Planning a trip to the Big Apple can seem overwhelming. While choice is a great thing, the options can be endless and it’s hard to know where to start. In this article I’ll cover how to make the most of your holiday budget when it comes to when to go, booking your flights and choosing accommodation.
Top preparation tips to ensure the perfect trip
Check the weather before you pack; New York falls victim to extreme temperatures, so spring and autumn are usually the best times to visit for a more comfortable stay. I learned this the hard way arriving into New York during one of their biggest snowstorms in history. The city is well prepared though, so if you are too then it won’t be a massive issue. Snow boots are a must in winter months, sidewalks can be slippery, and you’ll need something waterproof. I recommend layering up rather than just choosing a heavy coat/jumper as you’ll quickly overheat inside busy shops, museums etc. The city can be stifling in the summer, so loose natural fabrics are your best bet. Comfort is key, New Yorkers are known for their fashionable practicality. Pack comfortable shoes, sunscreen and sunglasses for all seasons.
January - March are the cheapest months to fly to NYC according to Skyscanner. If, like me, you’re conscious of CO2 emissions, keep an eye out for information about the greenest route based on aircraft and other factors. Direct routes are always the best option when it comes to total trip duration, emissions and ease. I’d always recommended flying direct where possible, on my last trip a friend chose to connect in London as it was cheaper, but due to a delay she missed her connecting flight. Not worth the saving in my opinion. I’d only fly via Iceland or Portugal if I wanted to explore a city in those destinations, otherwise direct is best.
Make sure you have the correct visa before you fly. Irish citizens can apply using the ESTA online system to travel to the USA for 90 days or less without a visa. Only use the official government website, as some scams via third party sites have been reported. The cost is $14 and your ESTA will be valid for two years.
Flight options between Ireland and NY can be confusing, so let’s start there. Multiple airlines fly between cities in New York and Ireland, but before making a decision based on price, check out my guide below.
- John F. Kennedy (JFK - Aer Lingus from Shannon/Dublin and Delta Air Lines from DUB) is the biggest NY airport and is located in Queens. A taxi to Times Square will take 30-60 minutes and cost a set fare of $52, or there’s a connection to the NY Subway. JFK is busy and, in the past, I’ve waited a long time for baggage, smaller airports can be faster to travel through.
- Newark Liberty International (EWR - United Airlines from Shannon/Dublin and Aer Lingus from DUB) in New Jersey is 45-60 minutes from Times Square in a cab, costing around $70+. There’s an Airport Express bus which takes about the same time and costs $17 for an adult single. I’d usually only choose the bus if I’m alone.
- New York Stewart International (SWF - Norwegian Air from DUB) is at least a 90-minute drive to Times Square. Coach USA have buses timed to meet landing Norwegian flights, the journey takes around 1hr 20 minutes and costs $20 for an adult single. While it’s further away, the airport is very fast to pass through, so keep that in mind.
New York City Accommodation
If it’s your first time visiting the city, you’ll probably want to take advantage of the convenience and amenities a hotel has to offer (24/7 concierge, security, a good location for sightseeing). It’ll put your mind at ease to know there’s always someone there you can ask for advice, or somewhere safe to leave your belongings. Usually big hotels will be situated in the very touristy areas, for example if Broadway shows are your thing it’ll make sense to stay around Times Square. Here there’s little or no residential housing, so hotels will be your only option. Fashionable neighbourhoods like Tribeca, Nolita and Soho are best for celeb-spotting, cool bars and restaurants, but hip boutique hotels will come with a matching price tag. In Midtown; Chelsea and the Meatpacking District have some reasonably priced rooms in sharing accommodation on Airbnb. You’ll be near the Highline and in the centre of the best nightlife. However it’s probably not the best spot to bring kids. For solo travelers, a room in a shared Airbnb might work out cheaper, similarly for big groups where you can book an entire home. You’ll also be able to use kitchen facilities saving on pricey New York breakfasts (remember tax and gratuities are added to your ‘check’). Check-in times and minimum stays will be less flexible than in a hotel, but you could meet a local and get some insider info on the city.
Transport in the city
Grab a MetroCard for unlimited Subway rides for $33 for a full 7 days, you can also use it on buses. The famous yellow cabs are easy to hail, and drivers are required to accept card payments. To keep safe on the Subway, have your MetroCard ready so you’re not rooting around your purse, always choose a busy carriage rather than an empty one and keep an eye on your stuff. Uber is also a handy option when you want to see a fare estimate in advance. Sometimes they can work out cheaper than regular taxis, but Uber uses surge pricing (higher fares during peak times) and when traffic is bad (common in NYC), there might not be much of a difference in the two options. Lyft is another ride-hailing app, however in a recent New York Times article, Uber came out as the front runner between the two. Both have shared ride features (sharing with strangers), but Uber allows you to split the fare with friends, the rates are roughly the same on both apps. The best way to see the city is on foot though. Get your bearings by walking Manhattan’s streets and avenues. Use the maps.me app to download the entire area so you can view it offline as you explore and make sure you’re wearing comfortable walking shoes. The Citymapper app is another useful resource to help you map your journey.
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