Planning the Perfect Vacation

You have the choice of putting a vacation package together yourself, buying a prepackaged deal over the Internet, or hiring a travel agent to work for you. It all depends on your comfort level with each method.

Making Travel Arrangements

Using the Internet is impersonal and might raise questions that can't be answered. You can always start that way and use the phone or e-mail to resolve questions. You might prefer the personal touch and expertise of a travel agent. With the help of his or her connections and knowledge of the industry, a travel agent can often put a package together for less money. This can save you both time and cash. You also have flexibility to add to or subtract from your itinerary, and you have an advocate should something go amiss.


Manhattan is the only borough that uses the 212 and the new 646 area code. The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island all require you to dial 718 or the new 347. The 646 area code can also be used for a cell phone, but 917 is the most frequently used area code for mobile New Yorkers.

However you do it, start by researching your trip. Make a list of what you want and don't want, and decide what level of amenities you desire (for example, the kind of hotel room, transportation, or entertainment you expect). This will affect many of your decisions, from the amount of cash you carry to the clothes you pack. Also find out ahead of time what to do if you are dissatisfied with the accommodations and need to change them.

Once you've researched potential accommodations and narrowed your list, ask the travel agent, search the Internet, or call the hotel about rates or discounts at those specific locations.


If you aren't used to walking, start building up your stamina a few weeks before you go on vacation. Walk around your neighborhood and park your car at the back of the parking lot to get yourself to walk farther. You won't have to stop and rest as often, and you can spend more time seeing and experiencing New York City.

However you plan, be careful of too-good-to-be-true deals advertised on the Internet or anywhere else. To check on a travel agent, log on to the American Society of Travel Agents' Web site at, which will lead you to a member travel agent. Even if you don't choose a travel agent, the site has some good travel advice. Establish a good rapport with your agent or get a referral from someone you know and trust.

Packing Tips

First and foremost, bring comfortable clothes and shoes. The primary means of getting around Manhattan is walking, so be prepared. A good pair of walking shoes can make the difference between a fun-filled, action-packed day and an all-out exhausting one.

Be prepared for varying temperatures during swing seasons. Wearing layers of light and warm clothing will help keep you comfortable and happy while touring the city. Watch the Weather Channel, use the weather resources of the Internet, or check the weather section of the paper to get an idea of the climate as you plan for your trip. It's a good idea to have at least one small folding umbrella, since there's always the chance of a shower — particularly a late-afternoon thunder-shower, if you're visiting in the summer months. But don't worry, at the very first drop, umbrella street vendors spring out of the pavement like flowers in the desert. Don't pay more than a couple of bucks.

If you plan to stay in New York City for ten days or less, it's to your advantage to bring two weeks' worth of clothes, since having laundry done in Manhattan hotels can be expensive. Midtown Manhattan does not have many laundromats, although they are plentiful once you leave the midtown area for Chelsea or the Upper West Side.


While the finer restaurants may require jackets and even a tie for men, most restaurants, especially those with family fare, do not have dress codes. But as a nice change, you might consider packing a dressy outfit or two along with your casual attire. Incidentally, all restaurants with a strict dress code will have loaner jackets and ties for the men.

If you forget something at home, don't worry! The multitude of shops, chain pharmacies, and twenty-four-hour stores in New York City will allow you to buy whatever you might need. Although the city can be pricey, the locals shop here for their necessities during a hurried lunch hour or after work, so there are plenty of reasonably priced stores around to meet your needs.

Stay Safe

Tuck any activities away before you land so you're not carrying anything but your suitcases. Keep cameras stowed out of sight until you are settled in your hotel. Unfortunately, there are some people in every major city who will try to take advantage of tourists, so be alert and don't accept offers of rides, tours, currency exchanges, or anything else from anyone you just happen to meet at the baggage claim area or on the streets of the city. Don't play street games like Three-Card Monty — they are rigged and you can't win. Do not trust anyone to hold or guard your things for you.

Go over your itinerary and any travel rules you have with your children. Make sure they know what to do if they get separated from you. Traveling in New York City is a lot of fun for the whole family, but as with any destination, exercise common sense at all times.

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