Travel Planning: New York City at Thanksgiving (Part 1)

A view of our hotel & its neighbors from Central Park

I’m back from New York! If you haven’t had a chance, check out my pre-travel blog post detailing what I (foolishly) hoped to accomplish. This trip was truly a classic example of hard work and detailed planning paying off. Although there were a few stumbles along the way, for the most part the trip went smoothly and I couldn’t be happier with my first trip to New York.

PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES

This trip was full of travel firsts: my first time using points to book my airfare, my first time using my two free United Club passes, and my first time trying to use my Priority Pass Select lounge access. Two out of three of these things went off without a hitch. I had no issue checking my free bag and accessing boarding group two, and the United Club at LAX was quite nice. However… I sorely underestimated lounge access at Newark Airport.

I made the foolish assumption that we’d be in a terminal with a Priority Pass lounge going home, but I was sadly mistaken. What we should have done was used my Priority Pass at LAX, and saved the United Club passes for Newark. I fully acknowledge that this is without a doubt a first-world problem, but when I’m paying $95/year for the access via my American Express, I want to maximize my perks. The lesson learned – as always, don’t make assumptions.

Another thing I would have done differently is I would have used a different car service to get us to and from the airport. I booked our transportation as well as our tours through Viator, and have typically had pretty good luck in the past. The reviews for the company, Carmel Limo, seemed fairly good on the first page, and the vouchers were explicit about the toll costs and the gratuity – at the discretion of the customer – not being included. With that knowledge, I downloaded a toll app that calculates tolls from point A to point B so I would know how much to pay.

Our unfortunate experiences started  with the driver who picked us up at the airport. He didn’t bother to get out of the car, but merely waved a sign around with my name on it out the driver’s window. After we loaded our own luggage into his trunk, we hopped in and right away noticed his car interior was… not what you’d call clean. I checked the toll app, and when we arrived at the hotel, he gave us an amount which was fairly close to what the app estimated – okay fine. However, after we handed him the money, he immediately starts saying “Tip tip tip tip” and pointing to his hand.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to tip well for good service at my own discretion – not when it’s being demanded of me for a half-assed job. After reading through more pages of reviews for this company, I realized this is commonplace for their drivers and I regret not being more thorough in my research.

Our return driver gave me more hope with an impeccable car and help with our luggage until he overcharged us almost $18 for the tolls, and then demanded his tip on top of that. When I mentioned the toll should only be $3, he “called” the company on speaker and the phone simply kept ringing. I was so over it by that point, I tossed the toll money and his tip on the center console and got out of the car. However, I’ll be calling the company myself to see if I can get my money back, or at the very least let them know their drivers are essentially robbing their customers by grossly overcharging for the toll fee.

LIVIN’ LIKE THE 1%

The view from our Park Lane Hotel room on the 38th floor

Thanks to my mom and I being Hotels.com addicts, my mom had earned a free night through their rewards program. We knew we would need to stay at a different hotel Tuesday night due to cost restrictions, so to utilize that free night, we randomly picked the Park Lane Hotel on 59th across the street from Central Park. It had great reviews, and was close to our second hotel, so it fit the bill.

What we did not expect was to fall in love with that hotel. We were able to upgrade our room to a park view on the 38th floor, and let me tell you – totally worth it. The staff were fantastic, the room itself was lovely, and both The Park Room restaurant and Harry’s New York Bar & Grill were excellent. Both my mom and I have already decided that we’ll most likely stay here again whenever one or both of us comes back.

Our second hotel beautifully lived up to its fabled hype – The Four Seasons New York on 57th St. I will admit, we have stayed at nice hotels in the past, but we’ve never stayed at a notoriously upper-crust hotel like The Four Seasons. I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance to stay at one again simply due to the cost, but I get why it has the reputation it does. The staff were phenomenal, the room was a modern technological marvel, and we even had partial views of both Central Park and the Empire State Building.

The most interesting thing about our stay at The Four Seasons was that, while it was clearly an expensive place to stay with very wealthy clientele, there was a comfortable, friendly vibe. My mom and I were treated with the same warmth as everyone else even though we weren’t wearing or carrying designer labels. It was so nice to stay in a fancy hotel and not feel like we didn’t belong there, which has unfortunately happened to us before.

TO BE CONTINUED…

There’s so much more to unpack from our trip – the food! the parade! the shows! All that and more to come in the next installment – stay tuned 😉

All the best,

Mrs. P²

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