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Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

Laguna Niguel...
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Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

We are doing a circle tour of New England with our teenagers. We are flying into Manchester around noon and renting a car. We want to stay the first night in Cambridge near Harvard Square, but everyone says not to drive. Should we drive right to the hotel and leave the car there? (We know this will be expensive.) If so, how long will it take to drive from Manchester to Cambridge and then take the T to Boston? Thanks for your help.

Boston
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1. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

Presuming it's not rush hour, the drive from Manchester t Cambridge will probably take you about an hour and a half or so. Parking in Harvard Square will likely cost around $40 a night. The subway to Boston on the Red Line takes about 15 minutes. Is there a reason you want to stay in Cambridge instead of Boston?

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2. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

People often suggest not driving just because of the congestion and the cost of parking. But if it's just one night and you're coming straight from the airport with all of your luggage, my recommendation would be to just drive straight in and park at the hotel (or at one of the nearby commercial garages, if you want to save a few dollars) rather than dealing with the subway.

If you prefer to park at a subway station, rather than taking the usual route of I-93 south from Manchester airport, take US-3 South all the way to I-95 South, then take Route 2 eastbound into Cambridge. Alewife station will be on the right just as Route 2 narrows entering Cambridge -- you can't miss it. Overnight parking is $8 and it is 3 stops away from Harvard Square (10-min. ride, $2). It would probably make sense to drop off the family & luggage at the hotel first, then run the car up to the garage rather than make everyone schlep their stuff.

Also, if you are not familiar with the area, it can be tricky to work your way over to Harvard Square from either I-93 or Route 2 -- so ask one of your teenagers to punch up a navigation "app" on their phone.

Laguna Niguel...
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3. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

The reason we wanted to stay in Cambridge was that I thought it would have more of a teen vibe than staying in Boston for walking around in the evening and breakfast.

Laguna Niguel...
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4. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

Thanks for your help so far. We have a new plan. We are now flying into Boston because the flight ended up being cheaper than Manchester, although the rental cars cost more. What about this? Take public transit from the airport to Cambridge, drop the luggage at the hotel, then take the T to Boston for the afternoon and evening. The next morning rent the car at Hertz in Harvard Square. That way we don't have the car to worry about and we qualify for weekly rental rates. We'd return the car to the airport, but the price quote didn't seem to be affected.

Boston
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5. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

You certainly can take the "T" to Cambridge and then back and forth to Boston. Just make sure the hotel you select in Cambridge is reasonably near a subway station (some areas aren't).

You will want to pospone having the auto rental for as long as possible, since parking in Cambridge will cost you around $40 a night.

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6. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

Harvard square is certainly fun for teens in the evening but you get there very easily via subway from Boston. I wouldn't go nuts trying to find hotel in Cambridge.

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7. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

It sounds like a good plan to me. I've done the same thing in other cities - rent the car at a downtown location and then return at the airport, with little or no additional fee.

Taking the T from the airport to Cambridge is relatively painless if you don't have too much luggage. If you're staying in Harvard Square - which is what I'd recommend if you want that youthful vibe you described, though keep in mind that things are a little different with the universities out of session - you'd take the Silver Line bus from your airport terminal to South Station, then the Red Line train. It's 45-60 minutes door to door. There are ticket vending machines inside most of the airport terminals, though if necessary you can also pay cash on the bus (and endure the glares of impatient fellow passengers).

As AlanM notes, there are plenty of hotels in Cambridge that are much further afield and not convenient for using the T, so be sure to do your homework on location. And keep in mind that Cambridge, while definitely its own distinct city, is really quite close to Boston -- so if you can get a good rate at a downtown hotel like the Omni Parker House or Nine Zero, you'll still have something of a college feel (Emerson, Suffolk, etc. are all nearby), and will be near the Freedom Trail sites, yet you can zip over to Harvard Square or MIT in 20 minutes.

Boston
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8. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

Good advice given above. How long are you planning on staying right here in the city? Are you just around for a night and then heading out?

Boston
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9. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

If you don't mind paying for parking I wouldn't hesitate to drive to Harvard Square. It is not really that bad traffic/congestion-wise. But, you don't really have to stay in Cambridge. There are plenty of things for the kids to do downtown and you will be more centrally located for tourist sites, etc. and have a much bigger seletion of restaurants to choose from. After a few times around Harvard Square the kids will probably be looking for something else to do.

Laguna Niguel...
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10. Re: Manchester-Cambridge-Boston and a Rental Car

Thanks for the great advice everyone. We were planning to stay only one night, spending the afternoon and evening in Boston doing a Duck tour to get an overview, then dinner and dessert on the north end, and back to Cambridge. Our second day we were planning to drive to Plimouth Plantation, then a little ways onto Cape Cod, then back to the Boston area before heading north to Salem and Maine the next day. My teens have traveled quite a bit and are not history buffs, so "been there, done that" is probably enough for them. We have another chance at the end of our driving tour to spend more time in Boston if we see something we want to do. When we get back from the Cape, I was wondering whether we should stay in Cambridge a second night (or Boston) or maybe head toward Lexington and Concord so we avoid rush hour traffic in the morning?.