I’ll just start out by saying that I went about planning my most recent trip to NYC in less than 48 hours. Was it smart? Do I recommend it? No. But it happened and I lived to tell the tale.
Here are my top planning tips to make the most out of your experience.
I knew that going on this trip, I would only be in the city for 48 hours (including sleep). I knew that I couldn’t see everything.
The following are things that I found helpful in determining what I did and didn’t want to do:
- what is my preferred method of transportation?
- what kinds of things do I like to look at?
- have you been to this place before?
- who do you want to see?
- how long are you in the location for?
- what is truly special to the location?
The key thing about this is all about your priorities (whether that be a personal “you” or a collective “you” with your family or friends) when planning a trip. Something may be critically acclaimed or all over the Internet or someone says you have to see it, you don’t have to go. There is no shame in wanting to go your own way.
Here are some of my answers, for your inspiration. I’m terrified of getting into taxis/Ubers alone (spoiler: faced my fears), but I’m always down for walking or the Subway. I’ve been to NYC three times before, so I knew I wanted to do more of the just walk around instead of the cross ’em off kind of trip. I love good architecture and people watching. I wanted to see my friends – they helped me definitely determine where I wanted to be and when, and I lurked around in the buffers before and after.
Also, try to set a budget. Take of the things you prioritize, and plan your days around them. Just as you can’t do everything, you can’t afford everything. Be okay with paying a little more for something you’re passionate about (just like in “real” everyday life), and find ways to save in between. Hey, I ate leftovers one night instead of wasting a delicious meal and paying for a new one.
Below is the map I put together for my trip to NYC. If you click the slider button in the top left corner, you can see how I’ve categorized my map. It looks like a lot, but I promise there is a strategy to it.
Here’s how to create one – when you go to your Google Drive, you should see this option:
Click on “Google My Maps” to bring up a new map. Once you’ve created it, it will show up in your normal viewing of Google Drive, as you can see next to my Sheet titled “Bills, Gross” (I ooze professionalism, right?). You can add layers, add notes, color code, and share with friends.
I sectioned things into the following:
- Visited (to be filled out after the trip)
- Top Priority
- Coffee (this needs no explanation)
- Cool, but not Priority
- and Just the Photo
You can do whatever works for you, but I wanted to keep things as flexible as possible. I love the fact that I could come back to this map later and see what is still on my list for the next time I go to NYC.
What worked best for me was planning a general vicinity I would want to be in and then go from there. For example, I was meeting my friend Jordan at his office after work which just so happened to be a 15-minute walk from two bookstores I wanted to visit. I got myself to the general location, and left the rest up to how I was feeling.
In addition to Maps, here are other internet-based ideas:
- use Sheets for budgeting or keeping track of receipts
- create a packing list (see below for mine!)
- track your priorities, opening hours, price range, and location for potential restaurants or sites to see
- create a to-do list for packing, sight-seeing, souvenirs, etc.
- back up your photos
- check out to see if Google Maps has your city’s metro system capabilities (or download the city-specific app, like NYC has)
- check out the website of any of the sites you’re prioritizing – they often have opportunities for you to buy tickets ahead (sometimes even at a reduced cost!)
I always find it important to pack clothes that help you blend in with the people who actually live there. For example, when my dad and I traveled to Argentina in their winter it was about 50 degrees. I was in jeans, tennis shoes, and a North Face Jacket, while the rest of the country was layered under mountains of scarves and gloves. I was dressing for the weather, but not for how the people there dressed. Do some research through bloggers in that area, or even just a quick Google or Pinterest search.
Which items truly made my trip? Remember, I went to NYC in the freezing cold, but the concept behind the thought process should be the same.
The thing that came in handy the most often was my Portable charger – I’ve linked a similar one, as mine is years old, but the key for me is to have it plug into the wall so that I don’t have a cord to inevitably lose. Because I used Maps for a lot of my day, my phone didn’t have the longest life and this saved mine.
I’d also recommend bringing a journal and write down what you’re doing throughout the day and how it makes you feel. You may think that you’re going to remember everything in either your mind or pictures, but things may begin to fade. My favorite is my Moleskine.
Try to go as multi-purpose and travel-sized as possible; it’s the perfect time to use up sample-sizes of perfume or makeup. Plan out your outfits as specifically as possible, as to not overpack and save room for souvenirs!
I only bought one item (besides a present for my dad’s birthday) and it was a beanie because I was freezing and sopping wet. However, I did manage to score coffee sleeves and bookmarks from notable places I visited, which are worth more to me than items I could find anywhere else.
I found myself drawn to things that I knew I could easily find elsewhere. Here’s an example: I really wanted to buy something in the Amazon Books store in Columbus Circle, but I have an Amazon Prime account so just being able to visit and look around was enough. If I’m being completely honest, I went back to my room and put in an order online for the items I saw in the store (so Amazon got my money and I didn’t have to travel home with it).
If you do plan on hitting up the Christmas (or otherwise) markets, leave room in your suitcase! These markets are quaint and cute, and there is a wide range of items.
I recommend that you do this either on the plane home between z’s or within 24 hours of arriving home (between loads of laundry, perhaps). I find that no matter how much I want to remember, I need to write things down. I might remember the bare bones of a situation, but I love being able to recall the moments in-between.
Here are a few questions you might quickly think through:
- what would you do differently?
- what did you learn? about the city? about yourself?
- what experience brought you the most joy?
I hope that this planning post was helpful for you! If it was, or if you have any other suggestions to add, please let me know in the comments below!