Organising a trip to New York

How to organize your trip to New York? My good plans and advice

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How to prepare for your trip to New York? Now that's a good question!

If you are looking for advice on how to prepare your trip to New York, you are at the right place!

A trip to New York requires a minimum of preparation, especially if it is your first time in the Big Apple. 

To help you organise your stay in New York, read the article I have prepared for you.

You will find all the practical and useful information (administrative procedures, budget, passes, transport...) to prepare your trip with peace of mind.

Follow the numerous recommendations I give you and with a bit of patience and research, you will end up organising the trip of your dreams! 🙂

Administrative procedures

You can check out my article on the subject for clearer information, but know that if you have a valid passport AND your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program, you will not need a visa to travel to the USA.

However, you will have to apply for an ESTA – an electronic travel authorization. Let's see all of this right away!

1. Is your passport up to date?

Before even thinking of booking your plane tickets, make sure your passport is up to date.

If it is, make sure that it will not expire in less than six months (mandatory), but if it is out of date, you will need to renew it quickly because, depending on the time of year, such a procedure can take up to two months! 

If you do not have a passport, please note that the time necessary to obtain a first application may also vary. Between the appointment, the preparation of the required documents and the delivery of said passport, it can take several weeks. So start preparing for this as soon as possible!

If you are travelling as a family, you will need a passport for ALL family members – children and babies included.

prepare trip new york

2. ESTA Application

If you are from a country that is a member of the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need a visa to travel to New York. However, you will need to apply for an ESTA from the US government.

This Electronic System of Travel Authorization is a questionnaire that you will have to fill in online on the following official page.

Select whichever language you prefer (from the options at the top right) and fill in the information requested. It will take you about 20 minutes to complete.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will review your answers and either allow you to enter or not. In any case, do not worry: you will receive an answer quickly (within a few days at most)! For my part, for my latest trips to NYC, I generally received my answers the same day I did my applications.

The ESTA application costs $14 (about £11) with a payment by credit card directly on the website.

This authorization will allow you to travel to the United States for a maximum of 90 days.

It is valid for two years. After that period, you will have to make another ESTA application.

So remember to check that your ESTA is still valid if this is not your first trip to the United States.

You can check the status of your ESTA application on the website :

  • Approved: you are authorised to travel to the USA.
  • Pending Authorization: your travel authorization is under review, check back later.
  • Unauthorised travel: you will need to apply for a tourist visa at the following site.

Organising your trip to NYC: programme of activities, budget & expenses

Let's face it, visiting New York is expensive (flight + accommodation + food + activities/excursions + shopping budgets)!

But with a few tips, you will know how you can make several savings on your travel budget.

Start by choosing the best time to go to New York. Next, you'll need to compare flight prices at nearby airports then find a hotel at the best price. Finally, I recommend buying a pass that will give you discounts on New York attractions. More explanations right away!

3. When is the best time to go to New York?

when to go to new  york

Preparing your trip to New York often starts with the question "When to go to New York?”

Peak tourist periods are of course the school holidays (summer holidays + Christmas holidays) and the holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving). 

It is best to visit in autumn (September to mid-November) and spring (April to mid-June), when prices are a little cheaper. And let’s not forget that the temperatures are ideal for exploring the city during these seasons.

I've written a whole article about the best time to go to New York, if you want to learn more about that point.

During the interseasons, the parks in New York City take on totally different colours (the leaves of the trees are a beautiful green in the spring and a flaming orange-red in the fall). It's just beautiful!

If winter is a period to avoid for a first trip in New York (it's way too cold!), note that accommodation prices will be quite affordable outside the Christmas holiday season. This would also allow you to discover and admire the Christmas decorations that are put up in the city from the beginning of December.

In short, it's up to you to choose the right moment for your trip, according to your desires!

4. How to find a ticket at a good price?

As soon as your ESTA application has been approved, start looking for flights to New York.

Look on flight comparators like Skyscanner and watch for airline promotions.

If you start early and look regularly, you can even find flights for around £250.

My last flight to New York was a direct Zurich – New York (I live in Strasbourg, so Zurich wasn't too far away).

The flight was €295 per person return (about £243), in May.

Example of flights from London to New York at different times of the year:

Low tourist season – Flight from 18 to 25 September 2022:

Advantage n°1

Direct flight (8h40 on average)

Departure airport & Airport of arrival

Enjoying the summer temperatures

Starting from £429

 

Airline: Finnair

London Gatwick / John F. Kennedy Airport

High tourist season – Flight from 26 December 2022 to 2 January 2023:

Advantage n°1

Direct flight (8h40 on average)

Departure airport & Airport of arrival

Seeing New York under the snow

Starting from £431


Airline: Lufthansa

London Heathrow / New York Newark

Low tourist season – Flight from 6 to 13 February 2023:

Advantage n°1

Direct flight (8h40 on average)

Departure airport & Airport of arrival

Taking advantage of the lowest accommodation rates

Starting from £356

 

Airline: United Airlines

London Heathrow / New York Newark

Prices on Skyscanner in May 2022.

5. Where to sleep in New York and for what budget?

where to sleep new york

Planning your trip to New York City also raises the question "Where to stay and in which neighbourhood?"

Once you know your travel dates, you'll need to start looking into your accommodation.

I have a full article on "Where to sleep in New York" that may help you!

In any case, I personally recommend looking on either Booking or Hotel.com, or AirBnb. Most of the listings for accommodation/hotels are on these two platforms – no need to spread yourself thin by looking on dozens of different websites.

The good thing about these websites is that you can add criteria to your search (neighbourhood, number of rooms, price range, etc.).
SEE THE AVAILABLE ACCOMMODATIONS FOR YOUR DATES OF STAY BY CLICKING HERE

Example of rates for a stay in NY for one person (same period as flights above):

Low tourist season – Flight from 18 to 25 September 2022:

Property type

Name of the accommodation

Lowest price

Hostel

HI NYC Hostel

£291

Homestay

Sid's Victorian Oasis

£429

Hotel

Carlton Arms Hotel

£659

High tourist season – Flight from 26 December 2022 to 2 January 2023:

Property type

Name of the accommodation

Lowest price

Hostel

HI NYC Hostel

£430

Homestay

Cozy Uptown Manhattan Room 4 Rent

£744

Hotel

Manhattan Bowery Lodge

£723

Low tourist season – Flight from 6 to 13 February 2023:

Property type

Name of the accommodation

Lowest price

Hostel

HI NYC Hostel

£207

Homestay

East Village Homestay

£827

Hotel

Manhattan Bowery Lodge

£403

Prices on Booking.com in May 2022.

A word of advice: don't hesitate to look at other travellers' reviews. They can be very useful!

You can also consider a "flight + hotel accommodation" package. Take a look at sites like GoVoyages or Lastminute – you're bound to find a good deal!

6. Planning your stay in New York

To best plan your trip to New York, do some research. With a little patience (and a city guide), you'll be able to put together a great programme of activities that will let you have the trip of your dreams.

Think about the sites/monuments you really want to visit, and the activities you want to do first. But above all, make sure that your NY holiday is a pleasure and not a chore! An overloaded programme risks making your stay too tiring and therefore less enjoyable (and you won't be able to do and see everything you wish to on your first trip anyway!)

Of course, you can also choose not to plan your holiday, and go on an adventure to discover the city on your own! Many people have enjoyed it.

7. Buy a Pass a book your activities in advance

Once you have planned your New York activity programme, I suggest you take a closer look at my article on New York passes. These passes are the best way to save money on your outings budget. Thanks to a pass, you will not only be able to benefit from discounts on the entrance fees of the different attractions of the city and on the activities available, but you will also save precious time.

Indeed, all your tickets will be grouped together in one pass and you will be able to benefit from faster entry to certain attractions (no-queue tickets). Just remember to present or scan your pass at the reception of each site.

The only catch is that there are several passes to visit New York, and you'll need to choose the one that's best for your stay.

To help you out, here is a comparison of the three most popular passes:

Tourist pass

Advantages 

Valid for


New York CityPass

Access to 6 major tourist sites:


Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock or Guggenheim Museum, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a Circle Line Cruise, 9/11 Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum


Approximately 40% discount on standard fares


Access to fast-track queues at certain attractions

30 consecutive days

BOOK NOW

New York Pass

Access to over 100 tourist sites


Multi-stop sightseeing bus tour included


Priority access to certain sites

Choose from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 days

BOOK NOW

Explorer pass 

Access to three, four, five, six, seven or ten sites to choose from a list of 80 attractions/activities (50 of which require no booking)


The Explorer pass is one of my favourite passes

30 days from first use

BOOK NOW

If you don't fancy a pass, you can of course buy your tickets separately. But be careful, don't wait to do it once you're in New York – the queues to buy a ticket will be endless! Opt instead for an online reservation well before your departure. You can do this on the Ceetiz platform, for example.

The most famous pass and the most suitable for a first stay in the city is the New York City Pass. It will allow you to see the 6 must-see sites in New York.

8. Check your health coverage

It really is a necessity: don't go to New York without taking out health insurance first!

I certainly don't wish it on you, but an accident happens quickly and medical expenses in the United States can be very expensive! A simple visit to a general practitioner costs around $300, and I'm not even talking about a short trip to the emergency room. You'd be looking at an invoice of thousands of dollars! 🙁

So don't hesitate and get insurance before your trip – you will leave with a much lighter mind! On top of that insurers are numerous, as are the types of coverage and rates.

Among the best insurances, check out Chapka, a specialist in insurance in the USA. Don't hesitate to have a look at their website – you will surely find the right insurance for your stay. For example, for stays of less than 90 days, they offer "CAP ASSISTANCE". This cover includes repatriation assistance, luggage insurance, a minimum medical expenses ceiling of £400,000 and includes civil liability and accident cover. If you subscribe before you buy your tickets, you will also benefit from the cancellation option. If not, you can still take out this insurance up until the day before your departure. Pretty nice, isn't it?

You should also tell your bank that you are going abroad. They could consider your banking transactions in New York as fraudulent and block your card, which would greatly complicate your stay in New York!

Take the opportunity to find out the maximum amount you can withdraw abroad. This will save you a lot of trouble when you get there.

9. Want internet on your phone?

If, like me, you are quite connected to the internet, planning your trip to New York will also involve the question "How to get internet there?”

As for me, I’m French and I've been with Free Mobile for years now, and my plan offers DATA in the US without any extra cost. So I take full advantage of this: I keep my French SIM card and I use my package normally when in New York.

Otherwise, Free's €19.90 package offers 25GB of data abroad (in over 65 destinations, by the way!).

Other than that, it obviously depends on which country you live in – but if you’re from the United Kingdom, I’ve written an article on the subject! Don’t hesitate to go check it out

Preparing your trip to New York: what about once you're there?

airport new york

Once in the Big Apple, you'll need to be patient before setting off to explore the city... Indeed, it takes at least an hour and a half from the time you land to the time you leave the airport!

Airport formalities

The process at the airport is a bit lengthy, especially if other planes have landed at the same time as yours.

You will first pass before an immigration officer, who will check your passport and take your fingerprints and a photo of you. They will also ask you why you are travelling, and you will need to provide them with your New York address.

Note that you may be subject to a more thorough security check, including a search of your luggage.

To speed up the process and save some time, electronic terminals have been installed in various airports (with a procedure in other languages available!). By replacing the immigration officers, they regulate the flow of travellers, but you are not guaranteed to be able to pass through these terminals! If you are lucky enough to be able to do so, answer the questions and then hand the ticket issued by the terminal to the control officer.

You will also have to go before a customs officer and hand over the form you filled in on the plane or on arrival – to declare what you have brought into the USA.

Once these steps have been completed, you can collect your luggage and finally leave the airport to go to the transfer area to your hotel (taxi, car, metro, etc.).

How to get to your accommodation?

Whether you land at "John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)" or "Newark-Liberty International Airport (Newark)", there are many ways to get to your hotel in New York.

You can take a yellow cab, for example. Simply head for the designated locations.

 

Rates

Advantages

Disadvantage

Travel time

Taxi

Flat rate of $52

 

 

tolls, taxes, rush hour fees if applicable, and tip 

 

 

between $65 and $70

You can share the ride with other passengers

Not very economical if you are alone!

From Newark: 

 

Northern Manhattan: 45 min to 1h30

 

Midtown:

35 min to 1h15 

 

Lower Manhattan: 25-30 min

 

Brooklyn:

45 min to 1h20 

 

Queens:

1h

 

From JFK:


Northern Manhattan: 45 min to 1h15 

 

Midtown:

45 min to 1h30 

 

Lower Manhattan: 1h to 1h50 

 

Brooklyn:

30 min to 1h40 

 

Queens:

30 to 50 min

You can also use public transport such as the underground, train or bus.

If you land at JFK, take the AirTrain (just follow the indications). It is a shuttle that connects any airport terminal to the city's underground. There are two stations: Jamaica or Howard Beach, and you can continue your journey to the station nearest your hotel.

 

Rates

Advantages

Disadvantage

Travel time

AirTrain + Metro

An AirTrain ticket costs $7.75 per person 

 

 

Metrocard ticket purchase at $2.75 per single trip

The underground and train are the fastest ways to get to your hotel.

Not very practical if you have big luggage with you! More tiring than by taxi or car.

From Newark:

 

Northern Manhattan: 40 min

 

Midtown:

30 min

 

Lower Manhattan: 40 min

 

Brooklyn:

1 h

 

Queens:

+ more than an hour

 

From JFK:

 

Northern Manhattan: 1 hour

 

Midtown:

40 min

 

Lower Manhattan: 55 min

 

Brooklyn:

40 min 

 

Queens:

35 min

If you would rather take a bus (NYC Airporter), you can use them to get to Grand Central Station and Times Square. It costs $19 per person for a one-way trip (free for children under 3).  They run every 20 to 30 minutes or so.

However, I recommend you to go to NY via the Shuttle, the shared shuttle that serves the hotels in the city (in a limited area!). Please remember to reserve your seat on the shuttle!

 

Rates

Advantages

Disadvantages

Travel time

Shuttle

$22 per person, including taxes and tolls

The door-to-door drop off

 

Free for children under 3 years old

Not very fast if you are the last to be dropped off at your hotel!

Same time as the taxi transfer, but you have to add the detours to drop off all the passengers in front of their hotels!

You can also take a private taxi, as their rates are cheaper! The flat rate for Carmel Car & Limousine Service, for example, starts at $44. Another advantage is that you will have little waiting time!

You can also order a private vehicle with a driver before you leave for New York. Such a ride will cost you $115 from Newark and $108 from JFK. The travel time for these private taxis will be the same as for a taxi transfer.

Finally, nothing stops you from renting a car for your stay in New York. There are about thirty agencies present at the airport (Budget, Avis, Hertz, Sixt...), but the best thing to do is to reserve your vehicle before you leave. Don't hesitate to compare prices on the RentalCars platform.

Transfer times will depend on your destination, your departure airport and the mode of transport used, so make a practical choice! After spending 8 hours in the air, you'll want to get some rest!

Organising your trip to New York: Pre-departure checklist

Don't forget:

  • your plane tickets;
  • your passport;
  • copies of your identity papers, hotel reservations, tickets for attractions, etc;
  • your telephone and computer charger, as well as an adapter for American sockets and a power strip if you feel the need;
  • Your medication if necessary;
  • a cap and sun cream if you are travelling in hot weather;
  • a warm coat and hat if you are travelling in winter.


And we've come to the end of this article! I hope it was enlightening, and hopefully you now have a clearer idea of what you need to prepare for your trip. Best of luck to you, and remember that all those preparations are going to be worth it once you've finally arrived in the City That Never Sleeps! 😉

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Amélie
A first trip to New York, and a new favorite city! 30 years old, city dweller and good-plan finder, I share my New York discoveries on this blog to help you visit this magnificent city with me. With each new trip, there are more activities to discover!

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