Whether your long flight delay or layover at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport is caused by the weather or by your airline’s operational issue, this guide will ensure you make the most of your JFK layover. You’ll find info on Airport lounges, amenities, sleep options, food options, transport options as well as activities to do.
Overview of JFK:
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) consists of six terminals, numbered from 1 to 8. However, Terminals 3 and 6 have already been demolished. The oldest terminal is Terminal 2, while both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 are currently undergoing redevelopment and are expected to reopen with significantly expanded space. Even at present, each terminal is quite spacious and can be accessed through the AirTrain Pre-security/landside.
There are notable distinctions in terms of amenities and design among the various Terminals, with Terminal 4 standing out as the most modern and upgraded. Within Terminal 4, you have the privilege of enjoying the luxurious Delta Sky Club lounge.
The amenities on the Airside on most terminals are similar and can expect various dining and shopping options. There is limited seating in some terminals but you get free Wi-Fi and charging stations in all terminals.
If you have a long layover at JFK, there are plenty of activities and amenities to keep you entertained and comfortable during your stay. For those looking to relax, many of the terminals offer airport lounges with comfortable seating, complimentary food and drinks, and other perks such as showers or spa services. Some popular options include the American Airlines Admirals Club and the United Airlines United Club.
Preparing for a layover at JFK:
If your layover is under 3 hours, I do not recommend leaving the airport as navigating the subway system or the NYC traffic can make you miss your next flight. While it can take you 35 minutes to get to Manhattan from JFK using the Long Island Rail Road, and close to an hour using Uber or Yellow Cab, you don’t have control over unexpected traffic or train delays. Therefore, I suggest staying at the airport and making the most of your time there. Read this guide where I explain details regarding leaving JFK during a layover.
If your layover is longer than 3 or 4 hours at JFK, you can consider leaving the airport using the subway, Yellow Cab, Uber, Rideshare, or even Uber Copter. The Uber Copter operates during the day and can get you to Manhattan in about 8 minutes and will cost you $225. Read more details on Uber’s website here.
My favorite option is to take the Long Island Rail Road which will conveniently transport you out of JFK to Manhattan at a cost of $5 to $7. Alternatively, rideshare services are available, but they can be quite pricey, with fares potentially exceeding $100. If you prefer a traditional mode of transportation, New York’s Yellow Cab Taxis charges a flat rate of $54 to transport you to JFK.
My top place to visit if you have 5+ hours at JFK is Manhattan. This borough is by far the most exciting and has a lot to offer, especially for tourists. For example, you can visit the Empire State Building, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, or even take a stroll in Times Square.
If you have less than 3 hours at JFK, I suggest exploring the airport for some unique experiences. You can shop at duty-free shops, dine at various restaurants, or even relax at a spa. Some popular activities at JFK include visiting the TWA Hotel, trying out the airport’s famous Shake Shack, and indulging in some retail therapy. For instance, you can check out the TWA Hotel which has a vintage vibe and offers various amenities to make your wait more enjoyable. You can also visit the VR adventure center, indulge in some duty-free shopping, or simply relax at one of the many lounges available. Read about these 20 fun things to do at or near JFK in this post.
Sleeping at JFK
If you’d rather not spend money on airport sleep technologies like Escape Sleep Pods and Minute Suites, or the in-airport TWA Hotel for some rest, there is an alternative option of free sleeping arrangements at the airport. Although this airport doesn’t have designated rest areas, you might come across benches or even floor space that can be used as a makeshift bed.
A helpful tip for getting sleep at J. Kennedy Airport Terminals is to head to food courts with ample seating, and Terminal 4 is an excellent choice for finding a suitable spot to sleep. Unlike Terminal 1, which closes at 2 am, Terminal 4 operates 24 hours a day and offers several comfortable couches. Additionally, Terminal 4 features several benches with dividers that provide a decent 5-foot sleeping space.
Let’s now look at sleeping in different JFK Terminals;
For a restful sleep in T1 at JFK, head beyond the rows of registration desks. There, you’ll find a food court that unfortunately closes at night. Accessible by stairs or escalators, this area offers several chairs and tables to use to get some sleep.
Grab a few chairs or a table from the food court and arrange them together to create a makeshift bed. If you don’t find any seats in the middle of terminal 1, there are more available behind the Lufthansa counter. I’ve noticed a few people there a couple of times.
Please note that Terminal 1 closes at 2 am and you will need to leave the Terminal, perhaps take the train to T8.
To find a peaceful spot for some rest in Terminal 2, simply make your way upstairs from the café and eateries. Once you reach the upper level, follow the stairs located near the railing, directly above the café and eateries. There, you’ll discover a space with carpeted flooring and a selection of comfortable, full-length cushioned seats. Take a moment to unwind and relax in this tranquil oasis. This seating area is nestled between the main galley and a newsstand, providing a cozy and convenient space for visitors.
Terminal 4 at JFK is the sole terminal that operates 24 hours a day and is the best terminal for free sleep at JFK. Fliers with layovers try to make their way and grab spots in this Terminalso it’s important to keep in mind that availability can be limited during busy travel periods.
However, it’s important to give full disclosure that getting a good night’s sleep might be challenging due to the noise, bright lights, and uncomfortable seating with armrests. Near the check-in counters for Norwegian Air, there is a metal mesh bench with dividers, allowing for a reasonably spacious five-foot section in the middle, which is perfect for stretching out and finding some comfort.
Despite the noises and the uncomfortable seating with armrests, many fliers through JFK note that this terminal offers the best sleep positions. You can mitigate noise concerns with noise-canceling headphones or active noise-control earplugs. While it doesn’t have good WiFi, some travelers mentioned how they’d just hop on the free AirTrain to T5 for WiFi and back to T4 for sleep.
One aspect worth mentioning regarding the round-the-clock operations in T4 is that due to flights departing from this terminal at unconventional hours, such as 2 or 3 am, there is always a presence of individuals, including airline crew and a handful of food establishments that remain open within the terminal.
Finding suitable places to sleep in Terminal 5 is extremely challenging, especially in the Airside. The limited seating options are equipped with armrests and the Terminal is excessively noisy. The constant presence of the cleaning crew, frequent announcements, and the overall cramped space make it exceedingly difficult to get any restful sleep. If you have a sleeping bag and don’t mind spreading it on the concrete floors, you can get some sleep. See the image below of a flier who opted to sleep on the floor with his legs on his luggage for safety- no chairs;
British Airways offers two full-size couches exclusively available for passengers with access to the British Airways Lounge. However, please note that the lounge can only be accessed airside and is restricted to passengers whose flights are departing within the next 3 hours.
The terminal features tall, high-back chairs that offer superior comfort compared to other seating areas in the airport. However, it’s important to note that these chairs may not be ideal for sleeping due to the presence of armrests.
Another reason why T7 is not ideal for sleeping is the limited number of food establishments. Food courts such as those in T4 have ample seating, making them convenient for resting when the restaurants close at night.
While T8 offers a place to rest, it may not provide the utmost comfort. Once you step off the AirTrain, you’ll find a few secluded steel benches that offer privacy for those who prefer to stretch out on the floor.
Parking your vehicle at JFK:
If you plan on driving early to the airport out of state or anywhere in the NYC area, consider offsite parking facilities. Instead of paying a minimum of $30 for one day of parking in the airport lots, you can choose offsite parking for as low as $7.5 per day. For short-term parking, perfect for drop-offs, you can reserve a half-hour parking slot in the Blue or Yellow Garage for as low as $6, or the Orange Garage for just $4. Read more about Parking at JFK here.
If you are looking for a parking location outside JFK airport that provides shuttle service, consider parking operators such as Prime Parking JFK Parking which is just 1.7 miles from JFK and provides on-demand shuttle services.
Getting around JFK Airport:
JFK Airport sprawls across an expansive 4930 acres, with its five terminals arranged in a circular formation. Beginning from the southern end with Terminal 1, they gracefully progress anti-clockwise, culminating at Terminal 8 in the northeastern section.
There is an AirTrain that conveniently connects all five terminals with each other, as well as the airport’s long-term parking lots. It operates 24/7 and provides free service within the airport boundaries. You can also use it to connect with the nearby Howard Beach and Jamaica subway stations at a cost of $5 per person. Read more about JFK AirTrain here.
If you prefer walking, JFK has inter-terminal walkways that are climate-controlled for your comfort. However, keep in mind that you may have to use the AirTrain or a shuttle bus to reach certain terminals, depending on your starting point.
There are also JFK Airport bus services such as JFK Express Bus which will cost you $19 for a one-way ticket to Manhattan from JFK or $35 for a roundtrip ticket to Manhattan from JFK. Read details of JFK Airport Bus here.
Below is a map of JFK;
- Terminal 5 – The minute suites cubicles can be found near Gate 24 and are open 24 hours a day. Each suite also includes a work desk and free Wi-Fi in case you want to catch up on some work during your layover.
- Terminal 4 – The minute suites cubicles are located near Gate B37 and are also open 24 hours a day. Here, you can also find shower facilities for an additional fee if you would like to freshen up before or after your rest.
Hotels at or Near JFK
If you prefer to sleep in a traditional hotel room setting, there are several options available within a short distance from JFK Airport. Some hotels even offer shuttle services to and from the airport, making it a convenient choice for travelers with longer layovers.
Some popular hotel options near JFK Airport include:
- The TWA Hotel: Located within the airport, this retro-style hotel offers soundproofed rooms and amenities such as a rooftop pool, fitness center, and multiple dining options.
- Crowne Plaza JFK Airport: Just a 5-minute drive from the airport, this hotel offers spacious rooms with comfortable bedding, an on-site restaurant, and free shuttle service to the airport.
- Holiday Inn Express JFK Airport: This budget-friendly option is also just a 5-minute drive from the airport and includes amenities such as free breakfast, a fitness center, and an airport shuttle service.
- Comfort Inn: Only a 10-minute drive from the airport, this hotel offers cozy rooms and amenities such as a free hot breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, and an airport shuttle service.
- Hampton Inn: Located just 5 miles from the airport, this hotel offers comfortable rooms with amenities such as a free hot breakfast, fitness center, and shuttle service to the airport.
I recommend picking hotels that provide free shuttle to and from JFK such as;
- Days Inn Queens JFK Airport Jamaica
- Best Western JFK Airport Hotel Jamaica
- Holiday Inn Express Queens JFK Airport Jamaica- free shuttle, 3 miles from JFK
- Fairfield Inn by Marriott Queens JFK Airport Jamaica – free shuttle
- Super 8 Hotel Jamai
JFK Airport amenities:
During your layover at JFK Airport, you can enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi access. Simply connect to the “Boingo Hotspot” network and agree to the terms and conditions. However, for a faster connection, you also have the option to purchase a premium plan through Boingo. The free airport Wi-Fi offers download speeds ranging from 20 Mbps up to 50 Mbps.
Restaurants and food options:
JFK airport has a wide variety of restaurants and food options available for travelers. From quick grab-and-go options like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s to sit-down restaurants like Shake Shack and Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, there’s something for every taste and budget. In addition, there are also plenty of bars and lounges to grab a drink or relax before your flight.
Read more about;
- JFK Terminal 1 Food/Restaurants
- JFK Terminal 4 Restaurants/food.
- JFK Terminal 5 Food/Restaurants
- JFK Terminal 8 Food/Restaurants
For those looking to do some last-minute shopping, JFK Airport has a variety of stores available. From duty-free shops to luxury brands like Chanel and Burberry, you can find everything from souvenirs to high-end fashion items. You’ll also find convenience stores like Hudson News for any travel essentials you may have forgotten.
You may want to consider purchasing an e-sim card, which costs only $4.5 USD and provides 1GB of data at a significantly lower price. In comparison, a physical sim card would cost you a minimum of $29 for the same amount of data. You can conveniently order the e-sim online here.
Smoking is prohibited in all areas of JFK airport, including restaurants and bars. However, there are designated smoking areas outside the terminals for those who wish to smoke before their flight.
To indulge in smoking tobacco products at JFK airport, it is necessary to utilize the designated smoking areas situated roughly 20 feet away from the entrances and exits of JFK Terminals. Smoking indoors is strictly prohibited. Read more about Smoking at JFK here.
Pet relief areas:
If you are traveling with a pet, JFK Airport provides pet relief areas in each terminal. These areas are equipped with waste bags and disposal bins for easy cleanup. Locations are available pre-security and post-security, both indoors and outdoors, depending on the terminal. There is even a large 70-square-foot pet bathroom in Terminal 4. So, pet owners can rest assured that their furry friends are taken care of while at the airport.
JFK Airport offers various lounge options with shower facilities. In Terminal 1, lounges like Air France/KLM, Korean Air, and Lufthansa provide showers. Terminal 4 has lounges including Etihad Airways, The Centurion Lounge, The Emirates Lounge, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, and Delta Air Lines Delta Sky Club. Terminal 5 does not have lounges with showers, but Terminal 7 has the Aer Lingus Lounge. In Terminal 8, you can enjoy showers at American Airlines/British Airways lounges. You can find more details here.
Don’t let your phone lose all its juice! Charge it at thousands of charging stations located landside and airside.
If you have a medical emergency or require medical assistance, you can head to the airport’s Medical Services department located in Building 22A. Take the free shuttle from the Terminals. These services are available 24/7 and provide immediate care for any illness or injury. Additionally, Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are available throughout all terminals in case of cardiac emergencies.
There are lockers on Terminals 1, 4 and 8 (Arrivals) Landside where you can store your baggage with SmartCarte. On Terminal 5, you can also wrap your luggage using secure plastic wrap. If you’ve lost your luggage, JFK operates a centralized baggage service managed by the Port Authority’s Lost and Found Department. You can check for your lost item online or contact them at +561-408-0101. Furthermore, if your luggage is damaged, you can reach out to your airline for assistance. Read more on lost and found at JFK here.
Baby Care Facilities:
Traveling with small children? We’ve got you covered! Check out these convenient services available just for you.
Nursing Stations (Airside only):
📍 T1 (near Gate 1)
📍 T2 (Gate C70)
📍 T4 (near Gate A3, Gate B31, and West Retail Hall)
📍 T5 (near Gate 1, Gate 12, and Gate 27)
📍 T7 (adjacent to Gate 10)
📍 T8 (near Gate 14, Gate 42, and 3rd Floor Hallway)
Opening hours: unknown.
Family washrooms can be found both Landside and Airside in T4, T5, T7, and T8.
Foreign currency exchange and ATMs can be conveniently found in multiple locations within the airport terminals for your convenience:
- Terminal 1 – You can exchange your currency on both the Departures and Arrivals of Terminal 1’s on the West Level. There is also a currency exchange on the landside food court. On the Airside, find Forex shop near Gates 3 and 4 and at Departures Level, West Concourse Gates 1-3. These locations are strategically placed to ensure easy access for travelers arriving or departing from Terminal 1.
- Terminal 4 – Landside, Arrivals Hall • Departures, Concourse B • Departures, Retail Hall East • Departures, Retail Hall West. Terminal 4 offers various options for currency exchange and ATMs, both in the arrivals hall and throughout the departures area. Whether you are arriving or departing from Terminal 4, you can conveniently find these services.
- Terminal 7 – Find Forex shop at Terminal 7 on the Departures and Arrivals Hall, near gates 3/4. For travelers using Terminal 7, currency exchange and ATMs are conveniently located in both the arrivals and departures areas, making it easy to access these services before or after your flight.
JFK Airport lounges to check out during your layover
If you have a Priority Pass membership, you can relax at Be Relax Spa in Terminal 1, and Terminal 5 and access a number of lounges at Terminals 1, 4, 5, and 8. Read more about Priority Pass at JFK here.
You can also access Centurion Lounge at JFK in Terminal 4 and access a whole lot of amenities which you can read here.
I have a detailed guide on JFK lounges here. Below are some airline-specific lounges you can access;
Terminal 1 Lounges:
- Korean Air Lounge: Open to Korean Air first and business class passengers, SkyTeam Elite Plus members, and Priority Pass members.
- Lufthansa Lounge: The Lufthansa Business Class Lounge welcomes Priority Pass members with a delightful hot and cold buffet, an open bar serving a variety of drinks, and expansive windows offering views of the parked planes. However, please note that the Lufthansa Senator Lounge is exclusively reserved for frequent flyers and Star Alliance Gold members departing from Terminal 1, and is not accessible to Priority Pass members.
- Primeclass Lounge: Primeclass Lounge is open to Priority Pass members and offers a variety of amenities like free Wi-Fi, refreshments, and showers.
- Air France Lounge: Available for Air France first and business class passengers, as well as SkyTeam Elite Plus members.
Read more on this guide with details on lounges at JFK Terminal 1.
Terminal 4 Lounges:
- Delta Sky Club: Open to Delta One passengers, Diamond Medallion members, and Priority Pass members.
- American Express Centurion Lounge
- Emirates Lounge
- Air India Maharaja Lounge
- Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
- WingTips Lounge
Terminal 5 Lounge:
Terminal 7 Lounges:
- Alaska Lounge
- Aer Lingus Lounge
- BA Club Lounge
- American Admirals Club
- BA Lounge
- Greenwich Lounge
- Chelsea Lounge
Originally known as Idlewild, JFK Airport underwent a name change in 1943 to “Major General Alexander E. Anderson Airport” but the Idlewild name persisted until it was changed to JFK in 1963. The name “Idlewild” was associated with a real estate developer who owned resort properties in Jamaica, located in Queens Borough, adjacent to JFK airport.
On Wednesday, December 18, 1963, New York Mayor Robert Wagner signed a law that changed the name of Idlewild International Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport. A dedication ceremony took place on Tuesday, December 24, 1963 at 11:00 AM
JFK Airport, spanning over 5,200 acres (2,104 ha), stands as the largest and busiest airport in the New York City area. With five active terminals and a total of 130 gates, its magnitude is truly impressive. To put it into perspective, the airport’s vast expanse is equivalent to about 3,968 football fields. In 2022 alone, approximately 55 million passengers traversed through JFK, highlighting its pivotal role in the transportation industry.
My name is Nathan Kip and I founded this blog, Airport LLC as a way to document and engage with clients in my travel consulting business. Airportllc.com is the only source of over 2,000 fun things flyers could do during layovers.
Over the past 7 years, I have designed and planned tour packages for hundreds of clients and have recently focussed on the mission of changing boring layovers to excellent mini-vacations by giving you the best suggestions on must-do activities when flying over different airports.
Next time you or your friend are looking for suggestions on what to do in some airport, remember Airport LLC or Airportllc.com. On this site, you’ll get the best suggestions available on the internet regarding hand-picked activities that will fulfill your airport experience.
I have obtained a license to provide professional tour guidance at Airports in the US and across the world. Why should you listen to my suggestions? I have flown through more than 100 airports in the world and fortunately, I have pictures, stories, and tips to share with you regarding all the fun stuff you can do as you wait for your next flight.
Aside from gaining thousands of flying miles, I am also a travel consultant assisting clients with bookings and specifically advance tour bookings of things to do at airports when the layover is longer than 5 hours.
To make a 15-minute free things-to-do consultation with me, use my email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is only recommended for flyers with long layovers of over 5 hours. If your layover is 3+ hours, you can still reach out but we cannot guarantee the ideal package that will change your layovers to mini-vacations. I only support clients flying through US airports and a select number of cities across the world.
Name: Nahan Kip
Profession: A professional travel consultant with a focus on airport activities to do during layovers
Phone: +1 945 348 889
Location: 322 Main Packway Street, Boston, US