Since moving to the New York City metro area, I have flown at least once each month as a result of going back and forth to Rochester (part of being in a long distance relationship) and my other travel endeavors, like my trip to San Diego and going to Las Vegas and Phoenix for conferences last fall. I tend to pick the cheapest flight option available to me, so I go with whatever airline and airport fits the bill. As a result of this, I’ve tried nearly all of the ways of getting to and from New York City airports.
To help you figure out what your options are, I’ve broken down your options for getting to and from New York City airports, including John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).
My goal isn’t to tell you what the best way to get there is, but to give you a sense for your options. Your starting location, your ending location, the amount of time you have, and your budget all play into what the best option is for you.
New York-Kennedy (JFK) from Manhattan
Cheapest: Subway to JFK AirTrain
The cheapest way to get to JFK airport is to take the subway to the JFK Airtrain. At $2.50 for subway plus $5 for Airtrain, you’ll be out approximately $15 round trip. Taking the subway can take an hour or more, depending on train traffic, where you’re leaving from or going to and the time of the day. When taking the subway, you’ll take the E, J or Z to Sutphin Blvd or the A to Howard Beach.
Fastest: LIRR to JFK AirTrain
If you’re worried about time and you’re close to Penn Station, the Long Island Railroad is a good bet for getting quickly to JFK. The train ride from Penn Station is approximately 35 minutes, versus the hour or so that you would spend on the subway. Including the $5 ticket for AitTrain, your cost will be $15.50 each way or $31 round trip during peak train hours.
Easiest: Taxi or Car Service
The easiest way to get to JFK is through a taxi or car service. They’ll take you right to the airport and you don’t have to worry about lugging your luggage through public transportation. The ease and convenience come at a cost, however. Expect this mode of transport to cost you $50 to $90 each way, depending on your location and whether you go with a taxi or private car service.
A Note about the JFK AirTrain
When planning your trip to the airport, take into account the time that you’ll need on the AirTrain to your terminal. Without fail, I tend to forget that the Airtrain can take a cool 20 minutes from the subway or LIRR trains to the terminal.
New York-LaGuardia from Manhattan
Cheapest: NYC Airporter
At $13 per ride and $26 round trip, the NYC Airporter is a fairly cheap and easy way to get to and from LaGuardia. The NYC Airporter picks up and drops off at Grand Central in Manhattan. When you arrive in Manhattan, you can then get a shuttle from Grand Central to an area hotel or Penn Station. While I have found that you can end up waiting a while for the shuttle to actually leave the airport, you get to the city pretty quickly once you do actually leave the airport.
It’s a bit expensive, but a taxi is an easy and convenient way to get to and from LaGuardia. My last taxi ride from Midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia cost me approximately $37, including tip. On that trip, I was able to get to the airport and through security (not to security, through security) in 35 minutes flat. Granted, this was at 8:45pm on a Friday night and traffic was light, but it was still pretty impressive. If you’re in a hurry and have some cash to spare, the taxi is a good option.
Best Value: SuperShuttle
SuperShuttle will pick you up at your location and take you to the airport. SuperShuttles are shared rides, so you may need to pick up other passengers before heading to the airport. However, they seem to plan pick ups fairly well, so that should hopefully not add too much time to your trip. The cost of SuperShuttle varies depending on your pickup location, but the last time I took the SuperShuttle, it cost me about $20 including tip from midtown Manhattan. SuperShuttle is a bargain compared to the taxi and convenient compared to the NYC Airporter, since SuperShuttle will pick you up where you are.
Transit Time to LaGuardia
Since all three of these options are car- or shuttle-based transport options, the travel time for each is similar. The NYC Airporter and taxi don’t make stops. The SuperShuttle may make stops, but you might get lucky and be the last person getting picked up. Because of this, I haven’t really differentiated by time. Plan about 35 – 50 minutes from Midtown Manhattan, depending on traffic and your location. Also, as noted above, the NYC Airporter is on a schedule, so you may find yourself waiting a bit before the shuttle actually departs for its destination.
Newark International from Manhattan
Cheapest: PATH from 33rd to Newark to NJ Transit
If you have time and don’t mind transfers, you can save a couple of dollars by taking PATH to Newark and then transferring to NJ Transit to take you to Newark Airport. One-way PATH tickets cost $2.25 and an NJ Transit ticket from Newark Penn Station to Newark Airport costs $8.25 for a total of $10.50 each way or $21 round trip. If you are very budget conscious, or if you happen to have a monthly PATH pass, this will save you $4-$8 when compared to taking NJ Transit all the way from Penn Station. Be aware: transferring multiple times will certainly increase your travel time.
Fastest: Amtrak from Penn Station
If you’re traveling from Penn Station to Newark Airport via Amtrak, expect travel time to be about 20 to 22 minutes. This is your fastest travel time from Penn Station when compared to NJ Transit or PATH, but only by a minute or two when compared to NJ Transit’s 25 minute transit time. At $33.00 each way and $66.00 round trip for an Amtrak ticket, this option might not be worth the cost.
Best Value: NJ Transit from Penn Station
With the cost of a NJ Transit ticket to Newark International at $12.50 one way/$25 round trip and only 25 minutes in transit time, it’s more expensive than taking the PATH, but a much better option. The transit time is also comparable to Amtrak, but much cheaper. For these reasons, I think NJ Transit gives you the best bang for your buck when traveling to Newark from Manhattan.
Options for Getting to and from New York City Airports, No Matter the Airport
There are a few options that are available to you, regardless of which airport you are going to: NYC Airporter, private cars or taxis, and SuperShuttle. As with my estimates above, NYC Airporter will probably be your cheapest option, but not always the fastest. SuperShuttle will be fairly easy to navigate and will be inexpensive when compared to a private car or taxi. Finally, a taxi or private car will be the easiest, but will cost you a pretty penny.