I have to apologize. My regular posting schedule of Tuesday, Friday, Sunday is going to be screwed up this week. This will be my only post until next Tuesday or Friday. The reason for this is two back-to-back trips with intense schedules. I am just back from the travel blogging conference in New York City, “TBEX”, which was terrific. I was supposed to be home last night, but Jetblue canceled my flight and I wound up coming home today instead. I leave again very early Friday morning to return to New York to catch the inaugural cruise of the new NCL Epic cruise ship. Which leaves me just 2 days to prepare for that. Rather than make myself sick by trying to do too much, I am admitting I am not Superwoman and can’t maintain my posting schedule this week.
So as I mentioned, I spent the weekend in New York City for the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX) conference. More than 200 travel bloggers converged on the city to learn from each other about how to be better travel bloggers. I won’t bore you with details of the conference, since I know most of you are not travel bloggers and probably don’t care. Instead, for this week’s post, I will give you my travel takeaways from my trip.
1. Having a plan is a good thing. I didn’t do my usual amount of planning for this trip and it left me feeling like I didn’t use my “tourist time” wisely. I am clearly not the “winging it” type. I am embarrassed to admit I ate at McDonalds one night when I was pressed for time and at a chain restaurant (Hawaiian Tropic Zone) in Times Square one night because I was starving in the wrong place at the wrong time and everything else was packed. All because I didn’t have a plan.
2. Always carry one more change of clothing than the amount of days you’re traveling, in case your flight is canceled. Because this happened to me, and I wish I’d done that. Along the same vein, don’t throw away your almost-gone tube of travel toothpaste or your ear plugs on the day you’re supposed to leave, thinking that you won’t need them any more. I had to go out and buy more.
3. Airport transportation options: If you’re flying into JFK and all you have is a carry-on or backpack, the cheapest way to get into Manhattan is by taking the Air Train from JFK to Jamaica Station in Queens and transferring to the E Train to whatever Manhattan stop will get you to your destination. The Air Train is pretty nice; the E Train is a typical NYC subway train. If money is no object and/or you have more luggage than you can comfortably take on the subway, get a taxi or call Dial7 (212-777-7777). The cost is comparable to taking a taxi, but more comfortable (you’ll get a town car with lots of leg room in the back seat).
4. Regardless of what you may have heard, the New York subway is perfectly safe. It’s hotter than hell at the stations in the summer time, but the trains are air conditioned. The trains are also very crowded. But then, so are the streets. (I actually knew this before I went, but I am often asked this, so thought I’d mention it.)
5. Don’t avoid tourist attractions you really want to see just because they’re crowded. The Met was crowded, the Brooklyn Bridge was busy, and Times Square is always a mob scene, but they’re all worth seeing/doing. However. . . .
6. Explore restaurants beyond the guidebooks. My cousin and I had planned to eat at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Grimaldi’s is a famous (pricey) pizza joint that everyone recommends. There was no shade to protect those standing in the long line waiting to get in, and it was a stinking hot day. We decided to eat instead at No. 1 Front Street on the corner, two doors up. There was no line and we almost had the whole, lovely, air-conditioned restaurant to ourselves. Service was excellent, the food was terrific, they were showing a World Cup game on TV and best of all, we paid half of what we would have had to pay at Grimaldi’s.
7. If you want to save money on a hotel room in New York City, try a room with a shared bathroom (which tend to be cheaper), like the Pod Hotel. It’s not like gym class in high school. You’re not showering buck naked in a big room with a bunch of other people. The bathrooms are private, you simply have to wait for one to be free. I was skeptical, but it wasn’t bad at all. And I almost never had to wait for one to be free. (I’ll be reviewing the Pod in full later.)
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions if you’re lost. Many will tell you not to look like a lost tourist in a city, or you run the risk of being a target for crime. But do you really want to get hopelessly lost in a strange city because you’re afraid to look like a tourist? Whenever I got a little lost in New York (which happened several times!), I stopped and asked someone (usually a shopkeeper or construction worker) for directions. They couldn’t always help (it seems no one in Greenwich Village knows where the Cantor Film Center is!), but at least they seemed apologetic about it.
9. It is really uncomfortable using the front LCD on my DualView in a public place. I know I need to get over this–it IS why I bought the DualView, after all–but I just felt really weird even considering taking my own picture in, say, Grand Central Station or Times Square. Too many people around to see me taking my own picture, you know? It’s kind of like talking to yourself in public.
10. I don’t think I’m a carry-on kind of gal. It has its benefits, but it also has its limitations, the foremost among these being lack of space and the need to lug it around in an airport. Between that and my heavy knapsack on my back, I felt like a pack mule. I will be doing carry-on only again this weekend for my press trip aboard the NCL Epic, but after that, I think I’ll go back to checking my bag. It’s far less stressful for me.