Three major interstates lead to Florida. Interstate 95 begins in Maine, runs south through the Mid-Atlantic states, and enters Florida just north of Jacksonville. It continues south past Daytona Beach, the Space Coast, Vero Beach, Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, ending just south of Miami.
Interstate 75 begins in Michigan at the Canadian border and runs south through Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, then moves south through the center of the state before veering west into Tampa. It follows the west coast south to Naples, then crosses the state through the northern section of the Everglades, and ends in Miami. Despite its interstate status, the Interstate 75 stretch between Naples and just west of Fort Lauderdale levies a toll each way per car, with higher tolls for motor homes, boat carriers, and such.
California and most southern and southwestern states are connected to Florida by Interstate 10, which moves east from Los Angeles through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. It enters Florida at Pensacola and runs straight across the northern part of the state, ending in Jacksonville.
To save time and money while on the road, you may want to purchase a SunPass for your personal or rental vehicle. It provides a discount on most tolls, and you’ll be able to sail past collection booths without stopping. You also can use SunPass to pay for parking at Orlando, Tampa, Palm Beach, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale airports. (SunPass now interfaces with North Carolina's Quick Pass and Georgia's Peach Pass.) With SunPass—transponders can be purchased for $4.99 to $25, at drugstores, supermarkets, or tourism welcome centers—you can charge up with a credit card and reload as needed. For more info, check out www.sunpass.com.
Unless you’re going to plant yourself at a beach or theme-park resort, you really need a vehicle to get around in Florida. Rental rates, which are loaded with taxes, fees, and other costs, sometimes can start around $35 a day/$160 a week, plus the aforementioned add-ons. In Florida you must be 21 to rent a car, must have a credit card, and need to know rates are higher if you're under 25.
Alamo. 29207. 877/222–9075; www.alamo.com.
Avis. 67054. 973/496–3500; www.avis.com.
Budget. 6 Sylvan Way, Parsippany, New Jersey, 07054. 800/218–7992; www.budget.com.
Gold Coast Car Rental. A locally owned, one-outlet operation near Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. 300 S.E. 6th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 33316. 800/421–8752; 954/522–0665; www.goldcoastcruiseandflyparking.com.
Hertz. 34108. 800/654–3131; www.hertz.com.
National Car Rental. 63105. 800/881--5500; www.nationalcar.com.
Sunshine Rent A Car. A locally owned Florida agency with outlets at the Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports. 321 W. State Rd. 84, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 33315. 888/786–7446; 954/467–8100; www.sunshinerentacar.com.
Downtown areas of major cities can be extremely congested during rush hours, usually 7–9 am and 3:30–6:30 pm or later on weekdays. Florida has a website (www.fl511.com) with real-time traffic information for six regional zones.
Rules of the Road
Speed limits are generally 60 mph on state highways, 30 mph within city limits and residential areas, and 70 mph on interstates, some Orlando-area toll roads, and Florida's Turnpike. Supervising adults must ensure that children under age seven are positioned in federally approved child car seats. Infants up to 20 pounds must be secured in rear-facing carriers in the backseat. Children younger than four years old must be strapped into a separate carrier or child seat; children four through five can be secured in a separate carrier, an integrated child seat, or by a seat belt. The driver will be held responsible for passengers under the age of 18 who aren’t wearing seat belts, and all front-seat passengers are required to wear seat belts.
Florida's Alcohol/Controlled Substance DUI Law is one of the toughest in the United States. A blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher can have serious repercussions even for a first-time offender.