Happy Sunday friends! I hope you are enjoying your weekend. I’ve spent this cold rainy Sunday working on some blog posts about a recent trip we took. If you follow me on social media, then you probably know we went to NYC in December. Travel posts take me a bit to write because there is SO much detail that goes into them, editing photos, etc. so I’m sorry for the delay. I always want to make sure I include as much detail as possible for you guys! Anyway, I was originally planning to share a trip recap and NYC travel tips all in one post, but it got to be way too long so I decided to split them up into two posts. My recap post should be up soon though – I will link it in this post when it is! For now, I’m sharing my top travel tips if you are planning your own trip to The Big Apple. These are all things I wish I had known in advance that would have probably made our trip go a little smoother. We had a blast, but I am definitely chalking my first trip to NYC up as a learning experience lol. However, I am grateful for the experience and the things I learned that will help make for an even better trip next time!
Bring comfortable walking shoes. This seems like common sense, but I can’t stress this one enough. NYC is a very walkable city and you can expect to do a lot of it (unless you’re Ubering or taking some sort of public transportation everywhere). We easily walked miles upon miles every day. I didn’t mind it all really. Even though it was December, you’re almost always surrounded by people and there’s so much going on around you so it didn’t feel that cold (except the last day of our trip was brutal). I only wore two pairs of boots throughout our trip which for the most part were pretty comfortable, but towards the end of our trip, it was getting to the point where my feet were hurting so bad I could hardly walk. So I would really suggest packing comfortable walking shoes and if you have to wear heels or something that isn’t too easy to walk in, bring a more comfortable pair you can easily toss in a bag and switch into.
Utilize public transportation. At first I was a little intimidated to take the subway, but it quickly became my preferred method of transportation. It can be a bit confusing at first, but once you get going, it’s fairly easy to understand. You can also use the maps feature on your phone and it will tell you where to get on and off so that helps tremendously. It can get pretty crowded at peak times, but I never felt unsafe and it was actually kind of fun. It was also much cheaper than Uber/Lyft ($3 a ride). I also really recommend getting a metro card which you can use numerous times rather than having to swipe your bank card every single time you take the subway.
Be prepared to spend a lot of money. If you’re visiting the city, this is something you pretty much just have to come to terms with. We were there for 5 days and around day 2, it became pretty obvious that this wasn’t going to be a cheap trip so we just sucked it up and enjoyed our time there anyway. I’m a firm believer that you can make the money back, but you can’t get the time and experiences back so get them while you can. However, if you can save up a decent amount ahead of your trip, definitely do so!
There are certainly ways to come here on a budget and had I had more time to plan, we probably could have saved quite a bit. I definitely recommend using Groupon and/or Living Social. You can get some really great deals on both of those sites on a number of things – hotels, attractions, places to eat, etc. For example, I got tickets to a museum for $4 a piece on Groupon that would have regularly cost me over $20 each. I know it’s not a lot, but trust me, every little bit helps if you’re traveling here.
Hotels in the city are pretty expensive, but using Priceline’s Express Deals option can help you cut down on hotel costs. I’ve always had a pretty good experience with them. I also think NYC is more about all there is to experience rather than where you are staying (with some exceptions like cleanliness and safety) so opting for a small hotel room at a cheaper price will help you save some $$ too (Pod Hotels and Yotel are several good options).
Plan certain activities weeks or even months in advance. NYC is an awesome place to do out of the ordinary things such as go to a show taping like Jimmy Fallon or Good Morning America, but you most likely won’t get in if you wait until the last minute to get tickets. They usually post their taping schedule a month or more in advance and if you don’t sign up for tickets right away, you end up on the waitlist and may or may not get to go. I tried for days to get tickets to Jimmy Fallon, but it was just too late which I was pretty bummed about. Since this is such a busy, touristy city, I would make a list of all of the things you want to do beforehand and then make plans, get tickets, etc. as soon as possible so you don’t run into the same problem.
We had the same issue with going on a Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour I had been eyeing. I thought it was just something I could show up and get to go to the day of, but boy was I wrong. I called the day we were planning to go and they were booked up a month out. We were able to go through a different tour company last minute, but I had read you should be cautious about who you are purchasing tickets from as they can sometimes be scams. Fortunately, the one we went with (Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises) turned out to be legit and was pretty good, but we didn’t know about their cut off times for the day so we only had time to do the boat tour rather than being able to stop off at each location. You’ll even need reservations in advance at many restaurants – basically just plan everything in advance!
Opt for a direct flight if possible. No matter which airport you’re flying into or out of, I highly recommend getting a direct flight to and from if possible. I’ll probably talk more about it in my recap post, but in a nutshell, we had a connecting flight coming home that we missed due to flight delays. It was such a headache trying to figure out our flight situation after that. I can’t say for sure obviously, but I feel like it would have been much less stressful or avoided altogether had we just had a direct flight.
Plan your daily itinerary around specific areas of the city. While NYC is pretty easy to navigate and quick to get around if you use the subway (or even Uber/Lyft/taxi) save yourself time and money by planning each day of your trip around the things you want to do in one area so you’re not all over the place. My suggestion to you would be to make a list of all of the things you want to do and see while visiting. From there, download the app Pinbox (it’s $4, but worth every penny). This app allows you to drop a pin on a map at every location you want to go to so you can get an idea of where everything is and plan your daily itinerary accordingly. I wish I would have had this app downloaded prior to our trip (would have made things so much easier), but I will definitely be using it for all future travel!
Protect your valuables. I can’t think of a time that I ever felt unsafe during our trip. However, I have heard pick-pocketing is definitely a common problem there so just always be cautious of your surroundings. I would also recommend wearing a crossbody purse and avoid wearing a backpack or keeping valuable items in your pockets that would be more accessible to thieves. There’s so much going on at any given time that it would not be difficult for someone to steal something from you when you’re not paying attention.
Canal Street. I’m not suggesting you buy a knock off handbag. All I’m saying is if you’re looking for a pretty legit dupe for a designer bag, then head on over to Canal Street in Chinatown and you can find one for a fraction of the cost of a real one. As soon as you head above ground from the subway, there are women on practically every street corner waving pamphlets in your face full of designer dupe bags. You pick which one you want (ALWAYS negotiate the price down), they make a call and shuffle you into a shop while you wait and within minutes, they’ll bring you your new bag that looks almost identical to the real deal. (Sounds a little sketchy, but really it’s not lol.)
If you need help or recommendations, just ask. Navigating such a big city when that’s not something you’re used to is hard. We asked a number of people for suggestions on places to go and also help with things like which train to take or just general directions. Every single person we encountered was super nice and more than willing to share advice, directions, recommendations, whatever we asked. Also, don’t be afraid to start conversations with people! We had so much fun meeting people from all over throughout our trip.
I hope you found this helpful! If I think of any more tips, I will definitely add them. Also, if you have been to NYC and have any tips that you think other people may find useful, please leave them in the comments so other people can benefit from them as well. I can’t wait to share my trip recap with you soon!
Have a great week!
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