hustling.
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Old 11-02-2015, 07:24 AM   #4
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8 hours a day is too long
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Old 11-02-2015, 07:30 AM   #5
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Moorestown to Key West is about 1400. Driving hard and not stopping to see enough fun places on the way can be rough. You would be driving R/T for 6 days and seeing stuff for 3 days.
Just a ponder for you!
How about the fun of Orlando for the whole family?
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Old 11-02-2015, 04:20 PM   #6
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If you want outdoors stuff I would recommend that either up or down your trip needs to be routed off of the interstate and over to US17. Along the way you can hit several National Wildlife Refuges (Savannah in Hardeville, SC and The wonderful Okefenokee Swamp near Folkston, GA. Google ahead for hours of the visitor center's). There are also many other interesting things along the way. 8 hours is a long time for the kids but in an RV its doable. Heck our kids traveled that in a car lots of time.
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Old 11-02-2015, 04:41 PM   #7
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Can't comment on rentals...never did that, but from others I've heard that the mileage can get very expensive.

December in SC will most likely not be out of the freeze zone.

If you have no reservations in FL, getting them for December around Christmas is gonna be tough.

You sound adventurous and fairly young (judging from your kids' ages) but driving a RV for 8 hours can get pretty tiring and hitting a campground late in the day and then dealing with setting up, meals, etc. will make a very long day. Our limit was always 6 hours, trying to hit a CG by 3 or 4:00 to allow some relax time worked.

For the best chance of warm weather, you will need to get south of I-4 (the Orlando area). Right now, we're having record highs for Nov in the Tampa Bay area, but that can change in a heartbeat.

If you like nature, focus on FL state parks if you can find spots...they are great and most all have lots of trails, some have springs and in Dec, you can see the manatees in the springs, especially at Manatee Springs SP and Rainbow Springs SP.

Good luck and hope you have a great trip.
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Old 11-02-2015, 04:58 PM   #8
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Maybe you can rent an RV in Myrtle Beach and camp in it first before driving. Day charge is around that of a hotel but the cost per mile can add up pretty quickly. Drivability is important but you spend a whole lot more time parked.

Driving endurance is a personal issue and you'll have to determine you own limits. I try and limit my road time to 400 miles but if I need to go further I want a down day before getting back on the road.

South Carolina in December isn't going to be the tropical sun and sand destination it is in the summer. You won't be slashing in the ocean and I'm not sure how much of the boardwalk will be open. Further south reservation might be available but during the holidays you need to consider reservation at least 8 months or more in advance.

Good luck.
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Old 11-04-2015, 07:55 PM   #9
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I think you are in the right direction thinking getting an RV with the young kids. I waited until just before I retired to purchase an RV and my only regret is not doing it sooner, especially when the kids were younger. It is a great way to travel. Nonetheless, I looked into renting before I purchased my RV and I thought it was too expensive so I put the money into the down payment. With that said when I was at the Grand Canyon last summer a good percentage of the RV's in the park were rentals. So it might be worth it to you. Running the numbers from NJ to Legoland and back for 14 day rental comes out to $162/day before fuel which would run about $750 to get there and back. Additionally RV campgrounds run in the $40-50/night ($560-700).

The issues you are going to face is finding reservations around the holiday. I did Disney for Christmas in the RV several years ago and had to make the reservations a year in advance. Why not rent in NJ and there are plenty of campgrounds on I-95 to stay overnight. Remember you have to put your clothes, and food in the RV if you load it at home it works better and you don't have to worry about your car you left at the RV rental agency.

Regarding driving eight hours you are going to get a variety of answers. I found that there are two types of RV travelers one is destination oriented - nothing but the destination matters and the other is the see America traveler. I do a little of each - I went to Key West last April it was a destination trip so I drove eight hours each day to get there. Every summer I take a month long trip on the first day I drive eight hours to get out of the area then each day after I plan stops at around 300 miles and limit my driving time to no more than 5 hours until I get to my ultimate destination. Of course the five hours driving takes about eight hours when you factor in lunch, fuel and sightseeing breaks. With young kids you probably can throw out what I just said as it will depend how long can they keep their interest looking out the windows to find out how long your travel day will be.

For a trip to a specific location during a specific window of time I find you should be planning six months in advance or more. At this point I think it would be better to plan a conventional trip. Also plan a summer trip where you can rent a RV for a four day weekend trip. You will not regret it.
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Old 11-04-2015, 08:31 PM   #10
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Finding a spot to stay in the Keys in the time frame you talk about will be very expensive at $90/day plus. You can stay at Everglades NP in FL City and take day trips to the Upper Keys because the Keys are beautiful. While full timing we normally spent several months in Key West but we could stay at the Navy base for very reasonable rates.
I agree that SC is not going to be very welcoming for kids activities. My in-laws live inland a little and we have been there in time frame you are looking at and my impression was a lot of older folks (like me now) there for golf (not my cup of tea)!
I have never rented as I felt it was too expensive but that is a personal thing. Once you get past the I-4 corridor it gets harder and harder to find a place to stay as the snow birds are there. Having said that there is a lot to do in FL north of or near I-4. Melbourne FL is a nice place on the beach and not far from a lot of interesting places, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Canaveral National Seashore, Ocala National Forest, etc. The Space Center is in Titusville.
Google Brevard County Parks and there are four nice ones plus the one in Port Canaveral on the beach. You can probably get some reservations at several of them this late.
We lived in Melbourne until we hit the road full time for some years. We just transitioned to part-time and bought a home in Jacksonville area earlier this year but still like Melbourne, as you may have deduced! Let me know if I can help with more info.
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Old 11-05-2015, 07:57 AM   #11
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RV travel is the best. You have a very ambitious plan and it will likely result in an unsatisfactory experience. The majority of motorhomes travel below 65 mph for safety and comfort. So that makes getting anywhere fast a little difficult.

The main advantage with children is that they can go outside in the campgrounds at the end of the day and work off energy. I might plan a trip that stayed on the east coast of Florida and took in the local attractions on the way down and back. The first and last day of the trip could be a sprint through the cold weather but the rest of the trip should be leisurely and include kid stops and touring on the way down and back. Key West is too far for a destination. I might go no further than Cape Canaveral. There are lots of beach campgrounds on the way and although the water will cold the kids will like the beach. Also if the weather is decent you can go over to Orlando and do kid things.

St Augustine has lots of touristy things
Cape Canaveral is a great day

Travel a day, stop a day. The kids and wife will have a great time.
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Old 11-05-2015, 11:56 AM   #12
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If you're planning to stay in the Keys around Christmas, I'd definitely call some campgrounds before attempting the drive down. Almost impossible to find a site at that time of year. It's a long drive down & it'll be an even longer drive back if you you're turned away. We always reserve at least a year in advance for Christmas in the Keys.
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Old 11-05-2015, 12:53 PM   #13
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I think I would try to time it so that I could stop overnight at Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach, Fl. Lots of history at the fort and Fernandina is great. It can get cold there but you won't be sunbathing.

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Old 11-06-2015, 07:09 PM   #14
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Best advice I've received is the "330 Rule". Drive no more than 330 miles and/or be in camp by 330pm. We try to abide by this as often as possible.

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