Sunday, 10 February 2019

Travel Guide: New York in 5 nights

Hi Everyone,

I returned from 5 nights in New York last week which was such a great trip. I highly recommend a visit if you have never been and completely doable even if you're on a budget. It was my third visit, however, my first as a holiday as I luckily lived there for a period of time the other two visits.


How did we book/ Cost:

We booked with Abbey Travel last March with the lovely Jennifer in the Killarney branch. I usually book holidays myself separately but for such a long time away I decided the security of a travel agent was more suited. It was much easier for us as we were able to pay it off weekly or whenever we needed which was so much handier and affordable.

Because we were booking for January, we got a great deal as it is 'slightly' quieter after the Christmas period. The weather can also be unpredictable at this time of year so it is a bit of a risk but thankfully we were lucky. 

We got flights with Aer Lingus, flying from Shannon to JFK at a convenient time for 5 nights in a 4-star hotel for €1,350 plus €120 for Travel insurance for both of us bringing the total to €1,470. I'm sure you could get an even lower price if you flew with the likes of Norwegian airlines etc and maybe an Air B&B, but for what we were looking for, this suited us perfectly.

Accommodation:

We stayed in the Edison Hotel which was located just off Times Square, the Theatre district. I would of loved to have stayed in the West/East Village or Soho as I adore those areas but the prices were much more expensive in the Travel Agents. The Arlo Soho was recommended to me by a friend which looks beautiful and The Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was also on my wishlist. 
In saying that, for Gary's first time in New York - our location was perfect for everything that we wanted to do and see. 
Prior to our arrival, I emailed the Edison requesting a renovated room and in hopes of a good city view that the trip was for my partner's birthday. They took our request into consideration and upon arrival into our room, they had upgraded us to the 20th floor and with a more modern room. There was also some sweet goodies with their signature Edison teddy waiting on the bed with a note saying, Happy Birthday which I thought was a lovely, personal touch.
The room size, as to be expected in New York wasn't huge but for the amount of time I knew we would be spending in there, it was grand! It was clean and tidy, warm with a view of the skyscrapers and the staff at reception were always helpful and friendly. Just a note to add, expect to pay resort fees per night on many hotels throughout the city. When we left it was around $53. 



Transport around NY/from Airport:

Our main mode of transport was the subway! Such a fantastic system, I wish we had one in Ireland. Could you imagine! 

For leaving the airport, We had decided that we would get the Airtrain from JFK rather than a cab. It took roughly the same time and a hell of a lot cheaper for the 2 of us. We each had a large suitcase and found it really easy, I would do it again and even on my own it wouldn't bother me. So we got the Airtrain from the Terminal, we just followed the signs and ask someone if you're any way unsure. We didn't buy a ticket until after we left the train so don't worry. 
We got off at Jamaica and went over to the ticket machine. You purchase one MetroCard and top it up by $10 as the cost of the trip individually is $5 each, a new empty MetroCard is $1 so as far as Jamaica it is $11 for 2 people. 
Now for the next part, to get us into Manhattan - we were staying near 42nd street so Port Authority 42nd St was our stop. We purchased 2 unlimited 7-day Metrocard's priced at $33 each which was the best money we spent throughout our trip as we used it numerous times. If you don't want to buy an unlimited metro card then the cost is $2.75 per trip, per person so you would need to top up the MetroCard that you used for the AirTrain.  All in all, the unlimited card is far cheaper also than London's Oyster cards! There is also free wifi available in all Subway stations which is handy as the roaming charges are far too dear. Obviously, when the train moves, the connection cuts out. I would actually consider getting an American Sim for next time so I could have internet access when walking around to find your way easier.

If you want to get a Yellow Cab from the airport instead then the cost is set at $56, including tip around $70. There are also options to hire a limo if you had a large crew with you or there are airport transfers if you research.



TOP TIP:
A phone app that I highly recommend you get if travelling there which is free is 'Ulmon, City Maps to go'. I recommend that you download the free map before you leave for New York City and put in all of the areas that you wish to visit. It has a map of the city and also the subway map which was a lifesaver because there are Uptown and Downtown destinations which unless you have been there before and know your way around, you won't have a clue. When you get in the train, many are old so they don't have the stops listed so it can be a little confusing hence this app being a necessity! 


Places we visited:

  • Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, upon entering Manhattan you are at the Financial District.
  • Dumbo, Brooklyn. ( Photo with the bridge in the background)
  • Wall Street Area ( Charging Bull, Fearless Girl Statue)
  • Central Park 
  • Flatiron Building
  • Intrepid Museum (Air, Space Nasa. $33 each per adult)
  • Williamsburg, Brooklyn. ( I previously lived here with a family friend who still lives there & I still love the area. It has since changed dramatically with many upmarket stores and continues to be one of the most expensive places to live in NY. )
  • Staten Island Ferry ( To see the Statue of liberty and the city from the water, it's also free)
  • 9/11 Memorial (free to visit, you don't have to queue. You pay for the museum)
  • Street Art Murals around Chinatown.
  • Jersey Gardens (It's an Outlet, $14 return on the bus from Port Authority. Found it great for kids clothes, Sports clothing, some designer and brands. Century21, Vans etc. It's also Tax-Free!)
Brooklyn Bridge

Flatiron Building

Wall Mural in Chinatown

View from the Staten Island Ferry

Central Park


Top places I also Recommend :
  • Top of the Rock
  • Walk over the High line located through Chelsea and Meatpacking district.
  • Chelsea Market
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral ( Beautiful Gothic church. It was also where Carrie & Big almost married in, SATC)
  • The Met Museum ( a Gossip Girl fan must, the steps!)
  • MOMA Museum
  • Explore the West Village, one of my favourite areas to wander.
  • Walk over the Williamsburg Bridge, upon exit you are near Chinatown.
  • Hang out in Washington Square Park.
  • Go to a game in Madison Square Gardens, whether it's Ice Hockey or Basketball - the atmosphere can be incredible!
  • Next time we plan on exploring some of the Bronx & Queens for food spots.
  • Harlem Gospel Choir ( I will do this at some stage, it just sounds wonderful!:)

Food/Places to eat:

  • The Ear Inn - one of the oldest bars in New York. Located on Spring Street, around the corner from Soho & Greenwich Village. I worked here when I lived in New York & it has the best group of people still working there. You also never know if you'll bump into someone famous. I have seen Danny Devito (Matilda etc), Keri Russell (Felicity), Jason Biggs & Eddie Kaye Thomas (American Pie) , Dean Winters (Oz), Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters). Kirsten Dunst lives nearby too and still goes there but I have yet to meet her. Anyways, the Burgers are great - so is the chilli, a cup is enough to start.  Try the Dumplings, check out the Specials and Brunch is good too at the weekends! If you're feeling creative, you can create a masterpiece on the paper tablecloths with the crayons provided and feel free to take your Picasso home!




  • Lucali's - Honestly one of the food highlights from our trip! Gary is a foodie, as am I - so after watching Lucali featured on an episode of 'Ugly Delicious' on Netflix, it was on our list. It's located in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn where I lived for a period of time after Williamsburg.                                                                                                        They open at 5.45 everyday bar Tuesday when they are closed but if you want a table, expect to arrive well before 5! After a failed first attempt visit on a Saturday, sooo busy - we returned on a Monday at 4pm.  No, I'm not kidding and yes maybe we are slightly nuts but seriously it was worth the wait. After waiting outside until around 5.15, we were third in line and not just the only 2 lunatics waiting (in the cold lol) we were delighted to be told to come back for a table when they opened at 5.45! You can bring your own alcohol, beer or wine which was great.                                                                   The menu is kept very simple, not many toppings and they just serve Pizza and Calzone. Don't be expecting side orders like fries etc as what's on the menu is literally it and it is perfect! We ordered a pizza which had mozzarella and fresh basil, we didn't want extra toppings and I ordered extra sauce which is generally for the calzone but I just dipped every slice of pizza in there - it was sooo good! They roll the pizza dough with a wine bottle and it was the best pizza I ever tasted. Even better with my extremely sensitive stomach, it didn't bloat me one bit! Staff were lovely, you have 1-hour slot and we were probably finished before anyone in there after about half an hour. We were thrilled to have gotten a table. Oh, it's also a place where Jay Z visits and Beyonce has been known to attend with him. Our Bill for the pizza we shared, extra sauce, tip and tax was around $47. We brought our own drink. Cash only.
    


  • Momofuku - Another food highlight - This is one of David Chang's restaurants ( one of the creators of Ugly Delicious & world-renowned chef). There is a chain of Momofuku restaurants in New York, across the States, Toronto & Sydney. We went to the Noodle Bar in Columbus Circle as that was the closest to us and it was amazing! Be sure to check the menu before arriving as they differ depending on if it's the noodle bar, Ko or Ssam Bar and the prices also differ. To eat we got 2 portions of the Steamed Buns with Seared Shrimp served with Ssam sauce. Honestly the tastiest starter ever! We each got a Ramen of our choice for our mains and that was us stuffed! Our bill including 4 drinks, 2 starters, 2 mains, tax and tip I think we spent around $120 and it was worth every dolla! Service was fantastic too.

      


  • Joe's Shanghai - We decided on visiting here, very last minute on a Sunday afternoon when we were arriving in Chinatown. I googled places to eat and this was one of many others, with great reviews and highly recommended. We waited for around 15 mins for a table and once we were in, it is a really busy fast paced restaurant. We ordered 2 sets of Dumplings, 2 scallion pancakes and Gary ordered a main. We laughed when we saw the food coming out as the portions were large. I wasn't starving so thankfully I just stuck with the starters and I couldn't even finish what I ordered. The soup Dumplings had 8 in a steamer and we discovered that another 8 were waiting underneath hence the size of the portions, one was easy enough to share. Gary had to take his main away in a doggy bag plus a couple of dumplings. I thought the food was reasonably priced, really tasty and with 2 drinks plus all of the above I think our bill including tip and tax was around $55/60. Cash only. 



  • Food Carts - Yes, believe it or not - the food carts are really tasty and great for lunch on the go. Each food cart has a rating on the side, make sure it says A & you are good to go! We got a  delicious takeaway from one near Time Square, I got falafel over rice with salad and some garlic and hot sauce over it for $8! Gary also got a sausage in a roll and that was also really good. We brought it back to our hotel room to chill for a bit and it was absolutely unreal! There is a selection of other choices to suit many tastes and they even do breakfast bagels/coffee etc in the mornings too which I haven't tried but I'm sure they are good too.
Might not look very appetising but trust me, it was!

There are so many other wonderful places to eat, you are spoilt for choice in New York. Some others that I've either went to in the past or would love to go are the following. 


Spending Money/Savings:

New York is expensive but you can really customise how cheap or expensive you want the holiday to be. As I previously mentioned, if you are on a budget it is totally doable. I saved for a full year in a savings tin. You will see from the below photo that the first of January you save €1, the following week €2 and so on until the final week it's €52. Anyways, the idea is that you get into a habit of saving - no matter what the amount that you can afford is and the tin is hidden away, forgotten about against your weekly bills as you need a can opener to take the money out and know how much you have saved. We had around $1600 going and we budgeted around $100 per day for food and whatever else was taken off the rest like excursions, what we bought, tips, drinks etc. Some days we may have gone over the $100 and some days we were under. The fact that we booked so far ahead and saved for so long made it much easier on us as we didn't notice the money going and before we knew it, January was here.  Just wanted to let you know that if New York is a dream of yours but you feel that it may be out of your budget, it is possible to make it work for you. Life is short after all.





Shopping:

This wasn't a shopping holiday and I'd much rather a vintage shop in New York than browse the stores. However, I did pop into Century21 on Cortlandt Street. It's still the same as I remembered, I bought a beautiful Diane Von Furstenberg Down feather coat, in their Jersey Garden store for 70% off. It's a stunning forest green shade and that was all I bought plus one MAC lipstick in my usual Blankety shade. Tax is added onto every clothing item over $100 (except Jersey Gardens), tax is added onto anything Beauty then too whatever the price which is annoying when you go up to the counter. For instance, my lipstick was $18.50, went up to the counter it was $20.14. I didn't find it all that cheaper there, to be honest, but I wasn't expecting to either. If you're into your unique style trainers like Gary, he got two class looking Air Jordans over there as the selection is far better but the prices are pretty much similar. The selection of children's shoes was also brilliant and completely different to back home which I love.


Take note upon arriving/leaving:

  • Don't forget to do your Esta visas well in advance to leaving. You need one each to enter the country. Make sure you follow the correct site as it is only $14 each, there are many sites that charge you up to $100 each which is wrong as they are charging you to do it for you. It's easy to do yourself.
  • Depending on the time of year - pack comfortable shoes, possibly thermals, warm clothes, pack away raincoat, warm gloves & sunglasses for sun glare. If it's the summer you will need insect repellent which you buy over there, mosquito's love me when I have been there in warmer weather and also bring breathable clothing like cottons, linens etc if it's summer.
  • Check out the facebook group, NYC the place to be. Such an informative group of people on that and many people are waiting to travel there, just like you or they have just returned. So, it's full of great recommendations and advice.
  • If you plan on doing lots of excursions, check out the New York City pass to save money.
  • Pack a backpack if going exploring, I brought my usual leather one I wear daily and it was extremely light and handy. Not heavy at all and fits a lot. Bought mine in Tkmaxx.
  • You will need a credit card to avoid charges and exchange rates. I brought a prepaid Post Office card and it was fantastic. I also had a Revolut one just in case but I never needed it. You can also check your transactions which appear almost immediately online and it's a handy way to know your spending over there. Next time I will use my Revolut card as the app looks much better but in saying that, the Post office card was perfect for us over there.
  • Bring a portable phone charger. If like me, I used my phone for everything - subway map, google maps, camera etc. The battery will go fairly fast. I did find some charger areas on the streets too funnily enough so maybe bring a charger lead if you prefer.
  • When flying, do not forget to pack in your hand luggage the following - a phone charger, headphones as the airlines are usually bad, maybe have the option of a few downloaded shows on netflix on your phone as I didn't find the selection great on board. Some face mist to hydrate your face, refreshing wipes and face cream. Drink plenty of water. I also brought a travel headrest pillow which was great to take a snooze in.
  • Do not leave any last minute shopping at JFK airport, I think it's the worst airport for shopping I have ever experienced. It's very expensive for shopping, eating or drinking! Not a great selection of anything and certainly no bargains to be got in duty-free which is non existent. 
  • Last but not least, enjoy it all if you are going. New York is my favourite city, I found the people there really friendly, Fine you may get the odd few bad eggs but nothing more than you would find anywhere. It really is a fantastic city!


I bet I'm forgetting to mention a few bits but hopefully not, I hope you have enjoyed this guide. There's a guide to suit every person going as everyone has different tastes, make your own and research well.

Thanks for reading,

Aifric x






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