Many people vacation at drive-to destinations, meaning they pack up their things, and the kids, and hit the road for a week in Tennessee, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina or wherever. Many people just drive straight through to their destinations, making necessary stops for restroom breaks but ignoring other opportunities for memorable experiences along the way. They don’t pull over and park when passing through small towns and step outside the car to take in the aroma of flowers at the local park, stroll the town square, or have fun haggling over price at a local farmer’s market.
If you’re one of those who go straight from Points A to B, you’re missing out.
We’re not talking about going all Clark Griswold and leading your family on spur-of-the-moment detours to see “the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away.” We’re talking about planned stops in cities and towns along the way to your main destination, indulging in side trips—perhaps even overnight stays—that perhaps take you up to a half hour from your route but are worth it.
So, let’s talk about your road trip plans. Imagine road trip vacation ideas like these:
Jacksonville to Washington, D.C. Road Trip
Let’s say you’re heading from north Florida to the our nation’s capital. Sure, you could zip right up and, by limiting restroom stops and eating at drive-throughs, get to your vacation destination inside 11 hours. Yuck. Instead, consider hopping off I-95 at U.S. 17 and follow it up through the scenic Lowcountry, through cities like Savannah, Charleston and Myrtle Beach before making your way back to I-95 by catching Interstate 40 at Wilmington. Taking the time to casually explore those cities, and the attractions in and around them, are well worth the investment.
Working Savannah into your trip opens possibilities for a ghost tour or a meal on historic River Street. Charleston offers tours of historic homes and even more historic Fort Sumter. You might not have time for championship golf in Myrtle Beach, as tempting as it may be, but you will want to explore tea plantation, indulge in seafood at nearby Murrells Inlet, or art appreciation at Brookgreen Gardens, or even reward the kid for good behavior with a round at the fabulously over-the-top Myrtle Beach mini-golf course of their choice.
Orlando to Miami Road Trip
But not every multi-stop road trip need be multi-state. Let’s say you live or are vacationing in Florida and are contemplating a trip from Orlando to Miami, or vice versa. That’s normally a 3 1/2-hour trip along Florida’s Turnpike. But originating the road trip from Orlando instead on U.S. 27 South takes you to Lake Wales and the spectacular Bok Tower Gardens, a floral paradise of tranquility interrupted only by periodic gorgeous chimes from a real carillon. It’s only a bit out of the way and saves a portion of tolls.
You’ll be back on the turnpike soon enough, after following State Road 60 east to Yeehaw Junction. Among other possible further points of interest just off the toll exits, a fascinating introduction to the Japanese culture awaits at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.
Those are only two examples. There’s a analogy tossed around these days, almost too casually, comparing life in general to travel. Here let’s reverse it. Travel is like life—it’s about the journey as much as the destination.