Birmingham to Boston Road Trip
December 29, 2012 3:13 PM   Subscribe

What weather and road issues should I be aware of in my drive from Birmingham to Boston next Saturday, and what sights should I see?

I've done the Birmingham to DC leg a few times. I've also done DC to New York, but never this time of year.

Day 1, Saturday: Birmingham to DC (yes, long day)
Day 2, Sunday: DC to Boston

A couple of years ago we drove through northern New Mexico during December and only later (once we hit a snow storm) did we realize that was a stupid idea. I don't want to experience an "oh crap" moment again.

My only fear is hitting icy or snowy roads, and my only goal is to make the most of my drive. I lived in Seattle for 4 years and in my trips through the pass learned to cope with ice/snow, though I hate it with a passion.

What should I be aware of and for which sights should I stop and see?
posted by bamassippi to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
You're really not going to have time to see anything. The sun is only up for nine hours a day. You could spend the second morning in DC but you'd want to get a move on since Sunday traffic in CT and approaching Boston can get nasty.
posted by moammargaret at 3:27 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I suggest leaving early in the day to maximize daylight travel. It'll get dark around 4/4:30 in Boston. You really won't have much time to see sights and still keep it sunny for the drive.

If possible, structure the trip so you can delay it depending on weather. When making plans to drive in New England during winter, you should always be prepared to have the weather tell you otherwise.
posted by ifandonlyif at 3:33 PM on December 29, 2012

I've actually had success over the years experimenting with various routes to avoid NYC entirely, go up to the Albany area, and go from there to Boston on Route 90/the Massachusetts Turnpike. It's more fuel but given how horrible the traffic can get in the orbit of NYC it can take the same amount of time with less frustration or even less time.

(Though it seems to be possible to sail right through the NYC area if you hit it at the right time, especially after midnight and even during the day on some occasions, I just find it difficult to predict.)
posted by XMLicious at 3:43 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding moammargaret: that's two long days of driving, and you're not really going to have time to stop and sightsee. (I just did the DC to Boston round trip this week: both directions on weekdays in off-peak traffic times, and both still took about eight hours.)

Watch the weather reports, keep an eye out for snow and/or icy conditions, and be willing to stop at the nearest hotel if needed. As for your route: personally, I HATE going through New York City itself, and always go up the Garden State Parkway, 287 to 87, over the Tappen Zee Bridge (north around NYC), then take 84 east. YMMV, of course: you might already have a favorite route.
posted by easily confused at 3:51 PM on December 29, 2012

Best answer: Listen to traffic reports every ten minutes on the 8s on 880-AM around New York, and on the 3s on 1030-AM around Boston.

My personal favorite way to go, assuming no traffic jam in NYC: New Jersey Turnpike --> George Washington Bridge --> Major Deegan Expressway (I-87) --> Cross County Parkway --> Hutchison River Parkway --> Merritt Parkway (CT-15) --> Wilbur Cross Parkway (CT-15) --> I-91 --> Charter Oak Bridge (CT-15) --> I-84 --> Mass Pike (I-90).

If the George is backed up, get off the NJT at the Garden State Parkway and head up to the Tappan Zee Bridge. Stay on 287 eastbound and then get off at the Hutchison River Parkway, or just take the Saw Mill River Parkway to I-684 and then I-84. Would recommend avoiding the Cross Bronx Expressway and I-95 west of Bridgeport.
posted by moammargaret at 4:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I do the DC-Boston trip many times a year, and my favorite route is the same as moammargart's - although it'll be a cold day in heck before I go over the Tappan Zee (preferences).

The weather looks to be pretty next weekend, so that should be fine, and luckily you'll be between high-travel holidays, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I did DC to Boston last weekend, and the only traffic I really hit was on the BW Parkway from DC to Baltimore and right at the GW Bridge going into New York. I suspect you won't have as much a trouble as I did, since it won't days before Christmas.

There's not much to see between here and there, but I will advise eating/resting at the rest stop in Delaware, as it's the best, and getting gas in New Jersey, where it's the least expensive.
posted by General Malaise at 4:15 PM on December 29, 2012

On a Sunday, be prepared for the last hour or so to be full of cars and possibly slow (once you get on I-90 from I-84, or if you take I-90, for some miles before exit 9 - where I-84 comes in). It's too early for a weather forecast, but I can tell you that NY got hit with a storm (7 inches?) a few days ago and Boston's getting hit (4-6 in) right now. They take care of the roads pretty well up here - as long as it's not actively snowing the major roads will be fine. If it's actively snowing, well, good luck.
posted by jcrbuzz at 6:55 PM on December 29, 2012

Hardly the time of year for sightseeing. Trip from DC to Boston takes 8-10 hours in good weather even on a Sunday. Many veteran travelers can tell you horror stories of trips through the DC to Boston I-95 corridor. With only 9 hours of daylight, I'd make tracks and get to Boston without any side trips. Keep an eye on the weather starting Friday night. Don't take this leg of your trip too lightly.

Nth-ing Tappan Zee over the George. The problem isn't the George, it's the Cross Bronx.

Also agree that you want to top off your tank in NJ. Gas prices in NY and CT will be 40-50 cents more per gallon. Not too bad here in MA.
posted by birdwatcher at 11:23 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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