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Living In Portland

Planning Your Heat Wave Escape to Portland

Since it's summertime, we've been seeing lots of visitors (on the web and in real life) from the broiling cities of southern New England and the mid-Atlantic.

If you're one of those people looking for a weekend getaway to the refreshingly mild, beachy shores of Casco Bay, here are a few travel tips from someone who makes the Portland-to-NYC trip pretty regularly.

By Bus

Concord Coach is the best way to get between Boston and Portland. They have clean, comfy buses that depart nearly hourly in each direction, they show movies (usually bad ones, but those can be fun), they offer free wi-fi, and the trip takes less than 2 hours. Departing from Portland, they'll also give you a free snack for your ride home, the way airlines used to.

Avoid Greyhound. Their service is not great, and they're more expensive to boot.

In Boston, Concord Coach stops at the South Station bus terminal, right across the hallway from buses arriving from NYC. If you're coming from New York, you have lots of choices to connect at Boston's South Station. The Bolt Bus and Megabus are more comfortable, usually, but because they begin their trips in midtown Manhattan, they spend more time stuck in traffic. The Lucky Star and Fung Wah Chinatown buses are cheaper and faster, and, if you're traveling from Brooklyn, their pickup/dropoff location at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge is more convenient.

You can almost always stow a bicycle in the luggage compartments of all the intercity bus services between NYC and Portland, Maine. Still, bus companies say that they'll only take your bikes "if space allows," so be prepared to leave your bike locked up at the station.

If your planning a longer trip to other parts of Maine, Concord Coach also runs two buses a day in the summertime from Portland up Route 1 to Bangor, with stops in coastal towns like Brunswick, Bath, Freeport, Rockland (where you can catch the ferry to Vinalhaven), and Camden. With advance reservations, you can also catch a connecting bus from the Bangor terminal to Acadia National Park, where the National Parks Service operates an excellent, free bus system around Mount Desert Island.

The one drawback to taking Concord Coach or Amtrak to Portland is that the Portland station is in the boondocks, surrounded by freeway offramps. Cabs are cheap, though, and you can also take METRO's Route 5 bus, which stops there roughly every 20 minutes during the daytime hours (local bus schedules are on Google Maps).

By Train

The Amtrak Downeaster runs from Boston to Portland, but it takes about 40 minutes longer than the bus and runs less frequently. It also leaves from Boston's North Station, and because of the gap between Boston's South Station and North Station, it's a harder connection to make if you're traveling from the south.

By Air

We don't have an airport — we have a "Jetport." I think they named it back when the Jetsons were still popular and air travel was still considered glamorously futuristic. At any rate, flying into Portland is quite convenient and increasingly affordable. It's a small and uncrowded,  just 15 minutes out of downtown on the edge of the city, and thanks to a recent expansion, it's also quite spacious and well-designed, with smoothly-running security and check-in lines.

There are direct flights from New York's JFK and Newark airports, plus Washington, Baltimore, Philly, Toronto, and Chicago, among others, on JetBlue, AirTran, United, Delta, U.S. Airways, and Air Canada.

Flying into Boston is also an option that offers more connections, although it comes with a 2-hour trip on the highway for the final leg of the journey. Buses from Concord Coach (see above) will pick you up right outside the baggage claim roughly once an hour.

See you soon!

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