Planning a trip can be daunting. You need to price tickets, build your itinerary, decide on your mode of transportation, choose which airline to take, pick a hotel, select restaurants; the list goes on and on! I recently returned from a trip to New York during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and wanted to give some (hopefully) helpful tips on planning the trip and the resources that we here at Laramie County Library can provide.
The first thing to decide on is the time of year, and how long your trip will be. Once I know the dates, I start pricing airline tickets. You can use a tool such as https://www.google.com/flights and set notifications for when the ticket you are searching for drops below a certain price. One caveat, Google Flights does not search all airlines, such as Southwest. So use it as a benchmark, but make sure you shop around.
One other thing to note about Google Flights is the type of flight that is the least expensive may have hidden fees, and the website won’t offer that information up readily. Make sure you research what kind of ticket you’re purchasing and what all is included (baggage, legroom, carry on size, etc.). Airlines like Southwest, which I ended up traveling on, include two free checked bags, a carry on, and a personal item for free, while other airlines charge for all luggage, so keep that in mind while looking at the initial cost of a ticket. Another note to make regarding booking flights; flights that take off at “normal” times (after 10 a.m.) tend to cost more. To save money, you can consider flying extremely early or late.
Once I had my flight booked, I began searching for hotels on Trip Advisor, a website I have used for years. You get reviews from actual people who include their own photos, so you aren’t only seeing the professional pictures that the hotels put on their website. I take all of the negative reviews into consideration along with the positive reviews to make a final decision.
In the case of New York, I settled on a hotel in “midtown” which seemed like an option that would be ideally located, and it was! Our hotel was between 5th and 6th avenue on 37th street. This is walking distance to Grand Central Station, Times Square and Broadway! It was far enough away that it was quiet and I didn’t have any trouble sleeping. Bear in mind that hotels in New York are expensive, and they are much smaller than hotels in the rest of the country. Make sure you check out reviews and look at traveler pictures so you aren’t surprised.
In my opinion the flight and hotel are two of the easiest things to plan for a trip! There is so much to do in New York, and since I had never been to the Parade, I wanted to make sure I maximized my time. I found a few helpful books, as well as an app. The book Walking New York: The Best of the City on Foot was great. It has a pull-out map and gave me some great example itineraries. You can check out this book from the third floor of Laramie County Library!
I quickly realized, however, that I didn’t want to just start writing all of this down. I knew there had to be an app for that! I found one called Pebblar. I settled on Pebblar because I liked that they offered both a map view and a list view. You can plan a trip for free, but it does expire within a set amount of time. I ended up paying the $10 to plan my trip as long as I wanted. They also offer monthly memberships if you are planning multiple trips. Using the book, alongside this app, I was able to plan each day of our trip and it made it so simple!
For the parade, I felt totally overwhelmed. I read many articles and did a ton of research online. I wanted to be prepared! I found this article to be most helpful: https://luxeadventuretraveler.com/tips-for-viewing-the-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/. We woke up early and left our hotel at 6:00 a.m. There were already people lining up all of 6th avenue, claiming their spot! We walked all the way to Central Park West and 64th street (so over 20 blocks) and there were people lined up the entire route! My main goal was to get to Central Park West because the parade starts on that street, we finally picked 67th street because we found a corner spot that had a ledge and enough space to sit if we wanted to while waiting for the parade to begin at 9:30 a.m.
It was pretty windy and chilly that day, and standing for so many hours was not great, but the parade was pretty cool! If I were to go back, I would bring a blanket or something that I could sit on, and I wouldn’t get up as early. I realized that there were people who got there even after the parade started who had just as good of a view as we did.
Enough about the parade, one of the things I get the most excited for when traveling is the food!! I found the book Fodor’s New York City at the library and it was a great help. The book gives you the names of restaurants along with their websites where you can review available menus. Food in New York is more expensive than most places, so you can always share entrees with others in your party to cut down on costs.
Deciding which attractions to visit is another daunting task. After all, you only have so much time. I found the book The Enchantment of New York: 75 of Manhattan’s Most Magical and Unique Attractions to be of immense help, that book, along with Walking New York, helped me to narrow our events down to certain neighborhoods for each day we were there.
I would highly recommend Chelsea Market, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge (we walked over it), the Empire State Building, Central Park and Rockefeller Plaza. You should check out these websites to help make visiting these attractions a smoother process: https://www.citypass.com/new-york and https://www.bigbustours.com/en/new-york/new-york-bus-tours/.
One key piece of advice for visiting the Statue of Liberty: if you want to access the crown or the pedestal, you must book the tickets months in advance. The link for booking these can be found here: https://www.statuecruises.com/statue-liberty-and-ellis-island-tickets/. We were able to go to the crown and it was awesome! One caveat: you must walk up hundreds of stairs to get there. The statue only has one elevator, and it only goes to the pedestal. The staircase is the only way to access the crown, and it is very close quarters, so if you are claustrophobic, you may want to stop at the pedestal.
Transportation in New York is another topic. I used a variety of methods, including taxis, Uber, Lyft, the subway, and my own two feet! I would advise using Google maps to see how far of a walk your destination will be and do a cost vs. time analysis. The good thing about using an app such as Uber is that you know the cost of the ride up front, with a taxi you are never sure.
Even though walking can be tiring, you get to see so much more of the city than you would have in a cab. The subway is a great, low cost option. For those of us who aren’t used to this mode of transportation, it can be very overwhelming. My advice for the subway is to get this app, https://apps.apple.com/us/app/nextstop-nyc-subway/id376416453 it helped me immensely! There are attendants in nearly every subway station – if you are unsure that you are getting on the correct train, ask them before you buy your ticket.
There are kiosks to purchase your tickets. There are a few different kinds of tickets. One way tickets cost $2.00 (as of Dec. 2019) and a 24 hour ticket costs $9.00, you can also buy an unlimited metro card if you will be there for several days. Keep in mind, the subway is crowded and people are in a hurry to get where they are going. You can read more about the subway in the books I mentioned earlier.
To sum everything up, planning a trip can take months, but your local library is here to help! You can peruse our collection to find helpful books, utilize the computers in our Computer Center to book flights and hotels, and ask our reference librarians to point you in the right direction when researching the best restaurants and attractions. I used library books and Pinterest to keep all of my other links in order while I did my research. If you do not have a Pinterest account, you can just bookmark your links to save them. I hope you find this information helpful, and I wish you happy travels!