A guide to planning your first trip to New York City!

23rd January 2018

Planning a trip to New York

Back in October Adam and I booked a dream trip to New York City. We originally looked to book for later this year around September time but the deal we found was too good to ignore. Despite only having four months to save and plan, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it. It can be daunting to think if you have planned your trip well enough and saved enough money to enjoy yourself without restriction so today I’m sharing my advice and tips for planning your first trip to New York, along with some money saving tips to help you before you hit the big apple.

Booking a holiday to New York

We found that the cheapest time to visit New York is between January and March, with February being particularly cheap! This is because of the cold weather and potential disruption to flights, however this didn’t put us off as we’re looking forward to ice skating in Central Park and we’re hoping for snow, all without the major expense, hustle and bustle that comes with the run up to Christmas.

For security and peace of mind, we chose to book a package deal as opposed to booking our flights and hotel separately. It seemed to be just as cheap and we have the reassurance of airport transfers too. We booked our holiday through Love Holidays after finding a great deal on Holiday Pirates for 7 nights at The Gallivant hotel in Times Square with direct flights from Manchester to JFK with Thomas Cook. Don’t forget to apply for your ESTA at least a few weeks before you travel, you will need a valid ESTA as this will be your pass to get into the USA.

Before booking your holiday, remember to ask your travel advisor or read the small print to see if the city tax, resort fees and incidentals are included in your price or if you will have to pay them upon arrival as this can add a few hundred dollars onto the overall price. I emailed our hotel to ask and our fees are included, we just need to pay $25 per night for incidentals which will be refunded to us upon checkout.

Planning your holiday to New York

I’m not the type to plan a holiday and go mad with a strict itinerary as I like to go with the flow and see what I discover on my own. That being said, I feel that when visiting New York you need to have a rough idea of what you want to see and do to ensure you don’t miss out on anything – it’s not often you get to go to New York!

Adam’s accountant told us to join a Facebook group called ‘NYC the place to be following her recent trip. This group has been a godsend since we booked our holiday in October. With almost 40,000 members, there’s so many people sharing their experiences, quirky finds, deals and advice which helps you massively and gets you really excited for your trip. Despite not visiting NYC before, I already feel like I have a good idea of the area now and what attractions are close together.

New York itinerary using Google Maps

Another tip Adam’s accountant gave us was to use Google Maps to create a rough itinerary. She shared hers with us which we were able to copy and edit. You simply search the attractions and restaurants you want to visit and it pins them to the map for you so you get an idea of where things are so you can group them together into days. You can also add symbols and notes to add more information where you need to. Other apps that come in handy for planning your trip and finding your way around the city are Visit A City and Ulmon.

Money saving tips for your holiday

We have gone for the out of sight, out of mind approach when it has come to saving up our spending money. One of my friends got me a New York savings tin that can only be opened with a tin opener which is perfect for those weak moments. We have been taking money out of our accounts each week, and putting it away which has worked really well for us.

Luckily because of the time we booked, we were able to take advantage of the Black Friday and Boxing Day sales for tickets and attractions. If you know what you want to do, I would recommend you to book attractions in advance as this helps you to spread the cost and gives you a better deal. I would advise you to sign up to Groupon.com and search for local deals in New York City. There’s loads with additional discounts if you sign up to their emails too.

We have already booked our bus tickets to Woodbury Commons (Groupon), Crown access tickets for the Statue of Liberty (full price), One World Observatory (2 for 1 Tuesdays with MasterCard), Downtown Hop On Hop Off bus (Groupon) and a $100 voucher for 230 Fifth Rooftop bar ($40 from a woman on the NYC Facebook group). There is also the NYC City pass and Explorer Pass which give you a choice of multiple attractions on one pass for a discounted price.

Although we plan on walking for the majority of our trip, we’re going to get the 7 day unlimited subway pass for $32 to help us explore further afield for a cheaper price than the standard tariff.   

We have decided to buy a Revolut card for £5 to store the majority of our spending money on. Revolut is a prepaid MasterCard that lets you spend abroad with no fees, it also gives you the best rate using interbank FX rates. You can use the Revolut card in shops and restaurants like a normal debit card and withdraw up to £200 per month at ATMs for free. We’re going to take some cash for tips and buying from the street vendors.

I hope this guide will help anyone who is planning their first trip to New York, if you have any questions feel free to comment below and I’ll see if I can help. I’ve had an amazing time planning our New York trip and I’m so excited to experience it for myself after hearing about everyone else’s holidays to the big apple. I plan on blogging about my trip in a few separate posts, let me know what kind of posts you’d be interested in seeing!