Are my journeys to Cape Cod doomed to be expensive and unpleasant?
April 24, 2012 9:06 AM   Subscribe

I live in Brooklyn, NY, and I enjoy visiting my mother on Cape Cod. But I don't have a car, and the stress and expense of my usual methods of travel keeps me from seeing her as much as I would like. Am I overlooking a better solution?

Usually, I go for one of the following options (in order of least to most expensive)

- Take the bus direct from Port Authority to Hyannis. Usually Megabus or Peter Pan. Super unpleasant with lots of waiting in line, but cheap and straightforward.

- Amtrak to Boston, then bus or pubtrans to somewhere Mom can pick me up. I prefer the train to the bus, but the cost is prohibitive, and there's still a lot of line-waiting and anxiety over getting a good seat. Plus, I still have to get myself the rest of the way to the Cape once I'm in Boston, which adds even more expense.

- Rent a car and drive. Only cost-effective when I'm traveling with my whole household, and often involves a lot of traffic and stressful city navigation. Plus, someone's stuck driving for 5+ hours.

None of these options are great. I grew up in MA but have lived in NYC for over a decade, so I've been dealing with this problem for a long time, and I've never been happy with the options available.

It occurred to me recently that maybe I'm just not thinking of something -- is there a ferry I could take? A combination of regional pubtrans I've somehow missed? A super-cheap commuter airline I don't know about that flies out of an easy-to-get-to airport?

Cheap is better, as I'm low-income right now, but I'm willing to splurge a little to improve my experience. I'd rather take a longer trip that's pleasant and relaxing than a short one that's stressful and uncomfortable. I love trains and boats and hate busses. I can drive but prefer to avoid renting cars since my mom has an extra one I can borrow at her house. I am okay with walking moderate distances as long as it's a safe neighborhood.

If it matters, I live in Sunset Park, and my mom lives close to Mashpee.
posted by Narrative Priorities to Travel & Transportation around Marston Mills, MA (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I'd take the Bolt Bus (if you register, you can pre-board, which takes the stress out of getting a seat) to Boston, and take one of the bus lines from the South Station Bus Terminal to the Cape.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:15 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's Cape Air that flies to the islands, P-town, and Hyannis, but they do cost more than a bus and there's no good direct root from NYC to Mashpee - I think you'd have to hop through one of the islands.

There is also the P-town ferry from Boston and during the summer you can usually find a Groupon deal or sometimes a Massachusetts Tourism deal where it's just $80 RT (as opposed to $80 each way), and the ferry ride is really enjoyable.
posted by olinerd at 9:16 AM on April 24, 2012

I'd be happy to hear otherwise, but as someone who spent many years in both Boston and Brooklyn, with summers on Cape Cod, I don't think there are better options. I did look into Metro North to CT, then Peter Pan to Boston, but that was just another version of all the other indirect, time-consuming, or expensive options.

The only other option I'd throw out there is the ferry from Boston to P-town. If your Mom were further out on the Cape that'd make more logistical sense, but as it is it's simply a nicer leg of the trip that just means your Mom has to travel in the other direction. (Cape traffic being what it is, that may be a benefit, but it depends on day and time.)
posted by cocoagirl at 9:16 AM on April 24, 2012

Conceivably you could Amtrak to Providence or North Kingstown, RI, then take the ferry shuttle to the Quonset airport ($15/20), then take the Fast Ferry to Martha's Vineyard ($69 RT advance), then take the Steamship Authority ferry to Woods Hole ($16ish RT), then either get picked up there or take the bus to Mashpee, but I have no idea how the timing would work. Still, it kind of sounds like fun.
posted by grar at 9:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have taken Metro North to New Haven and picked up a Zipcar rental on the Yale campus. They have mileage restrictions, but if you are staying a couple of days and not driving much while you are there it works out (or did for me).
posted by Frank Grimes at 9:33 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

I go to Wood's Hole a lot for work, and although it adds a bit to the cost, I've found that the drive from Sunset Park is much more relaxing if I drive out to the end of long Island and take the ferry to New London. It skips the worst of the city and Connecticut traffic, and the ferry ride is nice.

Also, it doesn't add much time if you hit the (hourly) ferry at the right time (about 10 min before it leaves or they wont sell you tickets).
posted by overhauser at 9:43 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

You can get as far as New London on commuter rail (transfer to Shore Line East at New Haven). Metro North is already so expensive, though, and then with adding the SLE fare I'm not sure this would be much cheaper than Amtrak. And then as far as I can tell you're stuck taking the bus from New London, unless you want to rent a car/get Zipcar in New London. So, probably not that helpful but if you have a strong preference for commuter rail then maybe.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:51 AM on April 24, 2012

Before I owned a car, I used to go somewhat regularly from New Haven, CT to Brewster and found that the only reasonable way to do it was to rent a car. Enterprise in New Haven actually had pretty good rates (typically under $100)
If I were doing this without a car now (and renting a car in NYC were cost-prohibitive), I'd take one of the commuter rails out of the city (maybe not all the way to New Haven) and get a rental car where the rates were more reasonable.
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:52 AM on April 24, 2012

Whoa. Apparently having a parentheses, less than sign, dollar sign destroyed my last comment.

The last part of my first paragraph meant to say that the rental rates out of New Haven with Enterprise were typically under $100 for the weekend and, although they don't have a rental counter at the train station, they claim that they can "pick you up," so that could be arranged, I would think.
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:55 AM on April 24, 2012

Bus to Boston.

Fairy to P-town.

OR, if P-town isn't close to your mother on the cape, one of the local Cape bus lines from South Station.
posted by zizzle at 10:22 AM on April 24, 2012

*Ferry, even!
posted by zizzle at 10:22 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

1. What about taking Megabus/Metro-North/Amtrak to an intermediate place, then renting a car? Car rentals are much cheaper outside the city. There are cheap Hertz locations within walking distance of New Rochelle, Bridgeport, New Haven, and Merritt 7 on Metro-North. Providence might also work.

2. Amtrak is less stressful if you get on in Newark (it's a $1.50 PATH ride). I do this when I am traveling at the holidays to guarantee a decent seat, since TONS of people get off at Penn Station.

Honestly, I can't imagine anything is better than Megabus to Hyannis. Amtrak to Providence is $43 if you book it far enough in advance, but that's still a lot compared to super-cheap Megabus.
posted by zvs at 10:34 AM on April 24, 2012

I sometimes take Metro-North to Stamford and rent a car there, which is cheaper and saves driving the FDR and Bruckner.
posted by nicwolff at 10:43 AM on April 24, 2012

Yeah, we've rented Enterprise cars in Stamford several times. It's been a mixed bag, unfortunately. We also have a ZipCar membership. I'll keep those options in mind for when we're traveling as a group, but it's not really practical when I'm by myself.

Thanks for all the suggestions so far! Ferries, in particular, are something I'm going to have to look into more...are any of the ferries on Long Island accessible via pubtrans?

I seem to recall there being ferries that leave from near Wall Street, too...anyone have experience with those?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:53 AM on April 24, 2012

....If you're looking for some kind of car pool/sharing situation with the rental car on major holidays, I also live in Brooklyn and have family on Cape Cod.

Otherwise I take Amtrak to Providence and the parents get me the rest of the way. I've also looked into Amtrak to Providence and then getting Zipcar there, or flying to Hyannis.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on April 24, 2012

Oh -- let me elaborate on those options;

* If you get a zipcar in Providence or Boston, you'll still have to pay the daily rate there, which is kinda hefty.

* Planes aren't GREAT for options; you'd have to get to Boston and then take Cape Air from Boston to Hyannis. Priceline is showing lengthy layovers. But if you can get yourself to Boston cheaply enough via some other means, then you could just do the Cape Air stint to Hyannis.

As for ferries - the only New york/New England ferry I know is the one that goes from Long Island to New London, and then you'd have to get from New London the rest of the way.

....I feel your pain. I've lived in New York for 20 years, and my parents moved to Cape Cod from Eastern Connecticut 10 years ago and I've been dealing with this issue ever since.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:08 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about the bus from the Sunset Park Chinatown to Manhattan, then the bus from Manhattan Chinatown to Boston?
posted by miss tea at 2:02 PM on April 24, 2012

I almost thought my sister had posted to MeFi!, but alas, our mother lives in Wellfleet and my sister lives in Brooklyn Heights.

I will forward to her, but I think after years of testing, the Cape Air version is the least painless, of course Cape Air to P-Town is only 20 minutes from my mom in Wellfleet, so even a cab ride is not out of the question.

Cape Air is a very interesting airline, and they have monthly coupon tickets that are dirt cheap, like to can buy a booklet of tickets for less than hal price, the destination that goes on sale changes monthly, but since they only service so many airports, pretty much every destination comes up once a year.

Pretty much everything has been covered above.

Oddly enough they are in cahoots with Google on a projects are well
posted by silsurf at 2:08 PM on April 24, 2012

my sis:

"Can't figure out how to post, but my solution is: Metro North to New Haven, rent there and drive (Avis in the train station and rates are better than NYC. So far every time I've done it--about 4-5, now--the Avis people are really nice--no line, no hassles) & if you take Metro North during off-peak, it's very cheap. My friends who go to Ptown a lot favor Amtrak to Providence, rental car from there (also in, or across the street from the station)."
posted by silsurf at 3:43 PM on April 24, 2012

You can take megabus directly from NYC to Providence (round trip for me was only $18), if that's helpful at all. You can also take a commuter rail (I think like $7) to Boston from Providence, or vice-versa.
posted by kylej at 5:17 PM on April 24, 2012

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