While the obvious place to fly into is Orlando and while it typically is the cheapest it isn’t always and you might save money flying into other airports. Below are a list of potential airports along with drive times:
- Tampa International (about 1.5 hours away)
- Daytona Beach International (about 1.5 hours away)
- Sarasota International (about 2 hours away)
- Jacksonville International (about 2.5 hours away)
- Miami/Fort Lauderdale (about 4 hours away)
If there are only a couple people flying it may not make sense to fly into another airport, but if there are seven (how many are on our typical trip) if we can save $30/ticket then that is $210 in savings, almost enough to rent a minivan which more than makes up for the drive. You will have to evaluate travel time versus money saved. If you are only saving $100 it may not make sense to fly into Miami.
Florida Sunpass is the toll road system. There are a lot of toll roads in Florida. Around Linda’s Retreat there are several you can take, and while you can get around without them, by avoiding them you can add drive time to you destination. You have a few options and all of them are valid depending on your situation. I’m going to list them here and then we will go through each of them in general
- Avoid most if not all toll roads and pay as you go
- NEW* Visitor Toll Pass
- Rent a Sunpass from the rental car company
- Purchase your own Sunpass account.
avoid most tolls
This can be a pretty simple solution. If you don’t plan on driving on many toll roads or are willing to sacrifice some driving time to avoid them. It is simple to do (you can set your GPS to not use toll roads), but you will sacrifice some time. Maybe 10 or 20 minutes depending on the trip. Most toll roads do take cash (you need exact change so be careful), but there are some that will bill you by plate and then bill the rental car company. This can be quite expensive so check with your rental agreement to see what type of processing fees they charge if you want to go this route. It is probably okay if it is 1 or 2 tolls, but beware you will get a bill after your vacation to cover the tolls, and the rental car company will tack on some nice fees.
Visitor Toll Pass
This is a pilot program that we recently found out about on our last trip to Florida. You must be picking up and dropping off a car at the Orlando international airport. You make a reservation, pick it up, act just like you have a sunpass, drop it off and within 3 days you pay your tolls (plus a 23% service fee) This seems like one of the best ways to do it. Here is their website.
Rent a sunpass
This is the easiest and most convienent. You don’t need to setup an account or worry about tolls. It can be pretty expensive. It is typically $10/day. If you are only planning on renting a car for a few days it may make sense to go this route, or if you just don’t want to deal with tolls or getting your own sunpass account.
get your own sunpass
This can be a very compelling option. To get started it is $20 for a portable transponder (this is the one you need for a rental vehicle). It is a little cheaper if you are driving there you can get one for $5 which is a permanent one, but I don’t know if you would want a permanent one for a short trip. You then need to put $10 in your account. Unless you are going toll crazy this will probably cover what you need (to go from miami to key west it is about $20 in tolls). So for $40 you can probably cover your entire tolling needs the cheapest way possible. If you are only going to rent a car for 3 or 4 days it may be a wash, but if you are planning on renting for a week or more it will be cheaper to purchase a sunpass.