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Old 11-22-2017, 09:52 PM   #1
RVingUSA
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First Time To Florida

We are about to take our first trip to Florida with our 2011 Montana 3400RL. We will be leaving the Grand Rapids, MI area shortly after Christmas and heading for the Tampa/St Pete area for about a month then going over to the east coast the end of January to catch a cruise ship (our kids bought us the cruise for our 30th anniversary). Not sure how long we will stay on that side as we prefer the west coast but plan on heading back home the end of Feb. We don't have reservations anywhere so we're just going to wing it and cross our fingers that we can find places to stay. We just bought a 2011 Silverado diesel 3500 to pull it with and have a lot of questions.

1. I've read on some threads that it is recommended to carry water in your fresh water tank. What about freezing? Wouldn't the water freeze if it were below freezing?
2. Can we drive with the refrigerator turned on and loaded?
3. Where are safe places to stop for the night? Can you spend a night in a rest area or is that illegal? What are the rules about stopping at a Walmart? Do you need permission to do that? Can you pull into most businesses that are closed for the night and park in their parking lots as long as you're gone by opening time?
4. Is anyone a Good Sam member and have the Road Assistant? Is it reliable?
5. Any other tips would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 11-23-2017, 05:11 AM   #2
mtlakejim
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RVingUSA,
Congrats on the new rig. Your going to have a great time in Florida and on the cruise. This forum is a great place to get answers to your questions.


1. We usually don't carry water in the tank. You can but it adds a lot of weight and if it is only partially full can slosh around and make the trailer buck a bit. I just don't like adding stress to the trailer frame. If can carry just a few gallons to flush with without any real issues or just carry jugs of water to flush with is easier. The tank can freeze if temps are cold for long enough. Many campers have tank heaters but of course they won't do you any good without electric hooked up, the batteries won't power those.


2. We currently have a residential so we can't power the fridge on the road unless we have a generator going. We have found it really isn't much of an issue as things will stay cold for a couple days while traveling if you keep the door on the fridge closed. I have heard of folks using propane on the RV fridges while on the road but will defer to others on this forum for expertise on that.


3. There are reference books (I think Waldens is the name of one you can get at Camping World and I highly recommend you get one!) that list nearly all the campgrounds and rules for overnighting for each state. We overnight a good bit on our road trips and have found that in general the further West you go the more lax states are about overnighting. Generally speaking most states will allow you to overnight (8 hours or less) at rest stops as long as you do not actually camp (IE: put the slides/awnings out or cook outdoors kind of thing). Many of the rest stops in Florida have security too.


Nearly all Walmarts will allow overnight parking particularly those along interstates that are away from major metro areas. You don't have to ask permission and you will likely see others parked. I have see a few Walmarts with signs that forbid overnight parking but they are very rare. I would not recommend staying at a Walmart that is in a major metro area though as crime might be a concern!


The wife and I travel and overnight a LOT. We have found that truck stops are excellent overnight locations. After all most of their parking lots are dedicated to that very thing. Security is usually fairly good with a lot of fellow travelers overnighting together. The noise of the trucks idling actually helps me sleep! You usually have everything you need available as well including a restaurant and showers for that matter. There are several good guides out there for truck stops and if you have a CB you can ask the truckers along the way. Some truck stops even have designated areas for RV overnighting.


I would not under any circumstances stay at any business that I did not know for sure allowed overnight parking. The local police might have an issue with that even if the business was not open. Besides between Walmarts, truck stops and rest areas you should not need too.


4. We are Good Sam elite members but have never used the road assistance so I will defer to someone else who has.


Best wishes for you and enjoy the good life!
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Old 11-23-2017, 05:26 AM   #3
Phil P
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Hi

All I can give you is our recommendations.

#1 If we ever get in freezing weather (not likely) I would drain my water tank.

#2 We did until refrigerator quit working on gas we are diesel and always use the truck lane at truck stops so we didn’t have the concerns about gasoline fumes.

#3 We use rest stops only during the hurricane because they had provided for this. We have used truck stops on very few occasions. We normally only travel 3 to 400 miles a day and make reservations at a RV park about 2 hours ahead of us.

#4 We have never had the occasion to use road side assistance.

#5 We stop for lunch at rest stops and eat in the trailer or at one of the picnic tables. We drive at 60 MPH and the distance we drive per day gets us in the night stop early enough we can relax for a few hours before dinner.

We do a lot of traveling and now have 200,000 miles in the TV and 100,000 on the trailer.

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Old 11-23-2017, 06:34 AM   #4
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The others have answered most of your questions. We have an RV fridge and run it all the way down to Florida. We’ve done this for nine years. We stay at Walmarts. Always check to make sure it’s ok. There is a list a available online called no park Walmarts.

Plan your route and especially the timing. You do not want to arrive in Atlanta anywhere near rush hour.

Aparantly part of I75 is closed at some point, I don’t know where. You may want to check it out.

Where in the Tampa area are you planning to stay? We winter in Zephyrhills, which is near Tampa.
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Old 11-23-2017, 06:38 AM   #5
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Everyone covered your questions but not the issue of no reservations in Florida during snow bird season. I would not try to “wing it” in January and February, it has gotten real busy over the last couple of years and you may not find a nice place. My suggestion is to make reservations.
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Old 11-23-2017, 07:02 AM   #6
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Butch and Kathy gave you good advice. To compound the problem, FEMA is buying Travel trailers to use for temporary shelters again for Florida and Puerto Rico Hurricanes victims
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Old 11-23-2017, 08:13 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by K0LCB View Post
Butch and Kathy gave you good advice. To compound the problem, FEMA is buying Travel trailers to use for temporary shelters again for Florida and Puerto Rico Hurricanes victims
If the RV park is designated as an over 55 park, I don't think FEMA can occupy any sites there. Just my opinion.
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Old 11-23-2017, 08:21 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Butchy View Post
Everyone covered your questions but not the issue of no reservations in Florida during snow bird season. I would not try to “wing it” in January and February, it has gotten real busy over the last couple of years and you may not find a nice place. My suggestion is to make reservations.
Got that right! In our park here in Florida two month minimum to get a seasonal rate. Daily rate averages $80 plus tax.
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Old 11-23-2017, 09:20 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by RVingUSA View Post
We are about to take our first trip to Florida with our 2011 Montana 3400RL. We will be leaving the Grand Rapids, MI area shortly after Christmas and heading for the Tampa/St Pete area for about a month then going over to the east coast the end of January to catch a cruise ship (our kids bought us the cruise for our 30th anniversary). Not sure how long we will stay on that side as we prefer the west coast but plan on heading back home the end of Feb. We don't have reservations anywhere so we're just going to wing it and cross our fingers that we can find places to stay. We just bought a 2011 Silverado diesel 3500 to pull it with and have a lot of questions.

1. I've read on some threads that it is recommended to carry water in your fresh water tank. What about freezing? Wouldn't the water freeze if it were below freezing?
2. Can we drive with the refrigerator turned on and loaded?
3. Where are safe places to stop for the night? Can you spend a night in a rest area or is that illegal? What are the rules about stopping at a Walmart? Do you need permission to do that? Can you pull into most businesses that are closed for the night and park in their parking lots as long as you're gone by opening time?
4. Is anyone a Good Sam member and have the Road Assistant? Is it reliable?
5. Any other tips would be greatly appreciated.

Years ago we used to try to stay in central Illinois until right after Christmas and then haul south to Florida in our Montana. Most years we could get far enough south (Clarksville or further) to be in temps that were not freezing. We were full time and ran with furnace running. If you leave as far north as you are and are winterized, you may want to plan on leaving it winterized and stay in a motel the first night, then the second night out you should be able to un-winterize and be fine. If this was my first long trip south in questionable winter weather I would be booking sites at CG's. There are two really good CG's in Clarksville. Get the app RVParky and you can search for ones on your route that are open that time of year.

If it was me I would consider taking I-65 out of Nashville. This will take you down to Montgomery where you can catch US RT 231 through Alabama. US RT 231 is a divided 4-lane and almost all brand new pavement. It will add about 1 or 1.5 hours to your trip but for us it is worth it to avoid Atlanta plus the pull over Mount Eagle.

Friends of ours started calling around a month ago for a spot. They wanted a site from January 1 to March 1 for their 32' Class C. They called about every CG between Tampa and Naples. A couple places offered them a site but only if they booked for January, February, and March. Those months were between $1,100 and $1,500 per month. They decided to just drive their SUV down and rent a condo for a month. Your best bet will probably be to stay up in the panhandle or southern Alabama/Georgia. You may find a CG up in that area that will give you the dates you are seeking. Then you can just drive your truck down to Tampa to catch the cruise. There is great secure parking at the cruise docks.

About the only other thing I could suggest would be to ask the different CG's to put you on a waiting list for the months you desire and wait and see.

Hope this helps. We have a site at Upriver RV in North Ft. Myers. If you find anything around there you want us to check out for you just let us know. Safe travels.
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Old 11-23-2017, 09:31 AM   #10
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We made the trip in Feb from Ontario,
1. Keep the trailer winterized until you get far enough south that the water shouldn't freeze. we made it to North Tennessee Border the first night, stayed at a KOA overnight to de-winterize the trailer and add a little fresh water to the tank so we could use the toilet on the rest of the trip.
2 We always keep the refrigerator on and loaded. Just remember the first day that food could possibly freeze until you get far enough south. we waited until the 2nd day to stock up on food that we didn't want froze.
3. We use "All Stays Walmart" app on our phone as has been stated before usually not a problem , but there are a few that do not allow over night parking. The App also gives reviews which can help decide where to park in the lot and which Walmarts to avoid.
4. Can t say anything about Good Sam roadside assistance...we use CAA/AAA
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Old 11-23-2017, 10:34 AM   #11
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The campgrounds near the coast are the ones you would have to reserve in order to get a spot. We are inland a bit and I have never seen our park 100% full. It may have been 100% reserved for a month or so, but some people must not show up or there would not be empty sites.

Our park is $525 per month, which includes $60 worth of electricity. PM me and I can get you $100 off if you stay for a month. Our park is not junky, it is very nice.
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Old 11-23-2017, 06:01 PM   #12
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Zephyrhills is about 30 minutes up 301 from Tampa, there are spots on Chancey Rd that have available sites. One of the cheaper was called Whites although it is now changed recently ....... landing. its on the left about 1/4 mile off 301 on Chancey RD.

We just arrived on Monday evening from Ontario Canada, we used a jug of water for the toilet on the way down. Had the trailer fully winterized until we hit warm weather in South Georgia....
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Old 11-23-2017, 09:34 PM   #13
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All good advice above. As a life Good Sam member I will say we don't use their road service we use Coach-net and have had excellent service from them.
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Old 11-24-2017, 09:33 AM   #14
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1. Water. We carry little to no water. While you're up north I'd recommend against it till you're south of the Carolinas unless the lowest temps are warmer than normal. Carry some containers of water to flush.
2. Fridge. We always ran the fridge on propane (unless in a tunnel).
3. Stop for the night? Legality of rest area stops is state-specific. Walmart depends on local rules so get permission. I would not pull into any other businesses. We don't do any of that for safety reasons and always use CGs.
4. Road Assistant. Covered under other insurance.
5. Other tips. Don't rush. Park till roads are cleared after snow/ice. Get reservations in FL now.
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Old 11-24-2017, 02:47 PM   #15
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We travel to Florida the first week of Jan. We live in SE MI but take I94 to I69 then S to I65 per J&C's advice. We've found I75 to be a difficult route in winter. We use AllStays App to find an RV campground along our route (don't like to stay at truck stops or WM). We travel about 300 miles per day. Previous posts are correct in that many FL campgrounds are totally booked. We made our reservations last March. But don't get discouraged. Call and ask. Get on cancellation lists. You may find a campground that will accommodate but you would have to move every week or so.
1. We keep our fresh water tank empty and carry bottled water for the trip. Have a couple of gallons of pink anti-freeze to use for sinks and toilet until you get far enough south to hook up to water.
2. We plug in at the campground. Our fridge stays cold during the trip.
3. If you wish, send me a PM and I will respond with our recommended stops along the way.
4. We do not have GS.
5. Come to the Montana Fall Rally in September and attend the Snowbirding Roundtable. You will see me there.
Hope to run into you on one of these trips! Best Regards.
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Old 11-25-2017, 06:52 PM   #16
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Thank you to everyone that replied. All of your tips were very helpful and appreciated. We're excited (and a little nervous) about hitting the road. We'll be leaving the end of Dec or after New Years depending on the weather. We do plan on taking I65 down so we can stay away from Atlanta and taking it slow and easy. We have no reason to be in a hurry so if we get bad weather on the way down we will be waiting for the roads to clear. Thanks again!!

PS. For all the guys out there my husband wanted me to correct my mistake about our truck. It's a 2015 DuraMax Sliverado 1 ton crew cab. I said it was a 2011.

Also, I'm kind of new at this so I'm not sure about all the little buttons at the bottom of your replies. Does the "thanks" mean that if I press that I'm saying "thank you"? What does quick reply, quote, and multi quote mean?
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Old 11-25-2017, 07:55 PM   #17
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Keep us posted on your progress. Prayers for a safe journey!
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