Looking for time-flexible way to get from Boston to NYC
July 9, 2009 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Looking for time-flexible way to get from Boston to NYC

I'm going from my home city (Toronto) to Boston for a couple of days, then flying to New York, probably on a Monday afternoon or evening.

That "probably" is the key word. Ideally, I'd like to have some flexibility about when I leave Boston.

I wonder:

- Is there a plane ticket I can get that's cheap, and also allows for easy changes of time?

- Is it expensive or otherwise difficult to just buy a ticket on Monday for travel that day?

Any tips appreciated!
posted by ManInSuit to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you tethered to the plane? Because there are cheap, extremely flexible options with buses and trains.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:32 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Boston to New York is a pretty busable trip. Maybe four hours or less. Some buses have Wifi and most are nicer than you might be used to with Greyhound. Suggest: BoltBus. Buses leave every half hour or so and cost $20. By the time you're through security at Logan, you'll be halfway to NYC.
posted by jessamyn at 1:34 PM on July 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Delta Shuttle between Logan and Laguardia is what you want.

posted by dfriedman at 1:36 PM on July 9, 2009

Nthing take the bus or the train. LaGuardia is a hike from the city.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:40 PM on July 9, 2009

Well, if you want to take the train, take the Acela Amtrak service, not the Northeast corridor service. The former has newer trains with plugs for laptops, etc., while the latter generally does not.
posted by dfriedman at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2009

The busses to NYC from Boston depart from South Station. If you take the Fung Wah bus, which drops you off in NYC's Chinatown (Canal St station on the subway), you can basically walk up, buy your ticket, and board within 15 minutes. Services like Bolt Bus, Greyhound, and Peter Pan, which drop you off elsewhere (read: more in more convenient locations) in Manhattan, leave on the hour, it seems like, and can sometimes benefit from a purchase slightly in advance of a day if you're trying to leave at a busy time. But I have gotten same-day tickets with no problem. These are all in the $15-$20 range for a 4.5 hour trip (depending on the traffic you hit).

Fung Wah is reliable but mildly sketchy and usually completely full, BoltBus has nice free wifi, MegaBus when I've taken it hasn't been crowded. No experience with Greyhound or Peter Pan.

Don't take the plane; not worth it.
posted by olinerd at 1:57 PM on July 9, 2009

Consider: Fung Wah.

Cheap? heck yeah $15 one-way / $30 both-ways
Fast? Definitely
Reliable? Well - I haven't heard of any busses bursting into flame in the past year and a half or so...
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2009

Acela is only 15 minutes faster than the Regional from Boston to NY and is at least 3X the price.
posted by chiefthe at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2009

I hadn't thought of bus or train. Convenience is more of a premium for me than money (ie: I don't mind spending the price of a regular plane ticket, and my work will pay for my cab to la guardia). But bus or train could be okay, especially if, as some suggest, the door-to-door time isn't that different, and if I can work on the bus or train. I like trains. Is there a decent train? Do the trains have wifi?

(I tend to think I dislike buses, but maybe that's an unfair prejudice...)
posted by ManInSuit at 2:07 PM on July 9, 2009

If you're going the Fung Wah route, might as well keep its next-door neighbor competitor Lucky Star in mind as well.
posted by jordanlewis at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2009

FWIW, I once flew from LaGuardia to Boston, and door-to-door it took 6 hours, including travel to the airport, security lines, flight delay and so forth. Amtrak (not even the faster Acela, I think just the basic) takes about 4-5 hours.
posted by bunnycup at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2009

(also if it matters: I'll probably have a couple of bags to check... I assume all the buses and trains are okay w. that?)
posted by ManInSuit at 2:16 PM on July 9, 2009

train is totally the way to go, i think. busses are cheaper, but more annoying. trains are more spacious, have bigger bathrooms, and have more room to sprawl out and/or walk around.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:28 PM on July 9, 2009

The buses mentioned above will only let you check one bag, more bags possible depending on space. Policy for Megabus here, BoltBus here (scroll down).

Overall, the Acela (Amtrak's fastest train) is pricey compared to the bus, but probably cheaper than a flight and two cabs, as well as the best option for your bags to get there. Amtrak baggage policy here. The fare on Amtrak.com for a one-way ticket on a Northwest Regional (not the Acela) leaving in an hour is $62. It's about 4 hours and you'd have a reserved seat. The Acela is 3 1/2 hours, but ranges up to $120 for a peak-hour one-way ticket tomorrow morning. Not sure if that's worth the half hour/hour saved for you.
posted by mdonley at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2009

However - Lucky Star Bus linked above lets you check two bags and take one aboard. It's $15 for a bus leaving in two hours, presumably buying your ticket earlier would be cheaper. You've got to be at the bus stand 30 minutes in advance, though.
posted by mdonley at 2:50 PM on July 9, 2009

Be REALLY careful about when you book the bus, if you decide to take it (applies for Bolt Bus, Fung Wah, Lucky Star, maybe more). If you even approach rush hour-- especially on Fridays-- it'll take more like 5-6 hours. There's really nothing worse than sitting on I-95 in Connecticut of all places on a crowded bus.

Incidentally, when you're stuck on I-95 in a crowded bus seems to be exactly the time when the bus's air conditioning or (if you're on Bolt Bus) internet breaks. Or both. Nothing worse.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:56 PM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

These are all increibly helpful responses. I am feeling silly, marking nearly everything as "best".
posted by ManInSuit at 2:57 PM on July 9, 2009

PS- BoltBus often sells out a few days in advance, so if you're looking for real flexibility, go with Lucky Star or Fung Wah. All you have to do is show up.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:01 PM on July 9, 2009

For a couple of years I would regularly take the train between Boston and DC (which passes through New York). Key point: while the Acela Express and the Northeast Regional look like they take almost the same amount of time, the Acela was always more or less on time and the Northeast Regional was... not. Also, check amtrak.com before getting excited about the train; sometimes there's rail work being done which can cause problems. For example, starting on July 13th they will be single-tracking it for an undefined portion of the route between NY and Boston due to construction. I have no idea how much that will slow things down but I would be very surprised if the answer were not "a lot."

I take the Bolt Bus now for travel between NY and Boston and I love it-- it is very train-like in its comfort level. But as some have already mentioned, traffic can present a problem. Make sure you have a couple of movies on your laptop and a seat with a working electrical plug.
posted by posadnitsa at 4:16 PM on July 9, 2009

Amtrak lets you cancel with penalty, up to the time of departure, as long as you haven't picked up your physical tickets. Their fares also always get higher, due to the way they sell tickets. So if you do wish to take the train, buy the ticket now, for all the likely options.
posted by smackfu at 5:22 PM on July 9, 2009

A minor point, but dfriedman is incorrect about electrical outlets on non-Acela Amtrak routes. I've personally never been on an Amtrak train that didn't have electrical outlets available at every seat; I'm pretty sure this is the norm.
posted by telegraph at 6:14 PM on July 9, 2009

wait smackfu - cancel *with* penalty?
posted by ManInSuit at 7:09 PM on July 9, 2009

The Limo Liner bus has wifi and snacks -- I enjoyed it when I took it from Boston, though it was slower than Amtrak due to traffic.
posted by lsemel at 7:16 PM on July 9, 2009

+1 on the Limo Liner. Used it twice. Great experience. Like being on a plane, business class, on a bus.
posted by galaksit at 7:22 PM on July 9, 2009

wait smackfu - cancel *with* penalty?

Oops, I hate when I make typos that reverse my meaning. So I tried to find the page on the Amtrak web site that says there is no penalty, and I had no luck. I will say I did this exact thing last August, booking 3 return tickets to keep my options open. But I would call them to make sure.
posted by smackfu at 8:50 PM on July 9, 2009

I typed this last night and then forgot to post, so now it's seconding a few things:

The Acela is quite quick, leaves often, and very comfortable. The regular train is fairly comfy too, but not as quick. South Station/Penn station is convenient. I don't think they have wifi on the trains yet.

Limoliner is a really luxurious bus that does have wifi included. I rode them once and it seriously flew by. Nice price medium between the train and the Greyhound/Chinatown options, as well. They leave a few times a day, though I think they're less flexible than the train and especially the greyhound for last-minute buying.

If I didn't care about money, I'd choose Acela or Limoliner over flying unless I was for some reason really convenient to Logan.

But right now [Thursday 5:30ish], a person could get a ticket from BOS to JFK for a couple hours from now for $100. So if you ARE convenient to Logan for some reason...

Me, I usually just grab the Greyhound. They leave so often you pretty much just get in line and get on the bus. And you can use your ticket for any time of day.
posted by lampoil at 5:52 AM on July 10, 2009

The collective “don’t fly” consensus here seemed like a good one.

I took the Acela, which was, as many suggested, probably around a similar door-to-door time as flying, and more pleasant, less hassle, and cheaper (around $90 for the one-way ticket, and easy access by public transit on both ends of the trip, so no expensive airport cabs).

It was also easy to get a last-minute ticket – I booked the ticket online at around 2:15 for a train at around 3:30, no problem.

Bonus about the Acela: They have a “quiet car”, which is where I sat, and really enjoyed it. The snack car was pretty ok – the food was, you know, what you’d expect on a train, and I went there to make calls outside the Quiet Car.

I missed having Internet access, and my cell phone reception was crappy and intermittent. But it was a pretty great ride.

I’m sure there are much cheaper ways to get from Boston to NYC but this met all my criteria really well: Bookable at the last minute, convenient and quick, and cheaper than a cheap flight.

I’d be intrigued to try LimoLiner or BoltBus on my next trip, for the Wifi.

Thanks, Mefi!
posted by ManInSuit at 10:42 AM on July 25, 2009

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