The Best Way to Get from NYC to Cape Cod


We’ve mentioned elsewhere that although the temptation to drive from NYC to the cape is strong – save money in airfare and car rental, drive your own car, road trip, etc – the lowest hassle way to get there, counter intuitively, is often to fly.

True, you’re leaving your car in the garage, dealing with airport security, and paying for both airfare and rental, but you’re hopscotching most of the headaches by starting from the far less-traveled route 3 out of Boston.

Why not take the train to the Cape?

The Amtrak is always an option, and offers the alluring advantage of putting you closer to the cape, into providence. Two reasons. First, it’s expensive. Usually nearly as expensive as air and car rental combined. Second, it will still require either car rental or a combination of bus from providence and car rental once in Hyannis, and neither avoids the fundamental issue of bottlenecked roads along 195 and the Blue Star highway. You might as well just drive the whole route.

Why not take the cheaper metro north to New Haven, then rent a car?

Now you’re thinking. The way to make this work for the frequent cape commuter is have a second car and leave it in a cheap garage near the train station in New Haven. If you can reap the time savings of avoiding roads between New Haven and NYC without incurring substantial additional cost, you’ve hacked it.

Unfortunately it’s not economically strategic unless you already own a second car, and the time savings are only useable if you’re making multiple trips within a single season (you’ll still have to drive out of NYC on the first trip and back into it after the last), in which case you should probably be co-authoring this blog rather than reading it.

Otherwise, we’re still talking about renting a car, which means incurring the majority of the expenses in our “best practices” scenario of fly/car rental (car rental being the larger expense) with few of the time savings.

No, there are only two scenarios that make sense for the one-off, weekend getaway scenario – driving the whole way in your own car or flying.

We explored the best way to drive in another article. Now let’s talk about flying.

You’ll have to plan farther ahead to get a deal on airfare, but the week after Labor Day is an ideal time to visit the Cape for other reasons – it gets warm later and stays warm longer than the mainland, and you can avoid Peak Season crowds and prices – and is usually good for airfare if you book a couple of months in advance.

Fly JetBlue from JFK to Boston’s Logan . Skip Providence – Logan’s a better airport from which to grab a rental car and get out quickly, plus the roads south from Boston are far better than those northeast from Providence.

From manhattan, grab the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Jamaica. From Brooklyn, grab the LIRR from Flatbush Ave/Barclay’s Center to Jamaica. From most parts of Queens, take the E train to Jamaica/Sutphin Blvd. Take the AirTrain from Jamaica to terminal 5. Total time so far, between 30 and 60 minutes.

As we’ve said elsewhere on this blog, make car rental arrangements directly with the car company instead of as part of a package deal with your ticket, and rent directly from the airport in Boston.

At Logan you can take either the rental agency’s shuttle bus or one of the inter terminal buses outside baggage claim.

Total time, front door to this point, 2.5 hours, assuming an hour from check-in at JFK to boarding.

Another suggestion we’ve employed elsewhere in this blog, get a cheap iPhone or android phone mount for the dashboard or windshield and use the google maps app on your smart phone as soon as you get into the rental car. While it’s not reliable from NYC, the GPS will take you straight down route 3 to the Sagamore Bridge, 90 minutes, then from there to your ultimate destination.

Total time, from locking up your apartment to on-the-cape, 5 hours, assuming you don’t wait at the rental counter too long.

If that seems like a lot consider the following-

1. We’ve never beaten about 6 hours door-Cape driving, and average is between 6 and 7.

2. More importantly, time spent in the car is active traveling, when you can’t read a book, eat, or go to the restroom without adding more time to your journey. Between the apartment door and rental counter in our scenario, it’s almost all passive travel, when you can do almost all of the above, not to mention get up and stretch your legs. (The airborne time is around 35 minutes.) Only the last 90-120 minutes are spent behind the wheel, and it’s much easier driving than NYC – the Cape.


  1. bob
    September 3, 2013

    Renting a car out of Logan is really expensive, with tons of hidden fees. You should use some real numbers for this comparison. I’m not convinced this beats taking Metro North and getting a much cheaper rental car in New Haven, at which point you’ve avoided the worst stretch of traffic.

    If you’re going to Provincetown, I do think it makes sense to fly to Boston and take the ferry from Boston and avoid renting a car at all.

    • Nate
      September 4, 2013

      I’m replying to this even though it’s a bit negative, because at least you took time to read the article. Well, skim. Anyway, dialog – I’m not fan of airport rentals myself. I’ve found Logan to be marginally more convenient than Zipcar in boston. I could supply hard numbers, you’re right. I certainly used them to make the comparison. Ferry to P-town then zipcar might be the hack. Dude – if you’d just been a little nicer about the way you presented that. (Why folks gotta hate?) Anyway, looked for your blog so I could comment positively on some of your content but was unable to find it. Happy travels.


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