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I’ve traveled to New York City with my family a couple of times — once with my daughter for her birthday a few years ago and more recently with my son as a layover on our way to Greece.

Both times I stayed in midtown Manhattan (once at the Sheraton Times Square and once at the Wingate by Wyndham Midtown Manhattan), so none of the three NYC airport options (JFK / LGA / EWR) were markedly better for us than any of the others. For our trip to Greece, my son and I ended up flying out of JFK airport.

Because JFK airport is quite a distance from the main areas of New York City, I did a bit of research to find the best way from Manhattan to JFK. Here’s what I learned.

Getting to JFK airport from Manhattan by Uber or Lyft

Uber shows an estimated price of $60-$75 to get from Manhattan to JFK, though that depends on your pick-up location in the city and probably the time of day (how long it takes with traffic and rush hour). It’s always a good idea to watch out for surge pricing before you book your ride.

Lyft is similarly priced from Manhattan to JFK, though both Uber and Lyft often run promotions in NYC, so be sure to check with them before you go.

[The time my Lyft driver went the wrong way down a one-way street]

If you do sign up for Uber or Lyft, signing up through my referral code you will get you $10 off on your first ride.

Getting to JFK airport from Manhattan by taxi

You can take a classic yellow cab from Manhattan to JFK, but it will be fairly expensive. The NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission has set a flat fare for trips to / from JFK airport from anywhere in Manhattan. The taxi fare is $52.80 (plus a $4.50 rush hour surcharge from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays), in addition to tips and tolls.

So if you really want to take a taxi ride from Manhattan to JFK, you’ll save money by using a service like Taxi2Airport.com — plus you can save $5 off using this link with coupon code T2A5OFF.

Another popular option is grabbing a seat on a shared express bus. A variety of express buses run from Manhattan to JFK and cost in the $15 to $20 (one-way) range. These are large buses designed for airport runs, so most of them have plenty of storage underneath the seats for luggage. GO Airlink Shuttle is one such bus – it costs about $21 one way.  It runs every half hour on the half hour and they will pick you up at a variety of hotels and NYC transportation hubs (Grand Central, Penn Station, etc).  Try promo code SHUTTLE to save 5%.

And obviously you’ll be on the road, so you’re subject to New York City traffic, especially if you’re traveling during rush hour (which seems like every hour!).

The cheapest and best way to get to JFK airport from Manhattan: Go by train(s)!

While cabs, buses, Ubers, shuttle service, car service, and even limos are all options to get from the city to the airport, in my opinion the absolute best way to get from Manhattan to JFK airport is by train. You can either take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) or the subway. (Plus, taking public transportation makes you feel like a local.)

Getting to JFK airport from Manhattan by train on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR)

The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has a large route map, but if you’re headed to the airport from Times Square (or really anywhere in Manhattan), you’ll probably want to take the LIRR to JFK from Penn Station, which is between 7th and 8th Avenues and 31st and 33rd streets in Manhattan. (The train also has stations in northern Queens and Brooklyn). To get to JFK, you’ll want to take the LIRR to the Jamaica station.

The LIRR costs $10.25 one way at peak times (westbound from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and eastbound from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and $7.50 in off-peak times. There’s a family fare of $1 each way (on off-peak and PM peak trains) for up to four children (age 5-11) per traveling adult (18 and over). There’s also a child fare (for AM peak trains) with a discount of 50% off full fare. So if you’re traveling with a family, the LIRR may be the cheapest way to get from Manhattan to JFK.

Another advantage of taking the train to Kennedy airport is that you’re not on the road (duh), so you don’t have to deal with traffic backups.

Once you get off at Jamaica station, you’ll take the AirTrain JFK the rest of the way to the airport (details below).

 

Getting to JFK from Manhattan by train on the subway

There are two ways to ride the subway from Manhattan to JFK.

 

If you are in lower or upper Manhattan, it’s probably easiest to take the A train (blue in the picture above) to the Howard Beach / JFK Airport subway station. If you’re in midtown, it’s probably slightly faster to take the E train to the Sutphin Boulevard / Archer Avenue / JFK Airport stop.

In either case, a subway ride from Manhattan to JFK will take 45 to 60 minutes.

Once you get off the subway (from either the A or E line), you will take the AirTrain JFK.

 

Real-life subway example

After my son and I had our fun layover (SEE: 5 awesome things I did in New York City), we took the subway to JFK. We were up near Rockefeller Center (in a blizzard) when we needed to make our way to the airport. That put us most convenient to the E train, so we walked down to the Lexington Avenue / 53rd Street station and then boarded an outbound E train. The ride to the Sutphin Boulevard / Archer Avenue / JFK Airport stop station took about 35 minutes.

That put us most convenient to the E train – we walked down to the Lexington Avenue / 53rd Street station and then boarded an outbound E train.  The ride to the Sutphin Boulevard / Archer Avenue / JFK Airport stop station took about 35 minutes.

 

Step-by-step instructions for riding the AirTrain JFK

You can’t take the subway all the way to the airport. You need to use AirTrain JFK for this last part of your journey. Here’s how to do it.

If you’re arriving at the Jamaica station (from either the E train or the LIRR):

Just follow the signs for the JFK AirTrain. The subway comes in underground, so you’ll need to exit the subway fare control area and go upstairs via escalator or elevator. The LIRR tracks are elevated at Jamaica, and the AirTrain is accessible via a bridge over the tracks.

If you’re arriving at the Howard Beach station (from the A train):

The tracks run at ground level, and the AirTrain to JFK is elevated, so you need to go upstairs. Just follow the signs!

How much does the AirTrain JFK cost?

The AirTrain JFK is free between the airport terminals, but there’s a $5 charge per person if you’re coming from Manhattan via either the Sutphin / Archer / JFK stop on the E line or the Howard Beach stop on the A line. Children under 5 ride free. You can use your pay-as-you-go Metrocard (make sure is has enough money to cover the $5 fee) but unlimited Metrocards (like the 1-day or 3-day passes that you can buy) do NOT work for the $5 AirTrain fee.

How often does the AirTrain JFK run?

Trains run to JFK every 7 minutes during peak times or 10 minutes at other times.

I hope this guide helps you easily get to JFK. If you’re making a round trip, be sure to check out my tips on getting into Manhattan from JFK.

If you're going from Manhattan in New York city to JFK Airport, here's the best, fastest and cheapest way from NYC to the airport

What are your tips for the cheapest and best way from Manhattan to JFK airport?


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