Choosing Which New York City Airport Is Right For Your Trip To NYC
New York City has three major airports that serve it: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), and choosing which New York City airport to fly into is important. As a New Yorker, I instinctively choose between all three based on airline, cost and flight timings, but I do realize how confusing it can be to choose which airport is right for your trip to NYC as I am often asked for guidance by family, friends and colleagues about which airport they should fly in to when they are planning to visit NYC. In this post, I will describe the unique advantages and disadvantages of each airport, and how to choose the right one for travel to New York depending on your location, budget, travel plans, and amount of baggage you are traveling with.
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To begin, here is a map of New York City and the three airports so you can visualize where they are located as you read through the details.
- 1. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- 2. LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
- 3. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- FAQs about New York airports
1. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
JFK International Airport is located in Queens and is the largest airport in New York City. It is also referred to as JFK, JFK Airport and Kennedy International Airport. It’s about 15 miles southeast of Manhattan, making it a popular choice for international flights as it has over 90 airlines operating from it. JFK has six terminals and offers a variety of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. The terminals are numbered 1-8, though there are no Terminals 3 and 6 as these were demolished once Terminal 5 was expanded. The airport also has free Wi-Fi, charging stations, and a variety of lounges for travelers to relax in.
JFK Transportation Options
One of the biggest advantages of JFK is its accessibility. It is connected by AirTrain to the subway or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) for easy access to Manhattan, Queens, and Long Island. There are also a number of taxis and ride-share services available, including New York’s iconic yellow taxis. However, traffic can be a major issue during peak travel times, and potential delays must be built in if you are traveling by a cab or taxi to the airport. You can also schedule rides on black town cars or shared mini vans to and from JFK.
For public transport, the easiest is to follow signs for the AirTrain, which you can get on to with your bags without needing to buy a ticket. The AirTrain is free unless you begin or end your journey at Jamaica and Howard Beach stations, where the cost is $8. If you are traveling from the airport, you will need to buy a ticket/MetroCard to exit the station. At this point, you have a couple of options –
- If you plan to exit at Jamaica, you need to buy a ticket just for the AirTrain. This will be in the form of a MetroCard that will need to be swiped at the turnstile to exit. The cost is $8.
- If you plan to take the subway, such as the E train, you can add on the cost of the subway ride to the MetroCard. Each subway ride costs $2.75.
- If you plan to take the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), you will need to buy a separate ticket once you exit from the AirTrain area.
The AirTrain, Subway and LIRR are all located within the same station at Jamaica. LIRR trains run on a fixed schedule, trains are nicer, have more limited stops, and tickets cost more based on your destination. LIRR trains are also the only options if you want to head towards Long Island, though you can take these to limited stops in Queens and Manhattan (Penn Station) as well. The other option is the subway which runs at regular intervals depending on the time of day, and has a fixed price ($2.75 as of February 2023) that will take you to any stop on the subway network as long as you make transfers from within the subway stations wihout exiting, or transfer to a bus. In fact, with the opening of the new Grand Central Madison that extends the LIRR to Grand Central, you can commute by LIRR train + Airtrain to JFK for $13 if you are traveling off peak hours.
If you plan to take a yellow taxi, there is a flat rate of $70 + toll + tip to Manhattan. Taxis allow 4 passengers. Rates for other zones on taxis are available on JFK’s website.
Public transport takes a over an hour between Midtown Manhattan from JFK on average. Driving time can be anywhere from forty five minutes and double – or more – more depending on traffic.
JFK’s AirTrain offers free transfers within Terminals at the airport.
Baggage Storage at JFK
JFK offers baggage storage facilities at the following terminals –
- Smarte Carte Baggage Storage at Terminal 4. It is open 24/7 and located in Arrivals ground level pre security at JFK Airport Terminal 4. Rates are per day, and a suitcase costs $25 per 24 hours.
- Smarte Carte Baggage Storage at Terminal 1. It is open from 7am to 10pm EST and is located at Arrivals Ground Level. Prices range from $10 – $30 depending on the size of your bag.
There are also off airport luggage storage options, including around Penn Station if you carry your bags into Manhattan.
TWA Hotel at JFK Airport
While JFK has its fair share of hotels in close proximity to the airport, TWA Hotel is located at Terminal 5, which is the JetBlue terminal, and is well worth a visit whether or not you plan to stay there! Getting out of the elevators makes you feel like you have taken a step back in time to experience the glamour of air travel’s golden age. The hotel is built around the historic TWA Flight Center, designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1962, which has been fully restored and transformed into the hotel’s main lobby. The hotel’s rooms are located in two new wings that are connected to the Flight Center by walkways, and offer a range of amenities, including a rooftop infinity pool, a fitness center, and multiple dining options. The hotel has actually transformed a plane into a bar, which is very cool. The hotel’s location at JFK Airport makes it a convenient option for travelers, but its unique design and history also make it a destination in itself. Since its opening in 2019, the TWA Hotel has been a popular choice for travelers seeking a memorable and stylish stay at JFK Airport.
2. LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
LaGuardia Airport, also located in Queens, is the closest airport to Manhattan about 8 miles away. It’s a smaller airport than JFK and has fewer international flights, but it’s a popular choice for domestic flights, including American Airlines, Delta etc. LaGuardia has four terminals and offers a variety of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. LaGuardia flights must be under 1,500 miles unless it’s Saturday or they’re going to or from Denver.
It recently underwent a manage renovation and has vastly improved options for travelers. Terminal B was named the world’s best new airport terminal in 2022, and it is a joy to fly out from. The airport also has free Wi-Fi, charging stations, and a variety of lounges for travelers to relax in.
Terminal B is full of art that pays homage to New York City, which is really fun to experience.
There is also a fabulous water show in Terminal B which is a real show stopper.
LaGuardia Transportation Options
One of the biggest advantages of LaGuardia is its proximity to Manhattan. You can take a taxi, ride-share service, or public transportation for easy access to the city. Shared mini vans and black town cars can also be scheduled ahead.
For public transportation, there are 2 options for buses to LaGuardia – you can take the subway to 125th Street and take the M60-SBS bus, or take the E or 7 subway to Jackson Heights and then take the Q70-SBS bus. Both these options are for the cost of a subway ride, or $2.75. The transfer on the Q70 bus to Jackson Heights is free from the airport. I tend to take the E train to Jackson Heights based on where I am located, and then transfer to the bus from right next to the subway station. Taxis and ride-share services are also available, with prices ranging from $30-$60 depending on your destination. However, the airport can be crowded and the traffic can be heavy during peak travel times.
Public transport takes a about an hour to get to Midtown Manhattan from LaGuardia. Driving time can be anywhere from thirty minutes and more depending on traffic.
LaGuardia offers a free bus for transfers within Terminals at the airport.
Baggage Storage at LaGuardia
LaGuardia airport does not offer any luggage storage facilities. There are a number of private luggage storage facilities close to the airport, and in Manhattan close to all the major transportation hubs including Penn Station, Grand Central and Times Square.
3. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
Newark Liberty International Airport is located in Newark, New Jersey, about 14 miles southwest of Manhattan. It is also known as Newark, Newark Liberty and Newark International Airport. As of October 2022 it lost its status as an NYC airport, but the change seems to be more technical as I still see Newark as an option when searching for flights to NYC, which cover all 3 airports. Newark is the main hub for airlines such as United, and tends to be the airport that I use most frequently but that is mostly because I am based on the west side of Manhattan, tend to fly United, and New Jersey is just a tunnel away from where I live.
Urban legend has it that former Mayor La Guardia refused to exit a plane at Newark Airport because his ticket said ‘New York’, and that is where the idea for LaGuardia airport originated.
Newark has three terminals and offers a variety of dining, shopping, and entertainment options, and has recently undergone major renovation so the facilities have recently been updated. The airport also has free Wi-Fi, charging stations, and a variety of lounges for travelers to relax in. The renovated terminals are bright and have a lot of interesting art and features.
Newark Transportation Options
One of the biggest advantages of Newark is its easy access to public transportation. My favorite is the Newark Airport Express Bus, which can be caught from –
- Grand Central Station (41st Street between Park & Lexington Avenues)
- Bryant Park (42nd Street & 5th Avenue)
- Port Authority Bus Terminal (41st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues)
It is very convenient as you catch the bus at street level, and you don’t need to carry your bags up and down to the train stations. I tend to like this bus at all times except Friday evenings, as the buses tend to run behind schedule and traffic always seems to be backed up for Lincoln Tunnel which you need to cross to get to New Jersey. The schedule starts at 5:30am for coming in to Manhattan from Newark, and starts at 7am to go to the airport from Manhattan.
The other option is to take a NJ Transit train from Penn Station to the Newark stop that has an AirTrain connection to Newark airport.
As with the other airports, there are a number of taxis and ride-share services available, and you can book a town car or a shared shuttle for which you need to add on substantial time for your commute. Traffic can be heavy during peak travel times so that would need to be built into your travel schedule.
Newarks’s AirTrain offers free transfers within Terminals at the airport.
Baggage Storage at Newark Airport
Newark does not offer any luggage storage facilities. If you are coming in to Manhattan, there are a number of private luggage storage facilities close to all the major transportation hubs including Penn Station, Grand Central and Times Square.
Newark Airport Hotel
While Newark has a number of hotels in close proximity to the airport, the Newark Liberty Marriott is located at the airport, and a convenient option for travelers and easily accessible by a complimentary shuttle.
To summarize, as a New Yorker, I always consider all three New York airports depending on the flight timing and cost. JFK is great for international flights, LaGuardia is convenient for domestic flights and close to Manhattan, and Newark is a good choice based on the flight options that are available there. Ultimately, it’s important to choose the right airport depending on your location, budget, and travel plans.
In many respects, all 3 airports can be good options to travel to New York, but you need to keep a few things in mind –
- The fare difference between the various airports. Very often the cost of ground transportation, even a taxi, is worth it if the flights are considerably cheaper at one particular airport, especially if you are traveling as a family. For instance, a $200 difference in flight price for a family of 4 adds up to $800, which would more than cover the cost of ground transportation from any of the airports. If you are traveling as a family, you should know that regular taxis can accommodate only 4 people, so you would need to consider other options for a group of 5 or more people.
- The time of your flight. If you prefer public transportation, the schedule at night can involve a lot of waiting time for the next bus or train, and that can be tough to handle after a long flight.
- The amount of baggage you have. For getting to and fro from the airport, I tend to prefer public transportation as I can reasonably calculate the time it will take me to get to all the airports, but the amount of check in baggage I am traveling with is a big deciding factor for this. I personally find public transportation easy to manage with 1 check in bag, but tougher to navigate if I am traveling alone with two check in bags based on stairs and distances that need to be navigated, in which case I prefer a cab.
- Public transportation and taxis can all be paid for with credit cards.
- All the airports have car rental options, but you will need to make a determination about whether it makes sense to rent a car based on your final destination. I would not recommend it for Manhattan as you will spent too much time looking for available parking, and too much money on parking garages.
Most importantly, if you have a window seat, keep your phones ready to get some spectacular photographs of the Manhattan skyline as you land and take off! Here are some that I have taken over the years.
Safe travels to New York! Hope you get to experience some of its magic soon.
FAQs about New York airports
Here are some FAQ that I hope will address any questions that you may still have about flying to NYC. The distances are all general as the exact location within each area/borough can make a big difference.
Which airport is best for Manhattan?
All three airports are accessible from Manhattan, but the most convenient airport depends on your location in the city. LaGuardia and JFK are always good options for Manhattan, though Newark can be very convenient if you are on the West side of Manhattan. JFK is 16 miles, LaGuardia is 8 miles, and Newark is 14 miles from Manhattan. If you’re looking for the fastest and most direct option from the airport to your final destination, public transportation is available from all three airports and is a more affordable option, though taxis and ride share services are available from all airports.
Which airport is best for Brooklyn?
JFK and LaGuardia are good options for travel to Brooklyn with public transportation options from both the airports. Newark is the furthest and best accessed by car or taxi. JFK is 11 miles, LaGuardia is 10 miles, and Newark is 20 miles from Brooklyn.
Which airport is best for Queens?
LaGuardia is the most convenient for Queens, with JFK being a close second. Both these airports offer public transportation options. Newark is the furthest from Queens, but still accessible by taxi or ride-share service. JFK is 4 miles, LaGuardia is 1 mile, and Newark is 19 miles from Queens.
Which airport is best for the Bronx?
JFK is the closest airport to the Bronx, with LaGuardia as the second-closest and Newark as the furthest. Public transportation options are available from all three airports, but a taxi or ride-share service may be the fastest and most convenient option. JFK is 18 miles, LaGuardia is 8 miles, and Newark is 25 miles from the Bronx.
Which airport is best for Long Island?
JFK is the closest airport to Long Island, with the AirTrain providing direct access to the LIRR trains from Jamaica. LaGuardia is also accessible by public transportation, but requires a transfer. Newark is the furthest from Long Island, but can still be accessed by the LIRR from Penn Station in Manhattan, or a taxi/ride-share service. JFK is 10 miles, LaGuardia is 14 miles, and Newark is 37 miles from Long Island.
Which airport is best for Staten Island?
Newark is the closest airport to Staten Island, with JFK as the second-closest and LaGuardia as the furthest. Taxi or ride-share service may be the best option for traveling to and from Staten Island, as public transportation options are limited. JFK is 23 miles, LaGuardia is 22 miles, and Newark is 13 miles from Staten Island.
What transportation options are available from the New York airports?
All three airports offer a variety of transportation options, including taxis, ride-share services, public transportation, and car rentals. Public transportation options include trains and buses depending on the airport and your destination. The AirTrain is a popular option for getting to and from JFK and Newark airports, which offers connections to the subway, LIRR, or NJ Transit. Prices vary depending on the mode of transportation and the destination. Taxis and ride-share services are readily available at all three airports, with prices varying depending on the distance and time of day. You can use credit cards to pay for all these.
How early should I arrive at the airport before my flight?
It is generally recommended to arrive at the airport at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. However, it’s important to check with your airline to see if they have specific requirements or recommendations.
Can I store my luggage at the airports?
JFK is the only airport that offers luggage storage. For travelers to Newark and LaGuardia, there are private companies that offer luggage storage services outside the airports.
How do I get from one terminal to another at the airport?
Each airport has a variety of transportation options for moving between terminals, including shuttle buses, AirTrains, and walking. JFK and Newark both have AirTrains that are very convenient, while LaGuardia offers a shuttle bus. It’s important to check with your airline or the airport’s website to see which options are available and the best route for your specific needs.
What recent updates have been made to the New York airports?
All three airports have undergone recent renovations and updates, including new terminals, expanded security checkpoints, and improved amenities like restaurants and shops. JFK is currently undergoing a massive $13 billion renovation that will include new terminals, parking garages, and transportation options.
Do the New York airports have onsite hotels?
JFK has the TWA hotel at Terminal 5, and Newark has a Marriott hotel at the airport.
What are the airport codes for New York airports?
JFK – John F. Kennedy International Airport
LGA – LaGuardia Airport
EWR – Newark Liberty International Airport
Which New York City airport is closest to Manhattan?
LaGuardia is the closest airport to Manhattan. However, based on where you are in Manhattan, public transportation can get you to all 3 NYC airports in a comparable amount of time.
How far is it from LaGuardia from JFK?
The distance between JFK to LGA is 11 miles.
Which New York airport is closest to Times Square in New York City?
From a distance perspective, the airport that is closest to Times Square is LaGuardia, which is only 10 miles away. This works very well if you plan to use a taxi or a a ride share service. However, if you plan to use public public transportation, JFK and Newark are both well connected to Times Square. Newark is very well connected in a couple of ways – there is an airport bus that connects from Port Authority on 41st Street between 8th and 9th Ave, which is a couple of blocks away and very convenient, or take NJ Transit from Penn Station to Newark Station, and transfer to the Newark AirTrain from there. JFK is also well connected to Times Square if you take the subway or an LIRR train from Penn Station to Jamaica, and transfer to the AirTrain to JFK from there.
What is the address for John F Kennedy airport in New York?
The address for JFK airport in New York is tough to find as it is a large area that even has its own zip code, which is 11430. As such, you can search for JFK Airport in Google Maps or your navigation system, or enter Van Wyck and JFK Expressway, Jamaica, NY 11430.
Can I rent a car at the New York airports?
Yes, JFK, LGA and EWR all offer on-site car rental services, though renting a car is not recommended for a trip to NYC as parking can be expensive and difficult to find.
Can I book a hotel from the New York airports?
It is recommended to book a hotel online so you can get the best deal for your stay in New York.