Best way to a NYC airport -- with luggage and a kid?

Thumbnail image for amtrak engine closerSean emails with a travel question:

It's no secret that Albany has a small airport, and that finding reasonably priced, direct flights to big cities can often be a bit challenging. I've just booked a cross-country flight out of NYC and was hoping your readers could help me settle on the best option for getting from here to there before lift-off (and then back again a week later).
The current options (as I see them) involve driving + paying to park our car for a week, trains (whether from Albany or Poughkeepsie) or a one-way car-rental each way. We'll have lots of suitcases and a small child in tow.

We did the math on a similar Albany-to-NYC question in the past -- and while the numbers surely aren't still the same, some of the general conclusions probably still hold true. But Sean's question is different because he's headed to one of the NYC airports (presumably JFK or LaGuardia, not Newark). And the "lots of suitcases and a small child in tow" adds a degree of difficulty.

So... thoughts for Sean on the best option for his trip? Please share!


airport shuttle may be an option;

I haven't gotten quotes or seriously looked into it, but a car service to the airport *might* be worth considering. Parking at JFK/LGA/EWR isn't cheap, and options to save money (further-out parking, rental car return) trade $$$ for convenience.

as a traveler who has done this many times, your best bet is to call the hotels that are in close proximity to the airport and find out how much it costs to park your car there for the week. most hotels close to the airport will charge for that, and its much cheaper than parking at the airport itself.

it might not be the cheapest option, but its definitely the best. the hotel will usually have a shuttle and since you're driving, there is no chance of late trains or dealing with car rentals.

I'd look into shuttle services from Albany Int'l if you want a relatively inexpensive, but direct way of getting there. The catch is, that they only usually run one route a day, so depending on when your flight is will factor into whether that's a viable option. The easiest way would be to drive, but that's gonna cost you $18 a day in an economy lot. I'd eliminate the train option, since you'd have to get a shuttle from NYC anyway (you don't want to relive the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles do you?). Renting a car sounds good, but in my experience, the actual cost of renting one after adding taxes, insurance, etc., is always far more expensive than the estimated total you get online.

Doing the one-way rental might be expensive. A few car companies charge extra + mileage for one-way rentals, so that could add up quickly.
Parking at the airports for a few days can also add up.


I've flown out of Newark three times since living in Albany. On the first two, I took Amtrak -> NJ Transit. This was about $60 and required around five hours of total transit time, due to the necessity of getting to the station then leaving some room to make sure I didn't miss transfers. On the third, I bought a one-way car rental. Including gas + tolls, this was about $80 and took three hours.

I haven't flown out of JFK or LAG, but I imagine the costs + time would be fairly similar.

Drive and park - cheapest option when you look at the per person compared to others. If it's JFK, there's a $5 off per day coupon, so parking is only $13 per day.

We did it last summer with our daughter who just turned 1. Drove to the Smart Park just outside of JFK, and then they got us to our terminal. It was difficult w/ the kid but not impossible. Not sure how it would be with more than one. It's definitely the most cost-effective of the ways that we researched, and I kind of like having the control over our arrival and departure from NYC, although there is also a lot to be said for letting someone else do the driving.. especially in and out of the city, or when you're jetlagged and tired.

I'm interested to see the other responses. That airport shuttle might be a good option for us but I'd worry about missing the return trip if our flight was late.

I faced a similar issue getting my 80 year old father-in-law to Europe this fall. He's not the best walker, and has limited travel experience so I wanted to make the journey as easy as possible. Believe it or not, the most efficient path I found was to fly to Chicago and then on to London and back the same way. The added cost was actually minimal (weighed against the time and expense of getting to NYC), there were many more flight options out of Chicago, and it ultimately didn't involve a ton of schlepping of heavy bags.

I know the asker has already booked his tickets, but if you can swing the convenience of flying out of Albany can't be beat.

The shuttle service from Albany will not work for these people as they specifically said they will have LOTS of luggage. There is no storage space in the shuttle buses from up here.

Sadly, the only easiest option would be to drive and park in your situation. Or the nearby hotels option that one person suggested could work too.

I usually rent a one way and return it at the airport.

Amtrak does have baggage limits and no guarantee that you'll get seats together (but if you get in line early, and have kind fellow passengers, it usually isn't a problem). I think its two pieces/person at max 50 lbs. However, I haven't seen the 50 lb baggage limit enforced, but there is limited space for bags on the train (a small section at each end of each car and overhead compartments) and narrow aisles. You will be responsible for lugging your bags onto and off of the train. I recommend checking the website for baggage rules.

However, if you do choose Amtrak (gets you into Penn Station), I recommend leaving from Poughkeepsie (or, if you choose Poughkeepsie, taking MetroNorth, which is cheaper than Amtrak and runs regularly (and takes you into Grand Central) because you can park in the Poughkeepsie train station garage over the weekend for free and parking there for a week isn't very expensive (I am not sure, but I think approx. $14). Parking in Albany/Rensselaer Amtrak is $7/day for the further away lot and so it can add up.

The greyhound is an economical option. If you buy online and in advance, it's about $19/one way from Albany to New York port authority. Some trains run express. I recommend you avoid Adirondack Trailways lines at all costs (many stops, terrible customer service).

The Premier Shuttle is the easiest and most likely cost effective way to go. I've used them several times.

Best option would have probably been to pay a little more for flying out of ALB and used Park, Ride and Fly for your car. It's winter and adding other modes of travel just introduces more chances of a mess up, warmer weather has more options. It also probably doesn't save any time or money in the end. That bargain parking spot at a NYC airport hotel won't seem like one when you come home to a plowed in car with a pile of bags, a tired child and no snow shovel.

My father-in-law has used one of the local limo services that runs from Albany Airport to JFK for years. Of course they're subject to the same traffic as everyone else, but they've been relatively inexpensive. The downside has been driving out to Albany Airport and having to pay to park there while away.

The only practical airport to get to by train with luggage and kids is Newark. I can't imagine needing 5 hours of transit time, though. 2.5 to NYC, 30 minutes or so in Penn, then 20 minutes to the airport, Amtrak or NJTransit. (I get to Wilmington, DE in 5 hours on Amtrak.)

One option for JFK and EWR:
Amtrak --> Penn Station --> Cab to Grand Central --> Shuttle Bus to EWR (outside of Grand Central) or Metro North to JFK (Airtrain via Jamaica)

One option for LAG: Drive to Poughkeepsie Metro North --> Exit at Harlem 125th St Station --> Cab to Lagardia

If you park at the airport or near it in an off-airport lot, be sure to check their website first for discounts. There can be pretty good discounts for customers who plan ahead. One we've used is the Parking Spot. The website Flyer Talk has forums on best airport amenities like parking options.

I've learned the hard way that by the time you either pay for parking, transport, or whatever, you will have paid just as much as you saved on the tickets out of NYC to begin with. So now I just fly out of Albany. But I don't have kids in tow. That being said, I think the car rental is the cheapest option. I'm pretty sure Enterprise has some good rates. Good luck and please give yourself plenty of time. My goal for 2014 is to make a good friend who lives near JFK so I can just park there.

@Lucas: Why would you take a cab to GC and a shuttle to get to EWR, when you can take Amtrak or NJT direct from Penn Station? Confused.

In a related question, why would anyone take a cab, anywhere? But that's just me...

I just used to park at the JFK Radisson Hotel and found this to be a good option. You bring your car to the valet at the hotel, they park it for you, you take the shuttle to and from the airport, the valet brings you your car at the end. I am almost positive that they park your car in the garage under the hotel, which I was much more comfortable with than the open air lots. It's about $16 a day.

I second driving and parking at an offsite facility. (We use SmartPark JFK.) If you're a family of multiple people, driving becomes cheaper than fares on trains or that limo service, plus dealing with luggage and kids is easier. Whether you drive your own car and park, or get a rental car one way probably depends on the length of your trip.

As for the comments that it's worth it to pay to fly from Albany instead, I think it depends on your destination. We fly to a smaller airport in Europe, and flying from Albany would mean two layovers, versus flying from JFK on a direct flight. Worth the drive down, hands down. With domestic flights, I'd probably agree that it's worth it to fly from Albany.

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