Nearly all the major airlines fly into Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS), your likely hub of arrival or connection if you're coming by air. There's a complete listing of airlines servicing New England in the appendix. For more information about Logan, contact the airport at tel. 800/235-6426 or check the airport's website at www.massport.com/logan.
Commercial carriers serve other important locales in the region as well, such as Bradley International Airport (BDL), in Hartford, Connecticut; and in places like Burlington, Vermont (BTV); Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT); Portland (PWM) and Bangor, Maine (BGR); and Providence, Rhode Island (PVD). Airlines most commonly fly to these airports from New York or Boston, although direct connections from other cities, such as Chicago, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, are available. Even smaller towns and cities are served by feeder airlines and charter companies, including those flying into air strips in Rutland, Vermont (RUT); Rockland, Maine (RKD); and Trenton, Maine (BHB), near Bar Harbor. (Remember that many of the scheduled flights to these smaller New England cities from Boston are aboard smaller prop planes; check ahead with the airline or your travel agent if this is an issue for you.)
While flights into these smaller airports are convenient, they can be pricey. Some savvy visitors to New England find cheaper fares and a wider choice of flight times by flying into Boston's Logan Airport, then renting a car or connecting by bus to their final destination. (Boston is about 2 hr. by car from Portland, less than 3 hr. from the White Mountains.) On the other hand, Boston's airport can become very congested, delayed flights are endemic, and traffic can be nightmarish (Route 1A north is one good escape route). So travelers might find that the increased expense of using smaller airports to be more than offset by the less stressful experience of speedier check-ins, departures, and arrivals.
Discount Flights to New England -- No, it's not a mirage. Discount airfares aren't easy to find when flying into small regional airports around New England, but they do exist. The airport in Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT), for instance, has grown in prominence thanks to Southwest Airlines, which brought competitive, low-cost airfares to New England along with improved service. A few other airlines have followed suit lately. My advice? When you're pricing tickets and itineraries into Boston, compare airline prices in other parts of the region:
- Check with Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com), which flies into Manchester (as well as into Providence, Rhode Island) from all over the country.
- Check with discount airline JetBlue (tel. 800/538-2583; www.jetblue.com), which now offers direct service into both Burlington, Vermont, and Portland, Maine, from New York City's Kennedy Airport (JFK) -- sometimes at very attractive fares. Remember, you can fly into JFK from practically anywhere in the world.
- Check Continental (tel. 800/523-3273; www.continental.com), which flies into Manchester, Burlington, and Portland from Newark's Liberty International Airport (EWR).
And new routes and connections into smaller airports are popping up all the time.
Overseas visitors may want to take advantage of the APEX (Advance Purchase Excursion) reductions offered by all major U.S. and European carriers. In addition, some large airlines offer transatlantic or transpacific passengers special discount tickets under the name Visit USA, which allows mostly one-way travel from one U.S. destination to another at very low prices. Unavailable in the U.S., these discount tickets must be purchased abroad in conjunction with your international fare. This system is the easiest, fastest, cheapest way to see the country.
Flying into New England: The Skinny -- Here's the breakdown of which airlines fly into the region's amalgam of airstrips, airfields, and larger airports:
- Continental flies into Bangor and Portland, Maine; and Manchester, New Hampshire, from Newark Liberty International Airport outside New York City.
- JetBlue flies into Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont, from New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
- Northwest flies into Burlington, Vermont; Portland, Maine; and Manchester, New Hampshire.
- Southwest flies nonstop into Manchester, New Hampshire, from numerous faraway destinations, including even from California and Hawaii.
- United flies into Burlington, Vermont; Portland, Maine; and Manchester, New Hampshire.
- US Airways and its commuter subsidiaries (Colgan Air and U.S. Airways Express) fly into Burlington, Vermont; West Lebanon/Hanover and Manchester, New Hampshire; Portland, Augusta, Rockland, Bangor, Bar Harbor, and even Presque Isle, Maine, from Boston, Philadelphia, and New York's LaGuardia.
Coming from the New York City area by car (your most likely entry point, unless you're coming from Canada), several interstate highway corridors serve New England. I-91 heads more or less due north from Hartford, Connecticut, through Massachusetts and along the Vermont-New Hampshire border. I-95 parallels the Atlantic coast through Boston, after which it strikes northeast across New Hampshire and along the southern Maine coast before heading north toward the Canadian border. The Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) makes a wandering east-west jaunt from Boston to the lovely Berkshire hills (for a price -- it's a toll road).
From Boston, you head south on I-95 to reach Rhode Island, north on I-95 for Maine, northwest up I-93 for New Hampshire and the White Mountains, or southwest on I-84 directly into the heart of Connecticut. Most of these highways flow smoothly through rural countryside, except on summer weekends or at rush hour around the big metro areas. In Concord, New Hampshire, I-89 splits off from I-93 and heads into Vermont. Stay on I-89 if you want to reach Montpelier and Burlington; exit northward onto I-91 at White River Junction if you want to visit St. Johnsbury and the Northeast Kingdom.
If scenery is your priority, the most picturesque way to enter New England is from the west. Drive through New York's scenic Adirondack Mountains to Port Kent, New York, on Lake Champlain, then catch the car ferry across the lake to Burlington.
Note that travel times may be longer than you think, since there are few fast roads in New England and lots of local ones. From Boston to Portland takes about 2 hours, and to Bar Harbor about 5 hours.
From Boston and New York City, commuter train lines radiate out to the suburbs (which can include southern New Hampshire and coastal Connecticut, respectively), but elsewhere train service in northern New England is basically limited to three Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com) lines: two running to Vermont and one to Maine.
Amtrak's Vermonter service departs from Washington, D.C., once each day, with stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City before following the Connecticut River northward. The train calls at Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Claremont (in New Hampshire), White River Junction, Randolph, Montpelier, Waterbury, and Essex Junction (near Burlington), finally arriving in St. Albans some 10 hours after leaving Manhattan.
The Ethan Allen Express departs New York's Penn Station once to twice daily and travels somewhat more quickly, moving north along the Hudson River before veering northeast into Vermont, stopping at Fair Haven (near Castleton) and terminating at Rutland after about 5 1/2 hours.
Amtrak relaunched rail service to Maine in late 2001, restoring a line that had been idle since the 1960s. The Downeaster service operates four to five times daily between North Station in Boston and Portland, Maine; if you're coming from elsewhere on the East Coast, you will need to change train stations in Boston -- a slightly frustrating exercise requiring either a taxi ride through congested streets or a ride and transfer on Boston's aging subway system. The Downeaster makes stops in Haverhill, Massachusetts; Exeter, Durham, and Dover, New Hampshire; and Wells, Saco, and Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Travel time is a little under 2 1/2 hours between Boston and Portland. Bikes are allowed to be loaded or off-loaded at Boston, Wells, and Portland.
International visitors might want to buy a USA Rail Pass, good for 5, 15, or 30 days of unlimited travel on Amtrak (tel. 800/USA-RAIL; www.amtrak.com). The pass is available online or through many overseas travel agents. See the Amtrak website for the cost of travel within the western, eastern, or northwestern United States. Reservations are generally required and should be made as early as possible. Regional rail passes are also available.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.