View Full Version : Driving to Aiken from CT - best way?

Jan. 18, 2011, 03:42 PM
I am going to be trailering to Aiken from southern CT. Since the trip will be 15/16 hours my thought was to stop overnight (I've never hauled longer than 7 hours) but everyone says to do it in one shot so I think I will aim for that.

So what is the best route? 95 the whole way? 81 and 77? Also what times/days of the week do you find work the best on your route to avoid traffic? (ie - leaving at 2 am on a weekday vs diving on a weekend...) TIA!

Jan. 18, 2011, 03:52 PM
It's a haul however you do it. 95 is probably more of a straight shot, but you're likely to hit traffic going around DC which can slow you way way down (plus not fun with a trailer). 81 is less traffic, but more likely to have snow/ice. You might think about doing the first half(ish) down 95 and coming down to Middleburg area for the overnight and then doing the second half on 81 the next day - but all depends on your comfort zone.

Jan. 18, 2011, 04:15 PM
I have done the trip from New england and used 95 and 81.
My preference is 84 to 684 over the tappanzee to the Garden State Parkway to 95 and then on to 20 in SC.

I tend to leave sat am, and get to aiken sunday nite. I feel I avoid rush hour, etc. It doesn't seem that God awful. I stop usually on the other side of DC. I am not hauling horses so its just a regular hotel.
Around dc is forever and seems like there are no turn offs or good places if you need to pee, etc, so I just plan on stopping before the beltway.
I take the east side around dc. Not sure if it matters...dc metro people might pop in.

I personally don't think I could do the trip without breaking it up, but thats me driving alone.

I like 95 better(cannot believe I am saying this) because there seems to be less traffic.
when I took 81, the trucks freaked me out. I was later told, because of the tolls on 95, the trucks are now using 81 and their giant warehouses are along 81 now vs 95.


Laddy Boy
Jan. 18, 2011, 05:17 PM
I have gone around DC at all times and have hit tons of traffice 99% of the time - once I was lucky! I usually lay over in NC - there is a really nice horse B and B there and very close to the interstate. I know people haul straight thru, but I prefer a 2 day trip. If map quest says 15/16 hrs, I would count on more.

Lisa Cook
Jan. 18, 2011, 05:36 PM
It takes me about 16 hours from New Hampshire to Aiken, so I think the drive is going to be a few hours shorter than what you are thinking, unless you take a really roundabout way or drive really, really slow.

Personally - I go straight though with 2 timing options: leave around 6 pm, drive through the night, avoid all traffic, arrive mid morning next day. I have also left at 2:30 am and got into Aiken early evening same day. The whole key is to avoid rush hour at NYC & Balt/Wash. From CT, take Tappen Zee to GSP (yes, they allow horse trailers, even though some will say they don't. They really do.) to NJ turnpike to 95. Straight down 95 till you get to SC, then 20 west to Aiken.

Taking the western route of 81 & 77 will add hours to your trip.

Jan. 18, 2011, 06:01 PM
I was hoping to get down to So. Pines the 3rd week of March from MA, is the same route suggested? Need to find a companion for the trip or I won't be making it, but seems like 95 is the best route. I was also going to leave the night before.

Jan. 18, 2011, 06:10 PM
I have done a good deal of driving between Charlotte, NC and Northeast PA (wilkes-barre). It took them 12 hours to ship my horse and 11.5 for me to drive it in a car. He drove the horse straight through. It will be faster for you if you take 95 than 81. Try to leave so that you get to DC/Baltimore when its not rush hour, either in the middle of the day or late at night. You'll be going south so Baltimore won't be as bad for you. You can go around the tunnel to avoid the toll at the Baltimore harbor, but it takes an extra half hour so not really worth the three dollars with the price of gas so high. Philly has rush hour too but it isn't as long as DC/ Baltimore as long as there isn't an Eagles or Philly's game. Good Luck!

Lisa Cook
Jan. 18, 2011, 07:15 PM
I was hoping to get down to So. Pines the 3rd week of March from MA, is the same route suggested? Need to find a companion for the trip or I won't be making it, but seems like 95 is the best route. I was also going to leave the night before.

I've done Southern Pines from New Hampshire, too....getting my horse to & from Mike Plumb's, actually. (I'm not name dropping, I'm just referring to your Mike Plumb topic :) ). Same way around the NYC area as outlined previously to get to 95 and follow to Richmond, VA.

From Richmond, there are three options...personally I think this is the quickest:

Take 85 south from Richmond. Then I'd get off at Creedmore NC, take Rt 50 down to Raleigh, then Rt 1 South out of Raleigh to Southern Pines.

Take 85 south from Richmond to Route 1 in Henderson NC, then follow all the way to Southern pines.

Take 95 south from Richmond, take 64 West to Raleigh to Rout 1 South. This would be the longest, but less stop & go.

When I was in college in Fredericksburg, VA, my future husband lived in Raleigh, NC so that Northern Virginia to Raleigh route was tried many different ways, many different times over the course of our years in college, and the Creedmore exit off of 85 was definitely the quickest.

Might get a little hairy, though, if you are not familiar with Raleigh, but you should be ok if you have a navigator who can help with spotting route #s & turns, etc.

Jan. 18, 2011, 07:47 PM
From CT, take Tappen Zee to GSP (yes, they allow horse trailers, even though some will say they don't. They really do.) to NJ turnpike to 95.

I had no idea! That really changes things:) I thought I had to go the long way around 287 or take my chances with traffic on 95 through NJ.

Jan. 18, 2011, 08:12 PM
It is perfectly ok to take a trailer onto the GSP...but not a duellie.

Also, if you stop at rest areas...they take picking up poop if you have a dog very, very seriously. As an aside, I was walking my two dogs, and the staties watched me to see if I had baggies to pick up their poop...they literally stopped and watched me.

I don't like to night drive myself. So leaving in the am, and spending the night beyone DC is my optimum.
First day is 10 hours, 2nd day is a 8 hour day for me.
Key is to avoid the city traffic rush hours. Once past DC, its easy travelling in my opinion.
Its funny, so far we are all saying tappanzee, gsp and 95. Many people like 81...it is hours longer, no better, in fact worse imo with trucks than 95. Idid it once, will never do it again. Paying tolls is really not that bad in the scheme of things.

Jan. 18, 2011, 08:19 PM
Lisa, you must have gone to Mary Washington!

Jan. 18, 2011, 08:24 PM
...she just made the trip a few months ago and can probably give you some ideas about roads and timing. Here's her email:


Good luck and safe travels - it'll be worth it once you get there!

Jan. 18, 2011, 08:32 PM
Great, thanks Lisa! Now, I'm just hoping to find a friend for the ride ;)

And tolls, geeze, in MA they are hard to avoid!

Lisa Cook
Jan. 18, 2011, 08:32 PM
Lisa, you must have gone to Mary Washington!

I did! :)

Jan. 18, 2011, 08:33 PM
Oh dear, that's a long trip, I'd stop someplace in Maryland. Perhaps NE Maryland, exit right off 95 is Olney Farm, about 25 mi. north of Baltimore? Check MCTA too, plenty of eventers with stalls overnight in MD. I should think. Good luck.

Jan. 18, 2011, 09:00 PM
Quick question for those of you who drive I-95 vs 81: google maps has only a 26 mile difference between the two routes the way they map them (from MA to Aiken); is there some kind of shortcut that you all take? If so, can you share?

We took the 81 route last year and hit some nasty snow, and it was long (FWIW, didn't really have any problems with trucks). But I worry about traffic around the Tappan Zee AND DC, especially since our plan is to leave at the crack of dawn....

Any help/tips appreciated - thanks! :D

Jan. 18, 2011, 09:29 PM
If you avoid high peak traffic times to avoid rush hour around the tappan zee and dc or travel on weekends, you are better off.

My trip to NH from Aiken on 81 was close to 250 miles longer. I took Newburg bridge vs tappanzee with 81 too.

The GSP is also very pleasant too.

I go down 91 to 84, 684 tappanzee, gsp, 95 to 20. but, I have always travelled the route leaving NH on saturday or a sunday. On the way back, it isn't as important, since I hit below dc, wait till after rush hour, and am in new england before evening commute on the 2nd day.

I just try and time it as best I can to avoid rush hours in Dc, NYC especially.

Once below DC on the way down, its easy travel. Same going back, until you hit the dc to NYC...then timing is everything.

Lisa Cook
Jan. 18, 2011, 09:40 PM
But I worry about traffic around the Tappan Zee AND DC, especially since our plan is to leave at the crack of dawn....

If you do the crack of dawn thing, the key is to be over the Tappan Zee and down the GSP to arrive at the intersection with the NJ Tpk by NO LATER than 6:30 am. And that is pushing it...6:00 am for that intersection is even better. Otherwise, plan your time so that you arrive at the Tappan Zee no earlier than 10 am. (I'm assuming weekdays for the timing strategy.)

For a long time my company was headquarted in NJ after I moved to NH, so I got to do THAT drive quite often too. I could drive it quicker than I could fly it, given the hassles of Newark airport.

Jan. 19, 2011, 08:01 AM
I do Tappanzee/GSP/95/20 too. Hartford is the worst part of the whole trip! Be sure to have an easy pass-soooo much easier. I will only have hay and jumps in my trailer this time so I can stop when I get sleepy. I do not have a driving buddy. My plan is to pull out of here at 6 am on Saturday, drive till I can't and finish the trip on Sunday. Weekend travel is always better to avoid the commuters.

Last year, the end-of-January snow storm brought us up short in MD-we had horses and had planned to get to the bottom of Virginia, so that was too bad. Just be sure you have a list of places to stay along the way in case weather stops you.

Jan. 19, 2011, 08:08 AM
81 puts you thru the hills of VA and NC, etc. 95 is much flatter. My rig crawls over the hills of Rt 81.

Feb. 1, 2011, 10:21 AM
In 2011, majority of my competitions and training were in Area 2. I only did the seacoast (95) once and it was a nightmare. Not really bad traffic, but the construction zones were endless.

I usually take I84 through MA and CT to 84 (towards Hartford, CT), then hook on to I 81 (to Harrisburg PA) right down south. To get to Aiken, I think you can hook up to I 77.

For Southern Pines, it is a difference of about 1.5 hours and 90 miles. But, NO tolls and rarely any traffic. Lots of 18 wheelers, very little rural traffic. So, traffic keeps moving consistently - not many accidents and it is an easy drive.

Feb. 1, 2011, 02:54 PM
I used to live in West Hartford and drove down to Richmond on a regular basis.

The advice to get through the Tappan Zee is good - that can be a nightmare if you hit morning traffic (even on weekends).

As for DC, anytime is a bad time lately with all the construction - many of the roads are down to one lane overnight to allow for construction.

I-81 is not fun with a truck/trailer as it is a MAJOR trucking corridor - just saying. Been there, done that, too!

I used to take the GSP to I-95 down to Baltimore, then take 301 South into VA, then pick up 208 to I-95 again at Carmel Church exit. A bit of stop/go for lights until you hit VA but then pretty much clear sailing down to Carmel Church.

Personally, this is the route I would take if hauling - and I have hauled a trailer many a time from Balt-Rich. not too mention all the weekend Conn-VA that I used to do as well.

Ahhh, the days of Mary Wash... I remember some of them better than others!!!

Dec. 13, 2015, 10:00 AM
Looking at your post years later :-) But, I was wondering what the B&B is that you like? I'm heading to FL next winter from NY and am looking for layover places. I'm breaking up the trip, too.....into 3 (maybe even 4) days

Dec. 13, 2015, 12:10 PM
There is a new lay-over thread on the "Off Course" page...

Dec. 22, 2015, 05:41 PM
Hey, we are driving to CT from Aiken right now. We are at the junction of 77 and 81. It is almost dark, we just finished 50 miles in pea soup fog, everyone and their mothers are on this road. It is a nightmare. When the choice is mine, I will not do this route. Thank goodness hubby is driving and we are in his car....

Dec. 23, 2015, 08:14 AM
Just a note on taking the Garden State. I've traveled down it in 6 horse trailers and 2 horse trailers for years going from NH to Aiken. Last year i was stopped by a state trooper and told to get off. Fortunately I looked sufficiently pathetic as he tried to give me directions to get to the George Washington and he let me continue without a ticket. It may be unenforced - but trailers are not allowed on any Parkway. May have been an eager beaver of a trooper, or they may be enforcing it more - so traveler beware! I plan on using the route that runs parallel to the Garden State this year (287). I would be very cautious of the western route (Penn/W. Va/Va) if there is a chance of bad weather b/c it's very hilly and steep in places.

Dec. 23, 2015, 02:08 PM
If you are heading south fron the Tappan Zee towards I- 95 I would STRONGLY recommend staying on the Thruway to exit 17 and then heading south on I-287.

I stopped using the GSP to get too-from the Tppan Zee the day they connected I-287 through to the Thruway.

1- NO tolls
2- Straighter road
3- Wider lanes
4- Further from NYC, so not quite as affected by NYC rush hour.

But DO check on the construction status on the Tappan Zee. They are building the new bridge next to it, and SOMETIMES it affects the current bridge. I haven't had any problems, but it pays to check.

Dec. 23, 2015, 07:12 PM
Avoid 81 in PA at all costs! It's a bumpy pot hole filled road. Your horses will be exhausted riding out off the bumps. 95, while it sucks with traffic, will be the much better choice. I would go with the GWB over the Tappan Zee bridge these days since 287 in the area of the Tappan Zee is under major long term construction. 95 all the way.

Dec. 24, 2015, 05:29 PM
Avoid 81 in any state. The truckers will drive you mad. If one truck is going .1 of a mile faster, he will pull out and pass, even if it takes him 10 miles or more to do it. I have usually driven it only when necessary, and then time it for early am , or late pm-when the events in Va finished :rolleyes: And the road is always "under construction", which usually puts two trailer wheels on the shoulder.