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View Full Version : Route 81/77 instead of 95 was definitely the way to go!


HeatherC
08-01-2010, 07:30 AM
Just wanted to give an update on our drive from Massachusetts to Hilton Head, SC for any of you interested in the 81 route vs 95.

Because we were driving both ways on a Friday in the summer, we decided to take the 81/77 route. And it was GREAT!

We left our house in central MA at 3am on a Friday morning. We drove 84 to 684 to 287/87 over the Tappan Zee and stayed on 287 until Route 78 west to Harrisburg, PA. We then connected with 81 south. The ride was so easy. No traffic whatsoever until we hit Charlotte, NC around rush hour...which we knew ahead of time. We stopped there around 5pm and stayed at the Residence Inn on Tyvola Ave. We had dinner, free breakfast and were back on the road by 8am. We arrived in Hilton Head around noon.

Coming home we left Hilton Head at 6am and drove straight through to Massachusetts stopping only to use the bathroom and fill the gas tank. We took our time and even had a hotel reserved ahead of time. But the ride was so easy we decided to go all the way and arrived home at midnight. (18 hours exactly.)

While we were driving, we kept checking google maps on our phone with the traffic updates. We kept seeing 95 as all "red" with stopped traffic from DC up through NJ. Our route was green all the way! Definitely the right choice when traveling during the busy summer season on a Friday.

The route itself is so pretty with rolling hills and lots of farms and mountains. I wouldn't drive this way in the winter, but any other time of the year it is just great. The trucks were not a problem at all. They would pass on the left and immediately get back over to the right. Nothing at all like 95.

So even though it may be a little longer mileage wise, it is definitely the way we will go in the future. (Google maps has it as 45 minutes longer than 95).

Hope this helps someone else with their planning.

Happy travels!

KINGBOBOFTHENORTH
08-01-2010, 12:51 PM
I-81 has a one stretch where you pass from Pennsylvania to Maryland to West Virginia and then Virginia, all within about a half hour. Really seems like you're "flying" when you hit that many states so quickly. And then in North Carolina there is that one stretch where I-77 is up in the mountains yet the entire valley is below you and the interstate drops down to the much lower altitude as it heads into Charlotte. I-81 is a great road and nowhere near the traffic (and cities) that one contends with along I-95.

BobK/Orlando

Robert P
08-01-2010, 02:14 PM
Glad you had a good trip. We switched to the inland route from NC to Mass. several years back, and still think it's a better drive. Would love to know the toll savings going inland versus 95, if anyone else has that info.

HeatherC
08-01-2010, 06:02 PM
Robert: The savings must be significant. The only toll we paid was the $5 toll on the Tappan Zee on the way home. Nothing on the way down.

I'm still amazed at how easy a ride it was...and beautiful to boot.

BigTigger
08-01-2010, 07:57 PM
We drove from the Raleigh/Durham area of NC to central MA in May and per my EZ Pass account, we paid $25.80 in tolls for the Maryland to NYC stretch on I-95/NJTP. Here's the breakdown:

MD - Fort Mchenry Tunnel - $2.00
MD - Kennedy Memorial Highway tolls - $5.00
DE - Newark Plaza tolls - $4.00
NJ - Full length of NJ turnpike - $6.80
NY/NJ - George Washington bridge (peak time) - $8.00

We also paid $1.66 for the NY - New Rochelle toll and $1.10 for the MA Pike tolls from I-84 to I-495.

Looking at the same trip last August going south, the New Rochelle and GW bridge tolls aren't collected, but the Delaware Memorial Bridge toll is for $3.00. Going south, the NJTP is $9.05. Both trips on the NJTP were from exit 1 to exit 18W, I'm not sure why the southbound is more expensive.

Is the construction around Harrisburg on I-78 and just south of there on I-81 complete?

Robert P
08-01-2010, 09:29 PM
We drove from the Raleigh/Durham area of NC to central MA in May and per my EZ Pass account, we paid $25.80 in tolls for the Maryland to NYC stretch on I-95/NJTP. Here's the breakdown:

MD - Fort Mchenry Tunnel - $2.00
MD - Kennedy Memorial Highway tolls - $5.00
DE - Newark Plaza tolls - $4.00
NJ - Full length of NJ turnpike - $6.80
NY/NJ - George Washington bridge (peak time) - $8.00

We also paid $1.66 for the NY - New Rochelle toll and $1.10 for the MA Pike tolls from I-84 to I-495.

Looking at the same trip last August going south, the New Rochelle and GW bridge tolls aren't collected, but the Delaware Memorial Bridge toll is for $3.00. Going south, the NJTP is $9.05. Both trips on the NJTP were from exit 1 to exit 18W, I'm not sure why the southbound is more expensive.

Is the construction around Harrisburg on I-78 and just south of there on I-81 complete?

Thanks for that information. I know going up inland route is $5 at the Tappanzee, and coming back we have @ $1 at the NJ/PA line, but that's it.

We're hitting that Harrisburg area heading North in August. I'll try to report back for an update.

ryankelli
08-01-2010, 09:41 PM
We live right off of 81 just across the river from Harrisburg. It still is a little backed up now and then but not bad at all. Enjoy the drive.popcorn::

HeatherC
08-02-2010, 03:42 PM
There is a little bit of construction south of Harrisburg...but it was really insignificant going both ways. Going down we hit Harrisburg around 9am and zipped right through the construction. Coming back we hit the area around 5 and also zipped through.

They have the left lane shifted over one lane with Jersey barriers which they made into express lanes. Means you can't exit for a couple miles from that lane. Really nothing to worry about from what we saw.

glen65
03-28-2011, 12:44 PM
Thanks. This looks like a great route. We live in the Lehigh Valley (Bethlehem, PA). We usually take 476 south to 95 in the Philly area. Going the 81 route is only 5 minutes longer. We're going to give that a try.

happily single
03-28-2011, 04:09 PM
Can anyone point me in the right direction?? I need to get directions from RI to Orlando and would love to use the Route 81/77 the OP suggests

HeatherC
03-29-2011, 01:47 PM
Hi There! OP here.

Coming from RI, I believe the easiest for you would be to take 95 to the Merritt Pkwy. You Basically want to go 87/287 over the Tappan Zee bridge and follow the directions from above.

I forget where/how the Merritt connects with 87/287, but google maps should show it.

Very easy to do. I think you will enjoy the ride.

Have a great trip!

glen65
03-29-2011, 02:34 PM
This should do the trick...

Head northwest on I-287 W/I-87 N
Take exit 15 to merge onto I-287 S/NJ-17 S toward New Jersey
Take exit 21B to merge onto I-78 W toward Easton Pa
In Pa, 78 merges into 81. Merge onto I-81 S Passing through Maryland, West Virginia and into Virginia
Take exit 81 to merge onto I-77 S toward Charlotte NC Passing through North Carolina, Entering South Carolina
Keep left at the fork, follow signs for I-26 E/Charleston and merge onto I-26 E
Take exit 169A to merge onto I-95 S toward Savannah

happily single
03-30-2011, 08:46 AM
Thank you!!! I was having a "duh" moment. As soon as I posted I simply used Mapquest and voila....directions:rotfl:

glen65
03-30-2011, 08:49 AM
My life has been one big Duh moment! LOL
Glad I could help.

EpcotQueen
03-30-2011, 07:28 PM
Thanks. This looks like a great route. We live in the Lehigh Valley (Bethlehem, PA). We usually take 476 south to 95 in the Philly area. Going the 81 route is only 5 minutes longer. We're going to give that a try.

We too live in Bethlehem and take the 81/77 route to go to our son's in Atlanta. Traffic easy even through Charlotte. Harrisburg, as mentioned, has construction with cattle shoots but that's the only spot. Driving down again for Easter. Will let all know if anymore construction zones. We may just try 422 to 76 which cuts across to 81 to avoid the Harrisburg mess.

glen65
03-30-2011, 07:48 PM
Hi Neighbor!

We're heading down in June. I'm looking forward to hearing about the construction after Easter.
Thanks

Girlie1
03-31-2011, 07:36 PM
After much research, we took this route to DVC at HHI last summer. I was terrified of 95 due to a prior experience driving to FL many years ago. It was a very easy ride with plenty of rest areas and pretty scenery. We hit no traffic, even on the weekend. We are headed back that route this June for what now will be our annual family summer vacation :cool1:

EpcotQueen
04-01-2011, 07:51 AM
Rest areas along the way are among the best. Clean, attractive, feel safe. We always stop for a picnic lunch during our drive south. When we take the dog along there's always plenty of doggie space. And....it really is a beautiful drive in parts!

Yankeemouse
04-01-2011, 08:35 AM
so glad to hear about this route. We did the drive from Conn. down 95 once, total of 20 hrs. driving, and I really don't want to do it again, but if airfare stays as high as it is, then we may have no choice.

glen65
04-01-2011, 08:59 AM
We've drove from the Lehigh Valley, PA to the Myrtle Beach area countless times and have almost always taken 95 straight down. I've never drove further south than that. This will be a nice change because this will make almost the entire trip have some new scenery.

dthogue
04-01-2011, 10:06 AM
We are driving from Harrisburg in August and thought about taking this route, but it seems like it so far west to come back and go South, but if it will avoid alot of traffic, then it might be worthwhile. Has anyone done this route from our area and can comment if you think it took longer if the mileage is longer?

HeatherC
04-01-2011, 10:40 AM
OP here. Well we are planning on doing the same drive again this summer.

Wondering if anyone has recommendations on places to stop and eat along the way that is not too far off the highway?

Also...in case anyone plans a stop overnight in Charlotte, wanted to let people know that we stayed at the Residence Inn, Tyvola Ave. last year and it was great. We had a two bedroom...full bedrooms, not the wall divider suites and they offered free breakfat. It was also two seconds off the highway. Will probably stay here again.

glen65
04-01-2011, 11:33 AM
From the Lehigh Valley, I normally take 22 to 476 to 95. I checked google maps and going 78 to 81 to 77 to 95 is only 41 minutes/47 miles longer. Avoiding many miles of 95 is well worth the extra 41 minutes to me!

EpcotQueen
04-22-2011, 08:51 AM
We did the drive to Atlanta this past Wednesday. Instead of taking 81 through Harrisburg we took 222 past Reading and then 76 west to 81. We avoided Harrisburg and any construction there. Last time we made this drive construction was horrible. Didn't really add all that much to our time. Heading down the rest of 81 to 77 to 85 minimal construction..there was some but not that bad. SIL took 95 to 66 to 81 from central Jersey this time and preferred this route to the typical full 95 corridor. Can't speak for what the drive is like from Atlanta south but up to Atlanta it was a painless trip. 4 stops for gas, rest areas took a bit over 12 hours.

glen65
04-22-2011, 08:54 AM
We had to go to a funeral in MD last week and hit construction in the Harrisburg area. Seems like that area is under constant construction!
Thanks for the info!

kidd_freeper
04-22-2011, 01:24 PM
I plan to take the I81/I77 route from Connecticut this July. For those who will be going that way, you'll need to consider a minor detour:
= = =

Crews have begun widening the Christiansburg Mountain pass from two to three lanes in the southbound direction.

Highway officials are committed to keeping traffic moving safely during the massive digging and blasting project but have found it necessary to close long sections of the right shoulder over a 5-mile stretch. Both lanes are expected to stay open for most of the construction, scheduled to last two and a half years.

The section of highway brings 23,000 southbound motorists a day over hills and around curves. Driving alongside concrete barricades that separate work crews from traffic will add to the challenge.

Barriers have already reduced the right shoulder to little more than the width needed for rumble strips. The left shoulder is already that narrow. Although several turnouts are planned, drivers will have less room for error.

Unlike in Rockbridge County, where the speed limit has been cut to 55 mph because of a similar project, this stretch of I-81 will remain posted at 65 mph. Officials will revisit the limit if needed, said Heidi Underwood, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

http://www.roanoke.com/news/images/0411_81Widening600.gif

(Read more at http://www.roanoke.com/news/nrv/wb/282956)
= = = =

I'm driving on July 4 weekend, so I KNOW that traffic will backup through this construction. The detour map indicates that you should detour at exit 128. I plan to get off at exit 132 and take Rte 11/460 to where it rejoins I81 at exit 118.

HeatherC
04-22-2011, 06:53 PM
Thanks for the heads up KiddFreeper. Would you know how much extra time this detour would add?

Brook1099
04-22-2011, 10:13 PM
I live in Central NJ and was thinking of taking this route for our upcoming trip to Florida. Where would I be exiting to get back on 95.

Thinking maybe this July for our Williamsburg trip I should take a test run. I donot think I want to attempt 95 during summer.

TIA Brenda

kidd_freeper
04-23-2011, 04:56 PM
Thanks for the heads up KiddFreeper. Would you know how much extra time this detour would add?

I don't have experience myself.

I tried Google Maps. To go from exit 132 to 118 it takes
15 minutes on I-81 only
20 minutes on Rte 11

dxander
06-13-2011, 07:32 PM
We plan to drive to WDW this Christmas. We're leaving the 23rd. What should we expect in terms of road conditions?

Hoopfamily
06-14-2011, 07:26 AM
I grew up on the North Shore and moved to Hilton Head Island a few years back. There were a few times I'd get off 95 but then later I'd merge back onto 95.. My total trip time was about 18 hours total.

Jungle Cruiser
06-14-2011, 10:38 AM
We plan to drive to WDW this Christmas. We're leaving the 23rd. What should we expect in terms of road conditions?

We have driven the inland route to WDW a few times in December. Just check the weather before you go and as long as there isn't a storm when you are actually driving it's fine. The whole way down is highway so it gets cleared as fast as 95 if there is snow.

We have driven to WDW from NJ a number of times and only took 95 once. Never again unless it's snowing. The inland route is scenic and so much more pleasant. The only issue with the route is making sure you don't hit Charoltte at rush hour, but even that beats rush hour in the Baltimore/DC area!

dxander
06-14-2011, 06:49 PM
Thanks for the reply. We plan on leaving either late on the 23rd or super early on the 24th (Saturday), so we won't have rush hour traffic but we'll probably get holiday traffic. I hear you on the MD/DC traffic. I hate that section of 95.

glen65
06-20-2011, 11:34 AM
We just drove this route to and from Disney and I would recommend it. We left our house in the Lehigh Valley (Bethlehem, PA) at 2:30 in the morning and were at our hotel in Jacksonville, Fl at 5:15 that evening. Not bad considering I was traveling with 5 women who apparently had very small bladders! :laughing:

My wife and I both agreed that it was a better route than 95 all the way down and would take it again.

Girlie1
06-20-2011, 08:00 PM
We will be travelling this route to HHI from CT leaving this Saturday. Can't wait. Keep our fingers crossed that all goes as well as our trip last year. :goodvibes

HeatherC
06-24-2011, 02:24 PM
Any recent drivers? How is construction in Harrisburg and Christiansburg?

Any good places you would recommend for stops?

Thanks so much!!

glen65
06-24-2011, 06:01 PM
Was heading south on the 12th and north on the 19th. Since both dates were on Sunday, there was no construction going on, so it was smooth sailing.

HeatherC
07-24-2011, 07:13 AM
Bumping. Any recent drivers? How was construction near Christiansburg?

Leaving from Mass. on Friday!!

The VWL Five
03-28-2012, 01:57 PM
Considering rt 81-77 to 26 to 95 next week. Leaving 3pm from NJ. Don't see how I could attempt rt 95 during this window.

Anyone use 81-77 recently?

cah5525
03-29-2012, 11:40 AM
Hello VWL FIVE! I just posted in another thread yesterday but I'll repost here too because I am always searching for a better route. I'm just wondering - the route you speak of, that runs through shennandoah valley? If so, I think I have used that route (2001) beautiful, stress-free but, that goes a little too west and depending on the time of day you leave, driving through any metro areas might not be too bad...you might be able to take a shorter route.
Here is my repost:

I see others traveling from NY and Canada and just wanted to share our experience...we just drove from the Lake George, NY region to DW last month. I have always taken I-87 to I-95. Seems that I would always hit construction/accidents/back-ups no matter the time of day we left. This time, we went through Binghamton (88 to 81)THEN some other routes that brought us into the Richmond/I- 95 area. Mapquest said it would add an hour to the trip...NOT really! Not when you account for all of the delays you would run into driving straight south. Plus, no tolls!!! we were in the D.C. area at 8 a.m. and traffic did pick up but remained steady, about 55 mph. This was the least stressful driving trip to Florida that I have ever taken! I will never again drive the 87 to 95 route.
Another tip - all of those city loops (you know the 295, 495, etc.) they were meant to divert traffic that didn't need to go into metro areas. Well guess what? Since everyone today uses gps, they are all congesting those loops. We stayed on the 95 through Richmond and rocky mount areas and it was a breeze! Why add the extra miles to go around? Planning this same trip again for Dec. but might have to buy train tickets now as a back-up in case the gas prices reach $5

* I am happy to hear from anyone - any tips for conquering this route!!!

Josh Hendy
03-29-2012, 12:02 PM
81/77 is our favorite route to get to FL from ON. The traffic on I-95 everywhere north of the NC/VA border is simply terrible. I remember once we were heading north on I-95 and stayed on it right through NC because we were visiting DC on the way home. NC was fine, but crossing from NC into VA it was like somebody turned on a switch - suddenly we were in heavy, heavy traffic and it stayed that way all the way to the metro station outside of DC. Whereas I-95 from the Carolinas south to Daytona where you turn off for Orlando is a breeze.

We've also been on I-95 for a short stretch in PA-DE when heading south to the DE-MD beaches and it's also like a solid wall of vehicles across something like 10 lanes of traffic.

The shortcomings of I-81 are that it can be quite hilly in PA and the asphalt can be a bit rough and bumpy. Having only 2 lanes in each direction you sometimes have to tangle with 18-wheelers and RVs either crawling uphill or charging downhill like a bat out of H-E-hockeysticks. There is another quite hilly section on I-81 in the southern part of VA where we had to get around a lot of trucks which were struggling up the grades.

The only stressful part of I-77 that I recall was around Charlotte where it cuts close to the center of town. You get some heavy traffic and those nasty "big city" exit ramps that are quite short and where the on- and off-ramps are close together, with lots of cars and trucks veering on and off the highway at high speed. But compared to the BosNYWash corridor on I-95 it's nothing.

The scenery in the VA part of I-81 (blue ridge and Shenandoah valley) is quite pretty, and the descent off the ridge on I-77 down onto the piedmont of NC is remarkable. If you have extra time I highly recommend taking a scenic detour on the Blue Ridge parkway which runs parallel to I-81. You can jump on and off almost anywhere and just a 2-hour side trip on a fine day is well worth the trouble. Just remember to drive very slowly and cautiously on the parkway, because if you don't then you're going to run into someone who *is* driving slowly.

The VWL Five
03-29-2012, 01:03 PM
Hey thanks for the updates.

After a great deal of map digging we have decided to take the plunge and use 78-81-77-26-95 to Florida. The time of day we are leaving will for sure provide us delays in Philly, DE/MD and DC. That is a fact.

My investigation shows that early on in the trip there would be just over 100 mile + difference going 81 than 95 (example from DC due west to same point on 81 as an example) . Reason is you gotta head more south west early on opposed to going 95. That really threw me for a loop. But when I looked at the entire leg from 78-81-77-26 to the 26/95 intersection vs straight down 95 to the 26/95 intersection on 95 it is ONLY a 40 mile difference. Not bad at all.

Usually I would go 95 but my experince has shown we will surely hit traffic in Philly, where 95 connects to NJ Tpke in DE plus light traffic in Balt and most of all the crazy traffic in DC. The worst part of DC is in north VA where the HOV lanes and regular land are just INSANE.

I will try and post after we return.

Thx

glen65
05-01-2013, 10:28 AM
It's been 2 years since I took this route and I will be taking it again this summer. Has anyone been this route recently? Any changes or major construction projects going on?
Thanks