Airlines serving northern New England include American (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com), Continental (tel. 800/523-3273; www.continental.com), Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com), JetBlue (tel. 800/538-2583; www.jetblue.com), Northwest (tel. 800/225-2525; www.nwa.com), Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com), United (tel. 800/864-8331; www.united.com), and US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usair.com).
The key hubs for major commercial carriers include Burlington, Vermont; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Portland and Bangor, Maine. 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 also possible. Remember that many of the commuter flights into northern New England from Boston are short hops aboard smaller prop (propeller-driven) planes; ask the airline or your travel agent before booking if this type of travel makes you nervous.
Several smaller airports in the region are also served by feeder airlines or charter companies, including those in Rutland, Vermont; West Lebanon and Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Rockport and Trenton (near Bar Harbor) in Maine. These are generally quite a bit more expensive to fly into than the main hubs, but if price is not an object, ask your travel agent to check routings into these airports as well.
Some savvy visitors to northern 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.)
Travelers who want to try this, however, should remember that Boston's airport can become very congested; delayed flights are endemic; and traffic can be nightmarish (Rte. 1A north toward Maine is one good Logan escape route). Then there's this: Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks (two of the four doomed flights departed from Boston), increased security has led to periodic but massive delays during check-in and screening.
But the smaller airports such as Bangor and Burlington have not seen these large-scale delays, and travelers might find that the increased expense of using these airports is more than offset by the less stressful experience of speedier check-ins, departures, and arrivals.
Discount airfares aren't normally easy to obtain when flying into these regional airports in northern New England, but some exceptions apply. In the last few years, for instance, the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, has grown in prominence thanks to the arrival of Southwest Airlines, which has brought competitive, low-cost airfares and improved service. Manchester has gone from a sleepy backwater airport to a bustling destination, eclipsing Portland in numbers of passengers served and charging hard at Boston. Travelers looking for good deals to this region do well to check with Southwest (tel. 800/435-9792; www.southwest.com) first before pricing bigger gateways.
Upstart discounter JetBlue also offers a direct service between Burlington, Vermont, and New York City's LaGuardia Airport, with onward connections. For more information, call tel. 800/538-2583, or check online at www.jetblue.com.
And new routes and connections into smaller airports are popping up all the time. Check the "Getting There" information at the beginning of each chapter in this book for the latest details. Also see my quick-look primer, "Flying into northern New England: The Skinny," below.
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.
Tip: Flying into Northern 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 and Burlington, Vermont, from New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
- Northwest flies into Burlington, Portland, and Manchester.
- Southwest flies nonstop into Manchester from numerous faraway destinations, including even California and Hawaii.
- United flies into Burlington, Portland, and Manchester.
- US Airways and its commuter subsidiaries (Colgan Air and U.S. Airways Express) fly from Boston, Philadelphia, and New York's LaGuardia to Burlington, West Lebanon/Hanover, New Hampshire, and Manchester, as well as to the following destinations in Maine: Portland, Augusta, Rockland, Bangor, Bar Harbor, and even Presque Isle.
From Boston, New York, and beyond, two interstate highways bring you to northern New England most efficiently.
One of those highways, Interstate 91 (I-91), heads more or less due north from Hartford, Connecticut, up through the middle of Massachusetts, and right alongside the river that forms the Vermont-New Hampshire border all the way to Quebec. It's the best choice for reaching such places as Brattleboro, Vermont, the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, and the Mount Snow ski resort.
The other highway, Interstate 95 (I-95), begins way down in Miami and strikes northeast from New York City through Boston, shaving off a thin (but expensive) slice of New Hampshire and then sailing on through the southern Maine coast. You'll need to exit from I-95 onto U.S. Route 1 to reach Midcoast or Downeast portions of Maine. Finally, the great highway turns north through the heart of the Maine Woods and on to the Canadian border.
You have other options, depending on where you're headed. Take Interstate 93 (I-93) to visit New Hampshire and the White Mountains. In Concord, New Hampshire, Interstate 89 (I-89) splits off from I-93 and arrows northwest to Burlington, Vermont -- grazing Hanover, Montpelier, and Waterbury along the way. This route is best for getting to Stowe or the Mad River Valley.
If scenery is your priority, however, the most picturesque way to enter northern New England from New York City is from the west. Drive north on the New York State Thruway through the scenic Adirondack Mountains to Port Kent, New York, on Lake Champlain, and catch a car ferry across the lake to Burlington. Need a quicker, but still scenic, route? Take the Thruway north as far as Albany; exit for Troy; then roll east into Bennington and southern Vermont.
Train service into northern New England is limited to just three Amtrak (tel. 800/872-7245; www.amtrak.com) trains: two 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 quicker, 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 about 2 hours and 25 minutes between Boston and Portland. Bikes are allowed to be on- or off-loaded at Boston, Wells, and Portland. The one-way fare from Boston to Portland was $23 in 2007.
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.
Coming from anywhere outside New England, you'll probably need to take a Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com) bus to Boston's depot at South Station first, and then switch to a local carrier. International visitors can obtain information about the Greyhound North American Discovery Pass. The pass can be obtained from foreign travel agents or at www.discoverypass.com for unlimited travel and stopovers in the U.S. and Canada.
Once you're here, express bus service is spotty in northern New England -- though it's gotten somewhat better lately. You'll be able to reach the major cities by bus, but few of the smaller towns or villages. Tickets range from about $25, one-way for Boston to Portland, to $45 for Boston to Burlington. Buses require no advance planning or reservations, though buses can fill up on Fridays, Sundays, and around major holidays or holiday travel times.
Two bus lines serve the region. Vermont Transit Lines (tel. 800/552-8737; www.vermonttransit.com) is affiliated with Greyhound and serves all three states -- though mostly just along the interstate highways -- with frequent departures from Boston. Concord Coach Lines (tel. 800/639-3317; www.concordcoachlines.com) and its subsidiaries, Dartmouth Coach and the Boston Express, serve New Hampshire and Maine, including some smaller towns in the Lake Winnipesaukee, Upper Valley, and White Mountains areas.
Which line is better? It depends on where you're going. For cities served by both lines (such as Portsmouth and Portland), Concord Coach buses are a bit more luxurious (and more expensive) than their Vermont Transit counterparts; Concord Coach often entertains travelers with movies (check schedules online) or music piped through headphones.
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.