Planning a POTA Babe Trip – Part 3

(Note: As many of you know, I cut my spring-break Florida POTA trip short for personal reasons. However, I did not change this article and opted to leave the original itinerary intact as that was the intent of the trip.)

Having two POTA trips under my belt, I thought I’d share how I plan my trips in hope it will inspire others to undertake the same endeavor. After I explain my process, I’ll walk through the process using my spring-break POTA trip as an example.

The first questions to answer are where do I want to explore and how am I going to get there?

So far, I’ve traveled to Nova Scotia and Florida. Air travel was a necessity for the Nova Scotia trip but not my preference for travel in general. I loved to fly as a child but as an adult, it has lost its appeal. We live in a gorgeous country and have at our disposal a wonderful interstate system such that my transportation preference for a POTA trip is to drive. For a short trip (five to six days), I try to stay within 250 miles of my home QTH. For a trip longer than a week, I’m willing to drive 500 miles or more.

Google Maps

The next step is to decide where I’ll stay. Now that I am single, I need to watch my expenses closely. Camping is a great accommodation option if one is willing to put up with some inconveniences. So far I’ve found the campgrounds in the state parks to which I’ve traveled more than adequate. One has to be willing to walk to the bathhouse, accept whatever conditions the weather provides, and be less connected than we typically are in our modern society. Camping also requires certain equipment which I addressed in my first article.

Once I’ve nailed down my accommodations, it is time to begin choosing which parks to activate. For the past two trips, I chose parks based on their proximity to the roads I drove between accommodations, whether I needed to pay for access to the park, and how easily I could ensure I’m within the parks boundaries. My priority was to fit in as many park activations as I could during the trip.

Going forward, my criteria is the same but my focus is not. I want to spend more time in the parks I activate, choosing parks based on the scenery and/or other activities they offer so I may learn about the ecology and/or history of the location. I also want to savor the parks I visit, taking time to slow down and enjoy the experience.

So let’s walk through this process as to how I planned my spring-break POTA trip in April.

Choose a destination and how to get there

As I mentioned earlier, I prefer to drive. I’ll be gone six days for my April POTA trip, so I need to find a destination within 250 miles from Bloomingdale, GA. I chose to visit the state of Florida as I enjoyed my trip this past December and think the weather during the first week of April will still be comfortable that time of year.

Choose accommodations

For the Florida winter-break trip, I stayed in a different campground nearly every night. The advantage of that arrangement is I could cover more ground and experience more places. However, taking down and setting up camp every day eats up time and, depending on the weather, can be a pain. For the spring-break trip, I thought I might stay at the same campground the entire trip.

Itinerary for December 2023 POTA Trip Source: My Google Map

I searched for and found a map of all the Florida state parks with camping. There were several state parks within the 250-mile radius from my home; however, I also wanted a park that had lots of potential POTA sites nearby. After looking at my options, I chose Manatee Springs State Park at which I will stay three nights. Not far away is Suwannee River State Park which had availability for two nights. Bingo – accommodations done!

Choose which parks to activate

Now that I’ve chosen the parks at which I’ll stay, I need to figure out what POTA sites nearby are of interest. As I stated earlier, I want to choose activation sites based on what they can offer me in addition to the activation itself. Two prime activities at parks are wildlife viewing and hiking.

When I think of wildlife, I immediately think of national wildlife refuges. I Googled “best national wildlife refuges to visit in Florida” and found the following map. The refuge closest to the areas I plan to visit is St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge and, given what I read about that refuge, there is so much to see there that it may fill up an entire day.


 As for hiking, I googled “best hiking trails in Florida” and found There were a fair amount of trails from which to choose though several were eliminated because dogs are not allowed due to the presence of alligators or ticks are a major problem. I took my time exploring the site finding trails close to or in the Manatee Springs and Suwanee River State Parks.

Now that I have my accommodations nailed down and some ideas for wildlife viewing and hiking, I need to fill in my itinerary.

For day 1, I know I have 250 miles to drive to Manatee Springs State Park. I looked for a  park along the road and discovered Lafayette Wildlife Management Area. The park has a loop Daisy and I may walk once our activation is finished.

Google Maps

For day 2, I scheduled an activation at the Nature Coast State Trail which was mentioned on the Florida Hikes website and received good reviews on TripAdvisor. Adjacent to the trail is Fanning Springs State Park, another POTA site. I plan on hiking the Palmetto Trail  at the state park and look for manatees at the nearby springs after our activation.

Google Maps

For day 3, I considered heading south of Manatee Springs State Park to Cedar Key. Accessing Cedar Key requires a boat which I don’t have so I nixed that option. However, near Cedar Key is the Cedar Key Museum State Park and the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve, a great site to view the Florida Scrub Jay, Florida’s only endemic bird and whose populations are in decline.  These two parks offer wildlife viewing, some hiking, and exposure to Florida’s history.

Google Maps

For day 4, it will be time for a change of scenery, to head north to Suwannee River State Park where Daisy and I will spend two nights. Manatee Springs and Suwannee River state parks are an hour and a half apart. To make sure I have time for “being”, I will plan on activating Suwannee River in the late afternoon/early evening giving Daisy and I time to set up camp and hike the Big Oak Trail at this park.

Google Maps

On day 5, we will head to St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge. I am excited about visiting this refuge – lots of hiking and bird watching opportunities here. Our visit is a little early for the spring migration; but maybe we’ll catch the “early birds” while there. (Yes, you can groan.) The Forest Capital Museum State Park is nearby and another potential activation if we don’t spend our entire day at St. Mark’s.

Google Maps

On day 6, it will be time to head home. I plan to stop at Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge since it on the way. There won’t be history, hiking, or much wildlife viewing, but it will give me another activation and give us a break from being in the car.

Google Maps

Well, there you have it. How I planned my April POTA trip.

I hope this article is useful. I am already going through this process as I plan my summer POTA trip to North Carolina this July. How did the Day 1 activations at Lafayette Wildlife Management Area and Manatee Springs State Park go? Stay tuned…

6 thoughts on “Planning a POTA Babe Trip – Part 3”

  1. Very helpful tips, Teri. Like you, I enjoy planning my trips almost as much as the trips themselves. I’ve found that my actual trips are usually somewhat different from the ones I plan. Sometimes, they’re significantly different, such as my recent trip to see the TOTAL eclipse from southern Illinois. My grandson and I ended up seeing an 80% partial eclipse from just south of Atlanta on the way home from our farthest north point of Chattanooga. The trip was great, but quite different from the one we planned.

    The most helpful part of your article for this planner was your 250 and 500 mile radius map. Had I really thought that out for our eclipse trip I might’ve added 2-4 more days to my trip plan. We only had a week. My daily preferred maximum range is 300 miles, and I’m quickly learning I also need to add a full day every 4-5 days just for recuperation, reflection, and “smelling the roses” along the way. I’ve often thought in terms of your 250 and 500 mile radii. Seeing it on a map was eye-opening. Were I to draw mine from SW Florida it would show a full 1-2 days just to get out of Florida. It’s always my goal to get out of Florida in the “hot months”! Either that, or just stay home like I am now for a few months and just hunt for activators and work on my SKCC goals from my air-conditioned shed-shack!

    I’m looking forward to reading about your summer trip — especially how it works out camping from a weather standpoint. My month-long 2022 trip along the full length of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway in an air-conditioned camper was quite warm during activations on some of the days. Keep up the good work with your fun-to-read activation reports. I love ’em!

    Paul, N4FTD

  2. Paul:

    I’m glad you found the article helpful. Yes, I am not sure how the weather will play out during the summer POTA trip. That is the fun and adventure of camping – one never knows what one is going to experience. I am hoping the weather doesn’t broil me and am considering purchasing a small fan to ensure adequate air flow for sleeping. What you did – spending a month along the Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway – sounds like a fun trip.

    You are correct that planning a trip is half the fun of the trip itself. I read once in a Wall Street Journal article long ago that the ideal trip is 4-5 days and much of the pleasure from a trip is the anticipation and planning of it.

    Thanks for your comment. Keep having fun with ham radio!

    The POTA Babe

  3. Volodymyr:

    I followed the link you posted and watched your video. How cool is that?! It is possible for me to sleep in Kai, my Subaru Crosstrek, I think and I would like to do that sometime just for the experience of it. There might be a time on a POTA trip where the weather is too bad to set up a tent and sleeping in the car overnight preferable. That is the fun of POTA, right? You get to try new things and see of what you are capable in the outdoors.

    Thanks for your comment and sharing your video. Keep having fun with CW!

    The POTA Babe

  4. Teri,

    As always…..another great article. Although I have never done an overnight POTA trip, I suppose some of the same methods can be used during family vacations, etc. Last summer we went to Cape San Blas in Florida and I used the “radius” method to plan my activations. Looking back, I should have planned a little better and researched some of the parks a little more. Again, another well written piece!!! Thanks for taking us along on the journey.


  5. Teri,

    Just be careful and prepare for tick exposure. We did quite a few geocaches and day hikes around St. Augustine this winter and on one occasion came home with one tick attached and a couple more inside our jeans. Long sleeves and rubber bands on wrists and ankles can reduce the exposure but we have been in that same area for 5 years and this is the first time we have ever seen a tick…. So we were careless.

    My sister and husband who lead our excursions this winter are avid geocachers and also were caught off guard. So be careful. This might just be a bad year for ticks.

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