Thinking of Thanksgiving travel
Q. "I know Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away but . . . We are driving from Arlington to Northern New Jersey for the holiday. I am new to this as this is my first year not taking the train. We want to leave Wednesday night, maybe around 7 or 8? Do you think traffic will be terrible at that hour? Do you have any other suggestions for either a time to leave? Or a road to travel (instead of 95 to the Garden State Parkway)?"
So begins our annual discussion of when to leave and how to get there for the November-December holidays. That question arrived during my online discussion on Monday.
Yes, I think the traffic will be bad on Wednesday night, Nov. 24, the night before Thanksgiving. So if possible, leave earlier. Fine. But how much earlier? Bob Marbourg, the traffic guru at WTOP who has watched the holiday getaway for three decades, says it used to be that everyone heading out of the D.C. area for a long-distance driving getaway left on Wednesday, but "that ended about 10 years ago."
Now, drivers trying to sneak out on Tuesday night find they share the highway with lots of other sneakers. Doesn't that mean that Wednesday night should be better? Only if you take a nap and leave after midnight. There are still plenty of people who wait for the kids to get out of school on Wednesday and hit the highways then.
Gas prices tend not to be a good gauge of how crowded the highways will get. People will pay the extra money to get to Grandma's house.
If I had a choice of departure time, which many don't, I'd leave during the daylight on Tuesday. (For some, that may be a little too much of Grandma's house.) I invite your comments on departure times, and I'll have more to say, too, over the next few days. On Sunday, our Commuter page in The Post's Metro section will be devoted to the holiday getaway planning.
While many travelers tell me that timing is more important than route, since there are no undiscovered shortcuts, these are the suggestions I put out during the online chat for the Northeast getaway:
-- Route 50 across the Bay Bridge, to Route 301 to state road 896 (Churchtown/Boyds Corner Road) to Route 1 and Route 13. From there, drivers can reach I-295 and the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
-- Baltimore Washington Parkway to I-695 north around the west side of Baltimore to I-83 north to I-81 north, just east of Harrisburg, Pa. Follow I-81 north, then take I-78 east into New Jersey.
-- From I-95 north, take Route 279 toward Newark, Del. Turn right onto Iron Hill Road. At the end, turn left onto Chestnut Hill Road. Then turn right onto Route 896 (South College Avenue). I-95 will be a quarter-mile down the road. (This would avoid the Delaware Toll Plaza, where there's been a lot of congestion lately because of the construction of the high speed E-ZPass lanes.)
On that last one, I got this response from a traveler: "There's a better way than Iron Hill Rd. Christiana Parkway, the first big intersection in Delaware. There's a bunch of lights and signs saying "Amtrak/SEPTA" pointing right at Christiana. Much less confusing than wandering down Iron Hill I've found."
We'll talk more about routes, too, so send us your suggestions for the getaway in all directions.
| November 9, 2010; 9:20 AM ET
Categories: Driving, Getaways | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, travel tips
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