New York City is magical. New York is hyped up by travellers all over the world and it’s one of the ‘hypes’ I completely believe in. I’m a true New York lover. If given the chance I would move there tomorrow, but maybe that would ruin the magic? Perhaps I’ll just stick to visiting more often. Prior to arriving in New York City for the first time, the mission was on to find somewhere to stay. I actually visited New York with mum for her 50th birthday present. That meant I was paying for the flights and hotel. As a newly qualified nurse, my mission was to find somewhere central.
The thoughts that filled my mind were would I be able to find this in the famous city that is New York? I didn’t have much knowledge of how central you need to be in New York, I had no idea. I was up for the challenge and after this post, you’ll find out whether or not if it was a success.
Researching Where to Stay in New York for the First Time
As soon as we decide on a new destination for our next adventures we head straight to google. One the flights are booked and the departure date looming I’m researching all over the web. I want to know the best things to do in my upcoming trip spot and the best places to stay. As a newbie to New York, I needed to understand where would be best for us to stay. In central Manhattan? Brooklyn? Near the airport? The only way to find out these crucial answers was to hit up travel sites like Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Expedia. I don’t know about you but sometimes I find these sites a little vague when it comes to giving out important information about a location. That’s when I personally turn to blogs ( a bit like you are doing now!).
Travel bloggers get it. They know that the reader wants real honest information about their subject. Basically, I needed someone to tell me where to stay in New York for the first time and why. Prior to my research, I’d only heard about how expensive it is to stay in central New York. I’d also heard that if you’ve only got a few days then you want to be central! One blogger says to stay in Times Square, another Brooklyn. Whilst another says stay further out of the city and travel in on the subway for cheaper rooms!
The whole thing is utterly mind-boggling! Sometimes researching a place can be hard work which is why I’m writing this post! I want to share my experience of staying in New York as the first-timer. In turn, I hope it will help you make an informed decision about where to stay in New York for the first time. I hope to answer the why’s of choosing a location to stay in New York so that you can have the most incredible trip to the big apple!
Should you stay in or out of Manhattan?
The biggest question that I wanted answering on my venture to find budget accommodation in New York City was do I need to stay in or out of Manhattan? After visiting New York for four nights and five nights I believe that to get the most out of your stay, you should stay in Manhattan. New York is one big city. During the first visit, it can be daunting. There are so many sights to see, places to explore and so much to eat! I can’t think of anything worse than starting the day miles away from the accommodation. That said, it’s only my opinion.
The one great thing about New York is that transport is amazing. So, if you are staying out of the city, then you will be able to get around on the subway quickly. We choose to stay in Manhattan so that we didn’t have to pay for the subway excessively. It helps with the budget if you use your own two feet – they cost nothing! So when deciding where to stay in New York for the first time I’d say look to be as central as you can.
Can you Find Budget Accommodation in Central New York?
I know what you’re thinking. How can you possibly stay in central New York if you’re on a budget? Well, it is possible but it all depends on what you class as ‘budget’. You’ll be lucky to find a hotel stay in central New York for under 100 GBP a night. This is considered cheap in New York. So when we found a hotel stay around the corner from Grand Central Station I was ecstatic. I’ll go into more details on our accommodation shortly but we basically managed to find a 4-star hotel near Grand Central for 112 GBP a night. When I had first budgeted for New York I had expected to spend nearer to 700 GBP on a hotel so I couldn’t have been happier. This may not be considered ‘budget’ for some readers but for us it was great. So how did I manage to find it?
Should you Book in Advance when booking accommodation for New York?
Straight up, I don’t like leaving things last minute. I like to have my trip booked in advance so I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m staying. Call me a control freak but the thought of not finding a decent hotel at a decent price gives me the creepers! I booked our accommodation in New York for almost 7 months prior to our arrival. I honestly believed, at first, that this was key to snagging this budget accommodation in an amazing location! Don’t forget that websites like Booking.com and Expedia usually have a 24-hour cancellation policy. So you can usually cancel for free if you find something cheaper – which is EXACTLY what I did for this trip!
As our departure date drew nearer I remember receiving an email from Expedia giving some deals on accommodation for New York. I usually just skim and ignore these emails. But now, I am SO glad I didn’t. There in black and white was Expedia offering our hotel for those dates for 30 GBP cheaper A NIGHT! So, in the end, I ended up cancelling one booking and making another just three weeks before we arrived! I stopped looking after that! So when you’re doing some research on where to stay in New York for the first time make sure you keep your options open. Pick a good cancellation policy so you can switch if you find a better deal!
Our Budget Accommodation in New York City
On our first trip to New York, we were right in the middle of the city. The Club Quarters Hotel Grand Central is located just minutes from Grand Central Terminal. The Grand Central Terminal is the gateway to the whole of New York so this location was perfect the subway lines were literally on our doorstep! Within ten minutes you can reach Bryant Park, The New York public library and Times Square all with your own two feet! From then onwards you’re at Radio City, St Patricks Cathedral and the entrance to Central Park within another 15 minutes! Why pay for a subway pass when it’s all within walking distance of your hotel?! I would recommend staying anywhere near Grand Central, Bryant Park or anywhere between East 42nd and 48th street on Lexington Avenue.
Club Quarters Hotel Grand Central
This post isn’t a review of the hotel but I just wanted to give it a mention because it deserves it. In the end, I paid a mere 330 GBP to stay at this hotel for four nights. I’m not usually lucky but I felt it during this stay and not just because of the price. The check-in desk is 24 hours and all the staff were incredibly friendly. You do need to give a credit card deposit on arrival which is like a lot of places in big cities. Our double room was located on the 11th floor. The room was light with plenty of space. It came equipped with a comfy bed, television, two mirrors, ironing board, iron and en suite bathroom with a hairdryer, everything you need is there! I can’t give enough praise to the hotel when It comes to cleanliness. The rooms were cleaned daily and clean sheets and towels prompted.
I Love Extras!
What I liked most about this hotel were the extras! The hotel comes complete with a rooftop terrace where you can grab some snacks and hot drinks complimentary! Snacks included fresh fruit, crips, nuts, chocolate, sweets, in a morning I’d grab up us some fruit for the day out which helped us stay in the budget even more! Meaning we could spend more money on the good stuff – pizza slice anyone? The hotel also provided water dispenser on every floor which also had plastic bottled available. Obviously, it’s better to use your own recycle-able bottle rather than the plastic but handy if you lose or forget yours (this trip was in 2017 so they may not even do that anymore)!
The noise was limited in this hotel Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t silent but it was no way near as loud as it would be in Times Square. This location was perfect because we were central enough to get around but out of the major tourist areas where the noise is high. The big apple is the city that never sleeps and they weren’t exaggerating when they said that! Times Square is still at its busiest at 4 am! If you’re staying in a hotel even remotely overlooking Times Square you aren’t going to get any sleep! The Manhattan nights are already noisy enough with the laughter and chatter or passers-by and the endless sirens going in every direction! Don’t make it worse for yourself by trying to sleep in the noisiest part of the city!
Time of Year
Before wrapping it up just keep the time of year in mind. If you travel to New York in the holiday seasons then the accommodation is going to be more expensive. We actually stayed in New York during the 4th of July holiday period. I was surprised that hotels were cheaper and the streets quieter, I guess a lot of New Yorkers leave the city and head back to their families for the holiday. Or to the Hamptons maybe?!
Essentials for Any New York Trip!
By getting the location of your hotel right you'll enjoy your trip to New York so much more! My advice? Research, spend the time on Trip Advisor looking at exactly what and where you can stay for your money! And keep looking even when you have somewhere booked! Sites like Booking.com and Expedia often offer free cancellation until 48-24 hours before your departure date so if you find a better deal don't be afraid to cancel to make sure you get the most for your hard-earned cash! I hope that this guide gives you some helpful advice when it comes to deciding where to stay in New York for the first time! If you liked this post then you might enjoy some of my other New York Posts too:
If you did find this post helpful I would be forever grateful if you could share it with your friends and family! I wish you the most amazing trip to New York City - Where Dreams Come True!
Happy and Healthy Travels as Always!