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  1. Default Chapel Hill, NC to Montreal

    Starting in 2018 I will probably be making this road trip at least once per year. Google Maps says this is 13 hours but going through the DC-NYC corridor I do not think it is doable in one day.

    I was actually thinking of doing the back way (NC-86/US-29/I-64 up to I-81, I-88 to I-87 in New York) which is supposed to be almost two hours longer but traffic would be more predictable and there would be no tolls. Could I do this in 1.5 days (part of the route in the evening after work and then a full day of driving) or would that be too much? What are good stopping points? How bad is the border wait on I-87 in NY?

    I'm only 22 and the longest road trip I have made alone is from NC to Philadelphia, so I do not really have an idea of how to plan this and how much driving in one day is too much. Input would be appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default good instincts

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Despite your lack of experience, I think you're already making some wise decisions in your thought process. Yes, this distance is too much to do in one day, and yes, avoiding the DC/NYC corridor is a very good idea.

    A couple things to note: Travel time estimates provided by online mapping programs are extremely unreliable - actually times are typically at least 20 percent higher. That 13 hours that google might tell you would almost certainly take more than 15 in real world conditions. Maybe even more to the point, the route you've proposed via I-81 adds about 70 miles - but completely avoids the traffic of NYC and DC and thus I'd expect it to be very similar to the I-95 based route, not the 2 extra hours you've apparently been told by these programs.

    One minor change I might suggest is that rather than taking I-88 to I-87 in New York, instead take I-81 all the way to Canada, and then use 401 into Montreal. That's about 20 minutes shorter and I'd guess that I-81's crossing would be a little less busy than I-87. However, if you are making this trip frequently, I'd change it up and see which route you like best and tends to have better conditions.

    550 miles is generally what we recommend as the upper end of what you should look to travel in a single day. That would put you around Scranton as a good spot to stop on your way up, assuming you get on the road in the morning. If you're leaving in the afternoon, you'd want to get to at least Hagerstown, MD on the first day (which is probably farther than you should go "after work" unless you're only working a half day).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    A very minor consideration, but there is a $2.75 US ($3.75 CDN) toll on the I-81 bridge into Canada. I do get the impression this is less busy than the I-87 border crossing.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Subtext

    In case it wasn't perfectly clear from Michael's response, Chapel Hill to Montréal is not a 'day plus a little bit' drive. It's much closer to two full days, especially once you factor in inevitable traffic, food/fuel/rest stops, and the time to cross the border (I've experienced waits of over an hour at major ports of entry).

    The other factor that's going to add time is the way you get to I-81. I suspect that Michael is envisioning taking I-85/I-95/I-64 to Richmond then Charlottesville and hitting I-81 at Staunton VA. That's fine but rather circuitous and involves getting through or around Petersburg and Richmond. A more direct route would be US-501 through Lynchburg. Another possibility would entail more local roads through Danville to Roanoke. Your own suggestion of using US-29 is yet another possibility, As Michael mentioned, if you're going to be doing this drive often, you can experiment a bit to see which routing suits you best.

    Still, each of the above possibilities adds time and pushes your total driving time more towards 15-16 hours than the very unrealistic 13 hours that computer-based algorithms are giving you. Yet another consideration is whether you just want to sit in your car for 15+ hours or actually get out to see some of the lovely country that I-81 traverses. If you possibly can, budget two full days for the one way drive.

    Speaking of computer mapping problems, my wife and I once visited Montréal and were relying a bit too heavily on our GPS for navigation. We turned it off when it started directing us to cross the St. Lawrence on a railroad bridge!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    From Chapel Hill to I-81, NC-86/US-29/I-64 does look like the fastest route to avoid the I-95 corridor.

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