I am taking a solo trip going from Philadelphia to Florida and back, by myself. I am used to long and frequent drives (I average ~3000 miles/month) but this is going to be my first road trip ever. It will take place in mid to late July.
The length of the trip depends on how much time I can take off of work. At minimum I'd go for 4 days, making a long weekend from Friday to Monday. Preferably though I'd rather just take a whole week but I'm going to plan my trip through as if it were only 4 days.
My plan was to take as many scenic routes going towards the Keys (due to time constraints). I'd love to take as much backroad/country side driving as possible and then on the way back up from Florida I'll just straight shoot it on I-95 in a day. Also, I plan on just sleeping in my car for convenience sake. I've slept in my car before and I'm perfectly comfortable doing so as long as I can find a place where it is legal to do so.
So my questions are as follows:
1) Suggestions on routes to take going down. Where should I get off the interstate to see some backroads. I love nature so any scenic and country routes would be great as well as any state/national parks. Additionally, when should I just get back on the interstate for time-sake.
2) Locations to sleep. Should I just look for a 24hour big-box chain off the highway to park or would it be better to find a truck/rest stop along the interstate. I can sleep in pretty much any conditions so noise wouldn't bother me.
3) What to avoid. Just general suggestions. Obviously I'll avoid going through cities during rush hours or try to go around them if it would be faster. Generally, this is the part where I would just want to stay on the interstate and just pass right through.
4) Due to time, I may have to drive during the night. However, that's obviously not my preference because I'd miss all the sights and beauty. My plan was to begin my drives around 2-3 AM and stop every few hours during daylight to see various things and continue driving until around sunset then sleep.
5) Money. I plan on bringing my own food and water, probably just bread and lunch meats. I'll stop at convenience/grocery stores to restock and eat at a restaurant every once in a while to break the routine and try local flavors (suggestions welcomed). I'm calculating between tolls, gas, food, and general expenses, I will be burning approximately a grand on this trip. My truck gets about 17 mpg and I can't avoid every toll booth.
So my general plan (please feel free to provide suggestions on) is as follows:
-Leave Friday morning around 2 AM and begin my drive.
-Make various stops along the way, enjoying myself thoroughly, and try to get at least half way before I sleep Friday night.
-Start again Saturday morning and again, make enjoyable stops throughout the day. Plan to arrive in Florida by Saturday night and sleep somewhere in Florida.
-Sunday I would enjoy the Florida Keys, spending adequate time seeing them all. I would like to spend the entire day, morning until night, at the keys.
-Monday morning I straight shoot it back along I-95. I was planning on leaving around 4-7 AM (depending on how late I stay up Sunday night at the Keys). Drive for about 7-9 hours, nap, then drive the rest of the way home. I should be back in time to go to straight to sleep for work on Tuesday.
I'm pretty good with directions. I always carry a compass in my vehicle and I plan on buying a paper map. My friend has also been kind enough to loan me his GPS so I may take advantage of that as well. In the end however, I'm not afraid of getting lost because as far as I'm concerned that is part of the adventure!
If I've forgotten to mention anything please just let me know. I'll monitor for comments so I'll reply to you. Thank you in advance!