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Visiting Colleges & Unis Around PHL/EWR/JFK

Visiting Colleges & Unis Around PHL/EWR/JFK

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Old Jul 14, 18, 3:04 pm
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Visiting Colleges & Unis Around PHL/EWR/JFK

I'm planning to take my oldest to visit some college/uni campuses in March 2019. Tentatively we're thinking U Penn, Princeton, and West Point, but that could change. We can afford five or six days for the whole deal, including travel from/to the Los Angeles area.

I've never visited the area so I am going off what I have read and watched, but it is my understanding that there isn't a whole lot to do in Princeton after seeing the campus, so I was thinking to try and arrange things to maximize free time in Philadelphia and/or the NYC area.

It would appear that it is theoretically possible to train it, either from U Penn/Philadelphia to Princeton, and then from Princeton to NYC, or in reverse, but I don't have a problem renting a car if necessary. It looks like West Point pretty much requires a car rental.

From what I see right now, I'm not sure there is a wise direction of travel-- start in PHL or start around NYC-- but what do I know?

So what I'm wondering is, is it realistic to train it, or is it like CA, where you pretty much need a car? Any insight you care to share would be appreciated.
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Old Jul 14, 18, 3:42 pm
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I would rent a car. That gives you complete flexibility. EWR is likely more central to the places you are talking about and if you book that, you can simply set up your visits from there. If things change, you toss the driving itinerary and start again. At worst, you are sitting in a car for longer than necessary.

Trains mean keeping to a schedule, still need local transportation and you may have more limited access to hotels.
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Old Jul 14, 18, 10:28 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
I would rent a car. That gives you complete flexibility. [...] Trains mean keeping to a schedule, still need local transportation and you may have more limited access to hotels.
Agreed. Were you going between EWR/JFK and BOS, would you ever consider training it? I'm not opposed to flying, but you can see more when driving or training it.

Out here we have long stretches of highway where the population density is low, so it isn't uncommon to see people going 90 mph+, say on I-5 between the bay area and LA; is it correct that such speeds are less common on the east coast?
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Old Jul 15, 18, 7:31 am
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I would *take* the train between NYC & BOS, but getting from JFK to the train is sort of a PITA and then if you want to be outside the city at all, looking at colleges, having a car is much more convenient. If only in the cities, then train/public transport nice because parking is so expensive.

[I fondly remember my mom taking me around to look at colleges in NE - we lived in CT at the time - I was 15 and just had my trainers permit and mom let me drive lots of the trip, the boring parts in rural VT and upstate NY. It was a lot of good driving hours for me, with some spectacularly scary moments for my mother ;-)] Have fun!
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Old Jul 15, 18, 10:50 am
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
I'm planning to take my oldest to visit some college/uni campuses in March 2019. Tentatively we're thinking U Penn, Princeton, and West Point, but that could change. We can afford five or six days for the whole deal, including travel from/to the Los Angeles area.

I've never visited the area so I am going off what I have read and watched, but it is my understanding that there isn't a whole lot to do in Princeton after seeing the campus, so I was thinking to try and arrange things to maximize free time in Philadelphia and/or the NYC area.

It would appear that it is theoretically possible to train it, either from U Penn/Philadelphia to Princeton, and then from Princeton to NYC, or in reverse, but I don't have a problem renting a car if necessary. It looks like West Point pretty much requires a car rental.

From what I see right now, I'm not sure there is a wise direction of travel-- start in PHL or start around NYC-- but what do I know?

So what I'm wondering is, is it realistic to train it, or is it like CA, where you pretty much need a car? Any insight you care to share would be appreciated.
Fly into one airport (either PHL or EWR) and drive. Princeton is about midpoint between EWR and PHL. Obviously West Point will be closer to EWR. Avoid LGA and JFK.

Out here we have long stretches of highway where the population density is low, so it isn't uncommon to see people going 90 mph+, say on I-5 between the bay area and LA; is it correct that such speeds are less common on the east coast?
Not happening here.
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Old Jul 15, 18, 11:28 am
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Do you plan to spend any time in Manhattan? If so, I'll offer a dissenting opinion.

I would take trains between Philadelphia and Princeton, and between Princeton and Manhattan (Megabus between Princeton and Manhattan is another option), and try to schedule the visit to West Point on a day when you can take advantage of the Avis/Budget $9.99 one-way special between Manhattan and EWR/LGA/JFK (Sundays and Mondays only), or between the airports and Manhattan (Thursdays and Fridays only). The special rate includes 12 hours, 150 free miles, and the first tank of gas. No special rate code is needed; just make sure that you search for a rental period that does not exceed 12 hours, and that you book at least 24 hours in advance.
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Old Jul 15, 18, 5:55 pm
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Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
Do you plan to spend any time in Manhattan? If so, I'll offer a dissenting opinion.

I would take trains between Philadelphia and Princeton, and between Princeton and Manhattan (Megabus between Princeton and Manhattan is another option), and try to schedule the visit to West Point on a day when you can take advantage of the Avis/Budget $9.99 one-way special between Manhattan and EWR/LGA/JFK (Sundays and Mondays only), or between the airports and Manhattan (Thursdays and Fridays only). The special rate includes 12 hours, 150 free miles, and the first tank of gas. No special rate code is needed; just make sure that you search for a rental period that does not exceed 12 hours, and that you book at least 24 hours in advance.
Avis is recruiting customers to help them deal with dropoffs? Interesting.

I appreciate all these responses. There should be a collateral benefit of some fun from this trip. Cost vs. benefit, I think we get the greatest freedom from a rental car on most days.

That said, I live in the suburbs of the LA area, and (for a variety of reasons) I go to downtown LA only when necessary, and usually in my car. But I've never visited NYC and I have to admit, it feels wrong on a certain level to go so close and then never make time to get into NYC. A friend who lived there recently suggests that it would be wiser to do anything involving a rental car outside of NYC, would that be the consensus opinion here, the Avis deal notwithstanding?
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Old Jul 15, 18, 6:26 pm
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Trains are possible with frequent options available from Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and less so from Septa. But as mentioned it takes a little away from your flexibility and it doesn't sound like it is a trip where you have a random hour to kill waiting for a train.

I'd probably start in either PHL or EWR. There will be backtracking anyway you put it. It is 45-60 min from both EWR and PHL to Princeton depending on traffic. There is not much around Princeton, but it is a very nice little town to walk around a bit. Outside of that it is suburbia and office parks. Note, that there are a number of full service hotels in the Princeton area because of the large corporate presence.

Regarding highway speeds...the highways are generally very congested, but that does not stop people from going 80+, especially on the NJ Turnpike that is largely 10-12 lanes.
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Old Jul 15, 18, 7:27 pm
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
Avis is recruiting customers to help them deal with dropoffs? Interesting.

I appreciate all these responses. There should be a collateral benefit of some fun from this trip. Cost vs. benefit, I think we get the greatest freedom from a rental car on most days.

That said, I live in the suburbs of the LA area, and (for a variety of reasons) I go to downtown LA only when necessary, and usually in my car. But I've never visited NYC and I have to admit, it feels wrong on a certain level to go so close and then never make time to get into NYC. A friend who lived there recently suggests that it would be wiser to do anything involving a rental car outside of NYC, would that be the consensus opinion here, the Avis deal notwithstanding?
Only you can decide if you want to spend time in NYC on this trip. If you do, I would *strongly* recommend against having a car while you are in NYC.

If, while in Philly, you only plan to visit the University and the common tourist sites (Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the like), I don't think you will want (or need) a car. If you're only planning to spend half a day in Princeton (you probably don't need more time than that), I can maybe see doing a one-day, one-way rental from Philly, to either Manhattan or to an NJ Transit rail station, where you can catch a train into Manhattan when you are done seeing Princeton. (Avis/Budget has a location in Edison, near the "Metropark" train station which has good service into Manhattan's Penn Station.)

For West Point, just take advantage of the $9.99 deal if you can, or rent a car at the 24-hour rate if you can't.

It will be easier for us to make specific recommendations once you finalize the list of schools you wish to see, and decide whether you do or do not plan to spend a few days in NYC.
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Old Jul 16, 18, 8:46 am
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guv1976’s advice is good. I’d add to that the following:

If you want to spend time in NY or Philly, do it at the beginning or end of the trip, to minimize the hassle of dealing with a rental car around the city—parking it, driving it in/out of town, etc. Also be aware that renting cars at airports is always more expensive than renting them from city locations. So you might want to fly into PHL, spend your time there car-free (very easy to do, since Penn is right in town and easily accessible by public transit/Uber/taxi), then rent a car to drive to Princeton and West Point. If you can find a rental office for your car company at a Metro North train station between West Point and NY, maybe drop it there to spare yourself the bother of driving into Manhattan.

Taking the train between Philly/NY and Princeton is certainly possible but be aware that the main train station on the NJ Transit line from PHL is Princeton Junction, not in Princeton itself—from there, you have to get a cab or the “Dinky” train to the Princeton station. Given that and the slow speed of the SEPTA/NJT connection, if it were me, I’d just drive.
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Old Jul 17, 18, 10:25 am
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
That said, I live in the suburbs of the LA area, and (for a variety of reasons) I go to downtown LA only when necessary, and usually in my car. But I've never visited NYC and I have to admit, it feels wrong on a certain level to go so close and then never make time to get into NYC. A friend who lived there recently suggests that it would be wiser to do anything involving a rental car outside of NYC, would that be the consensus opinion here, the Avis deal notwithstanding?
When you have your schedule decided including whether you have the time to visit NYC (why not if you can), it will be easier to advise about the car rental situation. That $9.99 deal would be ideal for West Point.
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Old Jul 17, 18, 11:56 am
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Originally Posted by travelmad478 View Post
Also be aware that renting cars at airports is always more expensive than renting them from city locations.
Often, but not always.

I'd suggest that the OP check rates from both (along with any association/organization discounts available to him) before actually booking.
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Old Jul 18, 18, 7:55 am
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Originally Posted by travelmad478 View Post
Also be aware that renting cars at airports is always more expensive than renting them from city locations.
Originally Posted by guv1976 View Post
Often, but not always.

I'd suggest that the OP check rates from both (along with any association/organization discounts available to him) before actually booking.
I've flown with my family into NYC, used the subway, stayed in Midtown. Having later then picked up at an Avis location in Midtown and drove only down to downtown Philly and dropping the car/van off there, costs of car rentals out of Manhattan are not cheap with all of the taxes and fees imposed. With older age kids/young adults and flexibility in travel, renting back out at either one of the NYC airports or outside the NYC area may be a better deal.

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Old Jul 18, 18, 11:17 am
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Originally Posted by DELee View Post
Having later then picked up at an Avis location in Midtown and drove only down to downtown Philly and dropping the car/van off there, costs of car rentals out of Manhattan are not cheap with all of the taxes and fees imposed. With older age kids/young adults and flexibility in travel, renting back out at either one of the NYC airports or outside the NYC area may be a better deal.
Manhattan is a different animal for car rentals—very expensive. If you’re in Manhattan, the best way to rent a car is to take the train to somewhere on the Metro North or NJ Transit lines (as far away from the city as makes sense for you) and get it there.
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Old Jul 18, 18, 12:22 pm
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Originally Posted by travelmad478 View Post

Manhattan is a different animal for car rentals—very expensive. If you’re in Manhattan, the best way to rent a car is to take the train to somewhere on the Metro North or NJ Transit lines (as far away from the city as makes sense for you) and get it there.
Or the LIRR: I got some very good rates at the Avis/Budget locations in New Hyde Park and Rockville Centre when I used to live in Queens.

While fees for rental-car pick-ups at airports are usually higher than in-city pick-ups, base rates at airports can often be lower -- sometimes substantially lower.

I priced a one-way rental from Philadelphia to Manhattan on a random day for next March, when the OP expects to make this trip. Budget's base rates were identical for pick-up at either PHL airport, or 30th Street Station. But Hertz' base rate at 30th Street Station was about $300 higher for a one-day rental compared to pick-up at the airport!
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