I have an international flight that leaves around 8:30pm from JFK on a Saturday. I'm traveling with seven other friends from around the Cleveland/Columbus, Ohio area (haven't decided on which city we will all leave from yet, but that's beside the point). Anyway, my friends are convinced that we could get a rental car that morning on the Saturday and drive all the way to JFK and make it in time for the flight (~8 hours away at least). However, I am very skeptical of this, and I don't believe it is feasible to drive from Ohio to JFK for an evening flight in the same day, especially with factoring traffic, returning the car, and airport security.

Is there any way I should convince my friends that flying from Ohio to JFK would be much smarter, or am I too paranoid about driving in that it should feasible to make the drive and flight on the same day?

  • 1
    International flights generally ask you to arrive three hours in advance. So to get there at 5:30, you have to leave at 9. Now suppose there's a traffic accident, or just heavy traffic, which is exceedingly common getting into and through New York City. That could easily add an hour or two. Now you aren't going to be able to drive for ten and a half hours without stopping, so you need to add at least a half an hour for refueling and switching drivers. So that brings you to a 5:30 a.m. departure. Will you be able to get to a rental office at 5 so you can start driving by 5:30?
    – phoog
    Jan 8, 2017 at 5:24
  • 1
    Worse, a "rental car" that holds eight people! Jan 8, 2017 at 5:45
  • 3
    @pnuts first, where are you getting 7.5 hours? Google is telling me 8.5. Second, 1 hour contingency is going to be fine for most contingencies, but what if it's snowing in Pennsylvania? That could easily extend the drive to twelve hours or more. OP has to ask whether missing the flight is an acceptable outcome. If not, they should drive the day before.
    – phoog
    Jan 8, 2017 at 6:09
  • If they drive from Columbus, its around 8.5 hours (he said they would depart from the Cleveland/Columbus area).
    – dunni
    Jan 8, 2017 at 8:54
  • Whatever the directions say, add 2+ hours to get from NJ to JFK alone. Either way, if you can't convince them, buy your own air ticket and be prepared to leave them behind.
    – DTRT
    Jan 8, 2017 at 15:33

3 Answers 3


Living on the route you'll have to take and having driven to and from Cleveland and Columbus multiple times as well as driven to JFK airport multiple times I can honestly only say this: unless you're desperate for money don't do it!

The drive to PA/NJ border where I am will take you 5-6 hours depending on how good you drive and weather conditions since the drive past Youngstown is basically endless mountains and an accident (not even yours) could strand you for hours in the winter.

Now when it comes to PA/NJ border to JFK the drive under the best conditions is 2.5 hours. Saturday evening around 4-5pm that you will be arriving entry points to Manhattan are gonna get clogged adding at least 30 minutes to your drive so if you need to arrive by 6pm you need to budget at least 10 hours for the driving and car return.

Personally I would have flown and if you had some ample time to buy tickets I would have just bought ticket directly from Cleveland or Columbus.


After searching the CLE area, on different days in January and February, I find the Dodge Caravan, which seats 7 with room for 4 large suitcases, is the largest vehicle available for a one-way rental; drop-off at JFK. The price varies from an estimated total of $157 (not incl. gas & mileage) to $357 (not incl. gas).

If this option were chosen, it would make more sense to pick-up by 5:00 PM the day before the flight, take turns driving overnight, and drop-off by 5:00 PM the day of the flight.

[Edit: It will be very cramped but the ordeal will only last about 12 hrs.]

  • Good find. It's not clear to me whether "I'm traveling with seven other friends" means a group size of seven or eight though, and the Caravan only holds seven. Jan 8, 2017 at 22:34
  • Not to mention bags...
    – Karlson
    Jan 9, 2017 at 4:09
  • I recommend to be at he airport at least 2 hours before your flight. Mornings at JFK always crazy.
  • You need at least 30 mins to return the car and find the way to your terminal/take airtrain to your terminal.
  • You might need to stop to use the bathroom or eat. It's another up to 30 mins. Maybe even twice.
  • To be save you gotta add around 2 hours in case of car accidents/traffic on the road.

So add 5 hours to your 8 hours if you still wanna drive. I'd rather be at JFK 1-3 hours earlier than 30 mins before my flight running like a chicken without a head.

  • 1
    Evenings are even crazier.
    – Karlson
    Jan 8, 2017 at 13:35
  • Why was this answer downvoted?
    – trejder
    Sep 8, 2021 at 19:00

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