Organizing a trip to New York: everything you need to know


If there is a destination that we have discussed extensively and carefully in the interrail, it has been New York. From the best things to do to the most important monuments to visit or specific guides for each borough. In this case, we wanted to collect all our information in an article where we give you the best tips to organize a trip to New York.

For many, traveling to New York is the conquest of a dream . A dream that undoubtedly requires a lot of effort to organize and prepare. The number of places to see in New York, the size of the city and the enormous possibilities make any elaboration of a New York travel guide like the one we present today a titanic effort.

We hope that this article will serve as a base framework for traveling to New York and that all your questions and doubts are collected in one of these lines, although as always you can leave us a comment.

Trip to New York: How to organize a trip to the Big Apple

First of all, don’t panic. You have decided that you want to travel to New York but you don’t know anything. Do not worry because we are going to go step by step answering the main questions that tourists like you ask:

  • When to travel to New York, what season and what month is better
  • Requirements to travel to New York: ESTA
  • Is travel insurance necessary?
  • Flights in the city: airports, airlines and transfers
  • Accommodation in New York: areas, prices and tips
  • Manhattan, the boroughs and the Contrast Tour
  • Just New York?
  • How many days do I need?
  • What to see and do in New York essential
  • Mobility in New York: the New York subway
  • Tourist cards
  • Security in New York

We hope that all these questions solve the doubts that a trip to New York may generate . As this article is intended to be permanent, we hope to update it over time with more content.

Organizing a trip to New York: everything you need to know

1. When to travel to New York?

The truth is that many times we cannot choose when we want to go on a trip, either because we do not have days off or because we want to take advantage of the best prices. That of course has happened to us quite a few times but even so we always try to find the date that is best to go on a trip .

how to organize a trip to new york
The Oculus

In the case of New York, there are two key dates: the first is Christmas , a very typical date to go on a trip to the American city, and the second, in summer, taking advantage of the holidays.

  • Traveling to New York at Christmas : The snow and the Christmas atmosphere attract many tourists and it is normal for prices to rise a lot
  • Travel to New York in summer : In New York it is quite hot in the summer months, although not unbearable, and there are also many tourists.
  • Travel in April, January, February or October : These are possibly some of the cheapest months (January, February) or where the temperatures accompany a little more (October, April, March).

New York is a destination that if you book in advance you can find very good prices , so the moment you decide that you want to go on a trip – the earlier the better – you should start booking accommodation and flights, which we will talk about later. Do not leave it because the trip will be more expensive.

2. Requirements to travel to New York: ESTA

For a few years now, the EU countries, Iceland, Japan, Chile, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei and South Korea have been visa-free . However, there is still an additional requirement for citizens of these countries and it is the so-called Electronic System for Travel Authorization , by its acronym ESTA.

All citizens of the countries I mentioned above who travel to the United States for work or leisure and will be there for 90 days or less, must obtain the ESTA online for up to 72 hours of your trip . The information they ask you for is basic identification information and some generic questions (be very careful when filling it in and read it all well so as not to be mistaken) .

It is priced at $ 14 per person and is valid for 2 years (so during that time you will not have to take it out again). The answer is automatic and, in general, it does not usually give a problem to anyone. It is not difficult to fill out and should not cause too many complications.

โžœ Official page to get the ESTA

3. Travel insurance

In inter-rail we do not recommend right and left travel insurance and we only consider it essential for transoceanic trips or in countries where there is no European health coverage. In this case, on a trip to the United States it is essential to carry travel insurance . Therefore, this would be more than a recommendation, a self-imposed requirement.

In the United States, there is no free public healthcare as there is, in one way or another, in Europe, but it is totally private, so if you have to go to the hospital you will have to pay the medical expenses in full, which they are very high.

Therefore, the recommendation is clear : if you go to New York, book travel insurance or if you have private healthcare in Spain, contact your company to find out if you have coverage on the other side of the Atlantic.

4. Flights to New York

The flights to New York are not what they were , either by quantity or price. It is now much more affordable to cross the pond than it was a few years ago. Low cost companies such as Norwegian have had a lot to do with it, but flag carriers have also reduced prices.

In Spain, there are direct flights to New York with the following companies and from the following airports:

  • Madrid : Air Europa, Delta, Iberia and American Airlines
  • Barcelona : American Airlines, Delta, Level and Norwegian

Along with direct flights, the other option is to stop at one of the European hubs , which may be more affordable: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Rome, Brussels or Warsaw, among others.

How much can a flight to New York cost? Well, depending on the time and the advance with which you buy them. Perhaps in high season (August, at Christmas) you can find them for 400 euros per person round trip, although we have found offers for less than 200 on other dates. So it is a matter of searching and looking a lot.

The airports in New York. Please note that there are 3 different airports: Newark (in New Jersey), JFK, and LaGuardia (both in the borough of Queens).

5. Accommodation in New York

More than a recommendation, this point is a warning . Accommodation in New York is possibly what most disappoints every tourist visiting the Big Apple, mainly for two reasons: it is expensive and of poor quality .

You have to understand that in New York and especially in Manhattan – where most of the hotels and tourist places are located -, the population density is very high and space is a precious commodity . Therefore, you are going to find hotel rooms much smaller than what we could have in our image and at much higher prices.

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Times square

The typical area to stay in New York is Times Square , probably where the best known hotels are located and where it is very difficult to find a double room for less than $ 150 , an amount that can easily go up to $ 200 if you want something more historical .

Next to Times Square, everything that is located in Midtown is well placed to see the main attractions of the city. Similarly, SoHo , Lower Manhattan and the Financial District , which has been revitalized in recent years, are great areas and perhaps a bit cheaper.

Here’s a map for you to take a look at some discount hotels in New York :

We also tell you in this article about where to stay in New York that you have the option of staying in one of the nearby districts such as Brooklyn or Queens. Better a nice and well-connected hotel than an expensive and bad one. We specifically recommend Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Long Island City. Don’t expect bargains either, but they are all good and well-connected areas.

6. Manhattan, the boroughs and the tour of contrasts

Many times when we travel to New York we tend to think that the city is limited only to Manhattan. In fact, some speak of it as a city within a city. But no further from the truth, Manhattan is just one part of a bigger pizza.

New York is made up of 4 boroughs or boroughs in addition to Manhattan: Queens to the northwest, Brooklyn to the southeast, Staten Island to the south, and the Bronx to the north. While Manhattan is the most touristy and typical area of โ€‹โ€‹the city, in the remaining boroughs you will find a more authentic vision of New York everyday life that also deserves to be visited.

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Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

The question is when is it time to get out of Manhattan? I am of the opinion that on a first visit to New York you have to focus on Manhattan , we did and we recommend it. In it there are enough attractions to stay one or two weeks. It is when you have many days or you have already visited the city, when you can open your mind and visit Brooklyn or Queens.

A very typical excursion that is becoming almost mandatory for those who visit New York is the Tour of Contrasts , which without ceasing to be what it is -a quick visit to Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx-, serves as an introduction to everything what’s up. So it is not bad that you include it in a first visit to New York.

โžœ Book here the Contrast Tour of New York with discount

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If you already have more time or you already know New York we make some recommendations in the adjacent districts:

  • Queens: The Flushing-Meadows Corona Park, the Unisphere, Calvary Cemetery, the Queens Museum, and Long Island City.
  • Brooklyn: the Dumbo Quarter, the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Heights, Prospect’s Park, Coney Island, and Williamsburg.
  • The Bronx: New York Botanical Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Little Italy

7. Only New York?

And since I am here, and since I have crossed the pond … The truth is that when you organize a trip like this you always fall into the temptation of covering too much and on occasion more than you should (among which I include myself).

travel to new york at christmas
Touring Central Park

I can assure you that New York, by itself, has more than enough to fill with things to do your trip and that you do not even have time to breathe.

In any case, as a tip, I recommend that you do not overload the trip too much .

8. How many days do I need to get to know the city?

New York is a very big city . More than 8 million inhabitants in the city divided into 5 boroughs or districts and another as many in a metropolitan area that extends through neighboring states.

Starting from this, you would need several months to get to know the city in full. In our case, after 3 trips we do not consider ourselves experts at all and we still miss many things so we recommend that you go calmly and enough days to enjoy it .

organize trip to new york
The fifth Avenue

In this case, we believe to obtain an overview of the city and know the basics, a minimum of 5 days . If now, you want to get closer to the nearby districts – Brooklyn and Queens – you would need two more days at least. The more museums you want to visit and the more places you want to visit, the more days you will have to add.

9. What to see and do in New York essential

In interrailero we have produced two great compilations about activities to see and do in New York, so I link the articles because I am sure they will come in handy.

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The Flatiron Building

Basically the essentials to see in New York are the following:

  • Brooklyn’s bridge
  • The statue of Liberty
  • The World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial
  • Chinatown and Little Italy
  • Flatiron Building
  • Empire state building
  • The fifth Avenue
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Times Square and Broadway
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Central park
  • The Museums of New York (MoMa, MET, Natural History and Guggenheim)

10. The New York subway

In all likelihood, if New York didn’t have its subway – which in itself could be a separate attraction – it would be much more difficult to move from one part to another.

The New York Subway has more than 25 lines, about 500 stations and is used by millions of people every day. The single ticket costs $ 3 . If you plan to use it more times, you can get the 7-day metrocard ($ 32) and thus save something.

You can practically go wherever you want using the metro – also to the airports – and it is open 24 hours a day , although at certain times of the day and in certain areas it is probably not the best option due to security issues.

11. Tourist cards

One of the mistakes first-time tourists visiting New York make is not considering the possibility of taking out one of the tourist cards that the city offers.

trip to new york
The Guggenheim Museum

Taking into account the high price of practically all the attractions of the city (the viewpoints, the museums, the visit to the Statue of Liberty), it is often worth it to take it out to pay for each of these visits separately.

  • New York Pass: Includes the visit to the main attractions and you can hire the validity you want. Once you use it for the first time it is activated.
  • New York Explorer Pass: It is a little cheaper than the previous one. In this case, you select the number of attractions you want to visit (3, 4, 5, 7, or 10) and almost all the museums and viewpoints are included, as well as the visit to the Statue of Liberty.

It’s a matter of calculator!

12. Safety in New York

It is a more than recurring question that everyone who goes to New York asks: is the city safe? And the answer is yes. New York, and especially Manhattan, do not have serious problems other than theft of wallets in the subway or in areas with many people as in any large city in the world.

In other districts like Brooklyn or Queens the same. You can walk quietly and you will not feel any type of insecurity. In more conflictive areas such as the Bronx we recommend that you visit it only with the Contrasts Tour – since it is generally much more conflictive than the rest of the city.

Also try to avoid the subway at night or go to Central Park , since with the sunset, the situation degrades a bit.

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Views from the Top of The Rock

In conclusion, be very calm because there are always people everywhere and the city is very safe. If you want to continue reading on the subject, here is an article where we explain security in New York and we talk specifically about each area and each neighborhood.