Photo courtesy of Flickr

How to plan a spontaneous* trip to NYC

*1-2 weeks advance planning recommended

I have spent the past 18 years of my life in Southern California, growing up surrounded by the city of Los Angeles. When I booked bus tickets to New York, I thought it couldn’t be much different from L.A. I figured it would be that same comfort of skyscrapers and traffic. Oh, was I wrong. New York is a whole other world. Take my advice with the following disclaimers: This was my first time in New York City -- I am in no way a veteran of the Big Apple or an authoritative source on NYC attractions. I also made this trip with my girlfriend, so if you and your bro don’t feel like hitting up the two-story Madewell in SoHo, there are plenty of other things to do.


STEP ONE: ACQUIRE A BEST FRIEND

Ideally this person should be able to walk long distances, survive on minimal sleep without getting cranky, have a comfortable shoulder to sleep on during the bus and have about $150 that they are willing to spend on this trip.


STEP TWO: GETTING THERE

The bus from Boston to New York is about four and a half hours. The Greyhound Express bus runs multiple times a day and takes you from South Station right to Port Authority in the center of Manhattan. The free WiFi only worked about half the time, but for $15 each way ($30 round trip), having a clean, comfortable seat with a power outlet below it was more than I expected. Other popular buses are BoltBus ($13 to $26 each way, depending on the time), and Fung Wah Bus($15 to $25 each way).

If you take the Comm Ave. bus to Reservoir, it's about a 35-minute ride on the T to South Station or a $30 cab fare. Be sure to get there about half an hour before your bus is scheduled to leave, just to be safe.


STEP THREE: STAYING THERE

If you have friends at Columbia, Fordham or anywhere else in the city, now might be the time to call them up. However, if you want the full experience and are comfortable spending a little extra money, you will want to book a night in a hostel. New York Loft Hostel has private rooms with a bathroom for $75 per person. The rooms have two beds (the bottom is a double and the top is a twin), so you'll want to make sure you book both beds or risk having to share your “private” room with a stranger. There are dorm-style rooms available for cheaper prices as well. The room is small—the bed takes up most of it—and the only other amenities are a coat hook, a small lockbox and the attached bathroom. The room and bathroom were clean, but you'll need to pick up a hair dryer from the front desk because they are not in the rooms. The hostel is located in Williamsburg—known as the birthplace of the hipster—and is about a 20 minute subway ride on the L train from Union Square. Other popular budget accommodations are Chelsea Star Hostel and The Pod Hotel. This is where the majority of your budget is going to go, so be sure to read reviews before booking. Make sure your accommodations have 24 hour check-in and read the policy, as some hostels require checking in with a passport.


STEP FOUR: EATING THERE

Dining in New York is a subject that has been done to death. You’re going to be pretty safe with pulling up Yelp on your phone and choosing somewhere that looks good, but have a few general ideas before you go if you need to make a reservation. If you stay in or near Williamsburg, check out Juliette Restaurant for brunch. The indoor patio with plants hanging down from the ceiling is a relaxing, trendy place to enjoy one of the best Croque Monseiurs I've ever had. Their corned beef hash (served in a cast iron skillet with poached eggs and Sriracha-infused hollandaise) is a close second. If you want late night (and semi-romantic) dinner, get a reservation at Max Brenner in Union Sqaure. The baked mac-and-cheese prepares you nicely for the slice of chocolate marshmallow pizza that follows.


STEP FIVE: THINGS TO DO

This is another subject by which a first-time visitor like me cannot even attempt to compete with the countless articles already written. You will always be able to find something to do in the city. I saw Miike Snow perform in a disused cathedral, went to Fuerza Bruta—which was essentially Cirque du Soleil on psychedelic drugs performing in a nightclub—went shopping in SoHo and wandered around the Met. Make sure you have a general plan going into things, though—the weekend goes by fast and you don’t want to spend precious hours deciding what to do.


SO HOW MUCH WILL THIS ALL COST?

(Approximate per person, not including entertainment)

Hostel: $70
Bus (round-trip): $30
Subway: $2.25 per trip; I spent about $15 in subway fares total
Meals: Depends on how you eat, I spent about $60 on food but you could do it for much more or much less depending on your budget.
Average Total: $175

SOME TIPS:

  • iTrans NYC is $3 in the App Store, and it will save your life when you take the subway.
  • Carry your phone charger and charge your phone whenever you can.
  • If you’re not blessed with the ability to fall asleep in any posture, bring something to do for the bus ride.
  • Pack light. I didn’t have time to drop my backpack off at the hostel before heading out, so I was forced to carry it around with me all night. Only pack the essentials.

STEP SIX: SLEEP

I left Boston on Friday at 1:30 p.m. and, thanks to traffic, didn’t arrive in New York until 6:45 p.m. By the time we checked in to the hostel it was 4:00 a.m., and we forced ourselves to wake up at 9:00 a.m. to get breakfast. Our bus left at 11:00 p.m. Saturday night. It’s a quick trip, so you don't want to waste it sleeping. When you sit down on the bus to begin your trip back, don’t think about how empty your wallet is or how much your feet hurt, just think about how much fun you had, close your eyes, and fall asleep.


New York veterans: comment below with tips and suggestions or call me out on my rookie mistakes.

Comments

Avatar