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  1. Default Washington Going South!

    Hi folks. I live in England and my wife and I are planning a joint 50th birthday three or four week trip next April/May. Intention is to fly to NYC, possibly train to Washington DC, hire a car then head south - possibly ending up in Mississippi or as far as NOLA. We're still debating in our minds whether to do a straight North-South trip or a circular, maybe down to Nashville and turning back north-west of the Appalachians, back though Amish country to NYC.

    If you can spare a few minutes to give it some thought, I'd be most grateful. We'd appreciate any suggestions and ideas for places to visit and areas to avoid!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    The US is a huge country, so trying to help you with suggestions and ideas for places to visit would take a long, long time. Best thing that I can recommend is to get a good US road atlas (you can order one from the RTA Store, link below) and start flagging places you think are interesting. A route will start to form. Once you have a good idea of what sounds good to YOU, we are able to help you fine-tune and offer additional suggestions.

    Generally speaking, if you are looking to save money, a loop trip is much less expensive than a one-way, when it comes to renting a vehicle. On a one-way, they make you pay a fee so that they can relocate the vehicle back to its original location. You can also use two different routes (as you mentioned) and get more sightseeing in.

    As far as Amish country is concerned -- Lancaster, PA area (Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse PA) are major areas. If you go, leave your camera stashed away, or at least don't aim it at an Amish person in traditional clothing. They will turn away, as they do not like to get their pictures taken. (It is concerned vain, and the Ordnung -- the unwritten law of Amish -- says vanity is a sin.)


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default For Starters

    Three weeks is quite sufficient to do a loop trip from New York down to New Orleans and back with at least one leg of the loop going through Nashville. If you have a fourth week, depending on how much time you want to spend in NYC and DC, all the better. As Donna notes, such a trip covers a lot of ground and without knowing your interests we can only offer the most generic help. But to give you an idea of at least some of the things available to you on such a loop have a look at the 'inland' route described in this discussion and also be sure to check out the southern portions of the Great River Road and all of the Natchez Trace Parkway as another possible route.

  4. Default

    That's great, thanks

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Maps will help you.

    Jimbo, see if you can get hold of some really good detailed maps of the east and southeast States. They will show you all your options of roads and routes and the many attractions along the way. Then you can choose the loop you'd like to do which has the attractions to meet your interests.

    There's nothing like having good maps. If you can't get them locally, order a Rand McNally from the RTA store via the link at the bottom of this page. Order it now and you'll have it in a couple of weeks.

    Once it arrives, consider following the advice in this paragraph:-

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    Start with maps. Not GPS, not software, not Google, but real honest-to-god paper maps that show you your entire route, that you can mark up (and erase), that you can stick pins in, and that show something about the land you'll be driving through. Those are your essential tool in any RoadTrip planning process. Start by marking all the places you know you want to visit. Then connect the dots. Then look for more places of interest and scenic routes along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.

  6. #6


    The idea of riding the train down to Washington, DC, is a good idea... certainly beats the NYC to Washington, DC traffic (which extends all the way down to Fredericksburg, VA on I-95).

    Amtrak train access is easy and straightforward at Newark Int'l airport (EWR) via the airport light rail link (free with a copy of your boarding pass and only a few minutes from the airport). Newark is a major international hub that we use often for flying overseas (riding Amtrak up to the EWR). JFK is the other major international airport in NYC, but getting to the Amtrak is a bit more complicated but doable. Also consider flying into Philadelphia (PHL), catching the local rail system SEPTA from the airport to the downtown Philadelphia Amtrak system.

    Washington's main international airport is Dulles (IAD). Your best bet is riding an IAD to DC coach into DC which will connect you to the Metro (the "underground" in London-speak). The Metro is a good system that should connect you all over the city. If you do a loop roadtrip, I'd suggest you coach back to IAD to pick up the rental car and then stay at an airport hotel the night before flying home.

    Baltimore-Washington Int'l (BWI) has limited international services and a shuttle to the Amtrak/MARC station (MARC is a Maryland commuter train service). If you fly in/out of BWI, it is another good option for renting your vehicle and spending the last night at a local airport hotel. British Airways used to have a non-stop flight from London to BWI.

    It is very possible that you can get tickets connecting through JFK or EWR to one of the three Washington, DC area airports (DCA is across the Potomac River from DC and has direct Metro line access).

    The DC Metro enables you to select a wide range of hotels in the DC metro area. You don't want to rent a car while touring the downtown DC area--parking is super expensive, lots of traffic and the street pattern can be very, very confusing.

    One last note: most flights to Europe leave the USA East Coast at night, anywhere from 5:30p to 11:30p, so you may not need a hotel the night before departure. Access to Dulles airport from the south via US-15, or other non Interstate 95 and DC beltway roads should be fine. There are many Civil War battlefields, historic Harper's Ferry, and even Jefferson's Monticello (recommended) is only a few hours away. Traffic to Baltimore's BWI via the DC interstates 95 and 295 is bad during rush hour and likewise from the north and the beltway. Access via I-97 from the south usually isn't too bad (e.g., coming from Annapolis, Maryland, or the Eastern Shore).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Excellent info

    Excellent information in this last post. Thanks for sharing your local expertise!

    One caveat, personally, I really enjoy driving in DC. Yes, it is possible to get confused by some of the traffic patterns, but it is a fascinating place to drive. Parking can be expensive, but it still possible to find.


  8. #8


    I commuted to Washington, DC for three decades often equating it to entering the combat zone ;) People need to be prepared for DC driving... the street layout is very uncommon for the USA, designed for geometric appearance and national defense reasons (before the age of missiles and aircraft). Just be prepared! For example, you might not want to use your turn signal until you are already turning! There are automated speed traps and automated red light cameras all over the city. And there is chatter about the city moving to "market-based" parking meters and you better be prepared to use a cell phone app or credit card for parking spaces (pros and cons on this one).

    If on a budget one should consider the cost of using Metro vs. car rental cost and parking (many hotels in DC increasing charge $20+ for daily parking as well).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default How does that work?

    Quote Originally Posted by landmariner View Post
    ... For example, you might not want to use your turn signal until you are already turning!
    Could you please explain this one? How would the turn signal trigger a ticket-earning event?

    As an aside, I do know the value of READING and following the directions on traffic signs in NYC. I got tagged for turning right on a green light after 4:00 pm on Broadway. There are plenty of similar exceptions (of common driving sense) in DC.

    The first time I ever drove in DC, was at the conclusion of a incredibly fast (and therefore really, really foolish) speed run from LA to DC in remarkably few hours. I entered the Dupont Circle at rush hour -- my first experience in that kind of traffic circle -- on less than anything approaching a "rested" condition. I drove a couple of rotations before I figured out how it worked...



  10. #10


    Landmariner, I couldn't agree more with what you recommend. We came through DC last Monday and spent two-and-a-half hours from Quantico to Ellicott City. We also went through a stale yellow and got "beeped" by our GPS for a traffic camera, but we couldn't stop as the guy behind us was tailgating and came through right behind us, He would have plowed into us if we had stopped for the light.

    I've always used the Metro to go into Washington, and it has good stops and connections to all the tourist sites. The Greenbelt Station also connects the Baltimore MARC and the Metro lines. You never have to drive inside the Beltway to visit DC if you use the trains.

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