With flights from across the country and around the world converging in New York City, many visitors to New York State may find it convenient to arrive in New York City first and move on from there.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey operates three major airports in the New York City area: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark-Liberty International Airport (EWR). Together they're served by most major domestic airlines.
However, arriving in New York City isn't the only option. For those traveling elsewhere in the state, several of the airlines listed above offer direct or connecting flights to Albany (ALB), Buffalo (BUF), Islip (ISP), Rochester (ROC), Syracuse (SYR), Ithaca (ITH), and 10 other cities. US Airways covers more New York destinations than any other carrier. AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Continental, Delta, jetBlue Airways, Northwest, and United also offer service to many of these cities, as do Air Canada and Southwest.
Drivers approaching from the west or east can take I-90, a toll road that crosses the country from Seattle to Boston and runs straight through New York, connecting Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Schenectady, and Albany. Route 17 (I-86 in western New York) roughly follows the state's southern border through Jamestown, Olean, Corning, Elmira, and Binghamton, then heads southwest into the Catskills and Orange County.
I-95 connects major cities along the East Coast from Florida to Maine, including New York City. I-87 runs north to south, from New York City to Newburgh, Kingston, Albany, Saratoga Springs, and Plattsburgh; it then crosses into Canada where the road extends to Montreal.
Travelers from the south can also use I-81, which enters the state near Binghamton and continues north to Cortland, Syracuse, and Watertown. I-88 links Binghamton and Schenectady. I-390 provides a route between I-90 and NY Route 17 in the Finger Lakes region.
There is a toll on the New York State Thruway, which is I-90 from western New York to Albany and I-87 from Albany to New York City. The New York State Thruway Authority hot line dispenses recorded updates on road conditions; dial tel. 800/THRUWAY, or check the website for construction schedules at www.thruway.state.ny.us.
The American Automobile Association (tel. 800/836-2582; www.aaa.com) will help members find the best routes to their destinations and provide free customized maps. AAA also offers emergency roadside assistance; members can call tel. 800/AAA-HELP.
Another great way to plan your route is on MapQuest (www.mapquest.com) or Google maps (www.google.com). Simply type in your start and end points and receive full step-by-step directions to your destination. A free state map is also available from the New York State Division of Tourism. See "Visitor Information" in "Fast Facts" in this chapter.
All the major rental-car companies operate in New York State, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty. It's worth noting that the only companies located at Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark airports are Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, and National. Enterprise is also available at LaGuardia and Newark, but not at Kennedy.
When you're renting a car, there is always some kind of deal to be found -- check company websites or ask reservations agents about specials before you rent. If you're a member of AAA, AARP, or another organization, find out if you qualify for a discount.
International visitors should note that insurance and taxes are almost never included in quoted rental car rates in the U.S. Be sure to ask your rental agency about additional fees for these. They can add a significant cost to your car rental.
Rail travel can be less cramped than airline flights and affords some amazing views of the American landscape. Amtrak (tel. 800/USA-RAIL; www.amtrak.com) connects New York with many American cities from coast to coast, and a handful of Canadian cities, too. However, a cross-country trip can last for days (Los Angeles to NYC is about 70 hr.) and requires one or more connections. Unfortunately, despite the extended travel time, there isn't much savings here; train reservations cost almost as much as air travel, and sometimes more.
Three main Amtrak routes cross New York State, connecting major metropolitan areas and the towns along the way. Several trains, including Metroliner shuttle service and high-speed Acela Express trains, travel the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. Empire Service runs north from New York City to Albany, then west to Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls; the Maple Leaf runs daily, extending the same route through Toronto, Canada. The Adirondack travels the Hudson River Valley north to Albany (making stops in Yonkers, Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, and Hudson), then follows along Lake Champlain to Plattsburgh and finally Montreal, Canada.
Check the website for Internet-only deals or ask your phone representative about regional and seasonal promotions before you reserve tickets. Seniors automatically receive 15% off regular fares, and membership discount programs are available to veterans and students. Families should note that for each adult ticket purchased, two kids under 15 may ride for half-price, and one child under 2 comes along for free.
Amtrak Vacations (tel. 877/YES-RAIL; www.amtrak.com) can put together a complete travel package including train, hotel, car rental, and sightseeing. Through a partnership with United Airlines, Amtrak has created the Air Rail program, which allows travelers to explore destinations at leisure by rail, then make a speedy return home by plane.
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.