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aussiedreamer Mar 9th, 2019 02:08 PM

3.5 weeks, Southern States HELP
Hi all, after a hectic last Christmas we've decided as its the 'in-laws turn' to have the grandkids this year, we would go away for the Christmas period. As often happens we let points decide where we should go, our version of throwing a dart at a map. :-) So with that said we arrive into Dallas December 23 and depart Dallas January 16. I've attached a map of where in the US we've been, just to give an idea that we aren't 'newbies' to long haul flights and lots of driving. Our only 'plan' so far is to spend the first night in Dallas and then collect a car or an RV (preferred option) and hit the road. Our interests are natural beauty, NP's, walks, local food, historical/significant sites, not big cities unless there's something particular to see/visit. My particular interests would be to visit one or two Plantation properties (bit of a Gone with the Wind nut) and I can't go all that way and not drop in and say hi to 'Elvis'. ;)

Thinking we probably wont spend much time in Dallas, but looking at driving a 'loop'... Memphis, Nashville and maybe over to Savannah and Jacksonville and back through New Orleans.

Would love to hear suggestions of not to miss places and thoughts on car vs Rv, and if the weather at that time of year in this part of the US will have a huge bearing on driving/accommodation.

tomfuller Mar 9th, 2019 09:37 PM

Are you sure that Dallas is your best choice? Why not fly to one of your wish list cities (Memphis, New Orleans or Atlanta)? From Dallas I would take the Amtrak Texas Eagle to Chicago and spend a few hours there before taking the "City of New Orleans" overnight to Memphis. Rent a car in Memphis for the eastern part of your trip. Return the car to Memphis and take the CONO to New Orleans.
You could go home from New Orleans with no worries about a drop fee or going all the way back to Dallas to return your vehicle.
I would not want to drive and park an RV in Memphis or New Orleans.

Gardyloo Mar 10th, 2019 06:47 AM

Let's talk first about the RV v. car issue. My vote is firmly in the car camp. Even though you'll be in the South, that doesn't mean that it's going to be warm, and in fact you're more than likely to encounter snow and/or icy conditions somewhere along the route. Aside from iffy driving conditions in a big and potentially unwieldy vehicle, that also means you're going to have to pay (potentially a lot) for the cost of keeping the vehicle warm at night; as you can expect they're not paragons of insulation. And it will be night a lot. Days will be short, so your hours in the RV are going to be, well, long. Really long. By comparison, motels will be warm, cheap because it's the off-season, and plentiful. When you've added the RV's base cost, the mileage costs, the extras like cooking or bedding, hookup and dump fees... yech. If you want to cook for yourselves to save money, there are lots and lots of motels with completely equipped kitchens (including dishes, pots and pans) all over the place. Besides, you'll be traveling around the part of the US that arguably has the best food in the country.

I have a couple of ideas on routes; you could even combine them with a cheap domestic flight or two, but much depends on your preferences.

First, using a DFW base (and can I assume you're starting in Dallas because of Qantas' nonstop?) I'd suggest a big loop of Texas and the Mississippi - like this - . Note this could be done in either direction, clockwise or anti/counter-clockwise.

This would include the Texas cities of Austin and San Antonio, then across to New Orleans (with a stop for an antebellum mansion or two) then up the Mississippi to the major Civil War cities of Natchez and Vicksburg, including a brief drive along the scenic Natchez Trace, then along the big river to the Mississippi Delta blues country. Visit the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, eat ribs at Abe's BBQ at the Crossroads (don't sell your souls) then up to Memphis. Visit Beale Street, the Sun Records studio, the Civil Rights museum, Graceland if you must, and maybe splurge for a night at the Peabody Hotel, with its famous lobby ducks. Then back to DFW, OR, if you can handle any one-way car hire costs, drop the car and fly either back to DFW, or onward to the Atlantic.

If you have some extra days, you could possibly do a second loop around the "low country" along the eastern seaboard. Fly (from DFW or MEM) to Charleston, South Carolina, and spend a few days tooling around Charleston, Savannah, the many islands off the Georgia coast, something like this - . The weather would probably be warmer (but no guarantees) and the food will be fabulous.

Load up some CDs or flash drives with lots of jazz, blues, zydeco and country music, and hit the road(s.)

jamie99 Mar 10th, 2019 12:15 PM

I agree with Gardyloo about renting a car and staying in motels. RVs are not that cheap, get terrible mileage plus you are usually given a mileage "allowance" and have to pay for extra miles, unlike most rental cars which come with unlimited mileage. You also cannot stop and sleep anywhere but have to stay in campsites and RV parks.

janisj Mar 10th, 2019 02:56 PM

Ditto everything Gardyloo posted. I cannot think of anything much worse than being stuck in an RV days on end in likely wet and possibly freezing weather. Yes, It does snow even in the South some times in some places. A car + hotels/motels/the occasional airbnb would be cheaper than an RV and MUCH more comfortable, plus you'd have a lot more flexibility.

aussiedreamer Mar 10th, 2019 10:21 PM

Thank you so much Gardyloo and all, all really positive helpful feedback. And yes, Dallas due to non stop (and available) flights.

Thanks again for being helpful.............we will start checking out great places to stay, sounds like we may be able to 'wing' it a little as far as reservations due to the off season. And love your best food comment.

tomfuller Mar 11th, 2019 09:29 PM

I hope that we have all convinced you not to use an RV rental. After a day in the Dallas Fort Worth area adjusting to your jet lag, fly to either Memphis or Atlanta and rent a car. You can get back to Dallas for your return flight by using Amtrak trains from New Orleans or Chicago.
Are you comfortable driving on the "right" (USA and Canada) side of the highway?

WhereAreWe Mar 15th, 2019 05:41 AM

If you are interested in national parks, check out Big Bend in west Texas. You would not want to visit prior to January as Christmas week is very busy. It's a solid 10-12 hour drive from Dallas though, so you really have to want to go there.

Originally Posted by tomfuller (Post 16885121)
From Dallas I would take the Amtrak Texas Eagle to Chicago and spend a few hours there before taking the "City of New Orleans" overnight to Memphis

Absolutely 100% do not do this. Why in the world would anyone sit on a train for 22 hours, spend a 'few' hours in Chicago in winter, then get back on another train and go to Memphis? That is nuts. Skip Chicago and all this train nonsense.

aussiedreamer Mar 23rd, 2019 08:32 PM

No, Chicago definitely not on the drawing board. Probably not Big Bend either, as much as we'd love to, with unpredictable weather we'll save this for another visit. Thanks so much for the feed back, now to start getting down to the nitty gritty of a route to take. We wont take any domestic flights while we are there, takes up too much of your time. Plus we love to drive and can cover a lot of territory with lots of flexibility.

starrs Mar 24th, 2019 09:53 AM

"but looking at driving a 'loop'... Memphis, Nashville and maybe over to Savannah and Jacksonville and back through New Orleans."

Good call on changing to a car instead of an RV.

I would do the southern part of the loop first and then up through a northern loop. Yes, it can snow but if it snows, it usually melts in a couple of days. If an ice storm hits, it may take 4 or 5 days for everything to melt, but it doesn't last long.
Yes, you can be flexible for most of your stops. In that case, head south or out of the way of the storm if one is heading your way. I do that when working in Ohio in winter.

Here's a loose plan - east from Dallas to NOLA and then to the sugar sand beaches of the Florida panhandle on the Gulf of Mexico. Stay at Pensacola Beach for at least one night or one of the village along 30a.
I love going to Cape San Blas in winter. Lots of options between Pensacola Beach to Mexico Beach, Port. St. Joe and the cape. Get out on the water on a tour. Temps should be warm enough. Stop at historic Apalachicola. If you like oysters, you're right where you should be. Eat at the Indian Pass Raw Bar in an old general store - where the turpentine workers bought their goods.

Then on to Tallahassee and over to the east coast of Florida. You may enjoy the very old city of St. Augustine. Head north up the coast and visit Amelia Island, Jekyll Island and/or St. Simons Island. On up about an hour or two to Savannah. Spend a few days in Savannah. Then head over to Charleston for at least a night, stopping at the little town of Beaufort on the way. Then up to the mountains - if the weather is good. Visit Asheville and go see the Biltmore House and estate. Then over to Great Smoky Mountain NP. You'll see elk in the southern park of the park. Then over to Nashville, maybe via Knoxville. Then head over to Memphis. Then back down towards Dallas, maybe through Arkansas. Maybe down through Louisiana and see some of the big rice plantation houses. If you have "extra" time, I love the Hill Country of Texas. San Antonio, Fredricksburg, the little town of Greune. See what's going on/ what band may be playing in the historic Greune Dance Hall.

If I were doing your trip, that's probably the route I would take.

If you like pottery, I may add a slight detour in the Carolinas. If you have special interests, let us know.

AmandaF Mar 27th, 2019 09:09 PM

Since you like nature, you should most definitely considering adding the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to your list, basing in Gatlinburg since you mentioned food. You will just have to be intentional about seeking out the local restaurants over the chains in Gatlinburg but they are definitely there. It will be cold in December so be prepared (at least cold to those of us from the South). Gatlinburg, while touristy, is still a charming small town at the entrance of the national park that goes all out in decorating for Christmas. Some may mention another base like Townsend or Wears Valley but you won't have as many food options there as they are more remote. There are a plethora of campgrounds in the area if you end up going the RV route. I would avoid Pigeon Forge, other than driving through to reach Gatlinburg and the National Park. While in the area, I would look into adding Ashville, North Carolina (stopping by The Biltmore) and Highlands, North Carolina, again for food and natural beauty. Ellijay, in the North Georgia mountains would also be a place to consider, though I've only been in summer and fall so I can't say how it is in December.

AmandaF Mar 27th, 2019 09:33 PM

Also, on the leg of your travel from Jacksonville to New Orleans, I would make a stop off of Scenic Highway 30A and stay several nights in one of the beautiful, quaint villages. Scenic 30A is a 24mile corridor that hugs the Gulf of Mexico (between Panama City and Destin) and it includes some of the most beautiful small beach towns you could ever imagine. They each have their own vibe so you could research them all and see what feels most like you. A bike trail runs almost the entire stretch and it's so fun to bike the stretch, stopping along the way for a meal/dessert or to explore the streets in the various villages. The area will be great in December because the crowds won't be too bad, although some restaurants will be closed for the season. Some of the best areas along Scenic 30A include: Rosemary, Alys Beach, Watercolor, Seaside, WaterSound, Seagrove and Blue Mountain Beach. Seaside will have the most restaurants open in the off season and it is right in the middle of the corridor. Also off of Scenic 30A is Grayton Beach State Park which is full of salt marshes, sea oat covered dunes, white sand and emerald water. You could canoe or kayak in the lakes and canals around the area.

AmandaF Mar 27th, 2019 09:36 PM

Starrs mentioned in the above post about Cape San Blas, Mexico Beach, etc. which are all gorgeous as well, however they were just hit incredibly hard by the hurricanes this past year so I would check to see how much has been built back before making a decision on those areas.

Gretchen Mar 28th, 2019 03:47 AM

Dallas to Jackson Ms

Jackson to Memphis

Memphis to Nashville

Nashville to Asheville

Smoky Mountaing Park

Asheville to Charleston

Charleston to Savannah

Savannah to Atlanta

Atlanta to NOLA

NOLA to Dallas

aussiedreamer Mar 28th, 2019 04:04 PM

Honestly you guys are the best. Sorry if my responses are a bit slow.........heading to Iceland soon, so that is 'sucking' up all my time. But please know all of these awesome suggestions are exactly what I'd hoped to receive. The planning will begin in earnest on our return from Iceland early June. But please keep it coming..........

aussiedreamer Jul 4th, 2019 10:03 PM

Okay, we are just back from 4 weeks in Iceland and Norway. We had RV's in Iceland and reconfirmed that we love that way of traveling. So although we have listened to and discussed your suggestions, we've decided to go ahead and book one for our December/January trip. So now to follow up on all your route suggestions.

Gretchen Jul 5th, 2019 02:37 AM

I haven't read the suggestions since you first posted but I would add if hasn't been mentioned that getting into the large cities with an RV is hard if not impossible for parking. So either have a car in tow or these days, there is UBER.

Vttraveler Jul 5th, 2019 04:18 AM

If you are at all interested in blues music you could stop in Clarksdale MS south of Memphis. My husband and I went to a great festival there in April. There is live music year-round at several venues.

In Memphis I highly recommend the National Civil Rights Museum and Mud Island River Park as well as the Elvis sites.

sf7307 Jul 5th, 2019 05:23 AM

We’ve been traveling in an RV since April 20th. I can give you specific advice about places we were able to park the RV and places where we weren’t able to park it.

aussiedreamer Jul 5th, 2019 03:04 PM

Thanks Gretchen, big city days will be uber, cab or bus's.

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