Exploring JFK Airport: Tips and Secrets for a Smooth Travel Experience

It's no secret that the JFK airport is not only one of the busiest and most iconic New York City/North American airports, but it also ranks highly in the world. It serves over 50 million passengers every year and has a host of amenities for travelers to enjoy.

Exploring JFK Airport: Tips and Secrets for a Smooth Travel Experience

Despite its good reputation, due to its sheer size, many find the overall traveling experience to be overwhelming. This means that having an itinerary of travel tips just for navigating JFK Airport alone can be incredibly important.

Getting to and from JFK Airport

Traveling to JFK Airport can be a trip in itself, and while it may be clearly accessible by road, its popularity means that there will often be traffic to contend with. To somewhat alleviate this, passengers will be able to take the subway, a commuter train, or an airport shuttle, and can even consider ride sharing to minimize the headache.

A top tip for those traveling to or from Jamaica Station or Howard Beach is to take the AirTrain. This tram circles all of JFK's terminals and makes trips into these major cities. It is free to use for those going between terminals, but will cost around $7.75 for those needing to enter or leave the airport for these two destinations.

Terminals and Amenities

Before traveling, it’s worthwhile to note that this airport has six terminals, numbered 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8 (3 and 6 were previously demolished). Key points include:

  • All terminals are indirectly connected 24 hours a day via AirTrain (services run every 2-3 minutes with an approximate travel time of 5 minutes between each terminal)
  • Terminal 8 is the largest passenger terminal
  • Terminal 4 currently handles all international arrivals

The top amenities include:

  • An array of ATM machines
  • A blend of cafes and restaurants
  • Currency exchange and banking services
  • Conference and business facilities such as meeting rooms, fax machines, and data ports
  • Duty free shops and newsagents
  • Additional amenities like nursing stations and pet relief stations

There are a number of lounges for passengers to relax, where complimentary food and drink will be served. The most notable are the American Express Centurion Lounge, the Delta Sky Club, and the United Club.

Top 3 tips for a Smooth Airport Experience

As such a vast and well-appointed airport, you’ll want to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, so here are our top tips:

  1. Speed up check-in times

It's never easy to define how early you should arrive at the airport, and a general rule of thumb for JFK is that those taking international flights should arrive around three hours in advance, while those taking domestic flights should arrive around 2 hours early. If you want to avoid the crowds, you can sign up for TSA Clear or Pre-Check to get ahead of the queue.

  1. Be aware of security protocols

Something you won’t find many resources on is the fact that connections won’t be as simple as some other airports, and changing terminals can mean passing security a second time.

  1. Get familiar with the terminals and layout before you fly

There are so many terminals at JFK that it can be easy to forget where you're going, get lost, or make mistakes, so be sure to do some research. Take a look at your terminal in particular, outline its accessibility, check the airlines that it services and cross-reference with yours, and learn about the amenities on offer, so you know what to expect.

Unique Aspects of JFK Airport

While each of the terminals will be designed to meet passenger needs, a lesser known fact is that terminal 5 has an open-air deck and even a playground for children. It also hosts access to the amazing TWA Hotel, which has everything from an infinity rooftop pool to the world's largest hotel gym, a museum, and more.

Accommodation and COVID-19 Protocols

For those needing a hotel stay, the Marriott New York JFK Airport Hotel, the Holiday Inn JFK Airport Hotel, and the Hampton Inn JFK Airport Hotel are all within walking distance of the airport terminals and offer a free shuttle service for travelers.

There are currently no significant COVID-19 protocols in place. If you have any concerns about safe travel, you can perform your own due diligence and regularly sanitize your hands and luggage and wear a mask.

Will I enjoy the travel experience at JFK Airport?

While traveling through such a busy airport there will be a lot to take in, so just try to relax. The best tool in your arsenal is going to be preparation, so research before you reach the airport will be pivotal to your enjoyment.

If you'd like to share any of your own tips or JFK travel experiences with us, please feel free to do so by contacting us.