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Before the Summer Travel Memories Fade . . .

An overnight trip back to Washington from Cape Cod reminded me of the advice you travelers so often give when we discuss vacation routes: It's not so much the route you take. It's the time you take it.

I did the basic I-95 route -- with some standard deviations -- but left from Cape Cod at 12:22 a.m., arriving back here at 8:46 a.m. That meant it was a breeze through Connecticut and across Westchester County, NY, to the Tappan Zee Bridge and down the Garden State Parkway to the New Jersey Turnpike and across Delaware on I-95. (There wasn't even a slowdown at the Delaware toll plaza.

But, of course, traffic built up on I-95 north of the Baltimore Beltway, though the Fort McHenry Tunnel toll plaza was not a problem. Things looked bad on I-95 north of Washington, so we cut over onto Route 29. That wasn't bad because we could stay left and avoid the heavy line waiting to merge onto the Capital Beltway.

If I could set my time for this basic route that so many of you use, I'd leave about 10 p.m., to avoid the local rush hours. If I couldn't do that, I might take the route many of you have recommended, using I-287, 78 and 81 to Harrisburg, PA, and then drop down I-83 to the Baltimore Beltway.

While similar memories of summer travel are still fresh in your own minds, did you notice anything about routes, conditions and timing that would be useful for future reference?

One tidbit you may find useful for Thanksgiving and other winter travels on I-95: The Delaware Welcome Center Travel Plaza, the big rest stop in the middle of I-95, closed overnight and will remain closed for reconstruction until June 2010.

By Robert Thomson  |  September 8, 2009; 1:19 PM ET
Categories:  Driving , Getaway , holiday travel  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, vacation routes  
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I left NYC for DC at 8 PM, and traffic was already flowing freely in the tunnels and on the NJ turnpike.

Worst moment: Dodging a wrong-way driver on the NJ turnpike in Middlesex county. (It doesn't matter how good of a driver you are -- if the other guy does something nuts, you're just as dead.)

Posted by: stuckman | September 8, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I did the Cape to DC route a year ago and also drove at night, but ran into the most horrible night construction in CT and NJ- I-95 was reduced to one lane in several locations. In retrospect, I probably left too early (but was not really up for a complete all-nighter)- I left the Cape around 7 pm, figuring CT would be clear by the time I got there. And it would have been fine were all lanes open, but there were still just enough cars on the road that reducing 95 down to one lane was horrendous- by the time I realized what was happening I had missed my chance to cut up to the Merritt Parkway and ended up sitting for over an hour.

Posted by: lb79 | September 8, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Leaving western Mass. at 4AM on a Monday morning, we took mostly your route but took 287 to avoid NY/NJ rush hour. Pretty easy drive.

Posted by: Hemisphire | September 8, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm a cheapskate so when going back from visiting family in New Jersey, I take 295 rather than the Turnpike, and then take the Commodore Barry Bridge rather than the Delaware Memorial -- that way I skip the clusterstupid of every single lane of traffic trying to squeeze into the only lane that will take you to 95 South from the bridge. Commodore Barry is so much smoother...

Posted by: SilverySpringlike | September 8, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: I can't decide whether my least favorite driving state is Delaware or Connecticut. It's very competitive. We started our August vacation on a Thursday night, hoping to beat Friday night traffic. But we ran into overnight paving that closed several lanes -- I say several lanes -- in the Conn. suburbs. That alone added an hour to our trip time.
SilverySpringlike, thanks for the suggestion about the Barry Bridge. That one-lane squeeze down from Memorial Bridge to 95 is always troublesome. Having an E-ZPass, I can stay left and go through the Memorial Bridge's E-ZPass only lanes, but it's still a pain just beyond that where so many lanes merge.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | September 8, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

If you don't mind driving through Philly on Interstate 95 you can save even more money by crossing the Delaware at Trenton. The bridge up there is toll free both directions...

Posted by: ValleyCaps | September 8, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Although not directly related to the discussion on best routes to NY and points in New England, I thought the following was a great find for a no frills, back road beach route from DC to Dewey/Rehoboth/Lewes. Of note, this route really is best if you are headed to the Delaware resorts from Dewey on north.

This route avoids the hang ups near the Queenstown Outlets and along Route 404 at the various towns: Denton, Bridgeville, Georgetown to name a few of the slower spots. Headed home on Sundays, it avoids the waiting lines on 404 to get to Route 50 and through the signal at Route 213 and the Outlet Mall.

Overall, the route parallels both Route 404 and Route 16 but its further north. This route has the shortest duration of time on two lane highways compared to 16/404.

Take Route 50 over the Bay Bridge

Take Route 301 when it splits from Route 50

About 8 miles past the split, take a right onto Route 304
This is about 60 miles out of DC and about 70 miles from the beach. You will be on two lane roads for about 35 miles. You will lose cellular service about halfway down this road.

After about 9 miles, take a left onto Route 312

After about 2.5 miles, take a right onto Route 313 (T-intersection)

This is roughly the halfway point. You will pass a Llama farm on this road. It's pretty cool.

Follow the signs for Route 287 at Goldsboro, MD

Route 287 becomes Route 10 at the MD/DE state line

Take a right at Martin's Auto Parts onto Secondary Road 56, Sandtown Road
(1 mile from the state line)
There is a liquor store on the left about 100 yards before the turn.

Follow Sandtown Road all the way until its end, where it intersects with Route 12 (6.3 miles), then take a left
You should be able to use your cell phone again.

Go through the town of Felton.
Watch the speed traps. Continue on to Frederica (another speed trap) until Route 12 merges with Route 1,
then take a right (about 9 miles).

Once on Route 1, you have a 55mph "speed limit" and only a couple of traffic lights in the stretch between Route 12 and Lewes. (The state of Delaware has contstructed a few new grade separated interchanges in recent years.) After about 20 miles, you will be in Lewes, 30 miles will get you to Dewey. Watch for speed traps around the Route 1/Route 36 interchange south of Milford.
Traffic will get bad when Rt. 16 intersects, and even worse when Rt. 404/9 intersects.

Posted by: xyv1027 | September 9, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

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