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  1. #1

    Default Ohio to Florida for Christmas via RV

    Hello all,
    Now that we are "seriously hooked" on using our new RV, we are thinking of taking a trip to Florida for the Christmas break. My "kids" are both in college, so we should be able to get away for about 10-12 days just before and including Christmas. We'd like to be in the Orlando area for a little while to take in Epcot, Universal Studios and Sea World (at least). Other than that, we may venture over to Daytona or to the Clearwater area for some beach time and just hope the weather cooperates. (That part is optional and still up for debate)

    My questions are logistic in nature, I guess..... I am told (by the salesman) that our RV can do some light winter weather work without special considerations as the "basement" area is heated (would it be officially "heated" or just get some radiant heat from the floor above it??) , but I am still unsure how to proceed. I sure dont want to have a bunch of problems! It is a 2005 39 ft Fleetwood Discovery. In Ohio, we usually have to winterize by mid November, so my unit will be winterized before we are ready to take off. Would you recommend we keep it winterized until reaching some better temperatures (say in GA or SC) ? And then make arrangements for it to be re-winterized as soon as we get home (keeping the heat running if necessary?) Do you suppose i should have heat tape available just in case?

    In Ohio, we could have anything from 0 to 60 degrees in early December, so i know a lot of the considerations might need to be dealt with once we know the forecast, but i guess i'd like to have a couple plans in place for different scenarios. For instance, we might encounter real cold temps in Florida, too - although that is uncommon. The most likely circumstance is that it will be in the 30's when we leave Ohio and in the 60's when we are in Florida. I guess i just dont know how cold it will need to be before we start having "issues" or needing to take special precautions.

    Any tips on this will be greatly appreciated!! I've been reading the site today and have picked up quite a few cold weather tips, but it seems most of those are geared toward Really cold temps, so i need help deciding which apply to this situation.

    Also, we looked into staying at the Disney Campgrounds and of course it is pretty expensive, although they look great and they do provide transportation to their parks. Any other thoughts on where to stay in the area? We can take a car if necessary since part of the parks we intend to hit are Disney and some aren't. I do like having the flexibility of the "toad".

    And finally..... any preferred routes? Just at a glance, i might like to do the 77 south and then hook up to 95. (We've been in Savannah before and wouldn't mind a day or more stop there.) My first thought was to do ANY route that did not land me in Atlanta! We're really early in the planning stages, though, so we will certainly be doing more research.

    Thanks for any and all help/thoughts!!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default How About a Big Right Hook?

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    It is certainly understandable that you're looking first at the most direct route, I-77/I95, but there are other options. Even some that don't go through Atlanta. By adding about 200 miles to your 1000 mile drive you can get something completely different. Assuming an Akron starting point, head down I-71 to Louisville then switch over to I-65 all the way to Montgomery, AL. From there US-231 will take you down to I-10 east to I-75 south to Orlando. Such a route (and the time to enjoy it) would bring you through or within range of Mammoth Cave, Nashville, the Gulf Coast, and a host of other venues that you wouldn't otherwise visit in your way down/back.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Zero degrees should be fine when travelling.

    I know that some units are geared for winter use with heating that specifically keeps the pipes warm, but you would need to check if yours is equipped with it. We have travelled in the RV when temps have hit -10 and have been OK, by not staying connected to the water mains and draining tanks overnight if needed. One windy night at -15 we did have the drain valve freeze and stick, luckily no damage caused. When the RV is standing for long periods without any use [on your drive] then [below]freezing temps would mean winterizing, but when on the road and set up for camping where water is run and heating is on etc for periods of time, I would think there is a safer limit. We had no problems at freezing point when travelling around and I doubt you will. However, you have to keep an eye on the 'wind chill factor' and how exposed you are too it, as that will accelerate any freezing process. Of course these are just my findings and if you have any doubts, I would chat to an RV maintanence specialist, ie. Not a salesman.

  4. #4

    Default OK... time to launch this adventure!

    Just checking in once before we take off for any last minute tips..... We are leaving next Monday (12-12) from Columbus, OH to drive to Orlando. We'll spend a few days there and then the remainder of the trip at Clearwater. (Did you know the dolphin in Dolphin Tale lives at the Marine Science Center in Clearwater?? Can't wait to see "Winter" the dolphin!) We return to Cols, on Dec 23. Traveling in a 39 ft Discovery towing a small car on a dolly.

    So here's what i know.... and a few last questions....

    1. The RV is winterized. It's been dipping into the 20's at night with regularity and we didnt want to chance it. Sooooo, we need to un-winterize for the trip. So two possiblilities i can think of. Wait until we get into NC, SC, or even GA depending on the weather and then drain/fill. OR possibly just do it in the driveway and fill the water tank before we leave. We will be driving 2 full days and need water. So do you think if it's in the 30's or 40's out and we put some fresh water in the tank and then go (heat on obviously), we'll be ok? Based on what the tech at the local dealership is telling me, I think we'll be ok to do that.

    2. I am somewhat nervous about driving through mountain areas with possible wet/snowy weather in WV, VA. Anybody live in that area who can provide insight as to how the interstates are cared for? I have to trust they'll be in passable shape.

    3. We have arrangements to get the RV into a heated bay at the dealership on the 23rd so they can wait until after Christmas to winterize it again. I think that will work fine. Unfortunately paying the $79 winterize fee twice, but it is the cost of traveling at Christmas...

    Other than that, i think we are good to go. I know once we get to our destinations, there will be no issue of hookups freezing, etc. It's just the traveling days that could be in the cold weather. We are taking the most direct route (77 through Charleston, Charlotte, Columbia and Savannah)

    Lastly, any good tips on parks in Orlando area or Clearwater will be appreciated. Looks like the one's I've picked get good remarks, but I trust you guys on recommendations!

    Thanks for the help - as usual!!!

    Shelley and gang

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    I-77 through WV is toll, and can be a pretty nasty road in bad weather. It's only an extra 75 miles going via Cincy, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta (assuming you would take US-23/US-35 to get to I-77, and only 25 extra miles if you took I-70 to I-77).

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default City water.

    With regards to the water supply. If you check weather conditions before travelling and you are still unsure about the risks of freezing you could leave your tank empty and stop at full service RV parks and hook up to the City water supply/sewer when needed. If it's likely to drop below freezing overnight just disconnect the City supply and drain what's left in the pipes. If the City supply hasn't frozen up, just re-connect in the morning for your showers and coffee etc. If it's extremely cold and it's likely to freeze, you could take a water carrier that you could fill up, so worst case scenario means at least you still get your coffee !

    Have a great trip. We look forward to reading all about it !


  7. #7

    Default Success!

    Well, I thought I'd answer my own questions for the educational sake of others since we made our "Christmas to Florida" Adventure and all was well! As it turned out, all the "What-ifs" stayed clear of us and we were able to take the entire trip without incident. We had good weather for traveling, all winterizing issues were fine and we had a great time.

    We took off from home (Columbus, OH) via Rt 70 east at 5:00 am on Dec 12. Our plan had been to catch I-77 South and make it as far as we could so that we'd be able to de-winterize the coach asap and be able to at least have water for showers heading into our second day of driving. Our goal was Savannah, GA (725 miles) That is billed on Mapquest at 11.5 hrs and I planned 13 for us, knowing we'd have to stop for bathroom breaks with no water working in the coach. After 2 not-too-significant mis-steps we ended up in Savannah at 7:00 pm (14 hrs)

    First little incident was purely mechanical on the coach. I had given lots of thought to issues like water tanks and lines being cold leaving here (it was 21 degrees when we pulled out) but hadnt really thought anything at all about the engine itself, figuring a big diesel engine would be just fine. Wrong! Seems our little darling just doesnt like to go very fast in the cold weather! Once we reached WV and started hitting some hills, I kept getting an engine light and buzzer whenever the rpm's got above about 18 (translation: just about every hill IF I tried to keep up with traffic) The temperature gauge was just above 1/4 and never did leave that spot, even after driving for hours. So after talking to people at our home dealership and Freightliner, we continued on our way trying to keep the rpm low enough to not elicit a warning. Warnings continued for over 2 hours and although it took me a couple times to realize what was causing it, it had to do with rpm every time. As predicted, once warmth of day and a more southern locale took effect, we had no further issues. We joked that the poor guy just didn't want to get out of bed!

    The one area i had been concerned with driving most was the area just beyond Charleston, WV on down to about Wytheville, VA where the most hills/mountains were. I knew if we hit yucky roads there, we might be in trouble. We had a backup plan to use the Atlanta route if bad weather was in store. Fortunately, forecasts looked good and we were able to proceed with the shortest route - and miss Atlanta - a major goal! We did, however, mark our "Next Exit" book "only if desperate" in one area in Southern WV just due to the size and configuration of the roads/exits. We got off at one exit that was in red in the book (and therefore supposedly RV friendly - right???) Wrong again! This was the tightest little curvy road with a one lane bridge and a station barely big enough for 2 cars, let alone us towing a car. We were parked IN the road to reach the pump, and there was nowhere to turn around! Thankfully there was a little Motel/RV Park (although calling either of them that was a stretch) just up the street where we were able to get ourselves turned around (barely) and back onto the highway. The ramp onto I-77 was not exactly RV friendly either, and I was extremely thankful the only snow they had was in the grass and the roads themselves were dry.

    Rest of the way to Savannah was uneventful and we were able to switch between drivers and keep the coach moving most of the time, except for a few short breaks. Since we'd been in Savannah a few years ago, we really wanted to reach it in time to head down to River Street for some good food. We stopped at a Truckstop that had overnight parking just North of Savannah and took off the car. We went down to River Street and found some good grub at Bernie's and picked up the requisite Georgia Pralines at "River Street Sweets" What a basket of steamed shrimp and some sugar wont cure, right? YUM!

    Staying at the truckstop was no big deal and we were able to open faucets and get some water moving. Unfortunately, i made a newbie mistake and neglected to realize we had a valve to turn in order to get water to the hot water heater. As much as I had quizzed the mechanic, somehow we failed to get that onto my notes! So we proceeded without showers afterall and later got a call in to the dealership and figured out what we'd done. (By the time I make every one of these mistakes, I WILL know how to do this stuff!)

    Since we made such good time, the 2nd driving day was much less intense. We were in our destination (Orange Grove Campground in Orlando) in 6 hours, and had some time to relax and enjoy the sunshine! While I wont be putting this little campground on my all time favorites list, it was adequate. We stayed 5 nights for only $150. As compared to $85 or more a night for the Disney Campground it was fine. Since we were gone most of every day in parks and such, we werent too concerned that the pool was unheated (and green) and the putt-putt thing was from the 80's (we played anyway :) The park is filled with mostly snowbirds and they had their Bingo, etc, etc to keep them busy. :)

    We visited Disney's Hollywood Studios, Sea World and Universal Studios over the next four days. We planned a rest day in the middle, but found we didnt really need it. There really isnt much to do in Orlando unless you are into shopping or spending money on "fun". (Lots of Fancy Putt-putt, go-karts, helicopter rides, etc) We grabbed a few souvenirs, some oranges and basically hung out for the day. Loved these parks, especially the Roller Coasters!

    Day 6 (Sunday) we drove 2 hrs to Clearwater, where our 2nd RV park was waiting. Clearwater Travel Center was a bit nicer and we did use the pool here. Still it is filled with mostly snow-birds and park models. We did a Segway tour of Clearwater that afternoon (call Jean at Segway Adventures!) which was really FUN! We'd never been on them before and it was surprisingly easy to learn how to maneuver. The 2 hr tour is $60 and takes you all along the boardwalks by the beach, over a big cool bridge, all along the marina/causeway (dolphin sightings!) and around a really ritzy neighborhood full of beautiful houses. Very fun and worth the investment!

    The next day we went to nearby Tampa for Busch Gardens and again had a great time. Love the animals, love the roller coasters! Our last 2 days were basically for the beach and we lucked out and had great weather. It was nearly 80 and sunny. We did visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see Winter (now famous from the movie Dolphin Tale) and her prosthetic tail. It is undergoing major renovations, undoubtedly as a result of the influx of money the movie has generated, and will very soon be a very nice park. Right now it is small and definitely focused on the animals and their rehabilitation more than the kinds of glitzy parks we'd visited over the last week. Their goal is education of the public and service to the animals. Very well done and worth everyone's support!!

    One last fun thing we found was "Surf Style" an indoor surfing experience my wakeboarding/snowboarding son, Kyle (20) was more than happy to try out. It was inside one of the shops right on the beach and definitely fun to do and to watch. ($20 for 30 min)

    Since our trip home was billed by mapquest as 17 hrs, we gave ourselves 20 hrs just in case. We left on Weds evening and drove to Gainesville (3 hrs) where we had a visit with a friend scheduled for early Thursday am. Thursday after the visit, we drove from Gainesville to somewhere in North VA where we found a truckstop and spent the night.

    Since forecasts were good, we kept water flowing all the way home, although I had been prepared to bleed lines in case we needed to. We got home Friday by 2 after an easy driving day in time to get everything out of the RV and get it over to the dealership and inside for the holiday weekend. It was unseasonably warm - nearly 50 degrees so lines freezing was a non-issue. And we also had no cold engine issues.

    While I fully realize this trip could have been completely different had weather been worse, we lucked out and had it easy. I guess since we were flexible and could have easily changed our route or days if needed we'd have been ok either way. The best thing we did was make sure we hit areas of possible weather/hills etc in the heat of the day so we'd increase our chances for successful passing through. So my advice (barring any future disasters...) remains GO FOR IT! :)

    Happy Traveling!

    Shelley and gang
    Attached Images Attached Images

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Nice one !

    Thanks for dropping by Shelley with the update. I'm glad you had a good time and the weather was on your side !

    It's never until you are on the road that you really start to understand everything about a new RV and sort out any teething problems and howe things operate, then it becomes second nature.

    I like the decoration on the rear screen. ;-) lol

    Thanks again.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Lovely report! I had to giggle a little with your assessment of one of the "red listings" in THE NEXT EXIT. Over the years, we've found more than a few of those that should never have been listed as "RV capable". One such entry was a fuel listing in Kent, WA.

    I'm so glad that you had such a great time and were able to answer not only your own questions, but provide the answers for others with similar questions as well.

    Suggestion on keeping notes: We put all of the booklets for our RV into one large 4" binder, so that we could find them easily. As we "discovered" things about our rig, I would make notes in the appropriate book. When we sold our rig, 14 months ago, that notebook went to the new owners, who were VERY appreciative.


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