The Best Ways to Get To JFK Airport

jfk airport parking lot sign

What Is The Very Best Way to Get To JFK?

The best way to JFK Airport can vary with factors like weather, time of day and the current traffic situation on the Van Wyck Expressway. But catching the LIRR train from Manhattan to Jamaica, Queens and then catching the AirTrain from Jamaica to JFK Airport is reliably the hands-down best way to JFK at any time of the day. The whole trip will take you less than 35 minutes and will only cost $12-$15 (depending on the time). If you have a ton of luggage and just have to get there via road, then an Uber or Lyft will get you there for about $50 – but standstill traffic on the Van Wyck can often make the journey last up to 2 hours or more.

We have listed the other researched alternatives below that and they will all get you to JFK, but not necessarily on time or at the right price. As always, allow lots of time for your trip to JFK, which is often longer and more stressful than the flight itself.


Terminal one at JFK Airport

Where is JFK Airport?

Kennedy (JFK) International Airport (originally known as Idlewild Airport) is the largest of the New York City area’s three airports and is located just over 18 miles from Manhattan.  JFK Airport straddles the Queens/Brooklyn border at the South East corner of Brooklyn and close to New York City, on The South Shore of Long Island. The airport handles the majority of the area’s international Flights to and from New York. JFK also handles a good portion of the domestic traffic to the New York area. JFK is officially located in Southeast Queens, at JFK Expressway and South Cargo Rd., about 15 miles from Manhattan, just over Brooklyn’s far east border and only 11 miles from central Brooklyn. The air traveler has a variety of travel options to get to JFK airport from Midtown Manhattan. Each mode of transport to and from JFK Airport has its own costs and benefits, and here we’ll explore the best ways to JFK.


Using the Rails All The Way to JFK:

Because you may have luggage and/or children/parents in tow, the very best way to JFK would be a single train seat that would run directly from Central Manhattan to JFK airport, but unfortunately that still doesn’t exist. The MTA has planned to build a rail link for the last 25 years, but it has never come to fruition. Even an extension of the AirTrain into NYC would work, but alas, this is not yet in the cards. Trains and subways do, however, offer a reliable solution for getting to JFK airport as they are least affected by the extremes of heat and cold that New York City experiences each season. Below are the best options to get the train to JFK airport by using a mix of the above ground trains, New York subways and the AirTrain.


airtrain to jfk airport

Most Reliable Method to JFK Airport:
LIRR Train and the Airtrain Combo

This method is not just the most reliable, but also a relatively cheap and quick way to travel from Penn Station to JFK International Airport during the day or night and so it is a good contender for the best way to JFK.

  1. Catch the LIRR train from Penn Station to LIRR’s Jamaica hub, which takes 20 minutes.
  2. From there take the JFK Airport Airtrain on the upper level that gets you to the airport terminals in 12-15 minutes.  LIRR trains and the JFK Airport Airtrain run 24 hours a day.  Be sure your LIRR train stops in Jamaica though, because some trains bypass that station completely, leaving you high and dry.

The cost of using the LIRR/Airtrain combo to get to JFK International Airport depends on when you travel.  The JFK Airport Airtrain always costs $5, payable with a pay-per-ride Metrocard (Unlimited-use Metrocards won’t work on Airtrain).  The LIRR fare varies with travel time: during the afternoon rush, the LIRR fare to Jamaica is $7, making your total cost $12.  During other weekday hours, the LIRR fare is $5, for a total fare of $10.  On weekends, you can ride the LIRR to Jamaica for a special City Ticket fare of just $3 – making the total cost of your trip to JFK Airport only $8. LIRR trains run to Jamaica every 15 minutes during the day, and every half hour at night, except between 2 and 5 AM, when the trains run hourly.  Travel time is uniformly 35-45 minutes, and transfers between the LIRR and the JFK Airport Airtrain are easy to make.  If you consult www.mta.info for nighttime LIRR schedules, your trip should be painless, no matter when you travel.  Announcements at Penn Station, on the LIRR trains, and the JFK Airport Airtrain are always clear and concise.


subway train and airtrain via sutphin

The Cheapest Method to JFK Airport:
NYC Subway Train and the Airtrain Combo via Sutphin Blvd.

A Cheaper solution for catching the train from Penn Station to JFK is the subway/JFK Airport Airtrain method.

  1. From Penn Station in NYC, the E train will take you to the LIRR/JFK Airport Airtrain (Sutphin Blvd.) station in about 45 minutes
  2. Then it’s a 12-15 minute ride to the airline terminals.

The cost is always $7, and the E train runs 24 hours a day.  E trains run every 8-10 minutes during the day, and every 20 minutes after midnight. This may not be the best way to JFK, but it is certainly very cheap.


howard beach jfk

2nd Most Cheapest Method to JFK Airport:
Subway and the Airtrain Combo via Howard Beach

Some say the best way to JFK is another route to JFK Airport using the subway/Airtrain combo. Take an “A” train from various stops in Midtown Manhattan (Not just Penn Station) to Howard Beach – the ride is mostly subway with a little Airtrain thrown in for the last leg.  The JFK Airport Airtrain station is on the upper level at Howard Beach.  Travel time to Howard Beach from Penn Station is 60 minutes, and you must take an “A” train going to Far Rockaway -(Not Lefferts Blvd). – other “A” trains do not stop at the Howard Beach stop. Far Rockaway-bound A trains run about every 15 minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes after midnight.  Once at Howard Beach, the Airtrain ride to the terminals takes about 12 minutes.  The JFK Airport Airtrain runs every 4-8 minutes during the day, and every 12 minutes at night.


The Completely Free Method to JFK Airport:
Free Motorcycle Parking and Free Airtrain

Parking is always a problem at JFK so the best way to JFK for motorcycles is to park in a special parking area next to the long-term parking in Lefferts Boulevard, and then they can use the Airtrain for free to get to all the terminals. The Airtrain at JFK Airtrain Map
The Airtrain at JFK is free from all stations except Jamaica Station and Howard Beach Station. There is no cost to use the Airtrain between the stations and terminals 1-8. Federal Circle (Rental cars, airport hotel, cargo area and shuttles)
Lefferts Boulevard (Long term parking, employee parking, Kiss and Fly and the NYC Bus number B15)


Driving to jfk airportDriving to JFK Airport

If you’re driving your own car from Midtown to JFK Airport, it’s fairly straightforward but will take a while. Its the best way to JFK if you need to transport a lot of people or items.

  1. Head for the Queens-Midtown tunnel
  2. Go eastbound on the Long Island Expressway
  3. Merge onto the Grand Central Parkway going east
  4. Shortly thereafter merge onto the Van Wyck Expressway going south to JFK Airport.  The Van Wyck Expressway ends at JFK Airport.

There are signs directing you to Long-Term Parking.  At JFK Airport parking areas, there are Airtrain stations.  It’s a free ride from Long-Term Parking to the terminals on the Airtrain.  The JFK Airport Airtrain takes about 11 minutes to get to the terminals from Long-Term Parking.  Should it not be running (unlikely), a shuttle bus to the terminals will be provided.Be aware, however, that if you’re driving to JFK International Airport during the day, you will encounter bottleneck traffic in the Midtown Tunnel, on the Long Island Expressway around Woodhaven Blvd., again on the Grand Central Parkway at the Kew Gardens Interchange, and sometimes the Van Wyck Expressway can be backed up all the way from Kew Gardens to JFK Airport.  These delays can add 20-30 minutes to your trip, which, without the delays, will take about 45 minutes. A free JFK Airport Airtrain shuttle connects all the terminals, and the JFK Airport Parking areas.


helicopter service from jfkHelicopter to JFK Airport – The Most Expensive Method

If you have deep pockets, and the idea of flying over all the dreadful traffic appeals to you, there is helicopter service to JFK Airport NY and this is truly the best way to JFK, albeit uber-expensive, but super-fast.  US Helicopter flies to JFK from three locations in Manhattan:  E. 34th Street, W. 30th Street, and the Wall Street Heliport.  Flying time to JFK Airport is 12 minutes, but you’ll go through security checks before boarding, so allow some additional time for that.  The helicopter flies to JFK International Airport only on weekdays, during the day.  The fare is $159, making this the most expensive method. There are luggage restrictions of one checked bag, and one carry-on per passenger. Weather can determine travel time to JFK Airport, or if the helicopter will fly at all.If you want to be pampered a bit, a private limo might be the way for you to go to JFK Airport.


airport limousine serviceLimo to JFK Airport – The 2nd Most Expensive Method

Limos feature door-to-door, 24-hour service, on demand.  One of the least expensive of these is Dial 7 Limo, which charges $46 plus tolls and tip.  However, like all the other road-based methods, limos to JFK Airport can be delayed by traffic and weather and they are generally not the best way to JFK.  Travel time on a good day is about 70 minutes, but can rapidly go up from there. Limousines are the most luxurious way to travel to JFK Airport NY.  They’re punctual, private, and comfortable.  Some limo services offer complimentary drinks, and the personalized attention is gratifying.  The plush prestige of a limo makes this method the choice of those who have extra money to spend.  Limo fares do vary greatly from one company to the next, so do a little comparison-shopping first.


airport shuttle to jfkVan, or Express Bus to JFK Airport

Another method of going to JFK International Airport is the airport express bus.  This is the best way to JFK for frugal tourists with a lot of bags. The NY Airport Service operates express buses from both the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Grand Central Terminal to JFK Airport.  These buses offer comfortable seats, and the fare is $15.  The buses to JFK Airport run every 15-30 minutes, beginning at 6:15 AM and ending at 10:10 PM.  Travel time is subject to virtually the same bottleneck delays you would experience in your own car.  On a good day, you can be at JFK Airport in about 1 hour 10 minutes.  Rush hours and weather, of course, will add time to this trip. “Shared-ride” van services also make the trip to JFK Airport.  These are on-demand, door-to-door services that cost less than a taxi or limo, but more than a bus or train.  Super Shuttle gets $19 for a ride to JFK Airport.  Keep in mind that “shared-ride” means the van may make a few stops to pick up other passengers before heading out to JFK Airport, so you might want to allow time for that.  My Super Shuttle van to JFK Airport stopped at a hotel after picking me up, so my trip took 84 minutes.  Absent weather and traffic problems, the van can make JFK Airport in 80-90 minutes


shared taxi service to jfkTaxi or Ride Share to JFK

The ubiquitous yellow cab or a rideshare service like Uber are other comfortable ways to reach Kennedy Airport.  There is a $45 flat rate to anywhere in Manhattan (plus the Midtown Tunnel toll of $4.50 and a gratuity). (The flat rate does not apply the other way, from Midtown to JFK) The taxi will get you out to JFK Airport in a little over an hour, if the above delays do not occur.  Yellow cabs are usually plentiful in Midtown, but can become scarce during rush hours or in bad weather.  The yellow cabs do operate 24 hours a day to JFK International Airport..Obviously a taxi, van or limo to JFK airport also makes a lot of sense if you have a lot of luggage.

nyc subway conclusion

Conclusion: Our Top Recommendation –
The Best Way to JFK Airport

For Speed and Price, the LIRR/Airtrain combo is the clearly the best way to JFK and a strong travel solution.  Because its the train all the way to JFK Airport, traffic, weather and time of day aren’t such a big concern The MTA and Port Authority have done a lot to make the LIRR to JFK Airport Airtrain transfer virtually painless.  We recommend the LIRR/JFK Airport Airtrain method as superior to other, road-based modes because of its dependability and speed.  Fares as little as $8 to JFK from Midtown, for a 35-45 minute ride, are unbeatable.

For Luxury and Convenience, we recommend a taxi, limo or a ride share service like Uber, Lyft or Via if it suits your budget.  Door-to-door service and comfort are desirable, especially if you get stuck in traffic on the way to JFK International Airport, hopefully not for too long

METHOD

COST

TRAVEL TIME

LIRR/Airtrain
Via Jamaica Hub

$12 rush hours,
$10 off peak weekdays,
$8 weekends

35-45 minutes

Subway/Airtrain
Via Sutphin Blvd.

$7

60-65 minutes via E train

Subway/Airtrain
Via Howard Beach

$7

70-80 minutes via A train

Limo

$46 and up

65-75 minutes

Taxi

$45 plus tolls, tip

65-75 minutes

Express Bus
From Port Authority or Grand Central

$15

70-85 minutes

Shuttle Van
(Shared)

$19

75-90 minutes

Helicopter
(From various midtown heliports)

$159 and up

12 minutes flying time

 

JFK AirTrain Map
JFK AirTrain Map