Now that I know the time and date for our flight to Europe, I need to figure out how to get to JFK. This seems like a good place to start in the planning process – it is discrete rather than nebulous. I have a definitive end time (we need to be at the airport around 8 pm), and I want to minimize both the cost and the amount of time spent traveling, since I plan to go to work that morning and don’t want to take too much extra vacation time.
I have a several options (note that these only encompass my time and money – my mom still needs to get to the airport too!):
- Take the train on Amtrak from Harrisburg to Penn Station, NYC. Then, take the Subway and the AirTrain to JFK.
($108 RT on Amtrak + $15-30 RT on the Subway/AirTrain)
Time: 5+ hours
(4 hours on Amtrak + 1 hour to get from Penn Station to JFK)
- Drive direct from Harrisburg to JFK. Park at JFK until we get back, then drive back to Harrisburg.
($6 in tolls + $20 in gas to JFK + $230-$270 in parking fees, up to $18 per day)
Time: 3.5 hours
- Drive indirect from Harrisburg to my parents’ house in Connecticut. Take the Metro North train to Grand Central and then the Subway and AirTrain to JFK.
($5 in tolls + $30 in gas to CT + $15 RT on the Subway/AirTrain + $30 RT on Metro North)
Time: 6.5 hours
(4 hours driving to their house + 1.5 hour on Amtrak + 1 hour to get from Grand Central to JFK)
- Drive indirect from Harrisburg to my parents’ house in Connecticut. Convince my dad or brother to drop us off at JFK.
Cost: $35 or 65
($5 in tolls + $30 in gas to CT + $30 RT in gas for my dad, though he doesn’t normally accept gas money from me)
Time: 5 hours
(4 hours driving to their house + 1 hour driving to JFK)
- Mix it all up – Drive from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, take BoltBus from Philly to NYC, take the Subway/AirTrain to JFK.
($15 in gas + $20 RT in bus fares + $15 RT on Subway/AirTrain)
Time: 6.5 hours
(2 hours driving + 1.5 hours on the bus + 1 hour to get from Penn Station to JFK)
- Rent a car in Harrisburg and drop it off at JFK that day. Do the same on the way back.
Cost: $140 one way
Time: 3.5 hours
So these are the options available to me. Only options #3 and 4 would encompass my mom’s transportation to the airport as well. For any of the other options, she would need to either get my dad/brother to drive her to the airport, or take Metro North.
There are a few limitations built into these options, as well. If I take the train, I need to leave Harrisburg at 1pm to make my flight at JFK. In fact, the only way I can make my flight without having to leave work early that day is to drive direct – which is an expensive option I’m not really sure I want to do.
The best option of all will be to drive to my parents’ house and convince my dad or brother to drive us both to the airport. I know this will be better for my mom too – she’s not used to taking trains and connections by herself. In fact, she has a hard time following schedules and maps – she’s very artistic and creative, but not very logical/practical. I wouldn’t want her to have to take the train and connections to JFK by herself if I can help it.
The other benefit of driving to my parents’ house is that I know my car will be safe. While I assume it would be safe in airport parking, you can never tell. The ‘mix it up’ option would also entail leaving it in a mall parking lot for 2 weeks – not too sure I want to do this either. Maybe I can find some friends in Philly and leave it at their place? But that just adds another step into an already complex itinerary.
Now that I’ve come up with several options, I need to talk to my family about it. If I can get a commitment from my dad or brother that one of them will be able to drive us to the airport, I think I’ll go with that option for now, and readjust later if needed. It’s not the shortest duration (though it is the second fastest option), but it would be by far the cheapest and easiest for all involved.