As mentioned in my earlier post, I spent a week in New York last month. It was an awesome experience and I loved every minute, despite some rather crappy weather.I figured it might be useful for some people to pass on some travel tips or advice as I had some good input from a few good people.
I booked my flights and hotels individually as I couldn’t find any decent package deals that suited our length of stay and travel dates. It seemed to be cheapest for us to travel on a Saturday evening, and we stayed for 5 nights.**
Flights: I booked them online direct through American Airlines’ website. It was easy enough to do. You are given a choice of seats in coach, and using SeatGuru.com, I chose the apparent best seats available. We sat near the back, in the first row of 4 seats in the middle. It means your screen and table are in the seat arm rest, which is kinda nice, although my iPhone headphones didn’t work with the headphone socket. Meals were average, expected for coach travel, so you may want to bring something yourself.
Hotels: I booked mine on Expedia.co.uk, getting Nectar points in the process. We stayed at the new Holiday Inn in Long Island, on 29th St. Its about a 10 minute subway trip into Manhattan, only a few minutes walk from 39th Avenue stop on the N/W lines.
Getting Around: We opted for the $25 week-long travel card when we arrived, and certainly got our use out of it. The subways are clean, and were surprisingly pleasant. Carriages seemed more spacious than the London Underground, and people were all kind. We only took a taxi ride once, mainly to avoid getting drenched by rain late at night. I think the cost was fairly reasonable considering we drove from the East Village, over to Queens/Long Island. We also did a fair amount of walking around the city, rather than getting the subway a few blocks. It wasn’t too bad at all. Once you work out which direction the roads go, navigating gets easier. Best to remember avenues run north to south, and streets run east to west.
Airport Travel: We drive to Heathrow, parked at a nearby airport parking place, for £53 for the whole trip. They provided a coach to your terminal, and picked you up when you get back. We flew to JFK, and from there, once through border control (having an photo and thumbprint taken) we rode the Airtrain ($5) to Jamaica Central where we caught the “E” to Queens Plaza. This dropped us on 35th Av/29th Street so it was a few blocks walk to the hotel from there. We did the same going back, although when we go again, we’ll probably get a taxi to the airport as we were supporting a few extra bags, and pretty worn out.
Attractions: We went to the Empire State Building (nice views, long queues, as in 5 before you even got upstairs), Museum of Modern Art (bit of a disappointment for us) , American Museum of Natural History (nothing like Night at the Museum but still very good), walked through Central Park, took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty (free), walked down 5th Avenue and did some shopping, went to Times Square, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, 2 of the 3 Crumpler shops, went to the financial district and saw the site of the Two Towers, and probably some other stuff I forget. Overall, most stuff was good. The ESB was $20 per person, and offered audio tours. We didn’t bother as we just wanted to see the city. The MoMA was too modern and irreverant for my tastes, although the photography section was good. Central Park was gorgeous. It was totally safe, really nice, and we stopped for a drink and snack by one of the lakes.
Meals: We ate breakfast at the hotel about 4 times, which cost about $30 a day for the two of us. Not particularly cheap but it was good food. We had a lot of quick foods for lunch, ate at the Candle 79 vegan restaurant one night. They were really pleasent and very accomodating to us, and other patrons. Not a bad word to say about them.
- Plan your journey from the airport to your hotel. Find the local subways stations, and if its more than a few blocks, get a taxi. We wasted 20 mins going in the wrong direction before finding the right road to get to our hotel
- Buy a travel card. It will save you money.
- Don’t believe all New Yorkers are rude and in a hurry. Everyone we met was kind and friendly, and really helpful to everyone. Someone stopped in the street to ask if we were lost. Lovely people.
- Get a Travel Money Card from the Post Office. Its easier and quicker than Travellers Cheques. And take some cash with you. You’ll need it for the Airtrain/Subway.
- Get a decent map.
- Plan where the things you wanna see are, and plan days around particular areas. We spent a lot of time going from one part of the city to another.
- Don’t forget the prices you see are EXCLUDING sales tax. This is about 8% so you need to take that into account.
- Tips. Tipping is fairly generous so read online or in a proper guide to learn the right tipping etiquite.
- Plan at least 5 nights. Since we arrived so late, we pretty much had 4 and a half days for a 5 night stay.
- Have fun. Don’t try to carry too much. Drink plenty.
So thats about it. Let me know if you have any other questions. But you will love it, and like us, probably want to go back really soon!