Whether the rumor is true or not, New York City is known for having one of the busiest airports around. But don’t let JFK Airport intimidate you. When it comes time for your flight, take my advice on how to get to or from the airport. The most affordable option–taking the subway followed by the Air Train–is easier than you think.

Do as the Romans (or, locals) do

View of the entrance to JFK Airport and Howard Beach Air Train station from the subway

View of the entrance to JFK Airport and Howard Beach Air Train station from the subway

There’s a reason why the subway is the most common means of transportation in New York City: it always runs. Weekend, construction, and rush-hour traffic may get in the way of even the subway, but the system never shuts down completely. In other words, subway traffic is usually more predictable than street traffic. So, do you really want to risk taking a taxi all the way from Manhattan? I didn’t think so.

If you’ve experienced the subway on your trip already, then getting to any of the Air Train stations at JFK airport shouldn’t be difficult.

Manage your travel time

If you will be leaving on the weekend, consult the Weekender page of the MTA website to check for possible delays due to scheduled maintenance. If you are planning on taking the subway late at night (after rush hour), then check the NYC Subway (Embark) app for late night routes (sometimes longer or less direct than during the day). In either case, keep in mind that not all lines run as often as they do during the workweek or workday.

When Google Maps or the NYC Subway app estimate your trip time, plan for at least TWICE that. Add to the total at least a half hour for the Air Train ride to your terminal. (Consult a JFK Airport map to determine which terminal your airline is at.) And, of course, please apply the arrive-two-hours-before-your-flight rule. You’ll have to.

Pay for the subway and air train

Use your loaded Metro Card or buy a 3.00 USD one-time Metro Card to get on the subway.

Once you get to the Air Train station, machines dispense one-time ride Metro Cards for the Air Train, 5 USD each. At this point, a mass of people crowding the dispensers may make you wonder how long this is going to take. If you have cash, never fear! When I was at Howard Beach Station, the station employee also gave out tickets by hand. As you can imagine, I was relieved to find a five-dollar bill in my pocket.

Take the right Air Train line

Here’s the best news so far: every Air Train line hits all the terminals, so never fear about getting on the wrong train. If pressed for time, though, consult a map to figure out which line offers the most direct route to the terminal.

Questions? Tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

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Melissa Dailey

Hi, I’m Melissa. I established this site to help you accomplish your goals in working for yourself to lead a free life. Even if you think you’re too busy or too lazy to succeed.