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Best route from Toronto, ON to Gaithersburg, MD

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We will be driving from Toronto, ON to Gaithersburg, MD at the beginning of February. Can someone please tell me what the best route would be to take? Will be traveling with 2 small kids. Any recommendations on where to stay about halfway? Thanks

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    I have made the trip many times since I moved to the Gaithersburg area nearly 3 decades ago.

    To begin with, you MUST be ready to cancel your trip at any time if the weather turns bad. February is a month of very bad weather south of the Great Lakes and you will be travelling through high elevations and lake effect storms. Don't travel if the weather is anything but clear, and roads in good condition.

    That said, there are three routes to choose. One is the longest, taking you east across the top of Lake Ontario, crossing at Kingston, then heading south. You can come down the east coast easily enough, but congestion around NYC is a pain. I found it better to head south to Harrisburg PA, the take 83 southwards, and connect with the directions below.

    The other two ways take you to cross at Bufallo, and the head west. The long way takes you west for over an hour along the south shore of Lake Erie, then connects with I86, then to the directions below. The long, pointless trip west allows you to keep the trip in New York state on main highways and mostly Interstates, but is: boring, entirely in the lake effect zone, and adds a couple of hours to the trip.

    The best way IMHO (I've made the round trip at least 50 times) is to cross at Bufallo, go west briefly, then head directly south on Rt219 to Ellicottville NY, then join I86 East. There's a bit of road changes in northern PA, but once you get to Bald eagle its pretty much a straight run south to Hagerstown MD, then SE to Gaithersburg.

    Here are the detailed directions:

    TORONTO to Gaithersburg
    219 S to ELLICOTVILLE (Speed Traps!!!)then on to SALAMANCA Join 86e (towards Olean) and exit with 219s towards LIMESTONE & BRADFORD
    Continue on 219S to JOHNSONBURG
    255 S to St. MARY'S
    255 S to PENFIELD
    153 S to 80 E
    350 S to BALD EAGLE
    99 S towards TYRONE/ALTOONA to BEDFORD
    70/76 E to BREEZEWOOD
    70 S to FREDERICK
    270 S to Gaithersburg!

    Its a long days driving, and its advisable to start as near to dawn as you can as this will make sure you are well south of the mountainous part with State roads before dark in February.

    Good places for rest stops are The Border Duty Free (Has a McDonalds). Then Ellicotteville (Excellent restaurants and hotels but book in advance during ski season. Also lots of Fast Food choices in St, Mary's. Gread road BBQ at GIO's on Rt 322 in Clearfield. You can also gas up there.

    After that there are lots of choices in Breezewood PA. Not a lot on the road after that unless you are willing to get off the highway into a City but there are opportunities. Rest Areas near each State border are good for bathroom breaks.

    If you don't want to make it a long day, good overnight stops are in Ellicotteville (pricy but great food and hotels) or St. Mary's.

    If the border crossing isn't slow its a solid 12 hours with minimum stops. With kids count on 14-16 hours depending on their ability to 'hold it' so you can make fewer stops. Stock lots of DVDs and books for the kids in the back seat!

    Check the wait time at the border before you go. You can find it on line.

    Also, these days it is wise to have Passports for your children, not just their names in your own. Check the current requirements with both the US and Candian Immegration websites.

    If there are not BOTH Mother AND Father travelling with the Kids, best to get a letter Notarized from an Attorney swearing that you are the Costodian Parent with the right to take the children across the Border. These are annoying bits of paperwork, and may not be essential, but if you don't want to have your trip derailed by an over zealous Border Inspector its good advice!

    In good weather the trip is very pleasant, and the scenery lovely. Do NOT speed south of Buffalo down to Ellicotville. Ticketing vistors is a primary source of income for the little towns all the way from Orchard Park down to I86! After that one only rarely sees speed traps, but remember any tickets in the US will have to be paid in the court where they are supervised, in US $ only, and points WILL be applied to your Ontario driving record.

    350 is a "Driver's Road", very windy and hilly, but pay attention to the speed limits, the curves are sharp and may be slippery in winter.

    Don't let any of this dissuade you. I do the trip a lot and its rather nice and scenic. DO make sure you check your tires and properly inflate them before you go. This is deep in winter in the mountains so some emergency food, water and blankets are advisable in case you breakdown.

    Hope you enjoy the trip!

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    One more point. Rt 219 is slowly being turned into a divided highway. At some point south of Bufallo, you will find it ends and dumps you onto the 'Original' Rt 219. Don't fret, just follow the Rd south and it will take you to Ellicotville.

    Incidentally, at the north end of Ellicoteville is the most southerly Tim Hortons I know of. A good stop for coffee and bathrooms!

    If you do decide to make it a two day trip, you can stop at the Falls for the afternoon then overnight in Ellicotville (Get reservations in advance!)

    If you can, try to avoid crossing the Border on Friday night through Monday. Its usually clogged with tourists and on Monday the trucks take it over!

    Coming home is the reverse trip. St. Mary's and Ellicotteville are about half way so a two day trip can be divided in either location.

    Safe Trip!

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    MultiEngine - that is one thorough answer! We used to drive to State College PA alot so are very familiar with Rt219. Some winters it is fine/others awful (and Buffalo can be a whole different story). I laughed at your comment about the Tim Hortons - have stopped there many times and have yet to see one patron! A little different from Tims here!

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    MultiEngine - you are the best! What a wonderful, detailed answer. Thanks!

    We are relocating to Gaithersburg, so no return trip necessary ;). Will print out the info and study closely.

    Thanks again

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    I gave the safest (not shortest) route on the US forum.
    I have driven the US 219 route but only at times when there is no snow.
    Spending a night in Corning NY is a lot better than spending it in Bradford or Clearfield PA.

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