Things to know before you leave for New York

Travel booked for New York? Here are the things you need to know before you go!

Hello friends! 💫 Finally here I am back from a super trip and now I can say it: New York is no longer just a dream in the drawer! After exploring the length and breadth of the Big Apple for 10 days, it’s time to share with you some key tips for leaving prepared and experiencing the Big Apple at its best. 🙂

Flights

Let’s start from the beginning: flight. We started from Venice, and the first step was to take a tour on
Skyscanner
to figure out which airlines could get us to New York. By simply entering the departure and arrival airports, along with the dates we chose, we were done. Skyscanner shows you all available options by letting you see right away which airlines fly on those dates.

Usual advice you know by heart but always good to repeat: Skyscanner is great for getting an idea, but I would avoid booking directly from there. It is only an intermediary, and if there are problems, things could get complicated. Better to play it safe: once you find the flight that suits you, go to the airline’s official website and book there. We chose Air France (which we later found out was operated by Delta) at €500 each way, round-trip, with all the flexibilities such as the possibility of changing dates and checked bag included. We booked three to four months in advance and the departure was set for March 14. You can obviously spend less with some flexibility and by booking more months in advance.

ESTA and the passport

To travel to the U.S., it is mandatory to have a valid passport , but there is another crucial step that should not be underestimated: theESTA. To set foot in the United States, it is necessary to obtain this travel authorization. Useful thing to know: once obtained it is valid for two years!

How is it achieved? Step one: go to the official website https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta. In the upper right corner you can set language “Italian” which will make it easier for you. Now click on “Create New Request.” The process is quite intuitive, but it requires a lot of attention on every single detail so be careful to enter passport number etc. correctly. Once completed, you will be asked to make the payment of $21 each. For us, the confirmation came via email after 6 hours! At most, you may have to wait a couple of days, but it is usually a matter of hours.

A word of advice: don’t leave the ESTA application to the last minute. Although the system is efficient, it is always best to do it in advance to avoid any kind of pre-departure thinking.

Small detail that may come in handy if you have been to Cuba, I leave you with this statement found on the viaggiaresicuri website: “Italian citizens who have visited Cuba on or after January 12, 2021, must apply for a visa and cannot enter the United States with ESTA. It is emphasized that-even for cases of mere transit to Cuba-visa applications must be made. Travelers with an already approved ESTA or who hold dual citizenship will be notified that their ESTA has been revoked and can review their status on the ESTA App or the U.S. ESTA website.

Medical Insurance

Insurance is by no means mandatory, but I recommend it. If there is one thing we don’t want, it is to find ourselves in trouble, especially when it comes to health, in a city as far from home as New York City, where the cost of medical care is astronomical.

Having reliable medical insurance means traveling with one less worry especially in a country where a simple visit to the emergency room can cost more than the flight and hotel.

As you know I have insurance included with the metal plan of my Revolut card(find the article where I talk about it here) but there are many very valid options such as Heymondo (click HERE to also get a discount on your insurance). Both offer coverage designed specifically for travelers, with plans to suit different needs and lengths of stay.

Choosing the Hotel

Finding a place to stay in New York will be very easy if you have a good budget because from my experience I can safely say that the cost of the hotel was the most significant expense.

We opted to stay in the heart of Manhattan, in a location that I thought was perfect. We chose a hotel/apartment (you can always find someone at the desk who will help you out and they take care of luggage storage but you won’t have daily housekeeping) and we had Madison Square Park practically on our doorstep and the Empire State Building just a 10-minute walk away. This allowed us to have to take the subway very few times.

Another not insignificant detail: our accommodation did not ask us for any deposit at check-in. This is something to consider, as many hotels in New York require a deposit of up to $300, which will be returned to you only at the end of your stay. This deposit can be covered by either credit card or cash.

Thanks to the Genius profile on Booking we were able to book at the price of 200€ per night, which, given the central location I consider more than good. Of course, the period must also be considered. March was quite cheap compared to the summer months which are already high season. HERE is the link to our hotel Sonder Henri 24.

However, there are cheaper solutions. For example, by staying in SoHo or Brooklyn, you can spend significantly less. We had found an interesting option, “Soho 54” I leave you the link HERE, which I recommend you take a look at.

Of course, keep in mind that opting for neighborhoods a little farther from downtown Manhattan also means tying yourself more to the subway for commuting.

SIM and Internet

On any trip it is essential to have the internet to browse for useful info as you explore the city and because in short, you never know anything can always happen and the internet I think is really essential!

First step: check if your phone carrier has offers related to travel to America.

We again decided to opt for the virtual eSIM, a choice we often make for convenience. Very few hours before we left, we purchased on Holafly’s website a 10-day esim. You know I don’t have a favorite provider but Holafly always has great prices compared to competitors. However, I have to admit that we regretted it a little this time.

Our friends who had already been to America had recommended the physical SIM which is generally faster and more stable. If I went back I would definitely opt for the physical sim because some connection problems we actually had! It is purchased on Amazon here: Prepaid SIM USA

Take care friends, essential to purchase and activate it BEFORE you leave!

Transportation

Let’s start with news: the historic MetroCard is destined to become a memory. In fact, this year (this is March 2024), it will be replaced by the OMNY (One Metro New York) system, an innovation that makes travel even easier and faster.

All you need is a contactless credit or debit card, or a mobile device with Apple Pay, Google Pay or any other digital wallet. I have always simply used my phone with Revolut added on Apple Pay. I would bring my phone close to the OMNY reader located at the subway turnstiles and go right through.

The cost per subway ride is $2.90 but there is a weekly spending limit of $35. This means that once you reach this threshold within the same week, you will no longer pay for subsequent trips.

To avoid getting lost in the New York subway system, my advice is to rely on Google Maps. As you enter your departure point and destination, select the “by means” option to get all the directions you need: which line to take, where to change, and real-time schedules. Super useful and convenient!

Tourist passes

New York City offers several tourist passes that can help you save on admission costs for many attractions. Among the most popular we have the New YorkCityPASS andExplorer Pass, but the choice depends very much on what you want to see and how you plan to organize your trip.

New York CityPASS

It includes admission to 5 famous attractions in the city at a reduced price but by clicking here you can read all the details.

New York Explorer Pass

The Explorer Pass offers more flexibility, allowing you to choose from a specific number of attractions (2 to 10) to visit within 60 days. Again I refer you to thepurchase linkHERE and on “full description” you can read all the details well.

Before purchasing a pass, it is important to do the math. Consider which attractions you absolutely want to see and compare the total cost of individual tickets with the cost of the pass. In some cases, if the attractions you want to visit are not included in the pass or if you plan to explore the city without a fixed plan, it may not be worth it. We in fact decided not to purchase any passes!

Also, keep in mind that some passes have time limits (such as the Explorer Pass), which may add some pressure in having to visit everything within a certain period.

Latest advice

Adapter

To avoid ending up with discharged smartphones, cameras or other devices with no way to charge them, remember to bring a universal adapter with you. Here: AMAZON LINK you will find the one I used, super practical and functional for every need but most importantly reusable in so many countries.

Payments

We paid for practically everything, even minimal $1 purchases, without any problems with our Revolut prepaid card. There are only a few places, such as pizzerias that sell the famous $1 slice, that might require cash, but we personally never had the need to change money or look for an ATM.


And with these last tips, I feel like I have told you everything you need to plan your trip to New York in the best possible way. I hope you find this information helpful in experiencing one of the world’s most fascinating cities without stress and with the right preparation. 🙂

Don’t forget to check out my stories on Instagram @angelaisai to see all the videos about our trip to New York and for some extra tips. Also find the article with the detailed itinerary here: Six Days in New York – Itinerary and Tips

And it only remains for me to wish you bon voyage! 🗽✈️

Editor’s note: this post contains Amazon affiliate links

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