Planning New York Winter 2018 and Westin New York Grand Central Hotel Mini Review

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I’ll start this post by apologising, I’ve not written a post or even taken a look at my blog for about 2 months. If I’m honest I’ve had a lot going on, I haven’t talked about it much but I left my job in June and was hunting for a new one until late October. In October I was lacking motivation so much and just felt drained by this constant job search, I’m happy to say I started a new job on 1st November which is huge relief although only temporary at the moment. Things have seemed much more positive since getting my job but with settling in and then going off to New York mid month I just really haven’t given my blog a second thought. Well I’m glad to say I’m back, I don’t know how regular my posts will be but will start my comeback off with a good one based all around how I planned my trip and also a mini review of the hotel I stayed in.

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If you know me personally you will know my most favourite place in the whole entire world is New York, it’s somewhere I feel so comfortable, safe and content. I’ve been 3 times in total, each being just as magical and its a city with so much to do you could never get bored. I don’t think I’ve written any posts around my previous trips but travel content usually does really well on my blog so it must be something my readers really like.

This time I visited New York with my bestfriend, Zoe. We booked the trip back in April/ May and the whole holiday – flights, hotel and transfers were organised and paid for through British Airways and cost £876 per person. We went from Friday morning and returned mid morning Thursday so had 6 days there.

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Flights
We flew British Airways Economy from Heathrow and returned to Gatwick, we left at 8:25AM and arrived in JFK airport at 11:30AM. It was then about a 30-40 minute drive to our hotel in Manhattan as there was no traffic whatsoever, I think the average time is usually about an hour. We the flew back home from JFK, but the journey from our hotel took about an hour and a half this time as it was the evening before thanksgiving and the world and his wife were travelling. The journey to the airport actually wasn’t as bad as we imagined considering the time of year and time of day. Both the flights to and from JFK with BA were really pleasant, with more than enough complimentary food and drink. A note about JFK airport, it’s quite small so all of the gates are really easy to find but the shop (I think it was called the Hudson News) was so so expensive so may be bring any snacks with you that you might want on the plane and don’t save the souvenir buying for the airport. However we found a Dunkin Donuts in the Airport which was really cheap.

Transfers
We decided to book our transfers through British Airways at the same time as booking the rest of the holiday, this seemed the easiest way and the way we felt most comfortable with as they would use a well-known reputable company. The transfers cost about £35 each, each way. We decided on getting a private car as opposed to a coach shared with other people. The company BA used were My Sedan, the drivers were both really friendly and on time… if anything a bit early. Both of the cars we got were really spacious and our luggage (two large cases and two cabin bags) fitted in really easily.

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Accommodation
We opted for the Westin New York Grand Central Hotel mostly because I’d heard great reviews about it from people I knew and online. It was also near The Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel which is where I stayed last time so I knew being based near Grand Central Station would be perfect. The hotel itself is a three star however it was of really high standard as I think most American hotels usually are. We opted for a traditional double room which had two double beds and a little seating area near the window which was great as we had a view of the Empire State Building(see pic above for view). My top tip would definitely be to call before you arrive, I did about a week before and asked for a room with a view which we got for no extra charge. We had read about a “destination fee” that this hotel charges on top of your room rate which was $25 per room per night however when we arrived the gentleman at reception advised this was not applicable to our booking, I think this may be because we booked through BA rather than directly with the hotel. This destination fee meant you would get free wi-fi, however the receptionist Barnardo gave this to us free of charge. The beds were really comfortable, we had tea and coffee facilities in the room with Starbucks coffee supplied and two complimentary bottles of water per day.

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The hotels location was great, about a five-minute walk to Grand Central Station and about a twenty-minute walk to times square. It was also within walking distance of the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. We didn’t eat at the hotel but we had breakfast next door in Sandwicherie, which sold things such as pancakes, omlettes, waffles, muffins, fruit and yogurt. It was on average about $13 for a drink and a breakfast. They also sold really tasty cakes which we got one night to take back to the hotel and eat in bed.

Attractions
We decided to do most of the popular attractions as it was Zoe’s first time visiting the city and although I’d seen them before I was more than happy to do them again. We decided to buy a CityPass which was £68 each and allowed us to visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Top of the Rock Observation Deck and the Empire State Building. We bought it on the official website here and you could load it to the wallet on your phone which was so much easier than having to remember to carry around lots of bits of paper. We also visited the One World Observatory and in this instance if someone tries to grab your attention outside don’t just ignore them as you would do in the rest of NYC as we were given a voucher to get a reduced price Fast Pass Ticket. Whilst at the World Trade Center we stopped at Oculus World Trade Shopping Centre which was amzazing to see even if you aren’t into shopping.

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I had visited the Statue of Liberty before but had only gone as far as pedestal height, we booked tickets for entry to the crown in July, you need to book them this far in advance as they do sell out. In the end we actually only went up as far as the pedestal as we climbed the statue quite late in the holiday and didn’t think we could walk the 300-400 steps extra up to the crown.

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The holiday was a busy one and therefore eating actually came so far down on our priorities we often missed lunch and visited chain restaurants in the evening, I’d really recommend Bubba Gump Shrimp in Times Square as its lovely to sit by the window and look out as there’s so much going on. The other restaurant we visited that’s worth a mention is Ellen’s Stardust Diner, I’d been longing to visit and had attempted on both of my other trips but the queues were always so long. Although there was a queue this time, it wasn’t too long so we decided to wait and in the end we were seated within half an hour. If you haven’t heard of this diner, it’s famous for its aspiring Broadway performers who serve you your food and perform in between.

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Random Tips-

  • Beauty addicts beware there is a long long queue for the Glossier showroom, so plan this into your trip… may be go earlier in the day so your legs aren’t a;ready tired if you need to stand in the queue for a while.
  • There are A LOT of fake handbags being sold on the side of the street. We found this was mainly on the corners of the street and when there was a big crowd around, could be prime time for pick pocketers so keep hold of your bags.
  • A visit to Bath and Body Works was high on our list but if you buy any candles and like me put them in your hand luggage due to their weight and how fragile they are be prepared for your hand luggage to be taken to one side and searched when you go through security.
  • A visit to the Top of the Rock at night is a must, it was such an amazing experience and doing this at night rather than The Empire State Building meant you actually got a view of The Empire State Building lit up.
  • The Statue of Liberty Crown needs to be booked about 6 months in advance, if you leave it to the last-minute you won’t be able to go as far as the crown as the tickets will sell out. Keep in mind the crown is up 300-400 stairs that are in a confined space.
  • You can ride the Staten Island Ferry for free, this is a way to see the Statue of Liberty close up if you are on a budget. The ferry doesn’t stop at Liberty Island but goes past it.
  • Ubers are really affordable and are a great way to travel around the city.
  • Visiting when the christmas decorations are up is so magical, the shop decorations and displays are out of this world.
  • Spend time in Central Park, we didn’t allocated enough time for this. Its beautiful in the fall.
  • YOU WILL WALK LOADS even when you plan not to!

 

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