If it’s Monday, it must be Boston (again)
December 18, 2018 8:22 PM   Subscribe

How to figure out the best logistics for going back and forth between NJ and Boston every other Monday for at least two months?

I will most likely be in a situation in the coming weeks that will require my attendance in Belmont, Massachusetts every other Monday for a minimum of two months. I live just outside of NYC, so it would be about a 4hr drive each way. Due to health reasons (I have Ankylosing Spondylitis - a cousin to Rheumatoid Arthritis), it’s not realistic to anticipate doing this drive easily.

Newark Airport is closest to me, and I imagine there are shuttle flights. But once there, do I rent a car, subscribe to Zipcar? Hotel? Do they cut deals for recurring guests?

If it makes any difference, I will be going to McLean Hospital to attend mandatory family sessions.
posted by dancinglamb to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is the train just not feasible? Because with security, etc., it's faster city center-to-city center from NYC to Boston than the plane, so depending on where you are in Jersey...And then McLean has a shuttle from Waverley Square, so you should be able to connect through North Station on the commuter rail.

I don't think any hotel's going to give you a deal for staying four overnights in two months, though.
posted by praemunire at 8:27 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Amtrak is the most reliable (weather in winter) and probably both the most comfortable and door to door quickest. Take the Acela. You can pick it up in Newark or at Penn Station.

Hotels do cut deals for recurring guests, I commuted from SF to NY Sunday to Thursday for 3 months, but unlikely for your frequency. I would ask. I would also either join their frequent guest program and build points to a free room or on a site like hotels.com they give you a free room every x amount of stays.
posted by AugustWest at 8:46 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The train is about 5-6 hours depending on if I leave from Newark Penn or NYC. I have a problem sitting that long (otherwise I would just drive). I did the Autorail to/from Florida once several years ago and remember the seats not being all that comfortable. Maybe things have changed since then.

In addition to the initial 8wk program, there is a possibility of a further three month step-down program. My guess is that I will have to continue the every other weekend meeting requirement at that point, as well. I will know more tomorrow.

The parental attendance requirement is actually every week, although they permit you to call in 50% of the time.
posted by dancinglamb at 10:23 PM on December 18, 2018

I commuted every day from New York to Boston and back for a while in the 90's on a tech gig. I flew out of Newark.

I don't have advice money wise. I was young. It was the company dime. I didn't really pay attention. I just thought I would let you know that taking a cab to the airport from my New York apartment and then catching the flight to Boston then returning later that day was much easier and stress free than I thought it would be. If you can, consider returning that same night.

Also, I wouldn't want to deal with the hassle of returning a rental. Being dropped off at the airport / where I was going was a big part of what made the trips so easy.
posted by xammerboy at 10:29 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

...hm? The Acela is about four hours between NYC and Boston (fastest is supposed to be about 3.5). Though obviously I couldn't presume to say whether the seat is tolerable for sitting vs. driving over that period given your condition, it's better than the standard Amtrak short-haul seat, and you can easily take breaks standing around in the cafe car, which has standing tables. And it is more comfortable than an economy airline seat for sure, though you would obviously be spending more time in it.

(Not to state the obvious, but...flying in the 90s was a really different experience when it comes to the process of just getting to your seat.)

Even if I took the plane, I doubt I'd bother with renting a car. Fly in the night before, get a hotel near North Station (seem to recall there's a Kimpton not too far off) that you get to either by taxi or T, depending on budget/pain levels, take the commuter rail (<30 mins.) to Waverley Square, get the shuttle from there, reverse for going home.

Ten nights might progress you in some hotel loyalty program, but they aren't what they used to be. (Ten would've been a free night at Kimpton til they killed it last year.)

Good luck with your family situation.
posted by praemunire at 10:58 PM on December 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

The train is about 5-6 hours depending on if I leave from Newark Penn or NYC. I have a problem sitting that long (otherwise I would just drive).

It's under 4 hours, costs $50 booked in advance, and you can get up and walk around. This seems ideal for you, no?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:54 AM on December 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

Like you, I have trouble sitting for that long. I like the train because you can walk around. (I also find airports kind of stressful, and for that trip, it seems like you spend as much time getting to the airport early and going through security as you would save from other kinds of transportation.)

I do find the regular Amtrak trains to be lacking in comfortable seats! Like some of the other posters, I'd recommend the Acela. It has nice squishy seats and more space and it doesn't take as long as the regular train.

You could subscribe to Zipcar, but the downside to that is that you pay hourly so it costs money to park it while you're at an appointment. If you're going to be traveling a lot in Boston and want to avoid the subway/commuter rail for comfort reasons, you might consider using Lyft.
posted by pangolin party at 3:29 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The train is about 5-6 hours depending on if I leave from Newark Penn or NYC. I have a problem sitting that long (otherwise I would just drive).

It's under 4 hours, costs $50 booked in advance, and you can get up and walk around. This seems ideal for you, no?

Just to be clear, there are two different rail services from New York to Boston, one of which offers the sub-4 hour trip, the other of which offers the $50 fare.

You get the sub-4 hour trip on the Acela, which is timetabled to do the Boston-NY trip in approximately 3h45 and the Boston-Newark trip in about 4h15. But Acela fares are never $50 or cheaper; the cheapest I've ever seen it is $90 and that is for booking way far out.

The sub-$50 fares, when booked well in advance, are on the Regional, which in turn is timetabled to do the Boston-NY trip in about 4h15-4h30 and the Boston-Newark trip in 4h45-5h, depending on the train.

That being said, if you don't have to pay for this yourself, I'd take the Acela since that does come in under 5/6 hours. (As a paying passenger I don't consider the Acela's time savings versus the Regional worth it between New York and Boston, but I don't have to consider health issues or am doing the trip very often.)
posted by andrewesque at 3:38 AM on December 19, 2018 [9 favorites]

Ubers are plentiful. Praemuniere's advice is right on - stay near North station, get the commuter rail out 1st thing in the morning. Take an Uber to North Station from Logan - you can get there by public transport but it's a convoluted journey on the silver line bus, blue line and then orange line. The Uber usually wouldn't even be near $50 and a lot less hassle.
posted by Miko at 4:56 AM on December 19, 2018

Best answer: I used to live in Maine and travel all over the country for work. I flew most of the time, but when I could take the train, that was absolutely my preference. I also have rheumatoid arthritis, so while it's not the same condition I do get it about not sitting for too long.

What I recommend is the train. Your door to door time isn't going to be worse than flying, because airport security is such a nightmare. On the train you can move around, you can walk around, shift your seat a lot more than you can on an airplane. Boarding and disembarking are easier.

If you do decide to fly, get TSA pre-check. Newark is a security nightmare, I've often seen the line so backed up that anyone who didn't show up three hours early is screwed. Boston is less on the huge delays, but being able to cut the line is still huge.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:44 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

IMHO, there a couple ways to make life easier. First, life might be easier and parking cheaper, if you go to the Rt 128 Amtrak stop BEFORE South Station.

Another alternative on weekdays is to come into South Station on Amtrak and just hop on the Express Bus to Watertown Square (501 or 504 I think) and take an Uber or taxi from there. You want to avoid the T as much as possible.

In terms of staying nearby, you can try for one of the hotels in Waltham but it’s a hotel, so it’s $$$. My suggestion would be to look on Craigslist for short term sublets and room rentals. It’s entirely possible renting for the whole two months will be far cheaper than a hotel. You are likely to find a bedroom within walking distance of McLeans and general amenities in Waverley Square for maybe $700-1000, especially as this is the slow part of the rental season here.
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 6:10 AM on December 19, 2018

Best answer: I'd think in terms of time spent, taking the Amtrak Northeast Regional from Newark Airport to Boston South is the way to go, then Lyft to McLean. For a hotel, install the Hotel Tonight app and get a day-of deal that works for you each time.
posted by knile at 10:37 AM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just to be clear, there are two different rail services from New York to Boston, one of which offers the sub-4 hour trip, the other of which offers the $50 fare.

Yes, sorry, my apologies -- Penn Station to back Bay is $89 booked in advance.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:52 AM on December 19, 2018

Best answer: I live in Belmont, close to McLean, and have spent a lot of time traveling to their campus from various locations. I have a family member, for whom I've been the main support, who's spent lots of inpatient and outpatient time there.

I can tell you that the most inexpensive, reliable, direct route from South Station, barring driving, is the MBTA and the McLean shuttle van. Buy an MBTA CharlieCard, because that's cheaper than paying one-ride-at-a-time. Try this:
- Red Line from South Station to Harvard Station
- 73 Bus (electric trolley) from Harvard Station (lower busway) to Waverley Square (end of the 73 line)
- McLean has a shuttle van that does continuous loops between Waverley Sq and the Main McLean Admissions Building every 10-20 minutes. (McLean is about 3/4 mile from Waverley Sq.) You can call McLean's main number (617-855-2000) if you aren't sure when the next shuttle is due.

Also, I'd check airb'n'b for accommodations. I used to airb'n'b my Belmont place often.

(Memail me if you want to know more about McLean culture as I've experienced it; YMMV, they deal with a ton of different angles.)
posted by not_on_display at 11:26 AM on December 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

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