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Old 17 Feb 20, 09:31 AM  
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Rock(erfeller)ing Around The Xmas Tree - Day 1

Booking a holiday departing on the 27th December seemed like a good plan. Of course, it left us no time to pack or get organised. Following a hectic Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we hurriedly threw some clothes into some cases and set the alarm for early the next morning.

Before we go much further I'd better do some intros!

Me, Neil, 41
DW, Ele, 42
DS, Joe – 14
DD, Jess – 23
DSILTB, Jordan – 23 (Jess's fiancιe!)

The trip was planned fairly last-minute – flights booked in November – mainly as Ele has always wanted to see the Rockerfeller Xmas tree and I found some reasonably cheap flights, and we didn't get a proper holiday this year. So it was quite spontaneous and, frankly, something we needed following a stressful year. I started the year in Job 1 that I'd been in for several years, resigned on the first day back to work in Jan 2019, started at Job 2 in Feb 2019, the company decided to scale back massively in June, so I was turfed out with 1 months' notice, then started Job 3 in July 2019!

We left home at 7am and drove to Gatwick which is about a 30 minute drive. There wasn't much traffic, unsurprisingly.

I had pre-booked parking in the short stay carpark as that was cheaper than getting a taxi each way – especially as there are 5 of us. I had low expectations for this working, but the barrier lifted after reading my number plate so I drove to the furthest of the 3 short-stays thinking it might be less busy, and then the whole family enjoyed a trip up several levels of ramps to find a level with spare spaces, and then further enjoyed a tour of Level 4 whilst I searched for a suitable space. One drawback with short-stay is that people come and go frequently and I didn't want anyone dinging my doors! I finally found an acceptable space and parked up.

We were 3 hours before our first flight, but the check-in desk was completely closed. We were going indirect with Iberia via Madrid on the way out (direct on the way home though). Ele found someone and they said that for the short-haul it was only 2 hours (as you can tell, short-haul holidays are not really a thing we do...). We had nothing else to do so we started the queue. A few others joined before long, and actually after only a few minutes an agent came and opened the business class queue. There was one person in there so they got seen first, then we got called forward. To be honest, 2 hours – if that was the only agent which it was at the time – doesn't leave a lot of time for queueing, bag dropping, clearing security, getting to gate etc.

Anyway, we dropped our bags, including our cabin cases which they let us check in for free which made things a lot easier (I paid for 2 hold cases, then we had 3 cabin cases as well as BA/Iberia allow you 23kg of hand-luggage and buying a couple of new cabin cases to take with us had seemed like a better use of money than spending it on luggage fees for a bigger case). We cleared security with no major issues other than some confusion about taking iPads out of bags. It clearly said mobile phones should be put IN your bag, but didn't make it clear that iPads – only marginally bigger than the phones really, especially the mini variety – should be taken out. So that had to get swabbed and tested and whatnot. My Kindle was fine though, as was Joe's Nintendo Switch. Nice and consistent.

We then went for breakfast at a place I can't remember the name of.

Ele was clearly approving of it.

It was delicious and cost about £75 for the 5 of us. We then got some water and sweets and went to the gate. We boarded on time. A woman was in Jess's seat, but to be fair the numbering was not very clear and she moved. We pushed back about 10 minutes late. The flight was fine. It was only a 1hour 50minute hop to Madrid. I read my Kindle and had a little nap. We didn't buy any food or anything, The seats were cramped for a taller person like myself but it was bearable for the short distance.

Ele clearly was approving of the plane as well. I don't know what's going on with all the thumbs-up. She never normally does it!

We landed on time and got off the plane . We weren't at an airbridge, it just kind of parked in the middle of nowhere and we got herded onto a bus to take us to the terminal.

The sky was very blue but it wasn't hot – about 14 degrees I think.

At the terminal entrance – at what seemed like a back-door for maintenance staff or something – a woman was asking for anyone connecting. Us and a few others were connecting to NYC. We got stood to the side and then put back onto the bus which drove us to the satellite terminal. The terminal was actually very nice – very new and modern. There was a Starbucks so we got a coffee and a panini for a huge amount of money. Ele also bought a mug. I convinced myself it was all free as I'd found 90 Euros that I didn't know I had in my "foreign-money" box at home the day before we left. After the Starbucks visit and a few more sweets in a WH Smith (wasn't expecting that in a Spanish airport but I suppose no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition either) I had very little left from that 90.

We wandered over to our gate – right at the end of the terminal of course – and joined the small queue for "Group 4" passengers. That queue ended up being huge so I'm glad we joined it when we did. We boarded on time, settled into our seats – more roomy than the first flight – and actually pushed back from the gate about 10 minutes early. I watched Ad Astra and Hobbs & Shaw. Food came and was a bit rubbish, but that's not exactly unusual! I filled out the customs form which was in Spanish so was a bit trickier, but luckily I've done a fair few of these before so could work it out. We landed about 30 minutes early. Ele spent the last 30 mins chatting to the young (in her 20s) girl next to her whose name was Tabatha. I've never met anyone actually called that before. Certainly not in Economy, anyway.

Due to being near the back of the plane I knew we'd queue for a bit at immigration. Turns out it couldn't have gone any worse. As we entered the hall they were directing a bunch of people into a 2nd queue. They stopped that just as we got there and we got put in the 1st queue. Of course the 2nd queue went a lot quicker, and they processed all of those so took another batch of people from the end of our queue – again, stopping at us. And all those people were also processed before us, so we were literally the last people through! When it got to us the officer (one of only about 4) sent us back and made us go one at a time. That's never happened before. He then lectured Jess (who went first) about how it must be one at a time and surely that's how they do it in England (no it isn't – it's always been a group, just like it has been every other time I've been to the USA...). We didn't argue. We didn't need the customs form either. Our bags were already waiting of course, and Jess had gathered them all up by the time the rest of us were through. The queue was probably about 45 minutes all told which isn't the worst we've ever had actually. It just seemed worse as we were last. And we landed early so that made up for some of it for sure.

We went outside to find a taxi. I was never sure if there were 5-seater taxis or not, but had done some searching around and it seemed that they did exist and the advice was the dispatcher would call one forward. We got directed to a van-type one. We loaded the bags and got in, and then realised there was not enough seats. He said one could just sit on the floor. I said that's ridiculous, unsafe, and probably illegal so we got out. He didn't help unload the bags. I spoke to the dispatcher again and he said we'd have to take 2 cabs. I laughed at him and went and called an Uber XL which arrived in 5 minutes and was perfectly fine. Total cost of $82 plus tip – rather a lot cheaper than 2 cabs... The driver was really nice and we had a good chat with him all the way there.

The ride in didn't take too long as traffic was light. We soon arrived at the Hyatt Place Times Square – our home for the next few days. I had booked this before it actually even opened – it's a brand new hotel – but the early reviews had not been kind... tales of elevator woe were common, as half of them weren't working...

We were checked in by a friendly young lady. I asked about the elevators (if they weren't working I wanted a low floor) but they were now all fixed and we got the 18th floor. The rooms were small – especially with the sofa-bed out for Joe – but adequate. The price made it worthwhile – it was several hundred pounds cheaper than anything else I could find for these dates, and this wasn't exactly a holiday we had saved and budgeted for - so it would have to do! We had a bit of a view which was nice.

Jess and Jordan's room was directly opposite ours. We were at the end of a corridor so no passing foot-traffic noise either. We nipped out to 7-11 at the corner of the street for some snacks. Joe had forgotten how noisy and bustling it is! Ele did the 2-footed "Elf" jump over the crossing while we pretended we didn't know her. With that done, we went to bed! Not sure what time, probably about 10pm. A long and stressful travel day, but it's behind us now!
My Previous Trip Reports
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Old 18 Feb 20, 07:21 AM  
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Join Date: Dec 13

We always have to go short haul before long haul so are used to the 2h check in! It does make for a long day though!

Immigration sounds like it was a bit of a nightmare!

Looking forward to hearing how it went!

Index of my trip reports
2016 Quebec - Kuala Lumpar - New York City 2017 Dubai - Eurocamps France - Ontario and Quebec - So-Cal 2018 Montreal - Bangkok - New England 2019 Argentina - Quebec City - Hong Kong
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Old 18 Feb 20, 09:19 AM  
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I love a NYC trip report ❤️ I lived there years ago and miss it so much😔
Dreams are forever - Tinkerbell
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Old 5 Jul 20, 07:40 PM  
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I'm finally getting around to reading your report!

A long travel day and stressful at times but glad you all made it in one piece. Oh and I'm totally with Ele in doing the two footed jump over the crossing
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