@abeautifulunion: the MTA website time would be you getting to the station exactly as the train arrives, getting on and absolutely no delays. In reality I usually found adding 10 minutes for delays at the different stops as passengers load and unload was closer to reality. Also because of that you may have to wait for the train in Jamaica for a few minutes.
Travel tip wise I would say
1) allow an extra 30plus minutes between each part of your trip (JFK to Jamaica, Jamaica to Port Authority etc) Its really common for public transportation to be running late, so if you make all your plans around running exactly on time you’re probably going to run into problems.
2) Carry all your ID, bank cards etc in a travel wallet that hangs inside your clothes. Keep a small amount of cash in your purse for subway tickets, snacks etc. This way if your purse is lost or stolen, you still have the essentials.
3)Be realistic about luggage. I’ve made the trip from Jamaica to Port Authority and onto a bus many times, and even with the minimal walking in between trains and buses, bags get heavy quickly. You also tend to run into a lot of stairs and crowded areas, where a smaller lighter bag is sooooo much easier. On the bus I prefer a small bag I can put under the seat or in the overhead bin then a large one I have to put under the bus. Its to easy for someone else to grab it at a stop if you aren’t paying attention when its under the bus. Also on the subway there will be no “luggage” area- so you’ll have to hang onto your bag as you travel.
4) Pack a few snacks/sodas. Its much cheaper then buying food at any of the public transportation places, and you probably don’t want to venture to far away from them to avoid getting lost/being late.
5)Headphones are a must for bus rides- You can put them on even if you aren’t actually listening to anything to avoid conversation with random strangers. (I’ve had the worst luck on bus trips out of Port Authority with getting stuck sitting next to someone who talks to themself, or was obviously drunk etc)
6) Make yourself a cheat sheet, with all your directions, reservations, tickets and phone numbers if you need help.
7) Enjoy your trip- I traveled in that area a lot as an 18/19 year old college student and with a little preparation its very doable.