Thanksgiving means getting out of the city while literally a bajillion other people are trying to do the same thing! It’s not as bad as the zombie apocalypse, but still. It’s gonna suck. Fortunately, old man Bwog has been flying the friendly skies/riding the rails/cruising down the open road to get outta here for many a holiday season. Find out how to skip town like a pro, below. And don’t forget to charge your gadgets.
Unfortunately, this airline doesn't offer online check-in.
Early morning flight? Bring your own snack, because Au Bon Pain won’t be open yet.
To get to the LGA by bus, you can take the M60 for only $2.25—but expect lots of humans and travel time, so bring a book and leave at least an hour-and-a-half before your flight time. Bonus: there are luggage racks!
You can swiftly reach JFK by taking the E to AirTrain, a monorail that drops you off right at your terminal. Be sure your MetroCard has $7.25, though, cause AirTrain is $5. Supply and demand, you know how it is.
If you want to travel by cab but don’t want to take too big a hit to your wallet, use ESC’s service Carsplit. You share a cab with other Columbians headed to LGA, JFK, or EWR who need to arrive at the same time. And maybe you’ll make a friend!
If you’re flying out of Newark, shun the GWB, and take NJ Transit from Penn Station to Newark AirTrain.
To avoid being that pesky person who takes forever at security, wear comfy moccasins or other shoes you can slip right on and off.
Is this a train...for ants?
Buy your tickets online! If not, you’ll spend more time waiting in line to get tickets at Grand Central or Penn than you will on the actual train.
If you’re taking AmTrak, bring your printout barcode, and scan it at the automatic kiosks, instead of waiting in the ticket line. But really, don’t take AmTrak; you might miss Thanksgiving dinner. Actually.
If you live in the Philadelphia ‘burbs, take the NJ Transit to Trenton instead of the Amtrak to Philly. It’s cheaper, and Trenton and 30th Street are equidistant from many Philly suburbs.
By the same token (remember when?), Metro-North, which leaves from Grand Central, not Penn Station, is much cheaper than AmTrak for getting to suburbs in Westchester and Connecticut.
If you’re riding in one of the fancy new NJ Transit double-deckers, head to the bottom level. Most people seem to prefer the top level and you’re better off trying to find a seat below.
If you’re going to Long Island on the LIRR, it will be more hectic than usual. Check train times in advance at mta.info and leave either before or after the usual rush. You will actually get a seat this way, and avoid peak prices.
It helps if you can read traditional Chinese characters.
Automobiles and Buses
If you’re heading to Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Ithaca, or any part of the icy north, don’t be conned by your GPS into taking I80/I380/I81 out of New York: it’s a guaranteed way to be stuck in hell. Take I87 North, then take NYS Route 17—it splits, one way going to Albany, the other going to Binghamton, where it meets up with 81 again. It’ll shave a cool 45 minutes off your trip, and Route 17 is really scenic. Trust us!
If you’re going down (or up) I-95, make sure to beat the rush by leaving right after lunch. If you haven’t left by 2 pm, be prepared for a long ride home.
Check metrocommute for up-to-date traffic alerts in the area.
If you don’t have the luxury of private transportation, megabus and BoltBus are pretty cool for the East Coast. Greyhound is also a thing for long distances. if all tickets are sold out, try Craigslist
If you (for some bizarre reason) want to take a cab to Port Authority, ask the cabbie to take the West Side Highway / 9A to 34th street. Saves lots of time otherwise spent waiting at red lights on Broadway. If you’re leaving via Port Authority bus terminal, needless to say get there early because the lines are insane, but also bring sedatives for the ride, because who knows how bad the person next to you is going to smell.
If you must go through Port Authority, avoid traveling at night. The bus terminal stranger inhabitants come out at this time. Additionally, though lines may be shorter, the extra time between buses negates any gains this might yield.
If you want to go super-dirt-cheap, ride the Chinatown Bus. No guarantees on the seats though, so arrive early and be prepared to push.