JFK to Times Square in one piece - November 30th
October 30, 2016 5:21 PM   Subscribe

What is the best, most cost-effective transportation for me and my bags to get from JFK to my hotel in Times Square?

Greetings, Mefites!

After searching the AskMe archives, I found that this is one question has not been covered...

I am arriving on a red-eye into JFK around 6:30 AM on November 30th. I will have at least two pieces of luggage with me, as well as a carry-on - as I make this trip by myself.

Options so far are: cab, Uber/Lyft, Airtran (although this involves going to Penn Station I believe) or some kind of shuttle. Will the time of day make a difference? This is my first time in NYC.

One previous ask me addressed the shuttle issue, so that's my least favorite option.

Any advice or recommendations are appreciated. Cheers!
posted by Cookbooks and Chaos to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Since you said most cost-effective: take the AirTrain to Howard Beach, then transfer to the A train which you can take directly to 42nd Street. Total fare: $7.25, elevators available at both ends.

Only you know how manageable your luggage is, tho. Uber/Lyft are compelling alternatives if you can't reasonably walk with your bags.
posted by thejoshu at 5:33 PM on October 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

With one person and two pieces of luggage, I'd Uber if you're not the intrepid public transit type.

If you are the intrepid public transit type, what thejoshu said. Keep in mind, however, if you're not a seasoned New York hand, that the NYC public transit system is fairly baroque as compared to other US cities. This trip only involves one line, but your end point is a sprawling transit hub which can be confusing to navigate. If you've never used an underground metro system in your life, it will be overwhelming. Not to say you shouldn't do this, but you should definitely not do this if you don't enjoy schlepping suitcases across what amounts to a human-scale ant nest.
posted by Sara C. at 5:42 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

With that much luggage, I'd suck it up and do an Uber.
posted by k8t at 5:52 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

I do not think the NYC subway is nearly as intimidating as Sara C makes it sound. Yeah, you might end up coming out the wrong exit from the station (so you're a block or two from where you wanted to be) and need to look at street signs to orient yourself. But subways are fairly idiot-proof. What is tricky is navigating the turnstiles with luggage (lift things over). It seems to be very hit and miss whether you can find someone to open the gate at the side of the turnstiles.

That said, if you're talking about two full size suitcases, plus a carry-on, I'd spend the money on a taxi or Uber or whatever.
posted by hoyland at 5:53 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

The system isn't that intimidating.

The Times Square/Port Authority transit hub is completely inscrutable to people who've never used public transit. I know this after having several family members from the rural south visit me in New York and basically needing me to sherpa them through it. There's no way I'd send a completely unfamiliar person who is already weighted down with luggage through there, alone.

If you live in Chicago or London or Montreal or something, sure, have at it!
posted by Sara C. at 5:56 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am a big public transit booster (and AirTrain to Howard Beach, followed by the A train from Howard Beach to 42 St/Port Authority Bus Terminal, is definitely the cheapest way to Manhattan), but I think you should spring for a cab or Uber if we're talking about schlepping two large bags and a carry on.

That amount of luggage with one person is not fun on the subway really anytime, but if your flight gets in on a Wednesday morning at 6:30 am, you'll probably be at Howard Beach around 7:30 or so (figuring time to get from gate to baggage claim, then take the AirTrain to Howard Beach -- obviously you can do it faster if you're familiar with JFK, but as you mention you're a first timer.) This puts you in downtown Brooklyn around 8:00 and 42nd St around 8:30, which is more or less in the middle of the morning rush hour in the peak direction (Manhattan-bound in the mornings.)

The A train isn't as crowded as some of the other trains -- looking at you, 4/5 on the UES -- but it will still be an unpleasant experience maneuvering your bags around all those people. If I were in your situation I'd take a cab.
posted by andrewesque at 6:04 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Luggage delivery is a thing-- someone delivers your luggage to your hotel. It may or may not beat you there. I have not done it, but I'm told it costs as much as a cab or more. Some hotels offer this service in some places, or they can recommend someone.

I have done the trip with a large bag and a backpack on public transit, and it is a pain in the neck, particularly at rush hour and in a season with weather. I budget in the money for a cab if I have more than a small rolling bag.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:14 PM on October 30, 2016

I think transit is definitely doable per everyone else's advice is you're comfortable with using transit when traveling.

If you Uber suggest UberPool Which will cut you cost down by a fair chunk.
posted by artificialard at 6:30 PM on October 30, 2016

($7.75, whoops.)
posted by thejoshu at 6:43 PM on October 30, 2016

You can also take a shuttle bus for $18 each way. Depending on where in Times Square your hotel is, it may be the least amount of bag-shlepping for the money.
posted by xo at 6:48 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I'd opt for a cab or Uber. I have taken the train to and from JFK many times with big bags, including bike boxes, and it's a PITA. You are going to be coming off a red-eye and will be tired and managing multiple bags. Recipe for disaster. (Not to mention the Times Square station is packed and there are multiple ways in or out, with stairs everywhere!)

Bear in mind that traffic into Manhattan will be heavy (due to construction, the Van Wyck is murder after 8:00am), so just chill out in the car and watch the world go by.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:55 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just spent a week schlepping luggage (carry-on plus large tote that slides onto the handle) around NYC. I gladly paid for UberPool several times so that I didn't have to schlep my luggage around the subway at rush hour. I'm a relatively experienced public transiter but elevators are hard to find in the NYC subway system.
posted by serelliya at 7:33 PM on October 30, 2016

Well i for one love the airtrain to jamaica station and then long island railroad it's a few $ more but very easy and then a cab /uber/hike from penn to times square

If you want to do a four wheel from the airport forego yellow cabs and uber and use dial-7. They are a "black cab" car company in new york reserve ahead of time easy to meet up and they have the nicest cars and will be cheaper than uber or yellow (they have flat rates to/from jfk)

Fyi they offer a "luxury" upgrade (goes from 45-51 i believe, 6 whole extra dollars) and i usually end up with a r4ally nice buick or mid range mercedes

They have a website app etc or just "dial 7" (which is to say 212-777-7777)

I commuted from fla to nyc for 2 years weekly and split trips between the long island railroad and dial 7 based on luggage.
posted by chasles at 7:55 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are two options for you:

Cheap: As stated, take the AirTrain and transfer to the subway. However, if you're in Times Square, you should take AirTrain to Jamaica (not Howard Beach), and then transfer to the E train to Manhattan. You can get off either at 7 av/53 st or at 42 st/Port Authority (which is two more stops), depending on whether you are north/east or west/south of Times Square, respectively. This will cost $7.75, as noted, and take around an hour and fifteen minutes. (Jamaica to the E is better than Howard Beach to the A, as suggested above, because the E has fewer stops to Times Square than the A does; if you were staying downtown instead of midtown, Howard Beach to the A would be better.)

Easy: Take a cab. Don't bother with Uber or anything else, just follow the signs to a taxi stand, wait in line, tell the dispatcher you're going to Times Square, get in the yellow cab he points out, and be whisked (ish, traffic will be terrible) there with your bags. This will cost $40-60, and take a little under an hour. You will not have to think at all or carry anything.

Personally, I am an enthusiastic transit rider and take the subway or bus everywhere I don't bike in NYC--but I still take cabs to JFK and LGA, because they're out in the middle of nowhere and luggage sucks on the subway.

Technically, there are other options, but they're all advanced (AirTrain to LIRR to subway, transferring either at Penn Station or in Long Island City or something--slightly faster, but more complex, not worth it for you) or silly (Uber, when there are going to be dozens of cabs just waiting there; shuttles--who gives a shit).
posted by acroyear2 at 8:26 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yellow cab fare from JFK to anywhere in Manhattan is a flat rate of $52 plus tolls (plus a couple of minor fees that are less than a dollar).
posted by plastic_animals at 8:43 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in NY, take the subway almost daily and always take the A train/Airtrain to JFK. But I often take a cab home to Manhattan from JFK. And if I had two+ bags and just got off a red-eye, I would absolutely take a cab unless I was absolutely too broke to afford to do so. (I don't do Uber and am not sure about how easy it is to be picked up at JFK; it's possible that it is just as easy as getting a cab - if so, my vote is for either cab/Uber.)
posted by Caz721 at 8:58 PM on October 30, 2016

There's a kiosk in baggage claim where you can call a car service or shuttle. Do NOT accept a ride from anyone who approaches you in baggage claim or calls out to you from their car window. These are scammers who don't have proper licenses.
posted by brujita at 9:58 PM on October 30, 2016

I wouldn't take the Airtrain/subway into Manhattan after a red-eye flight. It's not that complicated, but there's a lot of schlepping involved and it can take a while and that's probably not what you want to do when you're tired.

Take a cab if you're okay with the $52, or if you're not or if the line for a cab looks ridiculously long, take the NYC Airporter bus to Port Authority and walk the couple of blocks to your hotel. That bus costs $18 one way, and it will go directly into Manhattan. Once you're in Manhattan, it will stop at Grand Central and then go on to Port Authority.

In order to take the bus from the airport, follow the signs for ground transportation once you get your bags. Once you go outside, you'll see a sandwich-board sign on the sidewalk that says NYC Airporter , and there will be an Airporter employee in a neon-green vest who will sell you a ticket. Sometimes they only take exact change, but they also take credit cards so you can pay with that too.

Sometimes there are companies trying to poach business from the airporter bus, so don't buy a ticket from anyone who doesn't have clothes marked with "NYC Airporter." The one time I got scammed by another business, they told me they had a spot for me in a 15-passenger van, and then it turned out that they already had 15 people in it. Anyway, if there's no Airporter person standing by the sandwich board sign, you can just wait for the bus to come and buy a ticket when you get on. They tend to come every half hour or so.
posted by colfax at 2:24 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

My son and I did subway to airtran to and from our hotel on Times Square. The trip over rough pavement blew out the wheels on our previously decent luggage, and we ended up dragging it through the airport. Replacing the bag cost more than the cab would have.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 3:34 AM on October 31, 2016

The NYC Airporter bus ($18) lets you off *outside* the Port Authority bldg, on 42nd St so no worries about going inside and dealing with that chaos. It's a block from Times Sq.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:57 AM on October 31, 2016

Jamaica to the E is better than Howard Beach to the A, as suggested above

Ugh I'm so embarrassed at myself that I didn't think of this #ashamednewyorker.

The E is indeed better to Times Square than the A, though I would advocate even more strongly for taking a cab vs the E if you have a lot of bags at rush hour.

I've gotten off transcontinental red-eyes to JFK and schlepped to the E, with one bag and even at 6 am the second stop on the E in Queens (toward Manhattan) is already busy, and it only gets busier.
posted by andrewesque at 12:33 PM on October 31, 2016

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