Daytona_beach
By Jim Cohn, Orbitz Sports Travel expert

Daytona Beach and much of Central Florida have been humming for more than a week
already, as the Super Bowl of NASCAR, the Daytona 500,
approaches Sunday, Feb. 17.

This is the 50th running of the Great American
Race, and if you’re a race fan, there’s no better time for a Daytona Beach vacation. If you’re
not
a race fan, there’s no worse time to be here. The annual pilgrimage to Daytona Beach reaches its peak this weekend,
but the crowds will be building beginning with Thursday’s Twin 125 qualifying
races.

Crowds for Sunday’s race at Daytona International Speedway will well exceed 150,000
people. And while many will conveniently
retire from a long day of partying before, during and after the big race to
their mobile homes and RVs parked in and around the speedway, thousands more
will make the short drive to one of the many Daytona Beach
hotels
and motels.

Chances are, if you’re thinking about heading to Daytona for
Speedweeks or the 500, you’ve already made plans or are soaking up the speedway
sun as we speak. If you’re within driving
distance, it’ll be a lot easier to get there at this point, but hotel
availability is tightest this week, as well as other busy weeks including Black
College Reunion
and Bike Week. But this
is the busiest week of the year, no question.

Most, if not all three- and four-star hotels in Daytona Beach are booked
solid. But you might be able to find a room at a two-star property, such as
Daytona Inn Beach Resort, which has rates starting at $225 per night. A couple of other two-star properties are
listing availability in the $400 per night range, and up. Your best bet, at this point, would be to
venture outside of Daytona Beach and check out
places like Lake Mary,
which is a far north suburb of Orlando, or Palm Coast,
which is just outside Daytona. You might
also be able to find something in Ormond Beach.

Keep in mind, most who attend the 500 make their hotel
reservations
as much as a year in advance. Please visit http://racing.orbitz.com
for comprehensive travel planning to racing’s biggest events throughout the
year. Here you can book travel, find
race tickets and much more.

Tickets

The race is sold out but you can still find tickets. Orbitz’ racing site offers race
tickets through a partnership with StubHub. Tickets are selling for about $180
and up, or you can always take your chances on picking up some outside the
track on race day.

If you’re going to watch from the infield, a popular spot
for many, a couple of things you’ll want to remember. Get in as early as you possibly can. As you’re reading this, thousands are already
camped out and have been for some time in order to get a prime spot. You won’t have a very good view, but you
can’t beat the party. If you’re at the
race simply for a good time, this is the place to be. If you want to see the race or are traveling
with kids, do your best to get a seat in the grandstands. 

If you do wind up in the infield, the best spot to see cars
zoom by close up is on turn 4.

Leaving the race, a couple of strategies. Either be ready to run the minute the race
ends, and even if you do you’re going to be stuck in traffic. So your best bet is to stay in the infield
and wait it out – several hours. Keep
the grill going and relax, it takes a good four hours for the traffic to
subside. So make the most of the
experience and make some new friends. Just please don’t drink and drive.

If you don’t have, or can’t get tickets, there’s plenty to
do in and around Daytona and the atmosphere around the speedway is great. Daytona USA is arguably the best racing
museum you’ve seen and a great tribute to the sport. And this time of year, if you’re from
anywhere outside the Sun Belt, you can’t go wrong with the beach.

If you want to escape the crowds, the best beach is New
Smyrna
, which is a short drive south from Daytona Beach right off of Highway 44. If you’re looking for fun and don’t want to
escape the crowds, well, you won’t have a problem with that.

Traffic

Traffic is heaviest on Sunday, but can certainly be
problematic Thursday, Friday and Saturday also. In fact, if you happen to be in or around Orlando Sunday, don’t head eastbound toward the beaches before noon or westbound back
toward Orlando
from the beaches after 4. It will take
you hours.

Related Orbitz resources:

Before Orbitz, Jim had a previous life as a broadcast sports journalist,
covering the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the Masters, the Daytona 500 and other events
that would make any sports junkie jealous. Now, he uses his expertise and travel
experience to help others find the best and most cost-effective ways to travel
to top sporting events.

Tagged: Beach Vacation, Florida Vacation, Holidays & Events

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