5 Nights in New York City With Dad (RV-Less)
PRE-POST NOTE/ THANK YOU everyone for your heartfelt and moving comments on my last post! Although I didn’t reply individually as I usually do, we read each & every comment multiple times and I can’t tell you how much they all meant to us. The outpouring of grief and thoughts was incredible (incredible!), and has helped us along in our own journey of healing. We all share so much in this life, despite distance or any differences we might have and that’s a truly heart-warming thought. Also, for those who are (understandably) worried about our expression of change, fear not. We know healing takes time and we won’t be making any rash decisions. We’ll drive back West and let the course of things play out before we decide on our next steps. We will definitely take our time! In the meantime I hope you’ll bear with me as I work to catch up on the blog. I’m a few weeks behind so I’ll start by taking you back to a sweltering week in mid-Aug in New York City…
When we planned our trip to Europe for my sisters wedding in early Aug, one of the things we decided to tack on was bringing my father back with us to see New York City and then dragging him along for a while in the RV as we traveled to Maine.
Spending more time with dad is something that I’ve wanted to incorporate into our travels for a while. Family time has become ever more precious to us (especially after the past 2 years of events) and since we’re lucky enough to work online and live a mobile lifestyle there’s no reason we can’t do more of it. And my sisters wedding presented the perfect occasion to put this into practice!
We were all going to be together in the UK anyway, so it was simply a case of traveling back on the same flights and stopping off in the big Apple along the way. As a bonus Paul and I had been in NYC with “the beast” last fall so I had a pretty decent feel for the city, including how to get around and what to see. It was going to be the perfect father/daughter adventure.
Missed by 4-part NYC series last year? Here it is….
- New York City – First Impressions
- New York City – Getting Around (With Dogs Too)
- New York City – Sightseeing
- RV Park Review – Liberty Harbor RV Park, NJ (NYC)
This Time NYC Would Be Different
But this time things were going to be different! The two big changes were that my dad and I would be staying in a hotel instead of an RV, plus we would be going in summer instead of fall.
The first meant figuring out some $$$$ (and I’m talking way more than the “measly” $90/night we paid to stay at Liberty Harbor RV park last year) while the second meant that instead of the nice, pleasant, cool fall weather we’d be seeing heat. And by that I mean full on, full blast NYC summer heat!
I’d been warned by those who know that NYC is a different beast in summer, and after spending 5 nights in Aug there I can definitely attest this to be true.
The summer brings 90-degrees of withering heat & humidity, amplified by the convection oven of high-rise buildings, car exhausts, noise and the incredible mass of people and tourists that invade the NYC center during the high season. It’s a stifling kind of heat that you can only handle it for so long, after which you have to find escapes like a small cafe to hide away from the crowds (preferably with a head-sized glass of ice water), or the blissful air conditioning of a department store to freeze off the buckets of sweat dripping down your back. Instead of seeing the city in a day you see it in pieces, spurts of street craziness intermixed with periods of timed relief.
Yeah NYC is summer is definitely not the same as NYC in fall!
But the big city is no less alluring despite the heat, especially if you plan your stay to get some relief in between all the madness. And part of that means choosing the right location to call home….
So, Where Would We Stay?
One of the first things I decided while planning this trip was that we wouldn’t stay in NYC proper, but would instead hop across the water to stay somewhere near Jersey City. We fell in love with this area when we stayed there in the RV last year and it’s the first place I thought of for my return.
First of all I wanted a view of the city, which you can only get if you’re outside of downtown and across the water, either by Brooklyn or Jersey City. In my opinion the Manhattan skyline view is one of the biggest draws of being in the city and something you simply cant miss when you’re here. There’s nothing more iconic than seeing the sunset over the towering high rises of the Big Apple and if you have the chance to enjoy it everyday it’s even better. It’s one of the things I loved most about staying at Liberty Harbor last year, and I wanted to give my dad the same experience for his stay.
Secondly I really wanted OUT of the downtown craziness, yet in a location that was close enough to make it easily accessible. Yet again the Jersey City area is the perfect choice for this. None of the tourists go there so it’s blissfully relaxed after a day in the city. It’s where real people live, with real local eateries and the kinds of places you can walk into everyday and say “the usual please”. And it’s only a 10-min water ferry ride from downtown! So, at the end of a day of noise, and heat, and sweat you can take a peaceful & breezy 10-min ride across the water into a quiet neighborhood.
“Ahhhhhh” is really the only response to that.
Five Nights In A Hotel For $75?
My other goal was to do stay for free, or as close to free as possible. Crazy right?
New York City is not a cheap place to visit in any sense of the word. Hotels typically cost $250/Night and up, and even go-to regulars like AirBnB aren’t savers. First of all AirBnB has been heavily regulated in NYC (it’s illegal to advertise certain types of place) and the AirBnB’s that are legal, aren’t exactly cheap either. Whichever way you look at it, $$$$ are part of the deal.
So how was I going to pull off getting a hotel on the cheap?
Well I’ve been dabbling in the credit card points game for a while now. Around four years ago I started looking at how to maximize rewards points on our day-to-day spend. No extra spending and no crazy stuff. Just trying to get the most return out of what we already use.
Partly it was for family. We were doing around 6 flights per year to see family (or have them come out to see us) and I wanted to cut down on those costs. Partly it was just for the fun of it. I love to bargain hunt and find the best deals on everything.
So, I took an online course, started reading a few blogs** and once I got the hang of it we were golden. We’ve racked up hundreds of thousands of air miles simply by spending what we typically spend, and we literally haven’t had to pay for a flight since.
But hotel points were new for me.
So I went back to the drawing board, read up a bit more on the various miles/points blogs and started watching for deals. Around five months ago it hit. SPG (Starwood Preferred Group -> My referral link HERE) was offering a 35,000 point signup bonus, their highest offer ever. Plus the card came with the benefit of a 5th night free (stay for 4 nights, get your 5th free). So if I could find four nights in a hotel for those points we’d be able to spend 5 nights in NYC on points alone!
The Sheraton Lincoln Harbor met all my requirements. It was the perfect location in Hoboken (just a hop north of Jersey City), right on the water next to the water ferry (NY Waterway) and bookable for the points I had on hand. The only extra I opted to pay for was a $15/night upgrade to a “city view” room (well worth it!) bringing our total hotel charges to the princely sum of $75. And our savings? We would have paid ~$1,200 if I’d booked the hotel outright for the dates we needed. I scored a decent deal, don’t you think? 🙂
**NOTE/ If you’re interested in learning more about maximizing reward points I recommend reading The Points Guy, Million Mile Secrets, Frequent Miler, Doctor Of Credit and taking the free online Travel Miles 101 Course. They all helped me tremendously.
20 Miles Of Walking In 3 Days
New York City is the perfect walking city. Everything is organized in neatly aligned blocks with lots of stuff to see just about everywhere you go.
But it’s SO DARN BIG! You go in for a quick stroll and before you know it you’ve ended up hiking 5 miles. Even just going to a museum racks up thousands of steps and if you want to see more than one part of town in one day….fuggedaboutit!
My dad is a young and spry 75-year old, but I honestly wasn’t sure he could handle the kind of miles that NYC requires. So I planned to use the water ferry to get into town followed by plenty of Uber/Lyft rides (SO easy to use in NYC) to get between places downtown. But guess what? He hiked around like a young Sir Edmund Hilary scaling Mount Everest. We used our fair share of Lyft rides alright, but we saw the vast majority by foot, resting only to cool down (a requirement in the crazy heat) or snag the occasional cold brew for on-going sustenance.
In the first 3 days alone we racked up 20 miles of walking, and we literally didn’t stop until we got in the rental car to drive to Cooperstown to join “the beast”. Total respect…totally!
And We Saw It All…..Almost!
What Paul and I completed in a week of sightseeing last year, my dad and I squeezed into 4 days plus we added a few extra sights to the list.
We started with the 9/11 memorial & museum, spent a day at Ellis Island & The Statue Of Liberty, saw Central Park (which Paul and I missed last year), visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral (another one we missed last year…wow!), walked through Wall Street, hiked The Highline and stood on the Brooklyn Bridge. On our last day we even took the rental car down to see the same two lighthouses (Sandy Hook & Navesink Twin Lights) that Paul and I had visited last year around an hour south of the city.
It was a packed, packed few days with literally non-stop sightseeing from 8AM through to the evening every single day. Not a moment was missed. And when our sightseeing was done we loved coming “home” to the relaxing atmosphere on the Jersey side. It was like a breath of fresh air after a long hot day, and by the end of it all we felt like semi-locals.
We found ourselves a fabulous breakfast place with the BEST omelettes (The Little Grocery) and the most charming Egyptian host you’ll ever meet. We loved it so much we ended up eating there every morning! We also dined at several local spots that were outstanding (highly recommend Ali Baba for Mediterranean, and Hi So Thai for Thai food) , found a superb Bagel Place (O Bagel) and discovered an awesome wine shop (Cork Wine and Spirits) which provided sustenance for our nightly sunset view of the NYC skyline from the comfort of our hotel room. All these were only ~5-10 min walks from our hotel and there were no tourists at any of them!
The stay was most definitely different from our RV stay last year, but no less enchanting. We had a lot more heat, and a lot more crowds but all that same NYC magic all over again. And the best part of all? My dad and I made some memories that we’ll BOTH treasure ever more, and that my dear blog readers was priceless 🙂