I live in Madison, WI but will be roadtripping to my see my family in the Washington DC area for the Christmas holiday season this year. Since the quickest way to get from Madison to Chicago (a point along the route) is to take I-39/90 east, due southeast, as far as Chicagoland, that will be the first part of my route, and you helpful folks can consider the question about a route from Chicago east.
Last year I made this drive only one way in reverse. We opted to take I-70, going across the WV panhandle and into central Ohio. The benefits to this route as I saw them were a lack of tolls, other than the PA turnpike and the IL tollway (but nothing in OH or IN at all), and the decreased likelihood of running into lake-effect snow conditions.
But the drawback was the time. It took forever! I've made this drive in both directions, and must say that I-80 is faster with traffic/construction or without. Going either direction, we've knocked out the entire thing in under 13 hours, including some congestion in Chicago. On I-70, it took almost 16; partially because of snow in Pennsylvania and pretty much consistently at all points after leaving I-70 for I-65 and points northwest, and partially because Ohio just took SO much longer.
My question is this: how much do lake effect conditions really affect drive times on I-80 in December? If I can shave 3 hours off the drive, is it worth the risk?