The big apple is just that vast so take a look at the different areas instead of going for the most obvious. Most people go straight for Midtown Manhattan which has many attractions but is too crowded for my liking. When I go on holiday I like to pretend I am local so prefer staying in the Lower East Side or Bushwick.
I think to make the most out of any trip it is important to find a place that works for your style of travel, if you like convenience then city centre might be best for you, however, if you like to go off the beaten track further away from the tourist areas might work better for you.
Airline prices vary dramatically for New York, so get Googling and on comparison websites like Sky Scanner. Once you have done your research remember to delete your history and cookies to get the best prices. Airlines often do sales on flights to popular designations like New York so if you have time before your trip it is also worthwhile signing up to airline mailing lists so you get to know about offers first.
Also, being flexible with airports can reduce the cost. JFK is the obvious choice but Newark and La Guardia also have decent transport connections into central Manhattan. Last time we flew into Newark and got the bus which only took 40 mins to get into Central Manhattan.
Last minute.com, Travel Pirates, Travel Zoo and other such companies often have deals which include flights and accommodation which can be a real bargain if you are more of a package holiday kind of person.
Before You Fly
Most people require an ESTA as part of the visa waver programme which costs $14, usually applications go through straight away but it is worth applying a few weeks before your trip just in case there are any hold ups.
If you are not from a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Programme or have visited certain countries on previous trips you may have to apply for a separate visa.
Currency is incredibly easy to buy, but America has a credit card culture therefore you don’t need to take money for the duration of your trip, I usually take enough for tipping and coffee.
Once you land
America is strict on security so you may have long queues, hostile passport control officers and even be scooped up into a separate room for further questioning. My advice would be to stay patient and be polite – US border control has no problems sending you on the next flight home.
Transport from the airport is made easier with information desks, and organised taxi ranks. If you do decide to get a cab the fare will be fixed, but you are expected to pay for any tolls and because you are now in America, to tip. Whilst you queue for any transport you will be approached by illegal taxi drivers, this may seem like a cheap and easy option but in my opinion is completely not worth the risk. On top of the options available at the airport you can also book private cars and shuttle buses before you arrive.
You will need ID with you most of the time you are in New York as it is frequently checked when making purchases and at bars.
Hotels, especially in Manhattan can be pricey and some are simply awful, same goes for hostels. New York is the only place I have walked into a hostel and walked back out due to how disgusting it was. I would say ask your friends and do proper research when it comes to accommodation but also from my experience you will only be in your room to pass out after an exhausting day of exploring the city so there is no need to go too fancy. I am a huge fan of using Airbnb in New York, it is a great way to feel like a local and get value for money (all the reasons I love using Airbnb can be found here).
I like to walk everywhere because I hate the thought of missing a single thing in my favourite city, but sometimes that is just not possible. The New York subway has a bad rep but it’s always served me well. There is often a distinct smell of urine and it’s not as frequent or fast as London underground but runs 24 hours 365 days a week and at only $2.50 a ride or $29 for a 7 day Metro Card making it a great value way to get from A-B.
When I am feeling extra lazy I hail a cab – which is not the cheapest way to get around (especially if you get stuck in that famous grid lock traffic). They accept both cash and card and also have an interactive TV screen so you can see the route, keep track of the fare or simply keep yourself entertained.
I have also used Uber which was simple to order from the app and is a set fare, except tip which is extra.
For the quickest way to find your way around the city I would recommended downloading City Mapper.
If it is your first time in New York or you will most likely be sticking to the main tourist trail a hop on hop off tourist bus pass or a City Pass might be your best value. The City Pass includes Big Bus Hop on Hop off Tours, The Empire State Building, Circle Line River Cruise, Top of the Rock, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Central Park Bicycle Rental, New York Water Taxi, 9/11 Memorial, Madame Tussauds and Discovery Times Square for a set price for the amount of days you wish to have the pass, this ranges from 1 Day $109 up to 10 Days $309.
Cycling – it’s not just Central Park that is suitable for cycling, you can also take tours of the city or rent a public bike and take one of the cycle paths which includes waterfront and 5 borough routes.
Things to do
The attractions mentioned above are just a fraction of the things to do in New York so I am going to write a separate post on my favourite sites and activities.
Have you guys been to New York? Do you have any top tips for planning a trip?