East Coast travel optimization: trains, cars, and planes.
February 25, 2013 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I a (mostly) West coaster, and will be on the Eastern seaboard next week for some travel. Here's what my plan is: (1) Thursday - Washington DC to West Point (by train and rental car) (2) Sunday - West Point to NYC (by rental car, need to drop someone in NY at an airport) (3) Sunday - Stay overnight in NYC are thereabouts in prep for (4). Nice to have would be within striking distance to do something in NYC that night, but this is optional (4) Monday - Fly out from LaGuardia in the afternoon

For (1) I will be taking Amtrak up to NYC, and I think I need to rent a car at LaGuardia because I need to end up there for (4). But could I theoretically take the train all the way to West Point and then rent a car on that Sunday?

I guess I'm wondering is - what's the best place to rent a car around NYC or between NYC and West Point for (1). And how much hassle can I expect dropping the car at LaGuardia (3/4) if I start somewhere else. I could theoretically return the car at (3) or (4) but have not settled on that.

I really don't know what I don't know about doing trains and renting cars in the NYC area and getting in and out of LaGuardia. Tips on getting to West Point generally are also welcome. Thanks!
posted by artlung to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's typically way more expensive to pick up and drop off at different locations.

Get to LGA, rent your car there and drive to West Point and back.

Also, why the train? Megabus will be nicer and probably easier to deal with! (Amtrak is pretty sucky.) Also, CHEAP!

I'd take Megabus from DC to NYC. Then I'd rent a car in NYC to drive to West Point. It's about an 55 miles, so a bagatel.

You can return the car on your way back to NY, to minimize costs. Then stay at an airport hotel with shuttle service to the airport. You can take a cab, Super Shuttle or the M60 from LGA into Manhattan to check out the city.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:01 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To be honest, do you really need the car? If you don't plan on doing anything outside the bounds of train service in the NYC area, then you could make do without one.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:20 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: MegaBus is fine if you're in college or on a budget, but they tend to be cattle cars.

The Amtrak Acela may be pricier, but it's much more comfortable. I'm not sure how recent Ruthless Bunny's experience is, but I've done a lot of business travel on it recently, and aside from the lousy cafeteria class food (as opposed to zero options on the bus), it's worth the money, if only for the legroom (and the quiet car!)
posted by canine epigram at 1:38 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One caveat with the Acela - timing is key. I was on it about a month ago, and it was so crowded I didn't get a seat for 45 minutes out of New York, and it wasn't until New Haven an hour and a half later that my husband and I were able to get seats together. Getting into the quiet car like we'd hoped was a complete nonstarter. Granted, this was the 5 pm on a (regular, non-holiday week) weekday out of Penn Station. Still, it will be faster than the bus, and more spacious when you do get a seat.

I concur with everybody's assessment to avoid renting a car if possible, but this will also depend on the comfort levels of you and your traveling partner. (Are they okay with buses? Does the bus schedule fit your traveling needs?)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 1:57 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: One of the downsides of Amtrak is that many of the trains don't have checked baggage. So be sure you're travelling light.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:18 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Car I presumed because we may want to drive around West Point (?) for the 2-1/2 days we're there. We're doing events there but I need to check on expectations of how much we really need the car. I'm from California, and thought it would give more flexibility overall - but it may simply be a hindrance.

Bus is likely a nonstarter for travel companion (my wife). Too cramped for her.

I like trains. Just heard from my sister who will be dropping us off at DC train station in the 7am range Thursday -- not sure how that impacts us in terms of how full the train will be.

I need to check which NY (I believe LGA but may be JFK) airport we're dropping him off at and what time.
posted by artlung at 4:50 PM on February 25, 2013

Response by poster: Clarifying (2) Person we're dropping off is at JFK, and their flight leaves at 12noon on Sunday. Now wondering if maybe get car at JFK inbound and be done with cars Sunday, then cab or airport shuttle it as several of you have suggested.
posted by artlung at 5:02 PM on February 25, 2013

Response by poster: Booked 10am DC to Penn Station Acela Express Business Class.
posted by artlung at 10:38 PM on February 25, 2013

If you have your own car insurance for liabiblity, you might get off at Amtrak at Newark and rent a car there. It'll be cheaper than a rental car in NY and you can skip (to some extent) weekday city traffic and toll bridges. The downside is getting from Newark to Laguardia at the end of your trip. It looks like there's a shuttle bus for $32 and traffic on Sunday shouldn't be crazy.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:42 AM on February 26, 2013

Oops messed up your timeline a little. I think I'd drop your friend off at JFK then return your rental car at Newark, then take transit back into the city from Newark (pretty simple and transit in NY is part of the adventure), stay overnight as centrally as your budget permits, and get a cab to Laguardia midday Monday.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:45 AM on February 26, 2013

Best answer: My experience with West Point was that I was very glad I had a car there. Particularly in winter! It's a big little place.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:02 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Driving around New York City is not that easy. Aside from crazy traffic, you'll find the signage far less abundant and helpful than California. I would definitely leave your rental car at whatever airport you drop your friend off and take public transportation into the city.

M60 bus from LaGuardia (drops you off along 125th street in Harlem with access to all subway lines)
Airtrain and A or E train from JFK (goes up Manhattan on the west side)
NJ Transit from Newark (will drop you off at Penn Station in Manhattan)

Make sure you have a Metrocard or exact change (no bills) for the bus.
posted by brookeb at 6:57 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, plan is to minimize driving in NYC area - but have the car in West Point.

I've booked a car out of JFK I will pick up Thursday and drop off Sunday. Looks like the AirTrain JFK is what I need then. So is this right - I get the E train to the AirTrain What are the downsides/upsides to a cab, or shuttle from Penn Station to JFK on a Thursday around 1-2pm?

Also, this is awesome. AskMe rocks.
posted by artlung at 10:17 AM on February 26, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks to all on this. Ended up train into Penn Station. Flat Rate cab ($52.50) to JFK (we really considered other transit but my wife is a bit squeamish about subway and we are carrying many bags so this was easiest). AirTrain shuttle to Enterprise Rental from a terminal. Drive to West Point, where we definitely need the car. Will drop off passenger Sunday Morning at JFK, along with the car, then cab to Midtown Hotel. Then Monday, cab to LGA.

Yay AskMe, thanks so so so much!
posted by artlung at 2:03 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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