[Traffic] Driving on 95 on X-Mas & New Year's Day DC-BOS-DC: Bad idea?
November 6, 2013 6:37 PM   Subscribe

How is driving on I-95 on Christmas and New Year's Day?

The family budget is tight this year and we are considering driving from the DC area to Boston, instead of flying (and renting a car). Is driving on Christmas Day to Boston (from DC) and New Years Day to DC (from Boston) a terrible idea? We would be willing to leave early in the AM. We have not driven this route and my Google-fu is not helping. Thanks!
posted by anya32 to Travel & Transportation around Veghel, The Netherlands (14 answers total)
Best answer: I'm very familiar with this drive, which is always kind of miserable--but Xmas day will actually be pretty good. I can't speak to New Year's Day.

Google Maps will tell you it's longer, but in my experience (depending on where you're actually going) it might be worth considering taking the 70-81-84 up (in other words, cut up through Pennsylvania and central NY rather than deal with NJ and NYC on the 95).
posted by TwoStride at 6:57 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My family did DC-southeastern Connecticut-DC this time of year for many years running, though typically the day after Christmas. It's not a super fun drive, but I would think New Year's would be ok and Christmas Day would be better than ok because less traffic. We always took the Jersey Turnpike to the Tappan Zee or GW, for what it's worth.
posted by clavicle at 7:09 PM on November 6, 2013

Best answer: Can you check on waze on the day of? Similarly to twostride I would point out alternate routes- btw NYC and Boston I typically stay on the west side of the Hudson until the tap pan zee and then take 84. But 84 at 90 in MA can be gross at odd times (I.e. on holidays when you would think everyone is at home) so I would take my waze to chart the best route.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:10 PM on November 6, 2013

Best answer: In addition to taking the Tappan Zee, I strongly recommend taking the Merritt Parkway (Route 15) to I-91 to I-84 to I-90, which will allow you to avoid I-95 from NYC to Boston.

If someone has a smart phone, follow the Google Maps app with the traffic filter in place as you make your way north and south so you can avoid unexpected pileups.

I grew up in New England and if you've never driven this route before, a good rule of thumb is "always avoid I-95 if you have the option".
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:43 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: By the way, in regard to Tandem Affinity's point, I-84 at I-90 can sometimes be bad on holidays partly because Massachusetts is stupid about toll routes and they will close down all the toll booths except 1 (because it's a holiday). I hope you have an EZPass or equivalent to use as you drive this route.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:46 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've done from Providence, RI to Portland, ME several times on both Christmas Day and New Years Day. Can't speak to the NYC leg, but it's a breeze through Boston and Rhode Island (very few cars on the road), although I agree that the drive may be shorter if you cut through CT on 84.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:50 PM on November 6, 2013

Best answer: I drive back and forth between Boston and NYC/NJ on a lot of holidays and have accumulated about 15 years' experience. Christmas day is going to be fine. It's not a heavy traffic day. Most people have already got where they're going on the 25th, so most traffic is short local trips (going to nearby family's) and not a lot of those.

I suspect the same for New Years' Day morning, if you get an early start - but I wouldn't be surprised if backups start to happen during the afternoon of New Year's day, as it's a last day off for many people and those milking their final vacation day will be trying to get home for work the next morning. If you can't leave very early in the morning on New Year's Day, best to leave New Year's Eve instead.

I have started to take 684/84 from NYC to the Boston area instead of 95 on my way back home to New England. 95 northbound in Western CT has developed this sort of chronic backup from exits 2-20 that is particularly miserable after holidays. You might try just skipping the whole area, going north on 84 and then cutting East on 90. It may seem longer on the map, but you'll be moving the whole time. It's a pro tip I learned from the Bolt Bus drivers - they never take 95.
posted by Miko at 9:14 PM on November 6, 2013

Best answer: Also, look into taking the train. This may be a cheaper option than flying and is more pleasant than driving.
posted by BearClaw6 at 6:11 AM on November 7, 2013

Best answer: Train can be a good option for this route, especially on Christmas Day when it should not be that crowded. It is more expensive than flying, unfortunately, but end-to-end is about the same time commitment and much, much more comfortable (also, no bag limit, a plus at holidays). Buy your tickets well in advance and arrive early so you can be among the first to board for best choice of seats (away from bathroom, plenty of overhead storage, not having to split up to take open singles). You can walk around, visit the cafe, and stretch and the scenery is way better than the Turnpike. Worth the investment, though I don't always do it because driving is vastly cheaper.
posted by Miko at 6:42 AM on November 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all for these great recommendations and tips. We would fly (I found great tickets) but the car rental situation makes it way outside of our budget (I am assuming the prices are hiked up due to the holiday). Now I need to look into previous askme posts with road trip music! Thanks again!
posted by anya32 at 7:29 AM on November 7, 2013

Where would you be going in Boston? You absolutely don't need a rental car to get to anywhere in Boston or Cambridge from the airport.
posted by ewiar at 9:14 AM on November 7, 2013

Response by poster: I wish we didn't need the car, but unfortunately we do ewiar - we're going to need to travel to Western Mass and then to the city and will be zipping around a lot. No time in actual downtown Boston. Thanks all for your comments. I will go ahead and close this up - the advice has been great.
posted by anya32 at 2:27 PM on November 7, 2013

Best answer: Drive very carefully if you take the Merrit Parkway. Avoid speeding, even though everyone else will be. Avoid speeding, especially in bad weather.
posted by jbenben at 2:54 AM on November 8, 2013

Response by poster: Will do, jbenben. Thank you.
posted by anya32 at 7:46 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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