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  1. Default First time driving in US - California to Florida

    Hi, we're two young Australians driving for the first time in America. We plan to drive from San Fran to Miami in a rented campervan. We have three weeks in December to do it, and want to see things along the way - we love national parks, bookstores, interesting and odd cultural attractions, and a touch of the big cities.

    The campervan has a bed and heater, so we're hoping to sleep in it most nights to save money.

    Specifically, does anyone have advice regarding weather, road rules, where to park the campervan to sleep in, and any must see or do attractions along the way.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default When do you start?

    Welcome to the United States and to this forum!

    You might not be aware of it -- but we are "enjoying" one of the coldest Decembers in recent memory -- But since this December is already 1/3 gone -- are you planning to travel this year -- or next year? In any case, where are you getting the campervan? Is it well insulated? Temps are at or near freezing just about everywhere...

    It will take you 5-6 days, driving 8-10 hours per day to drive from California to Florida. Will this be round trip? Or will you be leaving from Miami to go home?

    I would suggest that you look at the routes section to see some of the places we recommend.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Pretty much, the only free places where you can safely and legally park a campervan overnight and sleep in it are truck stops, with permission. It's customary to give the truck stop some of your business in return, such as buy a tank of fuel and/or a meal in their restaurant. They will have showers available for a fee. *SOME* states allow overnight parking in highway rest areas, but most don't. Otherwise, you will need to pay for a campsite in a public (such as in national and state parks) or private campground. You can't just pull off the side of the road or park in a residential neighborhood or store parking lot - but some large 24 hour stores such as Walmart may give you permission to park in the back of their lot. Unless you are in a campground, you can't "set up camp" and bring out the grill and start cooking or do any other external activities.

  4. Default

    Hi Mark. Yes, we're planning on starting in the next few days. The van is from escape campers, they have said that the van is equipped with heater and extra blankets. Does that sound like enough?

    We are only going one way before returning the van in Miami

  5. Default

    Hi glc, thanks for the tip! Do you happen to know if there are many truck stops along the I-10?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default They are all listed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emmalou View Post
    Hi glc, thanks for the tip! Do you happen to know if there are many truck stops along the I-10?
    At a mere $15.00, one of your best investments would be to get the Truckstop Directory. It lists all the truck stops which make RVs (including campervans) welcome, as well as listing all other services. Not all truck stops are the same, although in something as small as an Escape Camper, they may allow you to park overnight, even though not listed as such. It is a good idea to ask. I always walk up to the desk and ask if there are any restrictions on parking overnight... not letting on that I already know from the book.

    I suggest that you call the Truckers' Friend, and ask the lovely lass where you can buy that directory. She can usually tell you which places sell it along your route. If on Skype, you can freecall from home. Otherwise freecall on arrival in SF.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Truck stops are plentiful across pretty much every interstate, but the guide Lifey recommended will help you know exactly where to find them. I would avoid ones that are actually located within major cities - as they often aren't in the best parts of towns. Usually you'll find clusters of them in the suburbs that are a better bet.

    Having said that, Truck stops really are only a place to park for the night. It's another case where you can't really set up camp and do any cooking outside your van or anything like that. Obviously, they do have services you can take advantage of, like restaurants and showers, and you may be able to take advantage of their lounge and watch some tv - although some truck stops will restrict the lounge areas to professional drivers. I would still plan on spending most of your nights at campgrounds, where even though they won't be free, you will have your own space much more freedom for how you spend your evening.

    I would also budget some money for the occational hotel, just in case. If temperatures are as cold as they have been recently (below freezing across large sections of your route), you may find that even blankets and the heater aren't enough to be warm enough to sleep some nights.

  8. #8


    You might also find The Trucker's Friend-National Truck Stop Directory helpful if you will be having a computer along with you.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default Getting off Interstate.

    Depending on the heater you might find that you need to be hooked up to the mains in order not to drain your battery so you will need to consider that when looking for places to sleep. Personally speaking I always like to take the Highways and Byways whenever possible for a slower pace and more opportunity to stumble across small towns and natural wonders and to stop and chat with the locals. With 3 weeks you certainly have some time to do so and going by your opening post I think you would find more of what you are looking for doing that, than you will following I10 looking for truckstops for example. Of course you will have to keep up to date with weather forecasts and road conditions as you go and adjust your trip accordingly, it's not a great time of year to be thinking of using a remote mountain pass without knowing exactly what to expect before you start out and just not worth 'risking it'..

    If you have some dots on the map that cover your 'must sees' and you would like to share them, then others can help fill in the blanks and make suggestions.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Mixing it up with motels.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    I would avoid ones that are actually located within major cities - as they often aren't in the best parts of towns.
    For instance, in New Orleans the closest is 26 miles (from memory) out of town. That is probably when you might choose to stay in a motel. In those cases camp grounds are a fair bit out of town as well. Don't worry about needing access to the internet along the way (you'll find wifi widely available wherever you visit), the Truckstop Directory is a very handy book.

    In Florida truck stops are not plentiful, but their rest areas nearly all have night time security. Just because most truck stops are along the interstates, don't limit your driving to them. There are some very scenic roads along the route you plan to travel, and you will never be very far from an interstate. There are very few rest areas along the toll roads in FL.

    You don't say in which State you live, but if you are a member of RACV, NRMA, RACQ, or similar, be sure to bring your membership with you. It will give you access to free maps and tourist infomration from the AAA/CAA. All these maps have the scenic routes clearly marked on them, as well as lots of other information on attractions. At the various State welcome centres you can often also pick up a State map, which will give you even more information on attractions.


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