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Old 19 Jan 20, 04:14 PM  
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smithlane
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The BIG Old South Road Trip - August/Sept 2020

Hello and welcome to my latest trip report
I wasn't sure which forum to post this in but I'll do it in both the General Trips as well as the Florida section as we'll be in and out of the State.

Update 1 - 07/04/20

Iíll start off by introducing ourselves

After our amazing holiday to California last summer with my sister in law and family there will be a slight reduction in numbers this year and will just be the 4 of us. We are really gutted theyíre not coming with us as we all get on brilliantly but I am looking forward to spending quality time with my little family unit. Will also be nice not to be responsible for planning a huge holiday for anyone else. As much as I love it, it can be quite stressful in making sure everyone is enjoying the plans that youíve made.



So first up, me! Alicia, 37 years young. Author of this trip report and main planner/itinerary keeper of the holiday. I work as a Mobile Beauty Therapist which I am very lucky is a job I love. My hobbies include researching upcoming holidays and shopping on said holidays



Jim my long suffering partner and wonderful step dad to my 2 children. Just turned 41 and a Project Manager at Battersea Power Station, a job that he really doesnít enjoy at the moment as the whole project is very delayed therefore is very stressful. But it pays well so being super supportive I tell him to stop moaning and to just get on with it . He LOVES golf, golf and um even more golf!



Hope my daughter. Nearly 17 years old and is now in her first year at 6th form college. Loves holidaying in the USA and would love to study there one day, sheís also my little shopping partner in crime. A very quiet and sensitive soul who is becoming a beautiful young lady.







Sam my son. 15 in a few weeks and a typical teenage boy. Nicknamed Romeo as he has developed a love for the ladies, his hormones have well and truly kicked in god help me! The problem is all the girls flock round him so his ego is the collective size of North America







How this trip came about

After loving our road trip around California we knew we wanted to do another, we just needed to know where.
We threw around a few ideas - New England, Canada, Pacific Northwest, Route 66 but we felt these trips could wait until itís just the 2 of us with no kids, ie when itís cheaper!

I had read a few trip reports on here from Dibbers visiting the Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and staying in a mountain cabin and visiting Dollywood, going white water rafting, zip lining and going on hikes within the park itself. We knew it looked just up our street so with that decided we just needed to work out where else to visit.

We got the map out and drew up a list of possible places to stay. Having got used to 3 week holidays, we are very fortunate that this year would be no different so we have 21 nights in total. The one thing we had agreed on is we didnít want as many stops as we had last year, at 8 it was just a couple too many for us.

If you have read any of my previous reports youíll know that Jim playing golf usually features quite a few times on our holidays. I am the ultimate golf widow!
The only thing he has requested from this trip is a stay on Hilton Head Island, the golf capital of South Carolina. To be fair the beaches look beautiful and if itís good enough for Disney to have a resort there itís good enough for us.

I had done a bit of research on a group of barrier islands in Georgia called The Golden Isles. St Simons Island in particular looks really lovely but we are not sure whether to add a few nights here as it may be too similar to HHI.

Being huge The Walking Dead fans we were keen to visit Atlanta where a lot of the series is filmed. I had read Miss Mouseís American History road trip and they had done a walking tour of some of the sets so very excited to do the same.

Flights

Now we had a few destinations decided we now just needed to wait for flights to sort out the order in which we would visit.
As we arenít restricted on dates due to GCSE results this year we wanted to go back to our preferred time of the last 3 weeks of the summer holidays. We find places are usually quieter as the bulk of the American kids have gone back to school and generally the flights are cheaper.
There were a few different airport options to choose from we just needed to wait and see what the cheapest one would be.
I waited with baited breath for our dates to be released and when they were I couldnít believe the sky high prices . Our choices were flying out of London to either Charlotte, Atlanta, Jacksonville or Nashville. I tried every single airport and date combination I could think of but nothing was coming in at less than £700 for rubbish 2 stop indirect flights which I draw the line at. Booking flights separately you now have to add baggage on and with taking 4 suitcases and a set of golf clubs this would add roughly another £450 on to the cost. I even tried the trusty BA website for a fly drive but they too were too high.
I was fairly laid back about it, we didnít book our flights for California until after Christmas so we had a bit of time before I started to panic!
Around Thanksgiving, BA had a sale so I naturally checked prices. There didnít seem to be much of a reduction in our chosen airports but after reading a thread on here about some very reasonable fly drive prices to Orlando I looked into seeing if I could make it work. It would require a bit more driving but at £640pp for direct flights from LGW to MCO including my favourite Chevy Suburban for the duration it was a no brainer. £300 deposit was put down straight away. Our dates are 17th August until 7th September.
Itís so typical that the one year we donít actually need to fly into Orlando this is the cheapest route!



With the flights now sorted we needed to rearrange the itinerary slightly as we were starting and ending further south than originally planned.
This worked out very well for Jim as he realised we would have to practically drive pass Sawgrass Golf Club, itís apparently very famous but hey, what do I know!
Itís attached to the Marriott Resort and Spa so I booked our first 2 nights there.



From here we will either drive straight to Hilton Head Island for 5 nights or split our time with 2 or 3 nights on St Simons Island too. We will have some kind of condo or townhouse here which will be booked once we know what our firm plans are





We now head towards the Smoky Mountains. As itís about a 6-7 hour drive, Jim has suggested we split the drive and stop for the night halfway. I spotted Congaree NP that looked about half way so with our love of visiting the US National Parks we thought this would be a good place to spend a couple of hours before stopping for the night in Columbia.



The next day we should only have a 3-4 hour drive to Gatlinburg. We will have 5 nights staying in a mountain cabin which is still to be booked





We now move on to Atlanta where we will spend the night. It will be a fairly long drive so will do the Walking Dead Tour the following morning.



We wanted our last destination to be in Florida so have been looking around the Panhandle area. I think Iíve narrowed it down to either Destin or Sandestin where we will have 6 nights. Again this is yet to be booked.





As Destin isnít too far away from New Orleans, Hope and I are going to go on a little road trip of our own and go for 1 night on a whistle stop tour of the city. Jim and Sam arenít interested so itís just us girlies!





We have one night spare so we may add it onto either HHI or the Smokies or we may stop for our last night on the way back to Orlando to break the journey up. Iíve looked at possibly Tallahassee as it would then mean less than a 4 hour drive on travel home day. We would leave first thing so we have plenty of time to get something to eat near the airport. Iíve got my eye on Teak Neighbourhood Grill, itís been too long since Iíve had one of their burgers

I'm going to leave it there as I've waffled on enough but I'll be back once our accommodation is booked and I have put together a rough itinerary. Thank you for reading

Edited at 12:42 PM.
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Old 26 Jan 20, 08:04 PM  
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Goldia
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This sounds like it's going to be another epic trip. I'd love to go to Atlanta one day as my favourite book is Gone with the Wind and lots of it is set in Atlanta.

How awesome that you and Hope are going to New Orleans for a Thelma and Louise road trip, although perhaps without the nasty bits and the ending.

The flights are always a palaver aren't they? It's typical that the year you don't want or need to go into Orlando is the one which turns out to be cheapest.

How many states is it on this trip? I'm wondering how many you've managed to fit in now?

We also love the walking dead so I can't wait to see all the sets for that, I loved seeing you all on the Friends sofa last year.

I'm really looking forward to reading all about your trip Alicia, a shame it's not the whole gang but it will be easier to get a table in restaurants with just the four of you.
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Old 29 Jan 20, 11:41 AM  
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Originally Posted by Goldia View Post
This sounds like it's going to be another epic trip. I'd love to go to Atlanta one day as my favourite book is Gone with the Wind and lots of it is set in Atlanta.

How awesome that you and Hope are going to New Orleans for a Thelma and Louise road trip, although perhaps without the nasty bits and the ending.

The flights are always a palaver aren't they? It's typical that the year you don't want or need to go into Orlando is the one which turns out to be cheapest.

How many states is it on this trip? I'm wondering how many you've managed to fit in now?

We also love the walking dead so I can't wait to see all the sets for that, I loved seeing you all on the Friends sofa last year.

I'm really looking forward to reading all about your trip Alicia, a shame it's not the whole gang but it will be easier to get a table in restaurants with just the four of you.
Thank you Abby, we hope it will be an epic trip. We have high expectations after last year!

Ah yes Gone With The Wind, I had forgotten a lot of the sets were in Atlanta. Will now Google to find out where they are

I can't wait for our little mini road trip. I've wanted to go to NOLA ever since my parents spent a week there a few years ago for my cousins wedding, it looks a very different place to your typical American city. It will be a very brief visit though but will try and go to as many places as time allows. It will give Jim and Sam some boy time, they'll probably end up in a Hooters for lunch and dinner

I couldn't believe the palaver with the flights! You watch, when we next want to go to Orlando they'll be no decent direct flight prices. Typical

Ooh I think we'll rack up 8 States this trip. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana . Will spend a small fortune on the State license plates again, I'll definitely have to start putting them up in the downstairs loo when we return. Although a house move is possibly on the cards so that is taking up a lot of my time at the mo, need to get my backside into gear and start booking the rest of our accommodation!

We will really miss them this year but yes booking a table for dinner will be far easier.
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Old 15 Feb 20, 11:14 PM  
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Wow! What an amazing trip You have some incredible destinations on your itinerary. It is just so awesome to explore America, the National Parks are spectacular and you canít ever go wrong with the shopping either. New Orleans is on my Ďmust visití list, it just looks beautiful and lively! Iím looking forward to following along on your adventures
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Old 16 Feb 20, 11:23 AM  
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smithlane
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Originally Posted by Sparksy72 View Post
Wow! What an amazing trip You have some incredible destinations on your itinerary. It is just so awesome to explore America, the National Parks are spectacular and you canít ever go wrong with the shopping either. New Orleans is on my Ďmust visití list, it just looks beautiful and lively! Iím looking forward to following along on your adventures
Thank you Michelle, we're really looking forward to it . The NP of America are just simply amazing, we want to visit as many as we can!
Hope and I love the shopping out there, not as cheap as it once was but there are still bargains to be had.
Can't wait for New Orleans, it will be a whistle stop tour but hopefully we'll get to see the main places
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Old 16 Feb 20, 05:05 PM  
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I have done similar myself and been to all these places.

Hilton Head is very nice.

St Simons is pretty nice, not as nice as HHI.

I have a good condo location in St Simons if you want it. I would if I were you though probably just stay on HHI- I rented a house on Palmetto Dunes. HHI is one of the nicest places i have ever been and intend returning to the Disney hotel there soon. From HHI you can do a day trip to Savannah or Charleston. When I was at St Simon's we went to Savannah for the day also. St Simon's is not as spick and span as HHI, there is Jekyll next door. The mainland over from St Simon's is not all that. However, don't let me put you off by any means as St Simons is still nice.

San Destin- Fort Walton area is better than Destin itself. I rented a nice house there, bungalow in San Destin with a golf cart. In fact I am renting a house this summer for 4 nights down on the 30A.

I would recommend DollyWood very nice- it is a bit of a drive from Gatlinburg, but not too bad. I stayed nearer Pigeon Forge in a cabin.

You will definitely have an excellent time- this general route (I did it a bit of a different way but basically visited the same places) is one of my favourite all-time holidays.
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Old 16 Feb 20, 06:09 PM  
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Originally Posted by WileyCoyote View Post
I am so totally excited for this trip . Keep calm and carry on planning .. its all looking so fabulous
Thanks so much Amanda! I can't believe the lack of firm plans we have yet, I'm incredibly laid back about it
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Old 16 Feb 20, 06:25 PM  
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Originally Posted by YorkshireT View Post
I have done similar myself and been to all these places.

Hilton Head is very nice.

St Simons is pretty nice, not as nice as HHI.

I have a good condo location in St Simons if you want it. I would if I were you though probably just stay on HHI- I rented a house on Palmetto Dunes. HHI is one of the nicest places i have ever been and intend returning to the Disney hotel there soon. From HHI you can do a day trip to Savannah or Charleston. When I was at St Simon's we went to Savannah for the day also. St Simon's is not as spick and span as HHI, there is Jekyll next door. The mainland over from St Simon's is not all that. However, don't let me put you off by any means as St Simons is still nice.

San Destin- Fort Walton area is better than Destin itself. I rented a nice house there, bungalow in San Destin with a golf cart. In fact I am renting a house this summer for 4 nights down on the 30A.

I would recommend DollyWood very nice- it is a bit of a drive from Gatlinburg, but not too bad. I stayed nearer Pigeon Forge in a cabin.

You will definitely have an excellent time- this general route (I did it a bit of a different way but basically visited the same places) is one of my favourite all-time holidays.
Thanks YT, you have been a great help!

After reading Amanda's report, we have now booked a 1 night stay on Jekyll Island so I can visit Driftwood Beach. After finding out one round of golf is nearly $500 at Sawgrass we have reduced our stay to just the 1 night.

I'm glad you liked HHI as I've read very mixed reviews. The condos I have shortlisted are actually within Palmetto Dunes so good to know it's nice there. Definitely planning some time in Savannah, will try and get to Charleston too

After your advice about Destin we have scrapped that area and have now found some very nice apartments literally on the 30A in the Santa Rosa beach area, I think it's called Gulf Place?

Looking forward to Dollywood, I think the kids will love the coasters while I can hold the bags watching some country music shows

We really hope we have a great time, it's got to do some beating of last years holiday
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Old 4 Mar 20, 05:38 PM  
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Sounds like an amazing trip. We visited the Smokie Mountains years ago but stayed in Gatlinburg and just loved it. We also did Atlanta and went to a small town called Covington where the Vampire Diaries is shot. It's called Mystic Falls in the programme. It had the walking dead tours as a lot of the filming is done around there. It was surreal to drive the small tree line roads that the walkers pop out of.
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