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  1. Default Driving advice for New York, Washington and Boston in December


    My husband and 3 yr old are travelling to the East Coast from Australia in December. I am just wondering if anyone can help with driving tips for travel between New York, Washington and Boston. We are flying into JFK at 5pm on Dec 11th and hiring a car. The plan is to get as close to Philadelphia as we possibly can to stay the night and avoid the traffic around NY if possible. After looking around Philly in the morning we head to Washington to see the sights and spend the night. We aim to leave the next day about lunch time to make our way to Boston. We plan to drive about 5 or 6 hours and spend the night somewhere so that we are only a couple of hours drive from Boston the next day. We will spend the night in Boston and leave late morning to drive back to New York to drop the car off and where we will spend the majority of our stay. The tips I am most interested in are what driving conditions we can expect, where to expect traffic, what routes would be the best to take etc. We would prefer not to travel the same route twice. If anyone has experience at driving this area at this time of year any advice would be appreciated!!


  2. #2

    Default That's a tough assignment

    Hello Christie,

    If I'm following your plans correctly, you're leaving JFK some time shortly after 5pm on a Friday headed for Philly and will then leave DC, bound for the Boston area, at mid-day on Sunday. I can be rightly accused of complaining too much about traffic in the Northeast corridor, and I admittedly don't get up that way often, but every time I do I return home absolutely crushed by the traffic volume and the resulting very slow and painstaking travel.

    I really can't offer suggestions as to routes to avoid traffic, particularly on Friday the 11th. I strongly suspect there are none. Perhaps on the return trip you could look at venturing north from Baltimore into Pennsylvania and New York enroute to the Boston area. I surely would, as a Sunday return through northern NJ and right through the NYC area would be far more than I'd undertake following what is very likely to be a slow and arduous exit from JFK less than 48 hours before. In that vein I took the Baltimore/Harrisburg, PA/Scranton, PA route to Newburgh, NY back in 2007 simply to avoid NJ/NYC on a rush hour weekday afternoon. It was some 70-80 miles farther, but we ran 80 mph all the way, so I suspect we "won" in terms of time.

    I really wonder if perhaps you're overreaching to include such short stays in Philly, DC, and Boston. If it's sightseeing which brings you to the three, I suspect your ratio of sightseeing to slugging it out in traffic will be < 1:4 or 5. Add the fact that those are among the shortest days of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere and that you're arriving from 1/2 way around the world and I have great difficulty imagining the fun of such an undertaking, quite frankly. If it were me, I'd look at staying overnight on Friday somewhere close to JFK, then launch early the 12th for either the southern or the northern leg of your present plans, jettisoning the other entirely.

    Perhaps others with more local experience up there can provide greater hope and better suggestions regarding your itinerary.

    Best of luck planning and taking your RoadTrip!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default really overreaching

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I completely agree with Foy, I think you are trying to do way way too much, and you really need to take another look at what you are doing.

    Trying to drive from JFK to Philly, on a Friday evening, after being on a plane for nearly 24 hours is crazy. First, the simple jetlag and fatigue factor alone make such a drive unwise in the best of conditions, but trying to get across New York city on a Friday Night on top of that will be pretty miserable. On top of all that, trying to do such a trip with a 3 year old? That's a pretty big third strike.

    The reality is that this entire area sees a ton of traffic, and you're going to see a lot of delays. I don't think you'll be able to do much siteseeing at all with this schedule - as by the time you reach one place, its you're going to have to be moving to the next city. Throw in the fact that Foy mentioned that it will be dark before 5pm at this time of year, and you'll certainly have a chance of seeing some winter weather to slow you down even more, you've got a whole lot of obsticles ahead of you.

    I would really encourage you to spend more time on the roadtrip portion of your trip, and if you can't, then you should really look at eliminating some aspects of this altogether.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Alternative Avenues

    I certainly don't envy your need to be driving the northeast corridor on the weekend, but there are usually alternatives to the obvious (and generally very crowded) I-95 through the major cities. Unfortunately, there is no convenient choice for your first leg from JFK to Philly on a Friday night. I would suggest that rather than heading off directly into the Friday evening rush hour, you take your time clearing customs, etc., have a good meal, and then hit the road around 7:00. Leaving JFK you are going to want the Belt Parkway west to Exit 3 and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, I-278. Continue on I-278 to the New Jersey Turnpike, I-95, south and then the easiest route into Philadelphia is to take Exit 6 onto I-276, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and use the US-1 south exit at mile marker 351 and make the first left onto PA-132 to connect with I-95 south into the city. As I said, there is unfortunately no good alternative to this and although it might seem that you should just be able to follow I-95 from the New Jersey Turnpike to downtown Philadelphia, that is simply not the case.

    For your Sunday drive from Philadelphia to Washington, I-95 is the obvious choice and shouldn't be too bad in the morning until early afternoon, but it will start to get busy as traffic heads home in the evening. If you go this way, I strongly recommend that you use I-895 and the Harbor Tunnel in Baltimore rather than I-95 and the McHenry Tunnel. If you can spend an extra hour on the drive and want it to be more relaxed, then you can take Exit 1 from the Delaware Turnpike (I-95) onto DE-896 south to US-301 and follow that to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (NOT the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel) and pick up US-50 into Washington. This route also takes you by Annapolis, home to the U.S. Naval Academy and a delightful city to walk, particularly around Christmas.

    Between Washington and Boston, alternatives to I-95 abound, and since you are going to stop overnight en route you can go slightly out of your way and avoid Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York altogether. Leave Washington on I-270 west to Frederick, MD, join I-70 and take that to Hagerstown, MD where you will get on I-81 north to Scranton, PA. There take Exit 186 to I-380 east and follow that a few miles to I-84 east, I-84 will join I-90, the Massachusetts Turnpike, in central Massachusetts and that will take you the rest of the way into Boston. There will be ample services and motels along that entire route, so that you can find a place to spend the night pretty much wherever you feel the need.

    From Boston to New York, you can follow the same route (I-90/I-84) back to Brewster, NY and then use I-684 into New York City, or if you want something completely different, I-95 down through Rhode Island and then along Long Island Sound opens up the possibilities of stopping in Newport, RI and/or Mystic, CT as well as some state parks along the shore.

    Traffic will generally be heavy to very heavy on I-95 which is the principle expressway linking the major east coast cities, and I would not be surprised if you encountered at least light snow somewhere along your journey. Still, the road crews are used to it, and all the routes I recommended are used enough that the chances of you having to interrupt your trip due to weather are fairly small. And you will never be far from 'civilization'.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Remember Peter Brock?


    I would have to completely agree with Michael and Foy, leaving NYC on a Friday afternoon in winter with a three year old after coming of the longest flight in the world and having to drive on the wrong side of the road, is not only daunting, it would be foolhardy. If you are convinced that you are experienced enough to handle it, let me remind you that Peter Brock thought so too. And we all know what happened to him.

    I seriously urge you to reconsider your plans, maybe spend a few days in NYC first, and then go on your road trip through the middle of the week. Though I can assure you, I have found the middle of the week traffic horrendous (compared with anything at home) even outside of rush hour. I have done the North NJ (near NYC) to Boston on I-87 and I-90 in five hours, and have taken almost twice that long on I-95. And that was always in summer.

    Lifey from Melbourne

    [For those not familiar with my comment above... Peter Brock was Australia's greatest champion production car racing driver and Champion Rally driver. Not all that many years ago he came of a long-haul flight from London to Perth and took part in a rally the next day. His funeral followed several days later.]

  6. Default Thank you

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much to everyone for replying. This is exactly the information I was after. I should have probably qualified that we are actually in LA for a week before we get to New York so we are only flying for 6 hours that day not 20. I would totally agree that doing that is way too stupid. I will certainly consider changing our plans in light of your comments. The only accommodation I have booked and paid for is for Boston on the 14th before coming back to NY on the 15th. I had only made reservations for DC and done nothing about the other 2 nights. I suppose our reasoning was that we wanted to see all 3 places as well as spend most of our time in NY and we were bound by time in some respects. In light of this it seems that we should keep this time to just do the northern end instead and perhaps do a day trip to Philly when we are in NY and not do Washington. If anyone has any ideas on places to stay and see on the way to Boston that would be great! Thanks once again,


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