First Florida Vacation Part 1

First Florida Vacation Part 1 – Or South of the Border

When I was little we spent every Sunday on the boat from spring through the fall. When we finished sailing we would head over to my grandparents’ farm, Rocky Beach and have dinner with them. As we got older, my parents invited different friends each weekend and sometimes my brother and I invited our friends.

Boat Vacations

Our vacations were always 10 days on the boat, from the beginning of one weekend to the end of the following weekend. We didn’t have air conditioning in the house, so even if it was hot out, it was usually cooler on the boat. Plus, we could jump in the water whenever we wanted after we anchored.

Then as we got older still we started hearing stories about our classmates vacations and we got curious to see other things. (More me, since I was older.) So we (I) started pushing for going to see other places. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the boat vacations and have many fond memories but I wanted to experience something new.

Route 301

So my father planned out our first non-boat vacation. Florida. We took off in our International Harvester Travelall. It was sort of a 1960s version of an SUV. Our first day was to be all driving and stopping for the night somewhere in North Carolina. We took the new North-South highway, Route 301 (sometimes called Route 3) that was being completed. In places you had to go back to the older slow roads.  Route 1 was the original North-South highway but over time businesses had built up along it, there were lots of traffic lights and it was congested. Route 301 was designed to speed up traffic and commerce. The federal highway system with all the Interstates had been started yet. It might not even have been thought of yet.

Travel Games

Mom read a book for part of the way. We probably brought along a collection of  books to read. We played road poker. My brother and I each had a side of the car. If we saw cows on our side of the car, we got a point per cow. Horses were 2 or 3 points, a dog was 5 points and a cat was 10 points. First to 100 won. Now on the interstate system you don’t see animals much anymore. We also played GHOST and probably other games.

South of the Border

As we were heading through Virginia we started seeing signs for something called South of the Border. The further we went, the more signs we saw. We finally got so curious that we decided keep pushing past our originally planned stopping point and go to South of the Border.

We got there and pulled in to get a room for the night. The motel was on one side of Route 301 and the restaurant was on the other. After checking in, we walked across the road to the restaurant. Fairly easy to do back then because it was only a single lane each way and there wasn’t that huge amounts of traffic. The food was good if I remember correctly. I probably had Maryland fried chicken which was a big deal back then. Everywhere we went in the South they had Maryland fried chicken on menus. Colonel Sanders and his Kentucky fried chicken franchise was just getting started and almost no one had heard of him or it back then.

Then we probably jumped in the pool and also got shuffleboard sticks and pucks and played shuffleboard for a while. It turned out shuffleboard was a big deal at most of the motels and my brother and I really enjoyed playing it on the trip.

South of the Border Revisited

Years later when I was headed south with my wife and kids, heading to Pawley’s Island, SC I planned a stop at South of the Border. We all enjoyed all the crazy signs on the way down. That was about the last thing we enjoyed. It was a big mistake. South of the Border had seen its day quite a while ago and was looking very seedy these days. Interstate 95 goes right by it now and you get off at the exit and take Route 301 a few hundred yards and you are there. They have added a lot of buildings and souvenir shops but the whole place is tacky beyond belief. The pool seemed dubious. I asked about shuffleboard at the office and they looked at me like I was nuts. I did find the shuffleboard courts where I remembered them, almost completely overgrown. The food was mediocre at best.

Too bad it has gone downhill so badly. Classic marketing campaign with the signs. They could clean up the place and do a great business. Until they do, we will never stay there again.

Driving Cross Country

Most people think of the destination when they contemplate traveling. What about how you got there? I want to tackle the quintessential American journey, the Cross Country Road Trip. I am looking forward to seeing Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and oddly enough the architecture in the South with the plantation mansions and ornate iron railings on the homes in the towns and cities. Maybe that is because of a friend at Bel Air Stairs & Railings who has gotten me to appreciate fine metal work. Oops, sidetrack. Back to the main story.

Most Americans want to accomplish a cross country journey in their lifetime but time, money, or opportunity always seems to get in the way. Some people just go for it in a semi-spontaneous way. I am not one of those people. I am going to walk you through the considerations I am making in preparation for the journey from East to West. I started with major expenses, gas, food and lodging. To calculate them I have to figure out the route, which leads to other questions,

  1. When am I driving?
  2. Where am I starting and ending?
  3. What are the main attractions I want to see?

I don’t know when I’m traveling so I came up with a winter route and a route for any other time of the year. I also can’t fit all of the landmarks I want to visit in one trip. I call it the Northern Route and the Southern Route.

Gas Budget

The southern route is 3,783 miles so now I can calculate the gas costs. I have a Prius that gets 55 miles per gallon, but I am going to assume 45 miles per gallon. So 3,783 miles / 45 miles per gallon = 84 gallons. I want to over budget so I don’t spend more than I expect, so I am estimating $4 per gallon. $4 per gallon * 84 gallons is $338 for gas.

Lodging Budget

Now that my gas budget is taken care of, time to move on to lodging costs. Food and lodging depends on how many days you want to take to get cross-country. I am budgeting for 10 days. I don’t want to pay for 10 hotels or hostels so my sister and I are going to camp for most of the trip. Which has it’s own costs.

Camping costs:

  1. Tent (try to borrow or rent one)
  2. Firewood $30
  3. Water jug $30
  4. Coolers $100
  5. Ice $40
  6. Sleeping bag (if you don’t have one)
  7. Butane stove (really nice for quick cooking)

Hotel costs:

I’m budgeting 4 nights at a hotel with an average $150 a night which is $600 total.

So far we are up to $338 for gas and $600 for hotels and $200 for camping which totals to $1138.

Food Budget

Now for the most expensive part of the trip, food for 10 days. Which means 10 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners, drinks and snacks. I am taking my sister with me so my food budget will be doubled. We are going to make as much as possible ahead of time and put them in Ziploc bags and freeze them.


  1. Pancakes
  2. Omelets
  3. Breakfast burritos (2 days)
  4. Hard boiled eggs
  5. Muffins

We are cooking or bringing every breakfast. Breakfast is $40 for 10 days for ingredients etc.


  1. Bananas
  2. Peanut Butter
  3. Turkey
  4. Cheese
  5. Tortilla Shells

Lunch we are going to try eating sandwiches half the time and eat out the other days. So for sandwiches I’m assuming $20 for 5 days and the lunches out would be $20 per day.


  1. Burgers, Lettuce & Tomato
  2. Rice & Beans in Red Bell Peppers

For dinner we are planning on eating out because we are going to be tired. Dinner is $30 per night for 10 nights.


  1. Apples
  2. Grapes
  3. Raw Veggies
  4. Marshmallows
  5. Graham Crackers
  6. Luna/Cliff bars


Breakfast = $40

Lunch = $120

Dinner = $300

To build in a buffer for snacks and miscellaneous food expenses we are budgeting $550 per person.

We have covered food, gas, lodging and the route. What’s left? Specific attractions you want to see in each place and possible costs associated with them.  For now I am going to assume that will cost $20 per day so add $200 per person.

Total Budget for my cross country trip is: $2,638. There are two items that I personally have to add on getting my sister to and from the cross country trip. Lets add $700. So for me it comes to $3,338.