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I'm headed to NYC for a few days with my wife and two children (3 and 5). We'll have four days' worth of luggage, so probably two adult rolling suitcases and each child will have a child-sized rolling suitcase, plus a laptop bag and perhaps another carryon. We'll be arriving around 9am to LaGuardia and staying somewhere in Manhattan, probably either near Times Square or near the Natural History museum.

Given my mediocre experience in Philadelphia in a similar situation, I would like to know the basics for what I'll need to know to get into the city via public transportation. I read this question which gives me some clues for what buses to ride.

  • Is a bus trip into Manhattan doable with bags and kids? Or am I better off just springing for the cab (particularly at that time of day)? Kids are used to riding buses if that is relevant.
  • Can I buy a bus pass at the airport? (I couldn't in Philly...) Where? What kind of pass (We will likely be doing a lot of subway riding, if that's relevant)? Am I safe to assume that my two kids are free? The trip is in two and a half weeks, if that's relevant (for buying something ahead of time perhaps).
  • Anything likely to confuse/surprise me when I try to get a bus? I'm from Chicago, so very familiar with buses, but tend to find Chicago far more organized than most other cities in that department...
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    It's hard to find seats, and the buses are not well designed for large numbers of travelers with luggage. The buses are generally crowded. I almost always found it borderline acceptable even without children. This may have been changing in the last couple of years, though; I moved to Brooklyn 5 years ago and have been using La Guardia (1) much less and (2) almost never by public transportation, but I do see signs that the MTA is trying to improve service to LGA. – phoog Aug 4 '16 at 8:30
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    Yes, it's a poor state of affairs (probably attributable to Robert Moses), and people talk about extending train service to LGA all the time. The airport is about to be completely rebuilt, so maybe a better connection will be coming in the next few decades. People are more tolerant on the buses, plus see the edit I'm about to make to the answer. – phoog Aug 4 '16 at 8:47
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    You're bringing six bags for a four-day trip in midsummer, and planning to use public transport? I'd recommend taking a second look at how much stuff you actually need. – jpatokal Aug 4 '16 at 9:01
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    I have to second @jpatokal's statement. It sounds like you're significantly overpacking for this trip. – Michael Hampton Aug 4 '16 at 9:05
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    Ah... I haven't packed yet so perhaps it will be smaller. The kids will have their own toys and such but perhaps we will make it in four. (Notlarge bags mind you - all carry on sized). – Joe Aug 4 '16 at 11:45
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You do not want to take a bus-only trip from La Guardia to Times Square; it would take too long. You will want to transfer to the subway.

I don't know about buying MetroCards at La Guardia, since I live in New York. Many years ago, I did once try to buy or refill one there, without success. I ended up taking a taxi (at the time I lived close to the airport, so it was maybe a $10 or $15 ride).

Still, with two young children, I would be very strongly inclined to take a taxi. However, if you're not in a terrible hurry and if it's not too crowded, you might be okay with the bus. Because you'll need to change to the subway, you'll want to be sure that you don't have too much luggage to move all at once.

The MTA has a brochure promoting the Q70 limited bus service, which connects with several subway lines serving midtown Manhattan. This brochure indicates that there are now MetroCard vending machines in the airport:

You can buy a MetroCard that gives you unlimited rides (that includes all free transfers). Or, you can buy a MetroCard with a specific number of rides that automatically gives you one free transfer every time you pay a fare. You can purchase MetroCard at MetroCard Vending Machines inside Terminals B, C, and D in LaGuardia Airport or at any NYC subway station.

"One free transfer" includes transfers between buses, or a transfer from bus to subway (or vice versa). Your children can ride without paying if they are 44 inches or shorter (that's 3' 8" or 112 cm).

My experience is mostly with the M60 bus, which goes to upper Manhattan, because it passes by where I used to live. It might help you if you're going close to the Museum of Natural History. The M60 has changed to a "Select Bus Service" line since I last used it, so the buses are longer (articulated) and the crowding problems may have abated somewhat as a result.

There are a few other possibilities, too; I usually use Google Maps to plan my rides on public transit, but you'll also want to check the MTA site, especially if you're traveling on the weekend. There are frequent service disruptions because of construction activities.

The Q70 Limited brochure indicates that these buses are designed to carry baggage, contrary to my (not-so-recent) experience with the M60:

To accommodate airline passengers, the Q70 LTD is outfitted with special luggage racks, so you can stow your bags as you travel on our comfortable, climate-controlled, handicapped accessible buses.

  • Do the buses and trains work on the same card/pass system? – Joe Aug 4 '16 at 8:32
  • @Joe yes. You ought to be able to buy one at LGA but I'm not sure where. I'll edit in a moment. – phoog Aug 4 '16 at 8:33
  • @Joe By the way, the cutoff for paying a fare on the MTA is 44 inches (it used to be 5 or 6 years, and just before my sister passed the relevant birthday, my father got into a couple of near-arguments with bus drivers). – phoog Aug 4 '16 at 8:57
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    @Joe there are a few articles around showing that this is not strictly enforced. If you ask the bus driver or subway booth clerk, you are likely to be instructed to let your child pass without paying. See wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303649504577494901612577964 and nydailynews.com/new-york/…; these are 4 to 5 years old but I haven't seen anything suggesting that the degree of enforcement has changed. – phoog Aug 4 '16 at 12:40
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    I confirm that there are vending machines in LGA to buy metro cards. – a3nm Aug 4 '16 at 22:00
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With two kids that have just gotten off a flight and a bunch of luggage, my vote would strongly be a taxi or car. It's going to be a long slow ride, worse yet if you transfer to the subway and have to get the kids and bags up and down the stairs and on and off of crowded trains. It's not a good way to start a vacation.

You might consider a car service instead of a taxi. The main advantage is a fixed price from LGA, so you'll know exactly how much it will cost regardless of traffic. Dial7 (with coupon) and Carmel are two of the larger operators. They'll run you about $30-$34 plus tolls and tip (so budget closer to $40). With these services, you book online or by phone in advance, let them know when you arrive, and a car will pick you up at a designated location at the airport's curb. Dial7 also has an app you can use to make the booking and let them know when you're ready to be picked up. Given the expected traffic, this should be cheaper than a taxi, and you won't be sitting there hearing the meter tick as you're in a traffic jam.

You could also take the bus into the city and consider a cab or car for the trip back to the airport depending on how the bus works out for you and how much time you have available.

If you do decide to take the bus, here are the rules about fares for kids on the bus and subway:

Up to three children 44 inches tall and under ride for free on subways and local buses when accompanied by a fare paying adult.

(the Q70 is considered a local bus)

  • Hm, I'd upvote if it were not for the superfluous confusing fare information (express buses, reduced fare). – phoog Aug 4 '16 at 9:12
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    @phoog clarified a bit – Zach Lipton Aug 4 '16 at 9:13
  • Consider Uber/Lyft, as well. I've not used either, but I understand that people love it, and you'll know your total bill before hand. As a side note, I don't know what tolls run to get into the City these days, but $40 for a $30+toll ride doesn't leave much for a tip. Those drivers have to eat too, be nice to 'em. – FreeMan Aug 4 '16 at 20:12
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As a New Yorker who has flown into LaGuardia multiple times, I cannot recommend a taxi or any other car service. The line for taxis is always incredibly long, and there are way too many cars trying to get in and out of the airport.

The M60 bus is perfect for your purposes. If you are staying at Times Square, take it to 116th St/Columbia University and transfer to the 1 train down to Times Square. If you are staying near the Natural History Museum, take it to Frederick Douglass Blvd/St Nicholas Ave, and then take the B or C train down to 81 St station.

You can buy a bus pass directly at the airport's bus stop. Try to bring cash/coins if you can, as the machines will occasionally not accept debit/credit cards. You must buy the ticket beforehand - because the M60 is an SBS (select bus service) route, you must pay offboard:

You pay your fare at the stop at either the MetroCard Fare Collector or Coin Fare Collector machine BEFORE boarding.

...

You don't give or show your ticket to the bus operator UNLESS you paid with coins and need a transfer. Please board at the front of the bus if you need a transfer.

  • Interesting point of view. As a New Yorker, have you made the bus trip with several bags and young children? As a veteran road warrior traveler, I can see taking the bus, but in the OPs situation, it may just be easier to taxi/limo/Uber/Lyft than deal with all the other issues. – FreeMan Aug 4 '16 at 20:09
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I would suggest getting a cab it would just seem to be more convenient and you would also be rest assured and wouldn't worry due to baggage and kids as they wouldn't be getting up moving around or sitting elsewhere as you would be in a cab instead of a bus

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    My kids are veteran bus riders (50+ bus trips each) in an equivalent sized city. I don't mind the suggestion for taxi, but this answer doesn't really tell me why in this situation in particular that's appropriate. – Joe Aug 4 '16 at 8:26
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I would not take public transportation with bags and kids. We were in NYC recently for a long weekend (no kids). We took a shuttle from LGA to where we were staying near Times Square. I think it was run by NYC Airporter. We had to wait a bit at LGA but the trip time from LGA to hotel was roughly 30 minutes on a Friday mid-day. Round trip was ~$50 for two adults. Enjoy your trip!

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