Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Best Way to Travel from DC to NYC

I wrote this post at 7:30 PM on a Thursday night while en route back from New York City from a day of meetings. I grabbed at Penn Station, snagged a cafe car table, and started brainstorming blog post ideas for the next few weeks. What should I write about that’s relevant to my readers and that I can at least pretend to know a thing or two about? All of a sudden it hit me—how to get to NYC from DC! I’ve done this trek countless times over the 11 years that I’ve lived in the District, so I know every which way to travel from one city to the other.

Everyone has their favorite route, so I’m going to share with you the pros and cons of each.

TRAVEL FROM DC TO NYC FOR A QUICK TRIP

DC to NYC is an easy weekend trip and a bearable day trip. Do I prefer getting up at 4:15 AM to catch the 5:20 AM train? Nope, but it’s doable. Regardless of your mode of transportation, you’re looking at a 3.5 to 4.5-hour trip. I’ve gone every which way and the difference between planes, trains, and automobiles is minimal. I know that’s not what the people who swear by a single mode of travel want to hear—but it’s true.

Photo by Brianna Spause of BS Productions—check her out if you’re in the DC or Baltimore area and need branding photography!

 

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THE BEST WAY TO TRAVEL FROM DC TO NYC

ALL ABOARD FOR AMTRAK

While it’s not the mode of transportation I take most often, I’ll be honest, Amtrak is my favorite. The wifi is reliable-ish. There are rarely delays on the DC to NYC route. If you are lucky enough to grab a cafe table, you can usually spread out a bit. It’s an easy 4-hour trek that is absolutely doable in a day. You can sit back, have some snacks, get some work done, and relax until you make it to your destination. It also didn’t hurt that Union Station was a 7-minute walk from my old apartment—I didn’t have to take more than 15 steps outside. I went straight from my apartment building front door to the office building across the street and cut through there to the train. So easy.

The downside to Amtrak, however, is the cost. It’s never cheap. It’s almost always at least $200 round trip, no matter how far out you buy your ticket. You can consistently fly to NYC for less. For me, this is reason enough not to take it, despite all the upsides.

BOPPIN’ AROUND ON THE BUS

So, what do I normally do? Honestly, the bus. Look, it’s not that bad. Knock on wood, I’ve never had a bus trip take longer than 4-5 hours—which is barely longer than the train! Not sure how the traffic allows for that, particularly on Friday afternoons, but somehow that’s always been the case.

Yes, it can be cramped, but you avoid that by taking it on off hours! The wifi isn’t always terrible and there have been rumors that it’s getting better. Some of the bus lines even have tables now. I always sit in an outside seat to deter someone from sitting with me, and, should someone dare take the seat with me, I bounce over to the window seat.

Taking the bus, you’ll rarely pay more than $60 round trip, with some options, like MegaBus or Bolt Bus, costing much less. Typically, I prefer to take Best Bus (formerly DC to NY) and, if I lived in Virginia or Maryland, I would 100% take Vamoose. I find the other passengers on Best Bus tend to be other millennials headed up to NYC for the weekend, it’s quiet, it’s clean—you can’t ask for more. Plus, Adam and I are headed up to NYC this weekend on Best Bus and both of our round trip tickets cost $108 total.

TAKING THE TOLLS VIA CAR

Oh, driving to NYC…I hate it, Adam loves it. The tolls will run you about $40 each way, plus you have to allow for gas…and parking (yes, both finding it and paying for it). There’s traffic, there’s frustration. The only upside is that you do have your car, which is nice if you have friends to visit in both NYC and various part of New Jersey. And, I guess the fast food situations at the Maryland and Delaware rest stops are pretty strong. So, there’s that.

JET SETTING ON THE PLANE

To be honest, the only mode of getting to NYC that I haven’t utilized is flying. Yes, I’ve flown from DC to NYC en route somewhere else, but I’ve never flown to NYC for the sole purpose of visiting for the weekend. I have friends that swear by it—it’s less than the train and so easy, they say! But, for me, the hassle of getting to and from the airport and the possibility of delays doesn’t seem to make sense. I can’t imagine it would ever take less than the train when you truly think about Point A to Point B. But, those of you who love flying DC to NYC, please prove me wrong!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO TRAVEL FROM DC TO NYC?

So, those of you that make this trip often (or not often!), let me know your favorite way to travel from DC to NYC! Are you a train connoisseur? Do you prefer to save money on the bus? Or is being in control of your own schedule while driving the only option?

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. April 25, 2019 / 8:28 am

    I have a SIL in DC and one in NYC and they both swear by the bus! We are thinking of taking the Amtrak from Charlottesville, though!

  2. April 28, 2019 / 8:27 pm

    I used to do Amtrak one way (Fri afternoon) and bus back but Amtrak has gotten so pricey that I almost always just take the bus both ways unless somehow there’s a random cheap sale on Amtrak. There’s a new option-Go Bus-that is great and it picks up from L’Enfant and Eastern Market

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