I-75 To Florida: Experiences/Tips

Raineman

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Three years ago, we drove to WDW for the first time, from our home here in London, Ontario, Canada. It was our first road trip down I-75, and it was a fun, sometimes challenging, a bit grueling, but always interesting, experience.
For anyone that has done it before, either once or multiple times, what were your experiences, good or bad, what tips would you have for anyone else travelling the same route, and what questions do you have that someone else might be able to answer.
I'll start with my own experiences and tips, apologies if this post is a bit lengthy.
Our trip took us from London to Detroit on Highway 401, then on to I-75 south through Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and into Florida, then onto the Fla Turnpike, followed by SR 429 to Western Way, and through the gates onto WDW property.
We left at 3:00 am, and we planned to stop at a hotel for the night around 7:00 pm in the Valdosta, GA area, which would mean only about 3 hours of driving starting the next morning to arrive at WDW. We were making great time, stopping every 3-4 hours for gas/food/bathroom breaks-until just after we crossed the border from Kentucky into Tennessee. The day before, a rockslide had covered all of the southbound lanes and part of the northbound lanes of I-75 just past the Jellico exit. We were diverted onto a southbound detour through Jellico onto a mountain road. A truck accident on the sb detour forced us to go back through Jellico and go south on the northbound detour-which meant heavy traffic both ways on a narrow mountain road with no shoulders and either massive walls of rock or dizzying plunges straight down on either side. All told, the detours took us 4 1/2 hours to complete a section of I-75 that should have taken 10-15 minutes. As such, we stopped for the night short of our goal, at 11:00 pm, in Cordele, GA. No issues the next day, and we arrived at our resort in the early afternoon.
The mountains in Kentucky and Tennessee were beautiful, but Michigan, Ohio, Georgia and Florida were fairly uninteresting, scenery-wise. Through Cincinnati was a bit crazy, due mostly to the construction. I did not enjoy driving through Atlanta, having to deal with 38 lanes of traffic (exaggeration, but not by much).
I had found out about a book called "Along The I-75" by Dave Hunter a few months before we left. It's basically a CAA/AAA triptyk on steroids; it had maps which included all food, gas and lodging at every exit, detour routes to take, common speed trap areas, travelling tips, and even info on the history of each area you pass through and roadside attractions/points of interest along the way. I highly recommend this book, and the new edition just came out.
We will be heading out for our second WDW road trip in 3 weeks, and one thing that we've learned from our last trip is that the front passenger/navigator/DJ should be in charge of checking traffic reports for the road up ahead, for the next state, etc. We might have been able to figure out our own detour around the rockslide instead of getting ensnared in the official detour, if we'd have done that during our first trip.
 

ppet

Well-Known Member
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I've made part of that trip many times. used to live in Cincinnati. A cool place to stop is south of Atlanta. It's called Lane packing Company. They are a peach orchard. they've got great peach ice cream among other things. Of course we always stop at the first rest area in Florida for our shot of orange juice.
 

Grimley1968

Well-Known Member
We've made the I-75 trip from Kentucky to WDW countless times.

- There has been lane widening from 4 to 6 lanes in a stretch in southern Kentucky for years now. It's almost complete but not quite. Fortunately, it's in a remote area with almost no local traffic, so that mitigates some of the slowdowns. Be cautious through here as sometimes they will go down to one lane while putting on the final asphalt layer or painting stripes, especially at night. But this is increasingly rare. But generally it's at least 2 lanes open during most hours of the day. This is from about mile marker 65 down to about mm 57 now.
- The rock slide(s) near the Jellico exit have been addressed and there shouldn't be any slowdowns there. However, this section of extreme southern Kentucky will soon be the only non-6 lane section of I-75 in the state, IIRC. I'd expect the highway department to start work sometime in the next few years widening this section to 6 lanes. Unfortunately there is a fairly major river to cross in this section, and the bridges will have to be widened over it. This work could be quite inconvenient when it begins, but you should be fine within the next few months here.
- I try to avoid Knoxville at all costs, and I'm fortunate that I know some shortcuts away from it that put me on I-75 close to Chattanooga. But if you have to stay on the interstate near Knoxville, at least take the 640 bypass around Knoxville. It at least avoids downtown Knoxville. That town always seems to have road construction going on. I usually get through Atlanta faster than Knoxville.
- Atlanta is of course a bear to get through anytime close to a rush hour. But if you can time your drive through there during a non-rush hour time, I'd just go straight through on 75, and forget about 285, which is a lot of extra miles, and often the congestion is no better.
- Do take the Macon bypass. It saves miles and time.
- Tifton and Valdosta, GA both have plenty of good chain hotels to choose from. From Valdosta to the Disney gates is something like 3.5 hours.
- The rest of your trip sounds like the best way to go. Just be sure to have a bunch of quarters for the tolls in Florida, or if you like you can order a Sunpass and have it mailed to you.

- Google Maps now has a traffic layer, which we've found to be pretty useful. Unless a road is red, we've found we can generally move unimpeded. I'm not a fan of Waze, even though Google supposedly bought them. Just don't like the interface.
 

larryz

Expert Thread Derailleur
Premium Member
Timing is everything in Atlanta. 10 pm to 4 am is the best time to go through. If you must go thru Atlanta in daylight hours, make sure you have a SunPass and use the HOV/PAY lanes. It will save you about an hour each way.
 

Dad 2 M & M

Well-Known Member
Timing is everything in Atlanta. 10 pm to 4 am is the best time to go through. If you must go thru Atlanta in daylight hours, make sure you have a SunPass and use the HOV/PAY lanes. It will save you about an hour each way.
Keep in mind the Sunpass will assist you on 75 if:

1) you are North of I-285, roughly the last 30 miles north of Atlanta BEFORE you are Inside 1-285
2) you are South of I-285, roughly the next 12 miles outside I-285 south of Atlanta

These lanes are reversible, and rarely will you benefit on both sides of town on the same trip. The normal schedule is the lanes are open in the morning heading inbound to Atlanta, and heading Outbound in the evening......

They do not operate inside I-285 on I-75......the meat of the city
 

UNCgolf

Well-Known Member
As someone who lives in Atlanta, it's really only 2-7 PM or so that is bad for I-75 South. It can be backed up in the morning too, but usually only from about 7:30-9, and even then it may not be that bad unless there's an accident somewhere. If you're coming through on a weekend it shouldn't be too bad at any time.

285 is definitely an option, you just have to avoid it around rush hour. Even then, it's only going to be backed up for about 8 miles from I-75 because everyone is just trying to get to I-20. Once you hit the I-20 exit it'll open up completely until you get back around to I-75.

Using GPS for updated traffic is a must, though. That alone should let you know if you're better off taking 285 or staying on 75 straight through downtown.
 

Raineman

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Keep in mind the Sunpass will assist you on 75 if:

1) you are North of I-285, roughly the last 30 miles north of Atlanta BEFORE you are Inside 1-285
2) you are South of I-285, roughly the next 12 miles outside I-285 south of Atlanta

These lanes are reversible, and rarely will you benefit on both sides of town on the same trip. The normal schedule is the lanes are open in the morning heading inbound to Atlanta, and heading Outbound in the evening......

They do not operate inside I-285 on I-75......the meat of the city
We did manage to catch the express lanes heading south in the mid-late afternoon. TBH, I just used them to try them for the first time, but literally a couple of hundred feet past the express entrance, I-75 was backed up a long way, at a dead stop, so it was a good decision, albeit a lucky one. When coming back through Atlanta from the south, the lanes were closed.

As someone who lives in Atlanta, it's really only 2-7 PM or so that is bad for I-75 South. It can be backed up in the morning too, but usually only from about 7:30-9, and even then it may not be that bad unless there's an accident somewhere. If you're coming through on a weekend it shouldn't be too bad at any time.

285 is definitely an option, you just have to avoid it around rush hour. Even then, it's only going to be backed up for about 8 miles from I-75 because everyone is just trying to get to I-20. Once you hit the I-20 exit it'll open up completely until you get back around to I-75.

Using GPS for updated traffic is a must, though. That alone should let you know if you're better off taking 285 or staying on 75 straight through downtown.
I've never taken 285, I've always decided to try my luck with 75, and haven't really had any issues, and I usually hit Atlanta late afternoon. It's not so much the volume of traffic that I don't like about driving through Atlanta, it's the number of lanes and making sure that you are in the right lane that you want to be in, so you don't have to cross 27 lanes at once in heavy traffic. :D
 

Dad 2 M & M

Well-Known Member
We did manage to catch the express lanes heading south in the mid-late afternoon. TBH, I just used them to try them for the first time, but literally a couple of hundred feet past the express entrance, I-75 was backed up a long way, at a dead stop, so it was a good decision, albeit a lucky one. When coming back through Atlanta from the south, the lanes were closed.


I've never taken 285, I've always decided to try my luck with 75, and haven't really had any issues, and I usually hit Atlanta late afternoon. It's not so much the volume of traffic that I don't like about driving through Atlanta, it's the number of lanes and making sure that you are in the right lane that you want to be in, so you don't have to cross 27 lanes at once in heavy traffic. :D
What happened when the express lane ended? Was 75 still backed up until you made it to I-20 (at the old Olympic Stadium/Turner Field)?
 

Raineman

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
What happened when the express lane ended? Was 75 still backed up until you made it to I-20 (at the old Olympic Stadium/Turner Field)?
No, when we rejoined 75 the traffic was moving along nicely. Every time the express lanes are open while I'm driving through Atlanta, I'm taking them-I'll gladly pay a buck or two each time to get through the city quicker.
 

Dad 2 M & M

Well-Known Member
No, when we rejoined 75 the traffic was moving along nicely. Every time the express lanes are open while I'm driving through Atlanta, I'm taking them-I'll gladly pay a buck or two each time to get through the city quicker.
Definitely worth it....the thing is, in the late afternoon, the I-75 lanes north of 285 reverse at head Northbound.......
 
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