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  1. Default Washington DC to NYC for a novice Aussie Tourist

    Gooday America
    My names Michael from Sydney and I'm planning on driving Washington DC to NYC in late December with wife and teenage daughters. Im wondering if I should be concerned with weather condition. Will I see and drive in snow or ice conditions. We have never seen snow but have some USA driving experience around Orlando and road tripping from La to Vegas.
    I'm also looking for somewhere to go near Washington to stay 2 nights to experience White Xmas . Not looking for skiing. Just somewhere the family can build a snowman. A lodge or cabins . Something similar th big bear lake in California. .
    Luv coming to USA . Our 3rd time in last 4 years. So much to do much to see.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Winter in the Northeast Corridor

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    If I were trying to plan an enjoyable drive from Washington to New York in December, weather would only be my second or third concern. Tops on the list would be the traffic and the roads themselves. Those two cities are connected by the Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey Turnpikes as well as other bits of I-95. For the most part those are multi-lane Interstates (Motorways) with 65 mph (or so) speed limits. But I have driven them at times when they are little more than eight lane wide parking lots, and other times when they are (still) eight lanes wide, but with everyone going 80 mph even though they're still pretty much bumper to bumper. And Christmas season sees a lot of interstate and inter-city traffic especially along the BosWash corridor. If you want to avoid the tolls (at least 6 separate toll booths) and drive on some saner roads, I'd suggest I-81/I-78 as an alternative. That's a little bit longer, but more scenic and reasonable as well.

    There is simply no way to predict the weather this far in advance, either for what you'll see on your drive up to New York or for where to find a white Christmas. For the drive, you should have a couple of alternatives in your pocket. Either be able to move the drive to an alternative set of highways or be able to move it to an alternative day. The first is not really a meaningful option on a trip this short. The nature of snowstorms in the northeastern United States is such that if it's snowing in Washington it's likely to be snowing all along any route you might take to New York, so just be ready to postpone or move up your travel day.

    As for where to find a white Christmas in the DC area, obviously your best bet is in the Appalachian Mountains to the northwest of the city. Yes there are some ski areas there but you don't need to stay at one which gives you the option of finding a quieter town with more to choose from and just enjoying the ambiance. For a town fairly close to Washington, I'd suggest Winchester VA which is near the Blue Ridge and the northern end of the George Washington National Forest. If you need to go farther inland and to higher elevation to find snow then look at Frostburg MD, a small college town near the Savage River State Forest. Both Winchester and Frostburg are on Interstate highways making access relatively easy.


  3. Default

    Thanks AZ Buck I owe you a beer.
    Couple more dumb questions.
    Knowing that there is traffic, how long should I allow. We are not in a hurry but would like to restrict travel to daylight. Also is there a quieter time of day, that is am or pm.
    Also with driving in snow is it a case of a little is ok and a lot will make conditions dangerous and stop you. Does it ice up on 8 lane highways.
    Regards Michael

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Timing and Snow

    The time needed to drive from Washington to New York can vary quite a bit. Under the best of circumstances - daytime, light traffic, good weather, dry roads - you can make it in about 3½ hours. Now let's consider all the things that could drive that number upwards. Traffic is probably the biggest factor. As I noted earlier, there are at least 6 choke points where everybody has to stop and pay tolls. If there is enough traffic volume, each of those can add 5-10 minutes to your journey. Besides those obvious points, there are also places where the roadway narrows by a lane or two, or two major highways merge, etc. But perhaps your biggest headaches will be just getting out of Washington and through Baltimore. Traffic around the DC beltway (I-495) can, and does, come to a grinding halt during morning (7:00-9:00) and evening (4:00-6:00) "rush" hours on working days. Still, with all that said, I would be surprised if it would take you more than 5 hours to make the drive to New York going the main, I-95, route.

    Now, there are a couple of things to be aware of as you drive north. the first is as you approach Baltimore. The signs will be directing the bulk of traffic bound for New York to follow I-95 through the Fort McHenry Tunnel. If traffic is at all bad, even moderate, you want to leave the herd for a while and instead take I-895 through the Harbor Tunnel. It's shorter, and will have far less traffic as truly 'local' traffic can't use it as you can only get on I-895 headed for the tunnel and you can only get off headed away. Next, as you approach the Delaware Memorial Bridge I-95 will split with I-95 going up the west side of the Delaware River through Wilmington and Philadelphia, and I-295 crossing the Bridge and going up the east side of the river through New Jersey. You want I-295 across the bridge and then joining up with the New Jersey Turnpike. I-95 still hasn't been completed and if you follow it you will end up frustrated and heading south somewhere near Trenton.

    Finally, snow and ice. If you are unfamiliar with driving in winter weather conditions, my best advice to you is, really, wait until the weather has cleared and the road crews have removed all the solid precipitation from the highways and sanded and salted them. I-95 on any day near Christmas is no place to get your first lesson in how to control a car with little traction and limited visibility. The Interstates get the highest priority during any storm, but still the only time I-95 is worse than when it is an eight lane parking lot is when it is an eight lane skating rink.

    If you are actually leaving for New York from your white Christmas retreat rather than from Washington itself, then I would even more strongly recommend taking I-81/I-78 through Harrisburg to New York. Winchester is already on I-81, and Frostburg is west of it meaning you'd have to cross I-81 (on I-68/I-70) to get to I-95. Any time you're already on I-81 it makes no sense to go out of your way to get to I-95. The same winter driving caveats apply. As noted above, the worst times for traffic are going to be weekdays during rush hours, the weekends immediately before and after Christmas Day, and of course Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Christmas traffic itself is generally lighter as people are at home with their families.


  5. Default

    That's 2 beers I owe you AZbuck
    Luv the detail. I will think this out carefully. We are still in the itinerary planning stage and your information has been invaluable. Im not phased if the drive takes 6 to7 hrs so long as we arrive safely. I'm planning to be 35 days in USA and can incorporate a few weather delay days in the plan. My greatest concern is the road and driving conditions and what I can do to mitigate any risk. The thought of an 8 lane skating ring makes it sound very scary. I'm now considering catching train from Washington but would prefer the flexibility of driving and making a few stops along the way.
    Again thanks mate.
    And you can hold me to the two beers when I come to the USA.

  6. Default

    If it is just a trip back and forth, I would seriously consider leaving the car and go by train or bus as you probably will not need a car in NYC - but pay big bucks to park it.

    The train is quicker as traffic does not matter, but the bus is a lot less expensive, significantly less than half price. The buses are very nice and most if not all have wifi on board. But, as a car, they are affected by traffic - but at least you're not driving.

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