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Recently, I’ve been flying a lot. In January I went to Cary, North Carolina and Ft. Myers, Florida. Hubby and I love the thrill of getting a low plane fare- we have lots of great tips and tricks for getting cheap & free flights (Which I really need to share soon!). We are lucky to have three airports that serve our area, LaGuardia, JFK and Islip-MacArthur. That alone gives us lots of travel options – but with all things being equal we always try to fly out of JFK. There are so many options to get there, it’s really the most convenient for us. And for that reason, people are always asking me how to get to JFK airport from Manhattan, or on public transportation in general! So I put this post together to help making getting to JFK airport a breeze! I’m so excited to share all these great tips for getting to and from JFK like true New Yorker!
Getting to JFK from Manhattan
JFK airport is located in the Southern part of Queens, an outer borough of New YorkCity. JFK is located 18 miles from midtown Manhattan and is the international airport to service Long Island and New York City. There are several ways to get to JFK airport from Manhattan. For each method, you have to balance where you are coming from, cost, time and how much luggage (and little ones) you might have to schlep!
If you are taking public transportation from Manhattan to JFK airport, you will need to ride the AirTrain. The AirTrain is the monorail that circles the entire airport and connects the airport to other transportation hubs – the A train in Howard Beach and the Jamaica train station. If you are taking the AirTrain to the terminals around the airport, there is no fare.
Looping around JFK airport, the AirTrain stops at Terminals 1, 2/3, 4, 5, 7 and 8. From within the airport, you can follow the signs to the AirTrain.
The AirTrain then splits, there are some that head to Howard Beach and some that take you to Federal Circle and then Jamaica. You pay for the AirTrain at Jamaica or Howard Beach (so either when you get on, or when you get off). You will need to pay the $5 fare with a New York City Metrocard. A Metrocard is a subway card. You can buy one in the machines at the station before entering or exiting the AirTrain.
NOTE: A new subway card will cost you a $1 fee. If you have an old one, you can refill its value at the machines.
During the day, the AirTrain runs about every 5-10 minutes. At night, the trains come about every 10-15 minutes.
Click here for an AirTrain map.
JFK airport is accessible by the A, J, E, and Z lines. To reach the subway you will have to take the aforementioned AirTrain.
The A train is accessible via the Howard Beach station. The A train rides through Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and to the Far Upper West Side. You can also take the A train south to the Rockaway’s. The A train is your best bet if you are coming from/going to Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan. The A train is local in Brooklyn and makes many stops so it is a long ride into the city.
The E, J and Z trains can be picked up at Jamaica station after a ride on the AirTrain. After exiting the AirTrain, you will have to walk across the Long Island Railroad station and go down two flights on the elevator. This will take you into the subway station.
The E train runs express in Queens and brings you into Manhattan on the East Side (Midtown). If you are heading to Queens, midtown or the Upper East Side, the E is your best bet.
The J and Z train can take you from Jamaica station to various parts of central Brooklyn and Queens.
Taking the subway is definitely the slower option, but the most economical choice. Another consideration, is that you will have to go up and down several sets of stairs, so the subway might not the best choice if you have a ton of luggage. However, the subway is the cheapest way to JFK from Manhattan. A ride will cost you a $2.75 subway fare (with a Metrocard, see above) and $5 for the AirTrain.
Click here for a NYC Subway Map.
SUBWAY TOTAL FROM JFK TO MANHATTAN $7.75
Long Island Rail Road
The AirTrain will take you to Jamaica station, which is a hub for the Long Island railroad. From here you can connect to all of the Long Island Railroad lines (except the Port Washington branch, for service to these stops, see below).
The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) services Brooklyn to Atlantic Terminal, Penn Station in Manhattan, several Queens stops (Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Woodside) and all of Long Island. This is a commuter train, so expect crowded trains during rush hour.
The fares on the LIRR vary by zone and time of day. Fares are peak for trains arriving in Manhattan between 6 and 10am and trains leaving Manhattan between 4 and 8pm (weekends are always off-peak).
To ride to LIRR, you MUST buy a ticket before boarding the train. If you purchase on-board you will be subject to a $5.75 or $6.50 step-up fare. You can purchase tickets at the convenient machines located in the stations or via the MTA e-ticket app. Just punch in your starting station, destination and whether you will be traveling peak or off peak.
NOTE: If you have an off peak ticket and find yourself on a peak train, you can pay the difference on the train, without being subject to the step up fare.
LIRR trains to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan’s Penn Station will depart every 5-15 minutes. Eastbound trains may depart every 10-60 minutes, depending on the time of day. So best to check the schedule.
If you are traveling to a destination on the Port Washington (red) branch, you will have to take a LIRR train WEST to Woodside, and then transfer to an EAST-bound Port Washington train.
A LIRR ticket will cost you $10.25 from Jamaica to Manhattan (peak) or $7.50 (off-peak). One-way tickets to other destinations will range depending on distance. LIRR stations are handicap accessible so you can count on an elevator to help lug your stroller or luggage.
Taking the LIRR to Manhattan will be a much quicker ride than the subway. An off-peak ride from Jamaica to Penn Station will run about 21 minutes. It’s also worth noting that from Penn Station you can easily transfer to the A, C, E, 1, 2, 3 subway trains in addition to NJ transit and Amtrak.
Click here for a LIRR map
LIRR FROM JFK TO MANHATTAN: $15.25 (peak) or $12.50 (off peak)
Shared Vans/Private Vans
There are several shared ride/bus services from JFK to Manhattan. The most popular, is Go Airlink. Through GoAirlink you can book a private car, van or a shared ride. They service all of the area airports, hotels, cruise terminals and transportation hubs. Prices will vary depending on number of passengers, type of service and distance traveled.
If you want a car service, and prefer to pre-book and pre-pay (don’t worry about surge pricing or meter fares) this would be your best option. You can book your GoAirlink here or click on the banner below!
Cabs or Ride Shares
Now if you find yourself with a ton of luggage, you are short on time, traveling with kids or to/from a destination not really accessible to the public transportation options there is always cabs and ride share services.
A yellow, NYC cab FROM JFK will cost you a set $52 fare to any point in Manhattan, in addition to tolls, an $0.80 surcharge, and a $4.50 rush hour surcharge from 4-8pm (plus an optional, but expected tip). You can pick up a taxi at the airport-sanctioned cabstands. Just look for the signs when you exit baggage claim.
Taking a NYC taxi from Manhattan to JFK (or from any other point in the city) is subject to the meter fare. This fare will vary greatly depending on distance, time and traffic conditions. The rider is responsible for all tolls, and again the driver will expect a tip of 10-20%.
From where we live, on the south shore of Long Island, Uber has proven to be the cheapest cab to JFK. Last week, I took an Uber to JFK for less than $30 – and scored a $1 off by using my Ibotta app.
** READ HOW I SAVE MONEY ON EVERY UBER TRIP**
If you want to take an Uber FROM JFK, exit baggage claim, order your Uber (using your Ibotta app of course) and the app will confirm with you one of the lettered passenger pick up locations. When in doubt, you can always call your driver to confirm the pick up location. The roadways outside JFK can get very congested, and are one-way thoroughfares, you don’t want your driver to pass you by!
One thing to be mindful of, Uber is subject to surge pricing. I was talking with a neighbor the other day who mentioned he paid over $100 for a ride home from JFK… so if you are nervous about the price fluctuation, you might want to have a back up plan in mind. In fact, on that same trip where I paid less than $30 to GET to JFK, I was quoted a price of $60 to go home from the airport. I opted to take the train home instead.
EDITORS NOTE: NYC is serviced by several other ride share companies, since we only have Uber where I live, that is what I am most comfortable mentioning!
Another disadvantage to traveling by cab or ride share is NYC is an area with a serious traffic problem. Depending on time of day, public transportation can be the quicker option.
Off Airport Parking
So not really public transportation, but one more option, that I’ve used often, is long term, off airport parking. For a short trip (I’d say about 3 days or less) you can spend less money on parking your car than taking an Uber each way.
In the past, I have used the Parking Spot at JFK airport, which looks like it has recently closed. A quick Google search notes that this service is offered through several other companies.
If you choose this option, be sure to leave extra time for the shuttle ride to the terminal. It is also worth noting that the driver will help you load your luggage onto the shuttle, but if you have an excess of stuff, off-airport parking might not be the best option!
PRO-TIP: Families will have to fold strollers before boarding the shuttle bus.
No matter your timeframe or budget, going from JFK airport to Manhattan (or wherever you are heading in the NY area) should not be stressful! Of course, if you can rope a friend into picking you up, that’s probably the best option!
Oh and one more important tip – plan to arrive at JFK at least 90 minutes before your flight (longer for international). In the last two years, the lines for security are ALWAYS long and some of the terminals (like Delta’s terminal 4) require almost a mile long walk from security to your gate!
Have you flown out of JFK airport? What is your best tip for getting to JFK airport from Manhattan?
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