New York City Airport Guide
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Navigating NYC Airports
Millions of people from around the world visit New York City every year. Yet, when they go online to book a flight there are so many options it can be quite overwhelming. I’m going to break down the 3 big airports and a personal favorite for international travel.
Ok, so if you live in Manhattan, or God forbid Hoboken, Jersey City, Weehawken, or anywhere else in the Central to North Jersey, Newark Airport is a no brainer. Yes, people turn a nose at Newark, well, because it’s Newark, but there is no arguing how easily it is to access the airport. Not to mention the available destinations to travel to, good food and drink options, oh yeah, and flights are pretty reliable as far as departure times (except at the holidays, but then we are all screwed). All in all, Newark is a well run Airport that is easily accessible in one of the most congested areas in the world. Only drawback is, Newark is very expensive for international travel. Also, most International flights leave in the early morning, which causes a pretty jammed packed Terminal C, so if you don’t have pre-check, you better get there 3-3.5 hours prior to an international flight rather than the standard 2. Personally, I think 2 hours is still too far in advance, but according to my boyfriend with travel anxiety, 2 hours is not enough time. Let’s keep in mind that Mr. Travel Anxiety that has flown to ten foreign countries, nearly all of the major cities in the US, and used to travel to away games on a chartered plane with an NFL franchise. Literally some of the most pampered flying experiences… still, travel anxiety SMH. I digress. To recap, awesome airport, but expensive and long security waits for international flights.
JFK has just as many if not more options than Newark, and tends to be slightly cheaper than Newark. Unfortunately, that might be where the positives end. Ok, that was a little heavy handed. There are a number of options on transportation to get out there, however none of them are optimal. The Long Island Railroad will take you to Jamaica Station where you transfer to Airtrain and then it’s a short walk to the terminals. You can also take the J, Z, or E Train to Jamaica Station and take the Air Train. Depending on the time of your departure or arrival, the subway is not always the safest of options. I still have flashbacks to a delayed flight from LAX and the option at 3am was subway or a $175 Uber… I took the Subway and regretted every moment of it. Literally downloaded Adele Carpool Karaoke to give me happy thoughts during my eminent demise and watched the video over and over.
Another choice would be to take the shuttle which leaves from Grand Central which goes to both JFK and La Guardia. Oh yeah, there’s traffic in NYC, and then there’s Long Island traffic which I don’t think the English language has the words to describe (will film a video on the next trip to the Hamptons). At least JFK traffic isn’t as bad as La Guardia due to all the construction, but we’ll get there. So to recap, great direct destination options, slightly cheaper than Newark, difficult to access.
If you’re a native to the area, you can just skip over this part of the review and move straight to Stewart, because you already know, but if you want to relive some of your worst travel moments, stick around. When I think of La Guardia International Airport, I think of The Levels of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. Maybe it’s because I’m sitting in a little cafe in Florence, but it’s still applicable. Just when you think you’ve overcome a huge obstacle in making your flight on time, there is another challenge thrown your way. Honestly, the easiest way to get there is an uber or cab. From the city you’re probably looking at a $40-$75 Uber depending on location, and obviously traffic at that time. MTA bus and Airport Shuttle are cheaper, but they make multiple stops and then you have to worry about city and LIE traffic, less than ideal. Oh yeah, and remember above when I mentioned the construction? Well there’s a lot of it, so a quick drop off is out of the question. I picked up some friends at LaGuardia to drive them to Stewart (wait for it) and literally spent an hour trying to get into a terminal with all of the construction and the traffic. Legitimate nightmare, there were tears and expletives to boot.
Ok, so now assume you’ve made it to the airport on time, or a bit early, you get through security, you have your shoes back on, and your tablet and lap top are back in your carrier. Oh wait, after all that rushing your flight is delayed? Cool. Just get me to a bar for a drink. Ok, well they have food and drink options, so you can relax a little bit. Terminal A is not the best, but it’s the least of your problems. So now you finally board your flight, taxi away from your gate, waiting for drink service to start so you can unwind and get ready to read, sleep, or just keep drinking, you’re on vacation right? Those formations on the small runways take some time to navigate (yup, more traffic just in a bigger vehicle). If you take off on time from La Guardia, pay for WiFi and try to play the lottery before you your luck runs out. Ok, that was long winded, but I feel better for getting it off my chest. I should also mention there are letter named terminals and within those letter named terminals are letter named sections of said terminal. So everything could be labeled ‘B’ leading a person to expect they are in terminal B, only to find out after sending their ride to B that they are in section B of terminal A. Talk about mind fuck in rush hour traffic.
Just to show you I’m not a shill, or on the payroll, I’ll start out with the negatives. The international destinations are very limited. Their international airline is Norwegian, which I have talked about before only flies direct to Belfast, Bergen, Dublin, Edinburgh and Shannon. So unless. You are traveling to Ireland or Scotland, you will have to connect. If you connect through Edinburgh, or are just looking for an awesome city with beautiful views and sunsets, I highly recommend visiting. The airport is a short 15-20min bus ride from center city, and it’s well worth a visit, read more here from my full review. If you’re traveling on a budget, even with a connecting flight, you’re still looking at hundreds in savings. Stewart is relatively painless to get to from the city. There is a train from Grand Central or you can take the Stewart Airport shuttle from Port Authority. Another option is to go to Hoboken and take the Port Jervis line up to Salisbury Mills Station. Anyway you slice it, the ride is about an hour to hour 20 minutes, essentially the same it could take you in traffic to any of the other airports.
Ok, onto the positives, or mostly positives. It’s cheap, and not just a little cheaper, like hundreds of dollars cheaper even with a connecting flight, a train ticket to get up to Newburgh (Stewart is an hour train ride out of the city), and an Uber to get from the train to the airport. Yes the train takes an hour, but it’s not like the stressful subway or LIRR with stops, delays, and connections to AirTrain. After about 15 minutes, you’re heading up into the mountains with beautiful views, few stops and fewer train signal stops to worry about. The stress of getting to your gate is just about over already. You get off the train at a small station up in the mountains, and yes, you need to call an Uber. It usually takes less than 10 minutes for them to arrive (I call it when we are about 5 minutes out), and it’s about a $15 Uber to the airfield through a small town and I’ve never experienced any traffic. They drop you off, and you know you’re not at the wrong terminal, because there is only one of them at Stewart. Security lines are basically non existent, although they go through all of the same measures as the major airports. Food and drink is limited to one combined restaurant, bar, and convenient store in the terminal (I have witnessed the Quiznos run out of bread and played a strong hand in the emptying of all Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc thanks to a delay to Dublin). To me flying from Stewart just takes all of the stress out of flying (which my panic stricken boyfriend appreciates).
So given my preference all things being equal, I’d love to fly from Newark (too expensive), Stewart (hour trip outside the city, but easy commute, cheap flights, quick security lines), JFK (less expensive, but also less accessible), La Guardia (Might as well take the Titanic back to the UK).
If you have any questions on your next trip in or out of NYC, let me know. I’m a pro at navigating these airports and figuring out which one is best for your ultimate destination & budget!