What time to leave?
January 1, 2012 7:55 PM   Subscribe

This Friday I have a 7:30 PM flight out of BWI. What time should I leave the Chevy Chase, MD area? What route is best (any construction or other concerns)? I will have a rental car and am traveling solo.
posted by blargerz to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (10 answers total)
If I were you, I wouldn't leave any later than 4pm. Best route is probably 495 to the Baltimore/Washington Parkway.
posted by downing street memo at 8:03 PM on January 1, 2012

I want to second the 4pm or earlier departure time. Since they moved the rental car complex away from the main terminal it takes like an extra hour to return your car and get the shuttle back to the terminal. That surprised me once. Once!
posted by zomg at 8:28 PM on January 1, 2012

Response by poster: Shit. Do you know, are ALL rental car companies outside of the main terminal?
posted by blargerz at 8:34 PM on January 1, 2012

Yes, they have one of those "rental car centers" in BWI, so there won't be any rentals in the terminal.
posted by cabingirl at 8:38 PM on January 1, 2012

Car rental return is:
To reach the rental car return area, take exit 1-A off of I-195, turn onto Elm Road and follow the rental car return area signs on the left.
posted by JayRwv at 8:42 PM on January 1, 2012

I agree about not leaving after 4pm. 495/beltway to either 95N or 295/Balt-wash parkway will both have lots of rush hour traffic from people leaving DC. Although if this is for Jan 2nd, it is a holiday for the federal gov and others so maybe might not be as bad.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:48 PM on January 1, 2012

Also, BWI TSA has a bad reputation. In my experience, their lines are long, and move slowly.
posted by Rash at 10:44 PM on January 1, 2012

Yes leave early. I drove from downtown DC to pick someone up a few days before Christmas; left at 4 and arrived at 6:15 (though that was a working day instead of holiday). 495 to the Baltimore Washington Parkway will probably be better than 495 to 95.
posted by Cocodrillo at 12:02 AM on January 2, 2012

You'll have to take commuter rush hour traffic into account. There's a LOT of traffic volume that travels the top side of the Beltway from MD in the AM and then back from VA in the afternoon. Thus your route from Chevy Chase is going to run into that traffic volume. My advice is if you leave any time after 4pm you better be prepared for a lot of traffic.

Also, choose a route that puts you onto the Beltway (495) as far east as possible. Don't just drive straight north up 355 or Connecticut Ave. Go up 29 or Georgia Ave. That will put you onto 495 past some of the traffic volume.

If you have a smart phone and can get Google Maps on it their traffic maps are excellent. Just be aware that in Maryland it's illegal (and a primary stoppable offense) to be holding a phone in your hand while driving. So either have a hands-free mount for it or use only the voice directions. There are some great vent-clip mounts that work well for rental car use. Bit late for that now, probably, but worth considering in the future.

The local radio station WTOP (103.5 FM) has traffic updates on the eights (3:58, 4:08, 4:18, etc). You'll want to pay attention to things involving the "topside, inner loop of the Beltway" and "95 in Maryland". If things go sideways, be prepared to go up MD-29. US-1 and I-295 (the Parkway) aren't usually any faster unless there's an accident that CLOSES I-95.

So be sure to leave BEFORE 4pm and no later. Travel time without traffic is an hour but at that time of day will more likely be about 1:40. Then you'll need time to deal with dropping off the rental, checking in and dealing with security. You'll likely only end up with about a spare half-hour at the airport.
posted by wkearney99 at 10:33 AM on January 2, 2012

I'd leave at 3pm. If you leave at 4pm, you will likely hit rush hour DC traffic on the beltway, and then you'll hit more traffic on 295, which is slow at the best of times.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:12 PM on January 2, 2012

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