New York Trip post 1: Planning and Travel

 (leaving our wonderful Portland Airport...which I think is one of the best out there)

 Friends, my daughter and I recently returned (on the 4th) from a 6 day trip to NYC (obviously it's taking me awhile to post). Cue all the songs you know about me, they ran through my head often. My hope is to share stories, tips, etc. over the course of a few posts. Starting with our planning and travel. 

(lol....need to get that caffeine down for the flight..goofy girls)

When our girls turned 16 we let them choose a trip to a location of their choosing and they could bring a friend. It obviously had to be within reason of a budget and the friend had to pay for airfare (if necessary and extra spending money). Our oldest went to Vegas (I know....weird, but it was a blast. Read about it here) Our youngest was going to choose LA but then that year our oldest got married so that kind of put a kink in plans (in a good way). The other place our youngest wanted to go was NYC, so we said, "well, how about we save, and you save for another few years and we can try going for your 18th birthday/graduation". That sounded good to her so the saving began. Our girls are great with their money and really know how to save. We also had a garage sale which gave us another $450 to use (we put this towards food and bus/subway, etc).

I'll admit, the closer the trip got, the more nervous I became. The lyrics "just a small town girl", kept repeating through my brain. The biggest cities I've navigated were Seattle (barely) and Portland. How was I supposed to navigate us in the largest city in the U.S. of A? Just me and the girls and did I mention that I am directionally Hubby wasn't going. But this was like a bucket list deal for my girl so I just pulled up those big girl bootstraps and determined that I could do this. Do you know what? We totally did it, rocked it in fact! AND, I would do it again! My confidence level went up enough to know that "hey, I can handle myself in a big city"! The girls came home saying "you know what. We can totally go anywhere now in problem). It does help that I'm pretty laid back, as is my daughter, so it takes a lot to get us worked up, though we did have a few uptight moments but I blame that on the heat and my painful feet (another story for later) or that sometimes our phones confused us on which way we were going.
(We made it...taking the train from Newark to Penn Station)

This city is so HUGE and SO overwhelming. We barely scratched the surface of all there is to do and see and we did and saw a lot! This was probably one of the biggest trips we've taken and so we really wanted to be sure we were well prepared. We didn't want to waste time trying to decide what to do. 
(view from our room on the 20th floor)

TIP #1: Be well planned in your travel and if you are budget conscious, SAVE! SAVE! SAVE! It's not a cheap vacation. We have a credit card that earns mileage so we used it and earned enough credit to buy two tickets. **As a side note, we only use our credit cards if we have the cash to pay for it when the bill comes or ideally, when the charge is made. 

Ahead of time my girl planned out all the places/things she wanted to see, so when I was looking for a place to stay I not only looked at pricing, but for a location that would be fairly central to her list. Turns out Midtown Manhatten was near it all...we never actually went uptown (well, okay, once on accident on the subway, but we just got on the next train going the opposite direction...remember I'm directionally So, we chose the hotel, Yotel. It was spendy and so I decided to reach out and see if we could get a better price. As my husband says "what's the worse they can say?" Never be afraid to ask questions. Well, I asked, and they gave me one of their queen/1 bunk rooms for $169.00 a night and it was on the 20th floor so we got a view. That's a pretty good price for the city, though you don't get much, at least not like what you'd get here in the NW. I secured this room several months in advance.

(we were right in the Times Square area and could see this huge H&M from our street)

TIP #2: Don't wait too long to book a room/house, whatever route you go. As time gets closer (depending on when you're going), prices will go up and selections go down. If they go down, a lot of places will give you the lower price. I periodically would check the dates we were going and man, it got hard to find places. 

Most hotels do not offer continental breakfasts, and make sure you find one that has free wifi (not all have it...for free). The rooms are SMALL. Like 179 square feet was the size of the one we stayed in. There were three of us, but really, we were only there to sleep. 

This was a neat, trendy hotel, but not really family oriented. I would say it is geared more to young couples, business crowd, yuppy group. They had a great terrace, but once night hit the girls felt a bit awkward with couples lounging around and a lot of drinking and during the day it was just too hot to chill out there. So while it was nice, we probably wouldn't stay there again. Check out their website for pics, we didn't get any. Also, we showed up at 9:45 at night and there wasn't a room ready. How do you not have rooms ready when you know people are showing up? Anyways, not happy campers, but they gave us free breakfast the next morning and a late checkout, which was nice since we were taking a later flight out anyways. 
(The subways weren't near as busy as you see on

We opted to buy a 7 day unlimited metro pass. That allowed us to ride any applicable bus/subway, anywhere/anytime. Yes, you can do per ride, but we didn't want to mess with having to buy tickets each time. We just wanted to swipe and go. It was well worth it and well used. You walk A LOT. Even with using transit. We took two cab rides. We flew into Newark, NJ airport so we took the train to Penn Station which was about 5 minutes (by car) from our hotel, then took a cab from there to the hotel. That was about a $10 ride. The second was the next morning to urgent care (I'll share that in another post). That was another $10 ride. I don't recommend cab unless you need to use it. 

(on one of our first days I was talking to our concierge about the subway, he informed us that sometimes if your pass doesn't let you through, you have to wait 15 minutes before using it again....good thing he told us, cuz that happened funny)

TIP #3: If you are there for an extended period, buy the unlimited passes, and USE. THE. TRANSIT option first before choosing to walk everywhere. You think "oh, it's only 10 minutes. Oh, it's only 15 minutes". All those minutes add up, and I ended up with severe blisters at the end of our first full day. Don't repeat my mistake.

It was intimidating at first to figure out which subway to use, what bus, where to go, etc...there are certain stations that go certain places. certain trains that go certain directions. We used our phones a lot and also the maps we picked up. We also weren't afraid to ask for help and despite what you might hear, we found plenty of friendly people who not only helped with directions, but also gave us tips, etc. We did consider using an uber or lyft, BUT depending on the time of day, the price sky rocketed depending on the demand. When we were ready to head to the airport, we just walked (we had carryon luggage so it was fine) to the bus/train station a few blocks away and took that back to Penn Station to hop on a train to Newark. The train ride from Penn station to Newark airport was about $12 a person. 

TIP #4: Use google maps or whatever maps app you have, and also download some apps. I downloaded a NYC Subway app as well as Citymapper, and NY waterway. Check all your options and don't be afraid to ask for help.

On the planning side, I did A LOT of asking posts on Facebook. Everything from what shoes should I buy, travel tips, places to eat, etc.. Chances are you know SOMEONE who has been there or has a friend of a friend who's cousin Guido lives there. That helped a lot and gave me a bit of confidence. 

Also along the lines of planning, my girl had a lot of places she wanted to see, so she went online and found where exactly each of these places was and created "sections", ie...Soho, Brooklyn, Times Square, etc and then decided on what days we would visit each "section" and what locations were there. I also had her write down the addresses so that we could put them in the phone and go in order if possible. We really wanted to save time and didn't want to spend it all going back and forth. We learned that lesson a bit on the first day. We did more wandering because we weren't entirely sure where we were going even though we knew the general directions we should go.

TIP #5: Decide ahead of time where you will go on what days and in what order. When do you have the most time? When is the best time to see particular sites? 

In regards to where to stay, I seriously considered an Airbnb or VRBO, but at the time and in our price range there weren't very many, a few were in areas I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in, AND I was a bit nervous about showing up and it not being at all like what we thought it would be. I just wasn't comfortable with the unknown and that is why we opted for a hotel. Especially because it wouldn't be until after 9 or 10 at night when we'd be arriving. I have had great experiences with both companies, but we were across the US, no hubby with us...I just didn't want to take a chance, though it would've been nice to have a bigger place to crash or a place to store food and beverages. 

Boy, it's hard to know how much to share, or even remember everything. I think I'll leave it at this for now and if you have any questions or your own tips, please feel free to comment. I will also post pictures but if you'd like to see more, you can see them on my instagram or on my personal FB page.  

With Joy Unquenchable,


  1. Oh wow! I think this is so brave of you! I was following along on IG the whole time but reading about it in detail...I am seriously impressed. The only times I have traveled without my husband (the actual planner of all things) I was on tours. Thanks so much for sharing all your wisdom and insights with us!

    1. Thank you! I'm getting better at traveling alone. LOL.


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