Best Ways to Travel from Toronto – US Destinations

Friday 28th, June 2013 / 22:49 Written by
Best Ways to Travel from Toronto – US Destinations
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The Skinny

There are a lot of different options for traveling between cities. In this article, I’ll go through some of the non-traditional options to consider when you are traveling from Toronto to popular US cities.

In this series, I will focus on the costs of travel, so I will assume that travel is in the economy class and travel is most often not last minute travel.

New York
  • BA Avios short-haul (4500 BA Avios)
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Fly on Westjet
Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore / Washington DC
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Aeroplan short-haul
  • Drive
Miami (and Florida)
  • Fly from Buffalo & Niagara Falls
  • Fly Westjet over American Airlines or Air Canada to MIA
  • BA Avios medium-haul (10k BA Avios)
Chicago
  • BA Avios short-haul (4500 BA Avios)
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Try to use Midway (MDW) airport instead of O’Hare (ORD)
Detroit
  • Drive
  • Bus (Robert Q)
  • Aeroplan Short-Haul
All other USA
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Look at mileage redemption options

 

 

Overview

Sometimes you can get some great savings by understanding when things are priced lower than they should be. Maybe there is a distance based award that lets you buy a short flight for cheap that would normally be very expensive (ie. Toronto to New York). Sometimes, using an alternate airport is going to save you significant money (Toronto – Houston). I’ll highlight the best ways of getting to various cities from Toronto.

A quick note on flying to the United States: When flying to the US from Canadian airports, the taxes are generally $40 – $50 more for US-Bound flights than Canada-bound flights on the same route. On a Toronto-New York route that is, for example, $250 roundtrip, it can be considered that the New York-Toronto portion of the flight will cost $100 (taxes in), while the Toronto – New York portion will be $150 (taxes in). This pattern exists due to the taxes that are levied on flights going from Canada to the US. (You have to pay the US Immigration officer $50 to give you a hassle when you go to the US)

If you are planning on splitting your flight into 2 one-way flights (say by using Buffalo for one of your legs). You would save money by flying out of Buffalo and back into Toronto.

New York

  • BA Avios short-haul (4500 BA Avios)
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Fly on Westjet

New York is about 8-9 hours drive away from Toronto. The options for getting there are to fly, drive, take the bus or train. Knowing how to do this route is not only valuable if you are going to New York, but also since New York is a hub of both Delta and American Airlines, it can prove valuable to know how to get there to exploit free one-way flights on certain award tickets. See the overseas flights section for a more detailed discussion on this.

Roundtrips on this route Toronto – New York are generally in the $250 – $300 range but depending on fare sales and peak travel time, this can be as low as $200 roundtrip.

1-nyc-from-yyz-ytz

 

Fly from Buffalo

There are 2 ways to do this route efficiently. The first is to use Buffalo as your airport. Generally, fares are never above $100 / way and even walk up fares are quite low. During weekdays, this route can be as low as $50 each way whenever there is a fare sale, which is quite regular.

2-nyc-from-buf

Use British Airways Avios (from Toronto)

The other way to do this route very efficiently is by using British Airways Avios to fly on American Airlines operated flights. Direct flights from Toronto Pearson to either New York Laguardia (LGA) or New York Kennedy (JFK) will cost 4500 BA Avios each way + taxes. Taxes on the Toronto – New York portion will be ~$53, while taxes on the New York – Toronto portion will be only $2.50.

Fly via Westjet

If you are flying this route Toronto – New York (ie not using Buffalo), then you may benefit from flying Westjet or Fly Porter, instead of Air Canada or the other carriers. Westjet and Fly Porter are the only 2 carriers that offer a free checked bag on this route, so if you are checking a bag, this would save you some money. Also, Westjet offers free standby on any flights within the Eastern Triangle of Toronto, New York, Ottawa & Montreal.

4-westjet-eastern-triangle

 

Fly – Using Aeroplan Miles

The Toronto – New York route is considered a short-haul flight using Aeroplan miles. If you do end up flying this route using Aeroplan miles, it will cost you 15K miles + $170 in taxes and fees. If you decide to fly on the United operated flight into EWR, you will spend 25K Aeroplan miles + $100 in taxes and fees. Personally, I think this is an awful use of Aeroplan miles as the taxes and fees are almost as much as the cash fare for this flight.

Ground Options

There are ground options for getting to New York, including driving, taking the bus or taking the train. The bus and train are really not very good options, in my opinion because you waste a lot of time in transportation. At the same time, the savings are not significant at all. Train tickets still come in over $100 each way (you can sometimes fly New York – Toronto for less), and the bus usually comes in in the $75 range. These are not really competitive options.

6-amtrak-toronto-to-nyc

Driving

Taking your car to New York is a viable option but if you are going into the city, then you need to budget for the headaches of babysitting your car in Manhattan and all the costs associated with parking it there.

7-gas-from-toronto-to-nyc

If you fly this route a lot (and are Canadian), you should get the RBC Avion card and use your RBC points to transfer to BA Avios and book this route using Avios.

Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore / Washington DC

  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Aeroplan short-haul
  • Drive

Boston, Philadelphia & Washington DC are all about the same distance from Toronto. They are either a 1 hour flight or about 8-9 hours drive away. Personally, I have lived in each of these cities so learning the best ways to travel to / from Toronto was something I have taken very seriously.

Drive

If there are multiple people in your party and you are not traveling for just a weekend, you would actually probably benefit from driving any of these routes. When considering the actual time from the house to the airport, wasted time at the airport, and ride back to your final destination from the airport, you really only spend an extra 4 hours when driving. For 1 individual, it probably doesn’t make sense to drive, but if you are a party of 3 or 4, the economics start to make sense.

10-gas-from-toronto-to-boston

Flights – Use Buffalo

The cash prices for these routes are all in the range of $275 – $325 roundtrip, fluctuating depending on the fare sale at any given time. Boston and Washington DC (IAD) are both serviced by Porter, so you can fly from Toronto City Centre airport.

8-fares-toronto-to-bos-phl-was

From my experience, the best ways to do all 3 of these routes is to fly using Buffalo. The price savings are significant and given the time savings at the airport, I find it pretty well worth it to use Buffalo. Something to note is that the dollar differences are not huge. You will likely only save $50 – $75 / way so the time / convenience vs price does become a serious concern.

9-fares-buffalo-to-bos-phl-was

The one route that I find is a no-brainer is if you are flying Toronto area to Washington DC area. If you are going to Maryland, either to Baltimore city or the Northern suburbs of Washington DC, then flying the route BUF-BWI, on Southwest Airlines makes the most sense. I used to fly this route and often did this for $60 – $70 / way. If you can get lucky and buy this during Southwest’s distance based sale, you can buy this ticket for as low as $25 / way.

Award Flights

All 3 of these cities will come in under the Aeroplan short-haul routes. If you are interested in using Aeroplan miles, any of these routes will cost you 15K miles + $150 in taxes and fees. If you decide to fly a partner (say US Airways YYZ-PHL) then it will cost you 25K Aeroplan miles + $100. If you can get a short-haul award, then it can make some sense, but it is not ideal unless you have a ton of Aeroplan miles or US Airways or United miles. If you have lots of US Airways or United then sell them to me :).

 

Miami and Florida

  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Fly Westjet over American Airlines or Air Canada to MIA
  • BA Avios medium-haul (10k BA Avios)

Miami and the rest of Florida are a few days drive from Toronto so it is pretty unreasonable to drive there. The person I was dating moved to Miami so I learned every way to do the trip from Toronto to Miami.

Fly – From Buffalo & Niagara Falls

From my experience, there are really only 2 pieces of useful information I can share. First off is that you should consider flying from Buffalo (BUF) and Niagara Falls (IAG) to the airports in South Florida. There is a lot of service going from these 2 airports to northern and southern Florida so there are usually some very good fares on this route.

13-yyz-buf-iag-to-fll-mia

 

You can also use BA Avios to fly on the American Airlines flight from Toronto to MIA Airport only. It will run you the 10K BA Avios + taxes for this route. Taxes will be $60 for YYZ-MIA and $2.50 for the MIA-YYZ leg.

Fly – From Toronto

- Use Westjet

Sometimes, the fares from Toronto are equally competitive. In my experience, I have found that there are times when a flight from Miami to Toronto is only about $20 more than a flight from Miami to Buffalo. There are 3 carriers that fly this route and, in my experience, Westjet is by far the best carrier on this route, with American Airlines and Air Canada as distinctly worse carriers. I have recently flown American Airlines and Westjet on this route and can tell you 3 reasons Westjet is significantly better than American or Air Canada:

  • The terminal
    • The American Airlines terminal at Miami Airport is HUGE. I mean if there is only 1 security line to enter the terminal, you might be walking 20 – 30 minutes to find your gate
    • Westjet flies out of a nice small terminal and the gates are about 30 seconds away from security
  • Checked Bags
    • Westjet offers free first checked bag on this route while American Airlines and Air Canada both charge $25
  • Airline Miles
    • On the MIA-YYZ route, you can earn American Airlines miles when you fly on Westjet
    • American Airlines miles are significantly more valuable than Aeroplan or other Star Alliance miles (in my opinion) so you are either no better off (if you fly American) or worse off (if you fly Air Canada) miles-wise
  • In-flight entertainment
    • Westjet offers individual TVs and movies on demand on this route. American has no in flight entertainment while Air Canada has a very nice offering similar to Westjet

If you are looking to do the direct flight from Toronto (YYZ) to Miami (MIA), Westjet is definitely the way to go.

Chicago

  • BA Avios short-haul (4500 BA Avios)
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Try to use Midway (MDW) airport instead of O’Hare (ORD)

Chicago is one of those cities, like New York that is drivable from Toronto but that is usually not the best option. You can take a bus but in reality the best thing to do is to fly.

16-fares-yyz-ord

Chicago O’Hare Airport is one of the biggest in the world, by traffic, and it is United and American Airlines’ hub airports. For the redemption of American Airlines miles, knowing how to get to Chicago will be a great way to extract some extreme value from those miles.

Fly – Using BA Avios

The best way to do this route is to fly on American Airlines flights and use BA Avios to pay. It will be 4500 BA Avios + taxes each way. Flying into Chicago (ORD) will cost 4500 BA Avios + $60, while flying back to Toronto will be 4500 BA Avios + $2.50. This is your best bet.

15-avios-yyz-ord

Fly – From Buffalo

Another option is to fly from Buffalo. United and American both fly the route from Buffalo to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) while Southwest flies into Chicago Midway Airport (MDW). Southwest is often the cheapest and they are the best airline to fly if you want checked bags and the ability to change your flight fee-free.

17-fares-buf-ord

This is also an Aeroplan short-haul flight. This will run you 15K Aeroplan miles + $150 in taxes and fees. Personally, I don’t think this is a very good use of your Aeroplan miles as you have many option to mitigate this cost that are more effective.

 

Detroit

  • Drive
  • Bus (Robert Q)
  • Aeroplan Short-Haul

Detroit is about a 4 hour drive away from Toronto. For a 2 major cities that are so close, there are really not too many great options to get between the 2. I wont kid myself into thinking too many people make this trip, but there is some value to knowing how to get to Detroit from Toronto. The Red Wings and Maple Leafs are going to be in the same division as of the 2013-2014 NHL season so there might be an increase in the amount of Torontonians making the trip along the 401.

Detroit is a major hub for Delta airlines and is probably my favorite airport. One of the great advantages of Delta Skymiles awards is that you can structure your flights such that you can establish a free one-way flight with any Delta award, as long as you consider a Delta hub airport your home. In this case, Detroit would be perfect fit to extract some serious value if you are wiling to make your own way to Detroit airport.

See my article on Detroit Airport.

19-detroit-delta-route-map

Drive

Far and away the best option to get to Detroit from Toronto is to drive.


View Larger Map

Flights

There are flights between the 2 but they are quite pricey at around $400 for the roundtrip. You are better off getting on the bus as your time cost will be about the same once you factor in time wasted at the airport.

Bus

The Robert Q airbus will take you between Toronto Pearson airport and Detroit Wayne County Airport if you are interested in going to the airport.

 

All other USA, including Atlanta & Dallas

  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Look at Aeroplan / Star Alliance options

Pretty much anywhere else you want to go in the US will not have any other interesting hacks.

Dallas is an American Airlines destination from Toronto, so you can fly using BA Avios. It would cost you 10K BA Avios + taxes each way. Taxes will be $60 for YYZ-DFW and $2.50 for DFW-YYZ.

You might also find there are some routes that can be had for short-haul rates on Aeroplan. Cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, St. Louis and Indianapolis will all qualify for this. In these cases, the cash tickets from Toronto are very high and then it actually makes a lot of sense to use your Aeroplan miles even with the high taxes and fees. The advantage of some of these long-haul routes is that you don’t have to be on Air Canada planes for a discounted fare. This way you can lower your taxes, if you were to fly on say, United planes .

Award Tickets

If you can redeem other miles that are not so tax-heavy, you could do well as well, especially if you can get this for 25K miles + very few taxes. In many cases, these flights would be $500 – $600 each way so you could get close to $0.02/mile when you redeem on economy flights.

21-yyz-sfo-aeroplan

Fly – From Buffalo

If you can’t find a mileage flight or the math just doesn’t make sense, the best option to consider is flying from Buffalo. I find for pretty much any route that is not a popular route (I have mentioned all the popular routes specifically) flying from Buffalo is going to be significantly cheaper than flying from Toronto. In many cases, you won’t get a direct flight from Buffalo, while you may from Toronto so you need to put that into consideration.

22-cash-fares-to-sfo

I use Houston as an example in my analysis of using Buffalo Airport and show that you can save almost $400 / person using Buffalo over Toronto after considering all the costs of getting to Buffalo in the analysis.

 

Recap

There are a lot of different options for getting between cities. In this article I showed you my favorite ways of getting from Toronto to some of my favorite US destinations and some strategies to use to lower your costs.

Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Here are the best ways to get to various destinations from Toronto.

 

New York
  • BA Avios short-haul (4500 BA Avios)
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Fly on Westjet
Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore / Washington DC
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Aeroplan short-haul
  • Drive
Miami (and Florida)
  • Fly from Buffalo & Niagara Falls
  • Fly Westjet over American Airlines or Air Canada to MIA
  • BA Avios medium-haul (10k BA Avios)
Chicago
  • BA Avios short-haul (4500 BA Avios)
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Try to use Midway (MDW) airport instead of O’Hare (ORD)
Detroit
  • Drive
  • Bus (Robert Q)
  • Aeroplan Short-Haul
All other USA
  • Fly from Buffalo
  • Look at mileage redemption options

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One comment on “Best Ways to Travel from Toronto – US Destinations”

  1. ik says:

    This is AMAZING!!!!!!! I love this chart, I’m in Toronto and fly to the US a lot

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