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Unread 6 Nov 18, 12:35 PM  
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neilhd
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New York? No Kids? No Problem!

Wait a minute. This isn't Mauritius.

Something has clearly gone very wrong.

Ele and I had a plan to use our latest BA 2-4-1 Avios voucher and a pile of Avios to take ourselves off to Mauritius for a few days without any of those irritating offspring of ours in tow, but here we are going to NYC.

Let's rewind and see what happened

deneppah tahw ees dna dniwer s'teL

Ok, here we are in late February 2018. We are thinking maybe spring 2019 for Mauritius, or maybe autumn. We've not got a firm plan. Then, some friends of ours text us and say they are going to do a Vegas/NYC trip - 3 nights in each in January for his 40th birthday and would we like to come? Another friend - who owns a travel agency - is coming and has found a great deal, staying at Circus Circus (which I hear is a dump) in Vegas, and the Roosevelt in NYC. I forget what the price was - it was pretty good, although nobody wanted to stay at Circus Circus so an upgrade to the Wynn was found instead.

We declined, as we had Vegas in July 2018 and Florida in August 2018 already booked, plus the Mauritius plan.

But then of course we started to think a bit more about it. We decided that we really did want to go to NYC again. At the time, pre-Vegas trip, we weren't bothered about going back to Vegas again (although now having been I'm dying to go back and 3 nights at the Wynn sounds pretty good to me!). So a couple of weeks later we spoke to them again. The deal had gone and the current deals weren't amazing. So we decided to just book our own NYC flights and have 5 nights there - arriving in NY a day before the rest of them get there and leaving the day after they do. Mauritius could wait.

There were some pretty good prices with Norwegian - albeit rubbish flight times - which of course didn't include luggage or anything. We then also realised that if we weren't going to do Mauritius then we could just trigger the BA 2-4-1 voucher now (I was hovering the credit card spend just short of triggering it) and use that and fly business class. Avios NYC Club World availability is generally pretty easy to get even when not booking 355 days out at midnight on the dot.

So I did the last of the required spend and triggered the voucher. That took a few days to come through and then I booked the flights as soon as it did. 16th-21st January. Club World both ways, 500-ish pp using the voucher and a total of 100,000 Avios. Bargain.

Accommodation-wise we thought we might as well book the Roosevelt and stay in the same place as our friends. So I did that. The reviews didn't look great and the rooms looked tiny so I upgraded to a bigger room.

Fast-forward a few months and I realised that the Roosevelt has a $40-per-day resort fee. Which entitles you to absolutely ≈≈≈≈≈≈ all. That made me a bit mad and I suggested to Ele we change hotels. She didn't want to, but I managed to rebook it for a lower price which covered off the extra resort fee with the saving. However, I then really started reading the reviews. And frankly, they were terrible. I know all hotels have some bad reviews, but over 25% of the Trip Advisor ones were either Terrible or Poor. The Excellent category was very low. The consensus seems to be that the lobby is very impressive, but beyond that it's not good.

Reading the reviews, common themes seemed to be stained sheets, dirty, mouldy bathrooms and a dank, stale smell. Ele suffers with bad Asthma - especially in the winter - and this just has "attack" written all over it. I convinced her to change, and we looked around a bit, eventually narrowing it down to a choice between the Intercontinental Times Square, and the Intercontinental Barclay. Both had their advantages:

Barclay - Closer to the Roosevelt. Cheaper than the Times Square one. Recently renovated. Nice lobby.
Times Square - Bigger room. Modern high-rise with better views.

Currently I've got both booked (Travel Agent rates as I work for an online travel agent and have an IATA card). We preferred the Times Square one overall, but the room, bed-type and smoking preference is allocated on arrival and we can't risk a smoking room. We can cancel up until 2 days before so plenty of time to change our mind several more times. I expect we'll stay at the Barclay in the end as it's closer to the Roosevelt and cheaper. It'll also make a nice change as on both previous visits we've been just off 8th Ave (which the Times Square one also is), and this is a bit more further East and near to Grand Central.

They both also have resort fees, but they are less than the Roosevelt and actually give you something like $25 per day of food and beverage credit and $15 per day of laundry (they can wash my underwear!) so we can actually claw some of it back that way. The Roosevelt is just something like 10% of food for your $40 per day and I rather doubt we'll be spending $400 per day there...

We told our friends we'd switched. Obviously we had to give a reason and didn't want to say "It looks rubbish and you'll hate it" - because it may well be fine and we don't want them to worry! So we said that we're worried about Ele's asthma with the heating in the older hotels. The Barclay is pretty close to the Roosevelt so we can still meet easily.

In October I also realised that getting to Heathrow is going to be a challenge. Normally we go on a weekend, but this time we are going on a Wednesday morning. Our flight departs at 11am, so we have to be at the airport at 8am at the latest in order to make the most of the lounge! Arriving at 8am on a weekday, in winter, in rush hour, is not exactly a pleasant journey from our home in South London/Surrey. Getting to the M25 is a pain enough, and then getting around the most congested part of it to Heathrow is quite a burden to put on my parents. Especially as they'd then have to turn around and come back again, crawling through probably even worse traffic. It could easily be a 4-hour round trip for them. So, after considering other options like parking there, we've instead decided to stay at a hotel at the airport the night before. We can travel up after rush hour in the evening. There seemed to be 3 realistic options for this:

1 - The Sofitel T5. This has the upside of literally being part of the terminal, and also is extremely nice. Of course it is expensive. (300)
2 - The Thistle. Looks not very nice at all, but would probably do. Requires use of a driverless pod to get to the terminal. Frankly, that sounds very cool. Also, it was very cheap (70)
3 - The Hilton. A good middle ground in both price and comfort. However, requires a bus to get to the terminal, and they only seem to run every 30 minutes.

If you know me at all by now, you'll immediately know that we booked the posh, convenient one. Luckily, due to the aforementioned fact that I work for an online travel agent and hold an IATA card, I could use their special agents rates and get it for 180 which pushes it into roughly acceptable territory. At 300 I might have made a different decision!

We don't have any real plans yet. We're trying to all get together for dinner somewhere soon to discuss what we want to do, but haven't managed to arrange that yet. So we haven't even managed to make a plan in order to make a plan. Sounds like Brexit. I think there are a few more people coming than mentioned above actually, so I'm not quite sure how it will all work out whilst there. It's not a problem - if everyone else wants to do something that we don't want to then we'll just do our own thing that day.

Personally I'm happy just wandering around! NYC is a great place for wandering. It has been suggested we do the Statue of Liberty a bit better. I'm ok with this - we've only seen it by getting the Staten Island Ferry (and from the top of the One World Observatory). I'd like to go up Rockerfeller this time as I've never done that.

So, very little in terms of plans, and I imagine some of it will be driven by the weather! Last time we went in January it started off as -13C and 3 days later was +17C. That's a change of 30C which is insane (effectively the difference between freezing cold winter and height of summer here!). On Day 1 we were walking around in thickest jumpers, coats, hats, scarves etc. A few days later we were walking around in just a t-shirt. I will take a wider variety of coats this time as I only took my mega-thick Arctic-certified ridiculously heavy coat last time, and could really have done with something else half the time. I also could have done with walking boots for the first snowy day, and trainers for later on when it was warm. So I think I might take advantage of our Club World luggage allowance and take an extra suitcase with a couple of coats and pairs of shoes in it if I can't fit them all in the main case!

Not long to go now - just gotta get Christmas out of the way and then we're off!
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Unread 8 Nov 18, 11:32 PM  
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Glee Fan
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Sounds great!

I can highly recommend the Sofitel - we stayed there for the first time last February and it's a bit like turning left on the plane - once you've stayed there it's difficult to go back to the Travelodge!

I would have changed the hotel too and no way would I ever stay in Circus, Circus! Looking forward to reading more of your plans
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Unread 9 Nov 18, 01:20 AM  
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Ive stayed at the Westin Times Square once and the Roosevelt twice. If budget is no problem maybe away from the roosevelt, but in all honesty weve enjoyed our stays there as great location. Close enough yet far enough from the hustle and bustle to relax a bit. Either way its just amazing being in the city.

You opted right to steer clear of Norwegian flights we travelled to nyc with them I. February although the flight was good the service before the flight was shocking, delays left right and centre. And as for the return flight we were moved on to royal air Maroc. Which was better than Norwegian!
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Unread 9 Nov 18, 06:44 AM  
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Sounds like a great trip - wandering round NYC is always fun!
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Unread 12 Nov 18, 09:37 AM  
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Originally Posted by Glee Fan View Post
Sounds great!

I can highly recommend the Sofitel - we stayed there for the first time last February and it's a bit like turning left on the plane - once you've stayed there it's difficult to go back to the Travelodge!

I would have changed the hotel too and no way would I ever stay in Circus, Circus! Looking forward to reading more of your plans
Glad to hear the Sofitel is nice - it should be given the price!

Originally Posted by Beddy666 View Post
Ive stayed at the Westin Times Square once and the Roosevelt twice. If budget is no problem maybe away from the roosevelt, but in all honesty weve enjoyed our stays there as great location. Close enough yet far enough from the hustle and bustle to relax a bit. Either way its just amazing being in the city.

You opted right to steer clear of Norwegian flights we travelled to nyc with them I. February although the flight was good the service before the flight was shocking, delays left right and centre. And as for the return flight we were moved on to royal air Maroc. Which was better than Norwegian!
We flew once with Norwegian to Florida. No complaints with them on that occasion! Shame you had a bad time - I think that's the common issue though with them - if something goes wrong they don't have the planes to back it up.

Originally Posted by Melbatb View Post
Sounds like a great trip - wandering round NYC is always fun!
Sure is!
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Unread 30 Dec 18, 11:52 AM  
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It seems Im a few weeks late to this pre-trip report. Will be interested to see what you think of the Intercontinental Barclay.

Weve got a couple of nights in New York tagged on to the end of a Florida trip at Easter. Have booked a cancellable rate at a hotel, but its really expensive, so my thinking is well probably change it if a deal comes up elsewhere. Your hotel keeps popping up in my searches.

Have you made any plans on what to do yet? As it will be our 4th trip there, we havent got to cram loads in, but would like to do something different to our previous trips.
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Unread 31 Dec 18, 10:35 AM  
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Originally Posted by jocat View Post
It seems Im a few weeks late to this pre-trip report. Will be interested to see what you think of the Intercontinental Barclay.

Weve got a couple of nights in New York tagged on to the end of a Florida trip at Easter. Have booked a cancellable rate at a hotel, but its really expensive, so my thinking is well probably change it if a deal comes up elsewhere. Your hotel keeps popping up in my searches.

Have you made any plans on what to do yet? As it will be our 4th trip there, we havent got to cram loads in, but would like to do something different to our previous trips.
Hi Jo,

Of course I'll let you know what I think of it. It looks nice, and I've cancelled the other 2 bookings for the Roosevelt and the Intercontinental Times Square now.

No plans on what to do. Like you, we've done most of the big things. If it was just the 2 of us I'd have probably planned a lot more and pre-booked some tickets for things (or bought a multi-attraction pass), but with there being a few of us I don't want to commit to things really. I'm planning on Top of The Rock but mostly I expect we'll go with the flow a bit and just pay on the door for things. I might panic-book one or two things last-minute!
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Unread 8 Jan 19, 04:40 PM  
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Well it's a week to go now and, as Bob Dylan told us, the times they are a-changing.

The main thing is - I am changing jobs. I've been where I am for 7 years now nearly, and it really isn't the place it used to be. I've hated going into work for ages now. I bumped into my old boss a few weeks back (at a leaving drinks for another colleague), and then a couple of weeks later - just before Christmas - he called me and offered me a job in the new company he started last year with the old CEO of my current place. I jumped at it. It's a new company so it's more of a risk, but they seem to be doing well and the idea of helping something on the way up is far more appealing than trying to stop a company on the way down... I'm massively excited about it, and several ex-people from my current place work there already, so it won't be full of strangers. I can't wait!

So on the first day back after New Year, I handed in my notice. What they haven't actually realised is that I've got this holiday booked. I mean the time is booked off, but it was arranged some time back and I don't think they've realised I'm not in for a week... I have purposely not mentioned it in case they get any funny ideas about needing me for the entire month...

One downside though is that I will only have accrued 2 days annual leave by the end of Jan when I leave, and will have taken 5 days off, so that will be 3 days unpaid if the accounts department realise The other downside is I won't get medical so my ongoing knee problem will be a, er, problem. I'm trying to arrange to see another consultant for an opinion before my existing cover lapses, but any treatment will have to revert back to the NHS which is annoying. I asked Bupa how much it'd be for continued cover... yeah, not happening!

Anyway, back to the actual holiday...

I have cancelled the Roosevelt and the Intercontinental Times Square, leaving us at the Barclay.

I have booked transfers both ways with Blacklane (posh transfers in nice cars that meet you at arrivals. Well, the drivers meet you at the gate. Getting a car into the terminal is probably a bit tricky). I booked these on Black Friday as they had 20% off and it made it only about $10 more than a taxi. You could only get 20% off once, so I did one in my name and one in Ele's name. It does say 2 cases and there is a chance we will have a third (smaller) case, so that might end up on a seat and hopefully won't be a problem!

The group of us going is actually 10-strong. We know 8 of them - 2 of them we don't know. As previously mentioned they are going to Vegas first and arrive into NYC the day after us and leave the day before us. There was a group chat going on last night and one of the group (who is a travel agent and arranged all their travel) has booked us some stuff. So we are booked on Top Of The Rock and also on a Statue of Liberty cruise. I've no idea if it stops on the island or not - I'll just go with the flow! The rest are doing the 9/11 museum but we did that last time so we might go and do the Air & Space museum instead.

We go the day after the Brexit deal vote in parliament. What will that mean for exchange rates? Who knows. I'm planning on changing some more cash into $ a few days before just in case, but I still need to pay our hotel once there with a credit card so if the rate drops that'll push the price up. Of course if the rate goes up it'll work out well from that point of view, but when does that ever happen?!

Very excited now!
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