Thursday, October 29, 2020

The NYC Traveler: Getting Around, Part 4

 The NYC Traveler in NYC:

An Introduction to the City of New York

(practically speaking!)


The Series

Part 4: Getting Around

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Arriving to NYC and getting to your lodging is one thing. Getting around to see the sights is another. As you will read in many, many guides, the best way to see the sights is to use mass (public) transportation and then, once you reach your destination, walk. 

BONUS Tip #1: Read the NYC Official Guide and the MTA website for safety tips. 

BONUS Tip #2: Be aware of your surroundings, do not take your valuables out in crowded locations. Take your carfare or ticket out in a secure location and keep it in a front pocket to use when you get close to your destination.

BONUS Tip #3: Put a strap on your camera. Get a phone case that accommodates a strap. Make sure it is secure and stay alert.

BONUS Tip #4: Carry bags that can close up completely, can be put close you, like a crossbody or waist pack and are RIFD secure. Try to carry credit/debit cards rather than cash. Even better, make sure your electronic version is set up in your phone. Carry copies of your passport and keep the original in the safe in your lodging. You will need to carry one real piece of ID.

Here are your options.




1. Car: as we mentioned in Part 3, Arrival to NYC, driving in many parts of the City of New York is only for the most experienced and bravest of drivers (and this goes for all 5 boroughs). And it may not be because of navigation, but because of traffic and parking. Manhattan Island is only 22 miles in length and it can take you more than an hour to get from the Battery to the end at Broadway and West 220 Street, probably two. If you drive to NYC, invest in parking the car for your stay. If you drive a rental to NYC from another state, return it to the airport and then rent it again to return home. 


2. Subway: subways run in and to and from all five boroughs. Staten Island has a subway line that runs on the island only. To get to another borough, you must take a bus or ferry. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), has a website and an app, which has been upgraded. You can enter your starting point and destination and it will tell you how to get there (and how long it may take). You will need a metro card (still available as of late 2020) or you can use the new OMNY system, which links to your credit card or digital wallet. This would be if you are staying in the city for a long time. Not all scanners are in all stations, so it is best to get a metro card (See picture in 3). You put a certain amount on the card and swipe at the train station or to get on the bus. Metro cards cost $1 in addition to the fare. You can refill it at metro card machines. 


3. Subway lines are color coded and use numbers (1-7) and letters (A-G, J, L-N, Q, W, Z). The letter S trains are shuttles and there are 3. Visitors most likely will use the 42nd street shuttle to go from Port Authority to Grand Central. 

4. Bus: The buses are great for shorter trips. There are now bus only lanes in Manhattan and in some of the outer boroughs. The nice part about a bus in any city is that you can see the city. Use the MTA website and app to plan your trip. Beware of express buses. You must purchase the ticket at the machine at the bus stop before you board. Express buses are best for going from one borough to another or to LaGuardia Airport.



5. Cabs and car services: cabs can be hailed (waved down in the street) in Manhattan, called by phone in the outer boroughs and can be caught by standing on line at the can stand at the airports. Car services such as Uber and Lyft work the same way as any other place. Local cars, such as the "dollar vans" should only be used by locals (if you happen to be traveling with one). 

6. Walking: For all the glamour that is in NYC, everyone walks, even rich folk. Try getting off the bus or subway a couple of stops from your destination and walk the rest of the way. If you're stuck in traffic, it might be best anyway. Have a good map app on your phone. We use Google Maps.


7. Cycling: Bicycling around town increased tremendously in NYC during the pandemic. It can be a great way to see the city. However, if you are using it as a method of transportation, there are a few guidelines: you must go with the traffic, have a bell, have lights for dusk and night. Children under 16 must have a helmet and adults are strongly urged to wear one also. You should have 3 locks: one for the frame to the parking place (trees, poles and street lamps are illegal); and one each to lock each tire to the frame. Bike maps are free in bike shops. You can rent one from a bike shop or use Citi Bike and return it to a kiosk when you reach your location. By using Citi Bike, you don't have to worry about locking it up.

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8. Tour buses: you will see people in red jackets selling you tour rides in sightseeing buses. Hop on, hop off buses are great ways to see the sights and they plan the route for you. Some tickets include a location, like the Empire State Building. Since it is difficult to determine who is legitimate or not on the streets, it is best to buy your ticket online or through your travel consultant.  Big Bus Tours is the most popular.

9. Private tours are also available. Make sure you research very carefully; consult your travel consultant or hotel concierge. 

10. Local friends and family: asking a friend about getting around NYC can be valuable and you may end up with a tour guide. Many times, locals have not been to all of the sightseeing places and it could be fun for both of you.

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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

 This review is my personal opinion. I have Booking links.

The NYC Traveler in NYC: Part 2, Staying in NYC

The NYC Traveler in NYC:

An Introduction to the City of New York

(practically speaking!)

Staying in NYC: 

The Series

How to Pick a Hotel

If you are traveling to New York City from outside of the United States, please check the US Department of State and the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) website for the latest information.


BOOK YOUR TRIP TO NYC

BONUS Tip #1: Manhattan addresses will be New York, New York. Brooklyn, Bronx and Staten Island addresses are the same as their borough name. But Queens addresses run by their neighborhood: Long Island City, Jamaica, Flushing, Astoria, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, etc (there are many more). See Bonus Tip #4.

BONUS Tip #2: Midtown Manhattan is traditionally considered from 59th Street to 23rd Street from river to river. This is a loose definition, as some neighborhoods either want to or don't want to be considered midtown, depending on which local you talk to. Uptown is anything above 96th street on both the East Side and West Side. Central Park is the dividing line (even where it's not): The East Side is streets from 5th Avenue to the East River; the West Side is from 6th Avenue to the Hudson River. Below 14 Street (Union Square), it becomes a little less clear.

BONUS Tip #3: Beware of Broadway. Clearly the longest street in Manhattan, it really goes from The Battery all the way to West 220 Street, winding through, never in a straight line. When you think you are still walking on it, you are on another avenue. If you could drive it without traffic, it would be quite a tour. You would hit everything that Manhattan had to offer.

BONUS Tip #4: Learn how to use a map app. Other tourism apps are helpful, but nothing beats an app that is connected to GPS. My top pick is Google Maps.

 Latest COVID-19 Travel News




What to do in NYC? The possibilities are endless. You could live here for a lifetime and never explore what each borough has to offer. To make sure you are where you want to be, use a good map, either on paper, online or digital. With that said, here are our top 10 tips for booking lodging in NYC:

1. Don't be afraid of public transportation. You can use cabs, limo services and car services to get around but they will be in the same traffic that a rental car would be in. The subway usually moves the fastest. And, there are more bus lanes so that surface transit gets through road traffic faster than cars. Cabs and car services do not have access to bus lanes.




2. Many people stay in Manhattan for many reasons, mainly because it's the borough people think of most when they they of New York City,: more attractions, more options of public transportation (almost all of the subway lines run through Manhattan), restaurants that have long hours. If you stay in midtown, consider hotels on side streets, rather than just on the major avenues. 

3. Don't be fooled by "minutes to midtown Manhattan" promises when booking lodging, especially if you stay in Brooklyn or Queens. It's best to stay in these boroughs if you plan to tour only these areas. For example, if you to see mostly the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Prospect Park and downtown Brooklyn and only make one trip to Manhattan, then stay in downtown Brooklyn. But if these sites will be combined in one day trip and you are seeing most of your sites in Manhattan, it's best to stay in Manhattan and take the train to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal train station


4. Like any other city, using alternatives to traditional hotels takes savvy. For example, most motels are independently owned franchises. They may have certain rooms set aside for long term residents such as those placed by the city. Sometimes, this experience is not always positive. Stick with the major brands.



5. Hotels close to the airport make it easier to catch a flight but are not necessarily easy for sightseeing and getting around (see our article about arriving to NYC). However, there are more hotels being built near Jamaica station that are convenient to JFK Airport and Manhattan. You can be at Penn Station within a half hour using the Long Island Railroad (LIRR). The neighborhood is very residential but is being developed for tourism. Also, there are fewer restaurants and much less night life. Just be aware of Tip #4. 

Jamaica Station, Queens


6. Using a travel consultant can get you information on Manhattan hotels that you may not see on booking sites, particularly if the agent is either based in NYC or very familiar with the city.

7. There is other lodging in New York City through sites such as VRBO (incorporating Homeaway) and AirBnB. Once again, consult with a travel consultant, read the reviews carefully.



8. Once you begin to come to NYC a little more, you will get to know the neighborhoods better and you can make an informed decision regarding vacation rental locations. Make a note of amenities such as distance from transit, food stores and restaurants and even a laundry place in case the apartment does not have appliances.

9. Make a broad itinerary so that you can get an idea of which area you should stay. Midtown Manhattan works well if you are planning to go uptown (Harlem, Washington Heights) and downtown (The Battery, South Street Seaport). Most of the subways to the outer boroughs run through midtown. If you want to see many museums, consider the East Side. 

10. Finally, look at other sources such as this blog, social media groups and travel guides. You may see information in common that will help you to make the best decision for you.






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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

This review is my personal opinion. I have Booking links. I am an Amazon Associate.


The NYC Traveler: Part 3, Arrival to NYC

The NYC Traveler in NYC:

An Introduction to the City of New York

(practically speaking!)

Part 3: Arrival to NYC

Remember: The City of New York consists of 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Public transportation, also called mass transit, are our subways (known as the metro in other countries, the train), buses and ferries.



Latest COVID-19 Travel News




1. If you arrive in NYC by your own vehicle, it is best to try to park it for the time you're here unless you take day trips. If you stay in Manhattan and go to the outer boroughs, you can drive but once you get to your destination, for the most part, it will be difficult to park at the most popular sites. However, although it may cost money to park in a garage, you will save time, gas and aggravation trying to park on the street, which is almost impossible in midtown Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn, many parts of Queens (despite its reputation of it possibly being the most suburban borough), the Bronx and Staten Island.


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2. If you arrive to NYC in a rental, return it as soon as you drop off your bags at your lodging and see below how to get back if you drop it at an airport.

3. A few exceptions that you can drive to would be Queens Flushing-Meadows Corona Park complex (with the USTA Tennis Center, Hall of Science, Queens Museum, and the Queens Zoo); the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo; and Old Richmond Town in Staten Island. However, with the exception of the Bronx, going to the outer boroughs can cost you money in tolls, gas and more importantly, time.




4. If you arrive by airplane at JFK or LGA, you have several options: take pre-arranged transportation (most expensive but private); cab (second most expensive but also private); car service such as Uber or Lyft; get a lift (yes, pun intended), but make sure you stay in constant touch because your friend cannot stay there more than 2 minutes if you are not out yet. Other options involve public transportation.

5. From JFK: take a local bus if you're staying in Jamaica, Queens. Several buses run in, through and out of JFK (remember, locals work there and need to get to work). To get to the other boroughs, take the air train, which requires a fare to get to Jamaica's train station at Sutphin Boulevard. From there, you will see clear info about your choices: the regional train Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to Penn Station in Manhattan or Atlantic Avenue Terminal in Brooklyn. Or, you can take the subway, bus (a long ride to Manhattan, not advised), cab or car service or to your destination.




6. From LGA (LaGuardia Airport), you can also take public transportation. There is a select bus, the LaGuardia Link. You must purchase the fare at a curbside machine, not pay onboard. The receipt will be your ticket to board. Regular buses will get you from LGA, also: the M60 takes you to upper Manhattan and the Q70 will take you to the subway. From there, you can take the subway, bus, cab or car service or to your destination.

7. From EWR (Newark): the air train will get you to Penn Station via Amtrak or NJ Transit. From there, you can take the subway, bus, cab or car service or to your destination.




8. If you arrive by train, meaning Amtrak, you will arrive at Penn Station, West 32 Street-West 34th Streets between 7th and 8th Avenues, Manhattan. From there, you can take the subway, bus, cab or car service or to your destination.





9. If you arrive by a major bus carrier, you will arrive at Port Authority Bus Terminal, West 40-West 42 Streets and 8th Avenue. From there, you can take the subway, bus, cab or car service or to your destination.

10. If you are going to Staten Island: the ferry leaves from lower Manhattan, near The Battery. The select bus goes through Brooklyn. Once on the island, there is train and bus service. If you are coming in to the city and you are headed to Staten Island, it's best to take a cab or car service or at least take it to lower Manhattan and to take the ferry



BONUS TIP: You just might arrive by cruise ship if it sails from one location and docks here. You will arrive at one of three area ports: Manhattan Cruise Terminal, 12th Avenue near West 54 Street; Cape Liberty, which is technically Bayonne, New Jersey but so close to Staten Island you could walk there; Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, Red Hook, Brooklyn. All of them are extremely inconvenient to travel from with luggage using public transportation directly. The best route is to use either the cruise line sponsored transport service or take a cab to the public transportation and go from there.


Amtrak (mobile app available)
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK, mobile app available)
LaGuardia Airport (LGA, mobile app available)
Newark Liberty Airport (EWR, mobile app available)


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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

 This review is my personal opinion. I have Booking links.



The NYC Traveler: Cruise News

CRUISE NEWS




Cruising Series Articles

Some CRUISE LINES Information:

Carnival

Norwegian

Royal Caribbean

Princess

MSC

Cunard

Celebrity

Disney


OCTOBER 2020

Book Your Cruise here: 

1. Carnival has scheduled the inaugural sailing of its new ship, the Celebration, for March 2022.  It features the Bolt (TM) roller coaster, just like its sister ship, the Mardi Gras. They are planning a big thing because it will be company's golden birthday, 50 years old. 

2. Disney has posted 2022 sailings including a Hawaiian cruise.

3. Norwegian has cruises scheduled for December, 2020.

4. Royal Caribbean has resumed sailings also.

5. Before you book, communicate with a professional travel consultant so that you have the latest information.

Latest COVID-19 Travel News


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Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

 This review is my personal opinion. I have Booking links. I am an Amazon Associate.



Sunday, October 25, 2020

The NYC Traveler: How to Read Travel Reviews Effectively

 Latest COVID-19 Travel News




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How to Read Reviews Objectively

Excursions

A review is a written or personal opinion that a consumer has about a product or service based on the person's experience. A review can be subjective, meaning very emotional or objective, based on facts that the person will add. In addition to a review, there are also ratings, usually using stars from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Many companies use both reviews and ratings.

A person's review will be based on many aspects: their expectations, their experience with traveling, experience with a particular company and, believe or not, their mood that may have nothing to do with the company. In order to help you to be a more informed traveler and to make productive decisions that will lead to a great vacation, it's important that you know how to read a review effectively.

Many travelers read reviews about airlines, lodging, attractions, vehicle rental agencies, locations and more when they prepare for a trip. But with thousands of reviews and rating online and so little time, how do you know which reviews are objective enough for you to make an informed decision? Here are our 10 top tips that will help:


1. Look at the lowest rated reviews first. Then sort them by date. Sometimes, when a rating is negative, the company has taken steps to resolve the problem. So, a review from 2012 might not be valid in 2020.

2. Read the reviews that are the most recent and see if there is anything in common. If a particular issue with a hotel is mentioned several times, it is very possible that the issue really exists.

3. Next, read the mediocre reviews (scores of 3 stars). Many times, these reviews are the most objective. The customers will say something positive and negative and they will justify their opinions with evidence. An example is: "the hotel was crappy because the rug was ripped and the shower had mold in it." That's better than "the shower was filthy." Filthy to one person can be a speck of dust while filthy to another person can be actually dirty. 


Hotel lobby

4. Look to see if the reason for a low rating is the staff. Now, that can be justification for giving a low score, especially if it affected the quality of the experience. But, it does not mean that the hotel is physically unacceptable. If the reviewer does not speak of the hotel itself but rants on about attitudes, then read another review. 

5. Read other reviews by the reviewer. If the person seems to be complaining all the time and never has a positive or mediocre review, then you will know that the issue is with the reviewer and not the companies per se.

6. People have different levels of acceptability. One person will believe someone has an attitude if they don't look up right away and another person might be able to see that the person is finishing a computer transaction and be able to respect that. Also, the level of experience in travel can affect a person's perspective. That will be difficult to tell when reading the review, but your level of experience will be able to figure out the actual facts opposed someone's exaggerations to make a point.


7. Be able to determine if circumstances are beyond the company's control. For example, some areas are prone to blackouts of electricity. The company should be responsible to their response to the situation: how long did they wait before checking on guests (a reasonable time would be 1/2 hour if the area has them all the time), are there flashlights in the room (to indicate they are prepared), is there information in the room that this happens often, etc. The company should not be responsible for the the blackout itself (unless they don't have a backup generator for their computer system). Again, it's their response.

8. If you know a company fairly well, such as a hotel chain, an airline, or a restaurant group that specializes in fine dining, pay attention to a high number of negative or medium reviews. It could be that particular location has an issue. Again, read the negative and medium reviews.


River raft excursion

9. The best reviews will be the ones that describe the experience with details. Then, you can make your own determination. For example, many cruise excursions promise a drink, transportation and a meal. Many people imagine a top shelf cocktail in a glass, a premium bus with WiFi and an endless buffet featuring steak and lobster. The reality is you will get a rum punch, with a lot of ice in a plastic cup, adequate transportation (usually a coach bus or a comfy van, but it depends on how far the destination is) and a one time plate, almost always rice and peas and chicken in the Caribbean. Lately, the excursions have included a bottle of water. Seasoned travelers will say that the excursion was good if the purpose of the trip was fulfilled: they snorkeled, they got their historical tour, they shopped until they dropped, etc. Complainers will say that they got a cheap drink and a bus with no bathroom (which is really a good thing, by the way). It's all about perspective.




Another example is European travel by those from outside that region. Rooms are smaller, there might not be air conditioning and there might not be an elevator (the lift). The room is also likely to have less furniture, no carpeting and spotty WiFi. Someone who is not experienced will be likely to give a low rating regardless of the hospitality of the staff, the location of the hotel and the cleanliness and security of the property.

10. As your travel become more varied, you will be able decide more effectively which reviews and ratings actually will help to plan your trip better. Good luck and Happy Travels!


Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

 This review is my personal opinion. I have Booking links. I am an Amazon Associate.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The NYC Traveler in NYC: New York Botanical Garden

  Latest COVID-19 Travel News



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The NYC Traveler in NYC:
The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY

Staycation: Things to Know



1. Older than the official City of New York (consolidated in 1898), The New York Botanical Garden is a National Historical Landmark and several of its buildings are New York City Landmarks. Aside from the magnificent 250 acres of flora, it also houses the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, a greenhouse and the LuEstherT. Mertz Library.

The Haupt Conservatory


2. The garden tried to be free for a long time but suffered from serious neglect due to lack of finances. It literally took from the 1950's to 1994 for the garden to recover financially and then, physically. So, admission is charged

Mertz Library



3. The site of thousands of school trips, as well a a major tourist attraction, the garden is large enough to have trams to chauffeur you around, but that is subject to safety and security concerns. However, you can get a map to help you navigate and there will be signs to guide you. The website has an interactive map so that you can get acquainted with the layout.




4. For as long as you are there, you will actually forget that you are in the largest metropolitan area in the world. Lose yourself in places like the Thain Family Forest on several trails. Your inner self will thank you.



Hiking through the Garden


5. Locals might want to consider a membership, especially during times when reservations are limited. And, since the garden is open year round, it is a perfect place the see the four seasons in all their glory.


6. Another reason to consider a membership is the exhibits that are on display for limited times. 

2012's replica of Monet's Gardens

2018: Georgia O'Keefe exhibit



7. If you can tear yourself away, the Bronx Zoo is literally next door, down Southern Boulevard. Both attractions are certainly full day events, but you can try to see them on one day. Good luck!

Turtle at the Garden



8. Although the Bronx is notoriously difficult to navigate to those not from that borough, the garden is one of the easiest places to get to: Metro-North from Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal will get you directly across the street from the Moshulu Entrance. Just make sure you exit the same way for the return trip.


Metro North



9. There are plenty of amenities (subject to safety and security concerns): cafes, restrooms and a gift shop with gardening souvenirs since you will come back inspired after your tour. 


10. Check the website often for special events. A fun one is the annual Holiday Train Show featuring landscapes of NY landmarks built from natural materials.




Purchase our fine art, decor or stock photos on ShutterstockImageKind, mcraytonphoto.comiStock by Getty Images, Etsy, Zenfolio and Dreamstime.


Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 if the copyright act of 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

 This review is my personal opinion. I have Booking links. I am an Amazon Associate.