Image: Grand Central Station
Don Emmert  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Commuters make their way though Grand Central Station in New York. The station is one of the main train and subway hubs used by travelers in and out of Manhattan.
updated 5/16/2007 10:33:14 AM ET 2007-05-16T14:33:14

East Coasters know that the oft-traveled Boston/New York/Washington D.C. route can be a pricey one whether you take a car, plane, train or bus. Travelers who opt to drive between the cities in an effort to save money may now be rethinking that option with the high cost of gas and the maddening traffic jams that are common along the way. In addition, heated competition among JetBlue, Delta and US Airways has made flying a much more affordable option. Here we outline five ways to travel to the cities, including the cost, travel time, and pros and cons of each.

Air
Who:
Delta Airlines, US Airways and JetBlue offer shuttle service between the three cities.

Cities Served: Boston, New York and Washington D.C.

Cost: On both the Delta and US Airways shuttles from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Boston's Logan Airport, the lowest roundtrip fare we found was $151, including taxes, with advance purchase. On the dates we checked, lower fares were available for service out of New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, with both JetBlue and Delta's regular (non-shuttle) service starting at $119 roundtrip with taxes.

The shuttle services were once again the pricier choice for flights from LaGuardia to Washington D.C.'s Ronald Reagan National Airport — $135 roundtrip on Delta's shuttle and $346 roundtrip on US Airways. Cheaper options were available from JFK to Dulles International Airport; JetBlue and Delta's non-shuttle service both started at $119 roundtrip. Delta also flies from JFK to Reagan National from $119.

Delta has no designated Washington/Boston shuttle, but offers fares from Baltimore/Washington International Airport to to Logan from $130 roundtrip. The next-cheapest options on our test dates were Dulles to Logan on JetBlue from $139, or the same itinerary on Delta from $238. US Airways does offer a shuttle from Reagan, which came in at a whopping $336 roundtrip on the dates we selected.

Please note that fares vary dramatically based on availability and on the date and time of your flight.

Travel Time: Depending on your route, anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, not including travel time to and from the airport or check-in.

Pros:

  • Many departures. All three airlines have departures all day long, but you may pay more for prime time. Less expensive fares can sometimes be found early in the morning or late in the evening. Click here for the Delta shuttle timetable. Click here for the US Airways shuttle timetable.
  • You'll earn a minimum of 500 miles for each leg of the trip on Delta or US Airways.
  • No traffic (except getting to and from the airport).
  • If you're traveling on one of the shuttle services, dedicated ticket counters at the airports make check-in a breeze.

Cons:

  • US Airways and Delta shuttles operate from New York's LaGuardia Airport, the least convenient of the city's three airports if you are planning to go to Manhattan via public transportation. However, it is the closest airport, and the least expensive to travel to and from if you plan to take a taxi or car service.
  • Finding the best fare can be time-consuming with so many possible airport combinations, particularly if you're flying between New York and D.C. -- each served by three airports.

Train
Who:
Amtrak offers both Acela Express and regional service between the three cities plus Philadelphia.

Cities Served: There are 15 weekday Acela Express round-trips between Washington D.C. and New York, and five weekday round-trips between Boston, New York and Washington. Weekend service runs approximately once every two to three hours between New York and Washington D.C. and less frequently from Boston.

Cost: The lowest fare found on Acela Express was $87 each way from New York to Boston, and $58 each way on the slower regional service. From Washington D.C. to Boston, we found $137 each way on Acela and $81 on the regional train. Between Washington D.C. and New York, we found $123 each way on Acela and $67 each way on the regional train.

Travel Time: For Acela Express service, plan on about three hours between Washington D.C. and New York, about seven hours between Washington D.C. and Boston and about three and a half hours between New York and Boston. For regional trains, add an additional 30 - 60 minutes, depending on your route. Click here for the Acela Express timetable.

Pros:

  • On Acela Express, "Quiet Cars" make for a comfortable and peaceful ride, and conference tables and power outlets allow passengers who wish to work to do so easily. An onboard bistro offers several food and beverage options.
  • The train stations in each city are easily accessible from other points in the city.
  • For travelers concerned with the environmental impact of their travel, trains are the most eco-friendly option.

Cons:

  • Regional trains are much less luxurious than the Acela Express, and they stop more frequently.
  • With the abundance of flight options, taking the train may prove both more expensive and more time-consuming than flying.

Bus
Who:
Greyhound and several "Chinatown" bus services. The "Chinatown" buses are called this because they are most often operated by Chinese tour companies and have a pick-up or drop-off point in the city's Chinatown area.

Cities Served: Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

Cost: The majority of the "Chinatown" buses cost $15 each way for travel between Boston and New York and about $20 each way for travel between New York and Washington D.C. Greyhound's lowest rates must be purchased at least two weeks in advance, and start at about $27 each way between Boston and New York or between New York and D.C., and $36 each way between Boston and D.C.

Travel Time: About four hours between Boston and New York in light traffic and about five hours between New York and Washington D.C.

Pros:

  • The price of the bus is less than you would pay in gas and tolls, and you won't have to deal with parking once you get to your destination city.
  • The "Chinatown" buses require no advance purchase, though many are sold out during rush-hour travel times.
  • There are several companies to choose from in each destination city. Between New York and Boston: Fung Wah, Greyhound, Lucky Star and Boston Deluxe. Between New York and Washington D.C.: Greyhound, Washington Deluxe and Today's Bus.
  • With so many options, you're unlikely to get shut out, even on busy travel days.

Cons:

  • Travelers are at the mercy of traffic and there is limited onboard entertainment.
  • Many employees of the "Chinatown" buses speak limited English.

LimoLiner
Who:
Somewhere between a bus and a limousine lies LimoLiner. The 28-passenger luxury shuttle has many amenities, particularly for the business traveler.

Cities Served: Boston and New York only.

Cost: $79 each way.

Travel Time: About four hours in light traffic.

Pros:

  • Chock-full of amenities including wireless Internet access at each seat, complimentary meals, onboard entertainment and a meeting table for business travelers
  • The pick-up and drop-off points are both Hilton properties, so waiting to board is a pleasure in the hotel lobbies.
  • Reclining leather seats make for a comfortable ride.

Cons:

  • Limited departures make the LimoLiner a little less convenient. There are anywhere from two to five departures from each city per day, depending on which day of the week you travel. Click here for schedule.

Driving
Who:
You, traveling in your car (or in a rental, if you'd rather not put the miles on your own vehicle).

Cities Served: Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and any destination in between.

Cost: Depends on your route and the gas mileage of your vehicle. Assuming you get 25 miles per gallon and gas costs $3 a gallon, you'll pay about $53 to drive one way from D.C. to Boston. Don't forget to add in tolls, parking expenses and rental fees (if applicable).

Travel Time: About four hours in light traffic between Washington D.C. and New York or between New York and Boston.

Pros:

  • You can make your own travel schedule, departing whenever is convenient for you and stopping as necessary for food and bathroom breaks.
  • The more people are traveling in your group, the more cost-effective an option this is.
  • If you need a car in your destination city, driving yourself is almost always cheaper than renting a vehicle once you get there.

Cons:

  • You'll be at the mercy of traffic along your route, particularly if your trip coincides with rush hour in any of these cities.
  • Parking downtown in any of these three cities can be inconvenient and expensive.

The Independent Traveler is an interactive traveler's exchange and comprehensive online travel guide for a community of travelers who enjoy the fun of planning their own trips and the adventure of independent travel. You can access our wealth of travel resources and great bargains here at www.independenttraveler.com, or at www.bargainbox.com.

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