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  1. Default Central IL to Tampa

    Happy New Year!

    This is my first "official" post, but I'm so happy to have found this website with all of the helpful information everyone shares! Having recently retired, we are nervous/excited to be planning our first "snowbird" roadtrip from Central IL to Tampa in a couple of weeks. I found a helpful prior thread from 2016 on potential routes from Chicago to Sarasota, but I wanted to confirm your thoughts/advice on our potential travel plans.

    While driving through Atlanta would be the most direct route, we are nervous about Atlanta traffic and would be traveling through Atlanta on a Thursday. So we are thinking we may be better off going what was called the "Western Route" in the prior thread...I-57 to southern IL; I-24 to Nashville TN; I-65 through Birmingham AL to Montgomery AL; US-231 through Dothan AL to Tallahassee FL; then I-10 to I-75S. Do you recommend that route as the best alternative to going through Atlanta during the work week?

    If we do take that route, since this is our first major roadtrip and one person will be doing all of the driving (and it's our first roadtrip with our adopted rescue fur kid who we think will be a good traveler based on a recent 5 hour road trip, but we don't want to push it), we are going to do the trip over 2 1/2 days vs trying to make it in 2 long days. So our potential overnights would be in Franklin TN (approximately 7 hours) the first night and then Dothan or Tallahassee (approximately 6-8 hours) the second night. Good options or do you have other suggestions?

    Then on the way home, we would be leaving on a Saturday, so we were thinking about trying to go through Atlanta, which would probably be around 6pm on Saturday night? Are we correct in thinking even though we know you can run into accident delays on any day/time, Atlanta traffic would likely be better on a Saturday? Or would you recommend we take the same route back home we took to Florida and skip Atlanta?

    Thanks so much for your help and advice!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,173

    Default There's Always an Alternative

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    The beauty of a RoadTrip, besides the beauty of the drive, is that you are free to drive the roads you want rather than what some mindless mapping routine tells you is the 'best' route. And often such alternative routes can easily avoid major cities and can be made for only a small price in miles driven. Such is the case for your proposed drive. Using Bloomington as a starting point, it is right around 1,125 miles to Tampa. But is there another route that would avoid Atlanta?

    Well of course there is. If you can get to I-57 south fairly easily, take it to just south of Marion IL and then switch over to I-24 east to Nashville and I-65 south. Follow I-65 to Montgomery AL. There, oddly enough you will want to get on I-85 north (!) to Atlanta (!!!), but don't worry. In Montgomery, I-85 runs east-west and you're only going to use it as a connector to US-231 south which is near-freeway quality through town. South of town it becomes a four-lane divided highway, duplexed with US-82 east. While there are a few shortcuts you could take, the easiest route to follow would be to continue south on US-231 to south of Cottondale FL and get on I-10 east, then I-75 south to Tampa. That route is all of 60 miles longer than using I-75 through Atlanta and stays flatter than I-75 through the southern Appalachians.

    Now, most mapping routines will tell you that an 1,000 to 1,200 mile trip can be made in 2 days, as a current retiree who used to routinely do such things, I now applaud your decision to take 2½ to 3 days. It's just more relaxing and gives you time to make a few stops along the way should there be things you'd like to see. This is especially true with a young passenger who should get some fresh air and exercise a few times each day. Also with Franklin and Dothan as your intended overnight stops, it looks like you're already planning on the route outlined above.

    Now, while I usually try to take different routes to and from a destination, and Atlanta should have at least be semi-reasonable on a Saturday early evening, if you really enjoyed the trip down you can do it again on the way home. Or you can take I-75 etc. through Atlanta, Your call. Indeed if you're allowing 3 days for the drive back you could follow yet another route. One of the things I love about driving in the southeast is that even before the Interstates, many of the US highways in the area were upgraded to four-lane divided highways such as you'll experience on US-231. If you'd be interested in such roads and want to avoid all major cities, we could probably find something that would work for you.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 01-02-2022 at 07:25 AM. Reason: Typos

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,759

    Default

    I'm just a couple hours north of you and I used to have family in Tampa/Clearwater so I've made this drive many times.

    The options you are looking at are both good and ones I've used many times. The Alabama route is a good choice for avoiding traffic, Birmingham and Montgomery both have some interesting sites to break up the trip, and US-231 is close to interstate quality.

    Going through Atlanta is also something I've done several times, and maybe I've just been lucky, but I've never had horrifically bad traffic. I actually have much more frequently had issues with traffic around Chattanooga. In either case, I'd recommend using the traffic features of Waze and Google maps to give you good warnings about traffic problems.

  4. Default

    If you decide to travel through Atlanta, go directly through downtown and avoid the Atlanta bypass. Since there will be two of you, you can drive in the express HOV lanes. We do this every trip unless there’s an accident or construction.

    NEVER drive through downtown Macon; ALWAYS take the bypass which will cut off a lot of time and miles.

  5. Default

    Thank you so much for all of the great advice and tips on routes! We have planned our routes based on your very thorough excellent advice and tips! Thanks again!!!

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