A trip to New York is not a simple trip. For many people, it is a life’s dream, it is something they have waited a long time, it is something special. Expectations are created, plans are made. And New York is a big city and, more than that, an intense city with many things to do. And this is why planning (at the very least) is critical. After almost 6 years of writing about the city and following the tourists’ doubts about planning a trip, there are “mistakes” that are repeated. Obviously, these “mistakes” have to do with my opinion. In fact, there is no right and wrong in travel, but I believe some tips can help you enjoy it a lot more! These are advice that is worth remembering.
1. Buy a Pass just because someone told you that it would save you money – see, I don’t think a pass is necessarily bad or automatically good. My criticism here involves buying unnecessarily. For a pass to be advantageous, it depends on the combination of attractions you want to check out. Most passes end up giving you a tighter schedule – you’ll be stuck with the attractions listed – and you’ll visit places that might not even be your priority. If you explore your options and are open to different experiences, you can save a lot. As I always say, everything is a matter of planning! My tip: List everything you want to visit in the city, everything you want to see. Check the individual prices, and then check, among the passes, which one meets your actual needs.
2. Not buying tickets in advance – I understand that you’re afraid to buy a ticket for Top of the Rock and catch bad weather. The same goes for visiting the Statue of Liberty. But remember, buying tickets to famous attractions at the time you get there will make you spend a precious item on your trip: time! Plus, there is still the availability problem. Remember that everyone wants to get on Top of the Rock at sunset and sometimes tickets can sell out. Some attractions – especially the Statue – have long lines for both ticket purchase and boarding. Buying your tickets online makes your trip more organized – do so at least with non-weather-dependent attractions such as museums, sports, and other enclosed attractions. Also, keep in mind that observation decks are very flexible with date changes if there is no visibility. You can even buy online when you are already here, checking the forecast. Time, my friends, time is your most precious asset on your trip!
3. Search for Times Square hotels only – I know, you feel FOMO. Everyone just talks about Times Square, everybody says you have to stay there because then you can do everything walking, everybody says that Times Square is magical. Okay, first, calm down. Come on: Times Square will be there in the same place, whether you are staying there or not. Obviously, you have to go there and get to know it, but as I always say: Times Square is not New York City. Also, this quote that says “stay at Times Square and you will do everything by walking” is a lie. Who says that, probably didn’t explore the city as it deserves to be explored. You will need a subway to explore many other iconic spots in the city. So relax and do not despair if your budget does not fit a hotel in Times Square. I’ve read testimonials of dozens of readers who didn’t stay in Times Square and enjoyed their stay. I’ve had countless friends and family staying at my home (not in Times Square) and none of them left thinking they didn’t enjoy the trip.
4. Not organizing your trip by areas – this is a super common mistake. When it comes to New York, we need to get familiar with the city map first, because, believe me, we are talking about a metropolis with many things to do. A simple and easy practice to help you plan your trip is to bookmark everything, absolutely everything – your hotel, the attractions you want to visit, the shops you want to go, the restaurants you want to eat – on My Maps. This tool from Google is amazing! By putting everything on the map, you can not only trace directions but see what’s closer than. And believe me, it’s much easier to explore the city by area. Yes, the subway is great, but you don’t want to spend the day doing dozens of subway trips because you’ve scheduled things away from each other, right?
5. Traveling is not checking a list – obviously you’ll find thousands of suggestions for things to do in New York – both here on the blog and on numerous other blogs, websites, books and magazines. But remember: this is your trip. Don’t think you need to go somewhere just because everyone goes or because someone has told you so. There are opinions, experiences, reports and there are your tastes and your dreams. Don’t feel like going to the Statue of Liberty? Well, then you don’t have to spend money to go there just because everyone goes. Don’t you like museums? I don’t like it either. Why are you going to waste time (and money, by the way), to do something you don’t like? Enjoy every moment! And allow yourself to change your mind.
6. Visiting two museums on the same day – think about the real reasons why you want to include a museum on your trip. Is it because you are really curious? Or just because someone told you to go? Because assuming that you like museums and that the city’s two major museums – the Museum of Natural History and the MET – are huge, you should take plenty of time for each one. In addition, it is mentally and physically exhausting to explore two such large museums on the same day. Merge the activities, always! And remember to put the museum as a morning activity, so you are not tired.
7. Not booking that restaurant you really want to check out – New York has amazing restaurants whose appeal can be specialized cuisine, a famous dessert, drinks, location or even the view. You will surely feel like checking out some restaurants, and if so, don’t underestimate the need to make a reservation! First, because depending on the restaurant, it may be hard to get a spot. Second, because there is nothing worse than waiting for a table when you are hungry. Third, because, as my husband always says, putting on the calendar is an extra push for something to happen!
- My favorite apps: OpenTable and Resy!
8. Being afraid to ride the subway – in many places around the world, cars are still the main means of transportation and I understand the hesitation to ride the subway in a city as big as New York. But remember: the subway will be your best friend in this city! In reality, people are not afraid of the subway, they are afraid of getting lost in the subway. First, understanding the system will help you lose your fear. Second, if you get lost, what’s the matter? You locate yourself and come back and you’re done. Failing to ride the subway out of fear is missing the opportunity to get to know another side of the city. Subway optimizes your time while traveling and makes you turn long distances into short distances!
9. Not checking the hour of operation of the places – these kinds of information are so simple today – that they can be valuable during your trip. When you type the name of a place + NYC on Google, the result already shows information such as an address, time, and days of operation. This is essential when we are traveling. While you are there adding the points of interest on the Maps, it never hurts to look at it, so there are no surprises.
10. Not doing a research – I think this is the deadliest mistake of all. The other day I was listening to a video that my husband was watching on Youtube, and the guy said something that fits many things in life, including travel: don’t outsource your decisions. Value your money, your time, your trip. Plan, research, read. You don’t have to “graduate”, but research at least the least to make you comfortable making your choices and not the choices of others.
Looking for someone to plan your trip? I highly recommend my friend Patricia Toussie, known as Nyorquina. She makes custom itineraries and also provides advice during your trip. Her contact email is firstname.lastname@example.org – mention the blog for discount!
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.