Kim and I were burned out on RV travel when we stopped in Savannah last autumn. We needed a break. And because we both had work projects in mind — Kim wanted to launch an online store and I wanted to start Money Boss, my new blog about personal finance — we figured a six-month break would be perfect. We were wrong.
Turns out that by Christmas, we already had the itch to be on the road. We were thinking and dreaming about the motorhome, and talking about what places we’d visit first when we resumed our travels.
“You know,” Kim said in January, “we could always get a taste for life on the road by taking a Florida vacation.”
“You mean a vacation from our vacation?” I asked.
“Exactly,” she said. And that’s what we did. For the past fifteen days, we’ve explored the Sunshine State. Here are some highlights.
The first stop on our tour of Florida had to be Disney. We’d already visited lovely St. Augustine a couple of times, so we hopped straight to Orlando. In our previous two trips to the city, we’d intentionally avoided Disney World. Not this time. This time we booked three nights in a Disney Hotel (the Port Orleans Riverside) and bought tickets for two days in the parks. Not cheap — $1000 total for the hotel and the tickets — but a splurge we were willing to make.
We spent our first day exploring EPCOT, which has one of my favorite Disney rides: Spaceship Earth. (This is the attraction housed in the famous sphere that everyone associates with EPCOT.) Our second day was spent wandering through Magic Kingdom.
While at EPCOT, Kim was assaulted by an aggressive duck and squirrel. They wanted her funnel cake:
We had a fun time in both parks, primarily because we’d intentionally picked days with light crowds. We only had to wait in a line once — for the new (and disappointing) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. (My advice? Skip it! Ride Space Mountain two or three or four times instead. Even the nearby Little Mermaid ride is more fun.)
From Orlando, we drove west to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Kim had a weekend retreat in Holmes Beach with a small group of female entrepreneurs. That left me with a couple of days on my own in Tampa. I booked and AirBNB outside Ybor City, Tampa’s old Cuban district. Overall, I was unimpressed with Tampa. It seemed like a standard big American city with little to distinguish it from, say, Indianapolis or Cleveland. (I’d love for somebody to convince me that Tampa is awesome. I’m open to the idea, so make the argument if you have one.)
I might not have been impressed by Tampa, but we loved Miami. In fact, Kim and I agree that Miami is one of a handful of places in which we could settle permanently. We love the food, the culture, the diversity, and the climate. (Although we might sing a different tune if we felt the heat of the summer.)
Once again we turned to AirBNB to solve our lodging issues. We booked five nights in a guest house owned by a Cuban couple in the suburb of Kendall. Kendall itself doesn’t offer much, but the location is ideal for exploring the Miami area. (Miami traffic is terrible. Couple this with the fact that Miami drivers are some of the worst in the country, and you’ve got a recipe for a miserable experience if you’re downtown and wanting to explore.)
Our days in Miami were packed.
- We drove downtown to see the Wynwood Walls, an organized exhibition of graffiti and street art. (Highly recommended.)
- We drove through Miami Beach and stopped for a stroll along the sand. It was fun to watch all the set-up for Spring Break. (We were glad we weren’t there to witness the debauchery.)
- We spent one day with Kim’s friend Liz, during which we visited Everglades National Park, enjoyed a passionfruit milkshake from Florida institution Robert is here, sipped passionfruit wine from the southernmost winery in the U.S., and played board games with Liz’s kids.
- We took a day-long sailing excursion through Biscayne National Park, during which both of us got sunburns. Well worth the $150 per person to spend the day on the water.
Although we spent five nights in Miami, we wished we’d allocated even more time. Our visit felt rushed. Oh well. I guess that gives us a reason to come back!
The Southernmost City
From Miami, we crawled our way south (with hundreds of other tourists) through the Florida Keys. We stopped in Marathon to visit the Turtle Hospital. We enjoyed the 90-minute behind-the-scenes tour — and I got lots of photos to use in the future at Money Boss. After a long day of driving, we reached Key West, the southernmost city in the continental U.S.
Through an accident of timing, we visited Key West during one of the busiest weekends of the year, the highest of high seasons. As a result, hotels were expensive. As a frugal fellow, I’m not willing to spend $500 per night just for a place to stay. But Kim really wanted to visit Key West (and so did I), so I got resourceful. I redeemed 100,000 airmiles for two nights at a bed and breakfast. (It almost pains me to write that! Those miles could have been used to purchase two round-trip tickets to Ecuador in November.)
We enjoyed our time in Key West, but we can see why many people don’t like the place. It’s a party town. Duval Street, the tourist heart of the city, is filled with bars and knick-knack stores. (To be fair, there are also lots of upscale shopping opportunities since Key West is a destination for folks with money.)
Key West does have a fun sunset celebration every night though. Like every other tourist, we gathered at the seawall and snapped photos while listening to the buskers sing their songs.
The Space Coast
On Sunday, we made the l-o-n-g drive from Key West to Titusville, home of America’s space program. We got an early start, which allowed us to stop briefly in downtown Fort Lauderdale and enjoy a picnic dinner at Jupiter Bay with Joshua Sheats, host of the awesome Radical Personal Finance podcast. Twelve hours after leaving Key West, we reached The Wayward Traveler’s Inn, a B&B just north of Titusville.
We didn’t know what to expect from the Kennedy Space Center, and were pleasantly surprised and just how much there was to see and do. I’ve been a space nut since I was in grade school (at one time, like many boys, I wanted to be an astronaut — astronomy was my favorite class in college).
Here’s a short video demonstrating what it’s like at the Apollo 8 launch exhibit:
We took the bus tour (highly recommended), watched the IMAX presentations, and visited the awe-inspiring shuttle exhibit. It’s hard to describe how awesome (and moving) it is to stand face-to-face with an actual Space Shuttle.
“What’s next?” our hostess Karrie asked on our final morning in Titusville.
“Just now, it’s back to Savannah,” I said. “We have three weeks left on our lease, but we’re both itching to get back on the road.”
“Yeah, I miss it,” Kim said. “It seems crazy, but the RV feels like home.”
“I get it,” Karrie said. “Last night as we were lying in bed, Roan and I were talking about your trip. We’re excited for you. And envious. We miss being on the road too. We’d love to do something similar in Europe.”
“Us too,” said Kim. “But for now we have to finish exploring the United States.”
So, that’s what’s next. We have three weeks to prep the motorhome to get back on the road — and to say good-bye to Savannah. Come the first of April, we’ll head west. We’re not sure of our exact route — there’s so much to see! — but we know early stops will include Dollywood, Nashville, Keeneland, St. Louis, and New Orleans. We hope to have you along for the ride…