Help me plan my first trip to New York City

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Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby gregboet » Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:01 pm

I am planning a trip to northeastern Maine and to New York City during the week of Christmas.

My trip is going to go something like this:
Sat 12/23: Fly into Boston; rent a car; drive to Houlton, ME.
Thu 12/28: Depart Houlton, ME around 5 AM; drive south; drop rental car off somewhere; somehow get to my hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
Sat 12/30: Take a cab or the subway to JFK and fly home.

I need help planning the 12/28 portion of my trip. The way I see this, there are two obvious choices:

Plan A: Drive the rental car from Houlton, ME to someplace northeast of NYC (like maybe New Haven), drop it off there, take some kind of mass transit (either MTA Metro-North railroad, or maybe Amtrak?) from there to New York City, then take cab or subway to get to the hotel in Brooklyn.

Plan B: Drive the rental car from Houlton, ME all the way into New York City, drop it off at a car rental place, then take cab or subway to get to the hotel. (The rental place would likely be LGA airport -- only an airport car rental place will be sure to be open late enough even if bad winter weather delays me.)

Houlton, ME is a remote place, so I am hoping to be able to get to New Haven by maybe 2:00 PM.

Here are the questions I have in mind:

1. Does Plan A or Plan B sound better? I hope that the railroad nature of this forum doesn't bias everyone towards A. I'm willing to do whichever one makes more sense.

2. If Plan A, which is best: the MTA Metro-North railroad, or Amtrak, or maybe something else?
-- Regarding Amtrak, I just called them. They mentioned that they have trains departing from NHV to NYP every 1 to 2 hours. Tickets are currently $32 or 79 each depending on if it is an express train, but the price will go up as the date approaches. The big disadvantage is, I would need to buy my tickets in advance, whereas I would prefer to keep my schuedule flexible enough to accomodate unexpected winter driving delays. (Note to self: Amtrak says they allow each person two carry-ons with dimensions 22"x28"x14", plus 2 personal items. $20 for larger luggage than that.)
-- Regarding the Metro-North railroad, they are only available to call during business hours, so I only know what I could find out online. It appears that during midafternoon they have trains running from New Haven to NY Grand Central every half hour. It also appears New Haven to NYC Grand Central would cost $29. What I don't know is (a) can I show up the day of and expect to be able to buy a ticket and get a seat on the next train without having purchased it in advance? (b) How's it going to be on the train with luggage -- very uncomfortable?

3. If Plan A, which is the best place to transfer from rental car to train? I was thinking New Haven was a good choice, as it looks like it has an Avis rental car place right there.

Thanks,

Greg
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby GirlOnTheTrain » Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:10 pm

You will have zero problems getting on Metro North and you're going in the middle of the day, there will be plenty of space. There's luggage racks and if the train is deserted, a good place to leave the luggage is where they have the folding handicapped seats because there's plenty of room there if you don't feel like shoving them up into the racks.

There are plenty of ticket machines in New Haven station and ticket windows if you'd prefer to buy the ticket from a person. Just don't buy your tickets on the train - they'll cost way more. I'm making a generalization since I dunno where your hotel is, but you can get on the 4 or 5 at Grand Central and change to the J at Fulton Street to get to Williamsburg.

Sure, Amtrak is more comfortable, but Metro North will cater to your flexibility whereas Amtrak will gouge the crap out of you if you buy less than 14 days in advance.
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby gregboet » Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:30 pm

Hey, thanks for the quick reply. Sounds like Metro North is a good way to go. I would still be curious to hear if anyone has a different idea, but otherwise I will probably go ahead as recommended.

I guess I'll switch boards to ask a different question I have about the NYC subway.

Greg
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Oct 13, 2017 9:04 pm

If it were me there is no way I would drive all the way from Northern Maine to New York. You can get a train from either Brunswick or Portland to Boston. Maybe even better would be to drive to the station at Route 128 and take Amtrak from there. There is ample service, use a conventional train, the Acela Express costs more and really is not worth the money. Driving between Boston and New York is a royal pain with lots of traffic congestion, delays and the worst Interstate highways anywhere. If you are not familiar with these parts you could easily make a wrong turn somewhere and that could make a bad trip even worse.
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby gregboet » Sat Oct 14, 2017 11:06 am

Thanks for the replies. I decided on the New Haven Metro-North option.

Car rental advice:
Avis is the rental company with the location directly at Union Station in New Haven, but Avis has abysmal Yelp reviews for the BOS airport location where I'd be picking up the car.

Luckily, Alamo, National, and Hertz all have locations within 0.6 miles of Union Station, so I chose Alamo and will get some exercise as I walk the 0.6 miles to the station.

Noel, your Amtrak advice makes sense, but I really like not having to buy tickets in advance. And I did drive through the area in the winter once before, so driving to New Haven doesn't seem a lot worse to me than driving to, e.g., Boston's south metro area. I drove the Scranton - Danbury - Hartford interstate route, and New Haven couldn't be that much worse.

Greg
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby MACTRAXX » Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:41 pm

GB: From a current MNCR fare chart - One Way fares from New Haven to GCT are:

Peak - Arriving in GCT weekdays between 5am and 10am: $23.25 prepaid or $29.00 on board.
Off Peak One Way - Good for GCT arrivals after 10am and at all other times including weekends
and major holidays to GCT: $17.50 prepaid or $24.00 on board.

The first off peak weekday train leaves NHV at 8:24am and all subsequent trains to GCT will honor
Off Peak tickets on a given weekday.

More then likely you will be traveling off peak - just be sure as previously mentioned to buy before
you board and save the on-board penalty charge.

I will add some NYCT fare tips in your post there...MACTRAXX
EXPRESS TRAIN TO NEW YORK PENN STATION-NO JAMAICA ON THIS TRAIN-PLEASE STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING TRAIN DOORS
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby jonnhrr » Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:47 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:If it were me there is no way I would drive all the way from Northern Maine to New York. You can get a train from either Brunswick or Portland to Boston. Maybe even better would be to drive to the station at Route 128 and take Amtrak from there. There is ample service, use a conventional train, the Acela Express costs more and really is not worth the money. Driving between Boston and New York is a royal pain with lots of traffic congestion, delays and the worst Interstate highways anywhere. If you are not familiar with these parts you could easily make a wrong turn somewhere and that could make a bad trip even worse.
Noel Weaver


You could also take Greyhound or Concord Coach Boston - Bangor then Cyr Bus has one trip daily between Bangor and Houlton, if you wanted to be car-free.

http://johntcyrandsons.com/daily-service/
https://concordcoachlines.com/
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby kitn1mcc » Tue Oct 24, 2017 6:41 pm

If it was me i would take the downeaster to portland drive up and back. Amtrak back down. If you want to check out an extra train and take real class in (not) Take the SLE from new haven or new london
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Re: Help me plan my first trip to New York City

Postby ebtmikado » Sun Oct 29, 2017 7:06 pm

Hint:

Returning the rental car to the same place it was picked up will usually save you a LOT of money.
Many of the smaller companies do not allow dropoff at a different location than pickup.

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