Help me plan this weeklong trip

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by drymartini, Mar 2, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. drymartini

    drymartini Active Member

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    Hi,
    So I have never been to Niagra, New York and Washington DC and just booked flights for the memorial day week.
    Me and my wife will be arriving in Washington DC on August 31 (Saturday) and will be flying out of DC on Sep 8 (Sunday).
    During this week, we plan to see DC, Niagra and New York.

    Here are my questions.
    1) I would like advice on what the allocation of 6 days in between should be between these 3 places. I am not counting the day we arrive and leave as being able to do any sightseeing.
    2) I looked at the prices of flights between DCA - BUF and BUF - JFK and were pretty cheap for 60$ one way. Should i take these or just drive ?
    3) Any ideas on where to stay in NYC. Got a boat load of hilton points that I am planning on burning through during this trip. No AXON or GLON because wont be staying 4 days at one hotel for sure.

    Any and all advice is very much appreciated.

    Late Edit:

    Any advice on guided tours like through Viator? Have any of you done it or recommend it?
    Citypass for New York? Worth it or better go get individual tickets.
     
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  2. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Buffalo to NYC is a 6 hour drive on a good day, with no traffic. If you drive an economy car it will probably cost you twice as much in gas and tolls to drive there, so just stick with your original idea and fly there.

    If you have a ton of Hilton points you might as well try for the Hilton New York (http://www.newyorkhiltonhotel.com/) on 6th avenue. It's walking distance from Rockefeller Center and the theater and you can hoof it to Central Park relatively easily. If you want to do the touristy thing at a Hilton you could do worse. The hotel is somewhat dated but the location is perfect, and I think there's a review or two around here somewhere.

    As far as the allocation, you can probably cut out Niagara (I'm assuming you're going for the falls) and do 3 days in DC and 3 in New York and not see 1/10th of each place, but if you must do 3 days I'd do a single day upstate, 3 in New York and 2 in DC, especially that time of year.
     
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  3. drymartini

    drymartini Active Member

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    Viguera,
    Thank you for your advice.
    I didn't know anything about tolls. I will do the flights as you suggested.

    I wont be following the advice on the Niagara because I forgot to mention in the original post that my parents will be visiting from overseas for this trip and will be joining us. They are most excited about Niagara about this whole trip so wont be able to do that :). But will limit it to 1 day.

    I will check out Hilton New York in Tripadvisor and here.
     
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  4. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    The Hilton in New York is a great suggestion. Since you will have little time in each location, I would try to plan an agenda of what you want to see in each location and try to map it out so that you are not spending too much time cris-crossing to get to locations

    . If you are interested in Broadway Theater, there is a location around 47th and Broadway that opens up daily to sell half price tickets to many shows. There is also a location at South Street Seaport, but the Broadway location is a much better place to buy from.

    If you plan on taking subways in New York, it is usually cheaper to buy an unlimited pass for a certain number of days. I don't remember the different types of passes sold, but it is much cheaper than paying for each ride. If you plan on taking taxi's, be prepared to spend some dollars getting around.

    In DC, I would recommend seeing the monuments (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Vietnam etc) and visiting the Smithsonian. There is no way you can see all of the Smithsonian in the time allotted, but you can see some of the exhibits. There are also FBI tours and a spy museum that are worth seeing.

    I would not get a car at either location as parking is outrageous and the traffic is miserable. Both locations have excellent transportation options. Driving in New York for first timers is certainly not advised.
     
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  5. drymartini

    drymartini Active Member

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    Marc.
    Thank you for the advice. I definitely was not going to drive in NYC but was planning on in DC. But now I will plan on taking public transportation and cabs in both places.

    Great idea on the pass for subways. we will take a 3 day pass (if available) or the closest one available to that timeframe.

    Would you recommend any such guided tours like through Viator or maybe something like CityPass for New York or its better to go a la carte on this :).
     
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  6. LAM

    LAM Silver Member

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    No FBI tour open to the public but there is a good exhibit on the FBI at the Newseum.
     
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  7. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Skip Niagra. Or plan on not having enough time in any of the three destinations.

    If you do want to stick with all three definitely fly; driving to/from Niagra will take WAY too long. You'll still have to drive up from Buffalo but that's reasonably close.

    Neither NYC nor DC offer 3-day passes for their mass transit systems. The shortest in both cases is a 7-day card. For Washington the cheaper version of the card is $35. In NYC it is $30. Unless you are riding a LOT they are not a good deal for just a short stay in the cities. NYC will give you some bonus cash for buying a dollar-value card more than $10 but that's pretty much it. Mass transit is still, by far, the best way to approach both cities with the strategic cab ride every now and then, but you will likely lose buying the week-long cards.
     
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  8. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Labor day, not Memorial Day, right?

    I try to stay above ground as much as possible when visiting a city like NYC or DC for the first time. Sure some longer distances I take the subway, but there is usually more to see above ground walking the streets and parks. Best to plan ahead your route, though, to optimize your treks.

    And yes, don't rent cars in either city. Just an unnecessary hassle.

    If you book Hilton, look into making the points reservations before end of March (28th, I believe) when they change the awards chart.
     
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  9. drymartini

    drymartini Active Member

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    Havemiles: Yes Labor day, sorry. :)

    Wandering: Cannot skip Niagara. If it was just me and my wife, we could and postpone that for a later trip. My parents will be joining us from overseas and to them I would think Niagara trumps most places in DC. So as you suggested, definitely will be flying between the 3 cities.

    I will also remember the advice regarding week long subway pass. as in not to buy it unless we would be riding a lot which probably will not be if we are staying in dc for only 2 days and nyc 3 days.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Any advice on these Viator guided tours?

    Since we will be staying 2 and 3 days in the two cities, to see a lot of places on our own might be difficult because of time spent between getting from one place to another. Guided tours would be better that way.

    But from my limited knowledge, the guided tours only stop for photo ops and not actually seeing a place for an hour. That would not be good for a lot of landmarks in these cities. so wondering what would you guys do?
     
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  10. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I really think you'll be pushing it to try to do all three in that time frame, especially with the need to return to DC for the departure. Unless you purposefully choose to just not see a lot in every city you're going to be stretched quite thin. Maybe an early morning WAS-BUF flight, quick run to the falls and then to NYC that evening would help, but I'm guessing that won't happen. When do you leave DC on the 8th? Will you have to leave NYC the night prior to get there in time to pick up your onward flight? That could further limit your time.

    That said, if you arrive on Saturday and depart the following Sunday that is actually 9 days and 8 nights. If you spend 2 nights in DC and 3 in NYC then that leaves 3 in Niagara. That is an unimaginably long time there IMO. Maybe one night if you want to cross to the Canadian side, too, and see it from both sides or something like that. Otherwise I think you might have more time in the real cities than you think.That could help a bit, but the hopping around will not necessarily be easy or efficient.

    It is a bit hard to do the math on the DC pass as the rides are variable cost based on distance but, on average in downtown, most are <$3. NYC fares are $2.50 when you buy a metrocard. It would take 10+ rides in either case to make the pass make sense.

    Without knowing anything about the company I'd say skip them unless you are very uncomfortable visiting on your own or unless you think you won't want to be on mass transit for whatever reason. Or unless you don't want to really visit the sites. Sometimes I'm happy just walking by, seeing what it looks like and moving on. Other times I want to stay, see the site and its surroundings and otherwise explore. Neither of those sorts of approaches tend to work with group tours IME.
     
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  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    It's been some 20 years since my first and only trip to the falls, but I think we spent about half a day there. That included walking around on the US side, then going down to get rained on, driving over to the Canadian side and watching it from there and finally presumably lunch somewhere. I don't think I would spend more time there next time. I didn't do a boat tour, but not sure I missed much. Three days would be a waste of two perfectly good days to be used in NYC or DC.
     
  12. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    What a shame. I took the tour when it was open and did not know it was no longer available. It was truly a great tour which even had Thompson machine guns and other weapons on display, along with the story of the first person who ever put a bomb on an airplane to collect the insurance money from his mother's death.
     
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  13. bqkali

    bqkali Active Member

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    Being from the area, I have been to the Falls more times than I can count - and I can say that from all the friends I've taken, I think everyone has been most impressed either from the Maid of the Mist boat ride or Journey Behind the Falls. Getting up close to the falls is very different from seeing them from above and I'd highly recommend taking the time to do both. Additionally, seeing the Falls lit up at night is a pretty cool experience. My top recommendation would be taking a late afternoon flight to Buffalo (say 4-5pm), seeing the Falls from above during daylight & when lit up at night, and then first thing in the morning doing a boat tour or Journey Behind the Falls before a midday flight. Wouldn't take any more time than a "day trip" but would provide a more complete experience in my opinion.

    A few tips -
    1. Queues for passport control are typically VERY long over Labor Day weekend, potentially up to a 2-hour wait. Heading there midweek can cut the wait down to 10 minutes or less.
    2. If you and your parents are able-bodied, there is almost never a wait at the border if you walk over the bridge to cross into/from Canada rather than drive. You could stay on the American side, walk to the Canadian side to see the Falls from that viewpoint, and walk back an hour or two later. Not a good plan with luggage. The upside is a really great photo opportunity of the Falls from midway on the bridge, and you'd also save on bridge tolls and parking (most parking is priced per day, not per hour, so parking in one spot would save you another $10-20).

    As for Viator, keep in mind this is a website selling tours from other companies and they do not run the tours themselves. I believe many of the NYC tours are actually run by Grayline, which might help you find reviews and more details on what are actual visits vs. solely a photo stop. I tend to be happier touring independently, but to each their own.
     
  14. drymartini

    drymartini Active Member

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    Sorry for not posting whole day today (cant access blogs from work).

    Wandering:
    Yes I will be arriving at IAD on August 31, Sat around 5 pm (so not counting that day for any sort of sightseeing). Also will be leaving from IAD on Sep 8, Sunday around 3:30 pm. I didn't count these 2 days for sightseeing but obviously we could do some sightseeing on the Sunday till noon.

    Here is the tentative itinerary (only arrival and departure from IAD is fixed). Sorry to have written incorrectly the allocation of days in previous posts.
    • Aug 31st (Sat): Arrive IAD at evening around 5 pm. Go to hotel (not booked yet).
    • Sep 1 (Sun): All day sightseeing in DC
    • Sep 2 (Mon): Very early morning flight DC - JFK. Sightseeing in NYC
    • Sep 3 (Tues): Sightseeing in NYC
    • Sep 4 (Wed): Sightseeing in NYC.
    • Sep 5 (Thur): Sightseeing in NYC till around evening. Leave very late flight form JFK - BUF.
    • Sep 6 (Fri): Whole day Niagara falls.
    • Sep 7 (Sat): Very early morning flight BUF - DC. See sight seeing in DC
    • Sep 8 (Sun): Sightseeing in DC till 11 am or 12. Leave DC at around 3:30 pm flight.
    I think I wont do any of the Viator trips. Even though my parents are a bit old but still fit enough to walk enough. I think if I did the viator tours, it would not like it if we couldn't spend time at say one of the stops when we are doing it as a part of the group. Me and my wife definitely like doing stuff at our own pace.

    Thank you so much for your advice. I love your blog and have been reading it for over a year.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Bqcali:

    Definitely doing the Maiden of the mist.

    I have a question. Please feel free to just give a link if you dont want to write a detailed post.
    My parents have foreign passports (with US visa and no Canadian visa). How much hassle would it be if they didnt secure a Canadian visa from their own country and rather wanted to go to Canadian side of the border after seeing the US side on that Friday with us.

    If it is too much time consuming (as in we spend more time in Passport control rather than enjoying the falls) then maybe we just stick to the US side of the falls.
     
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  15. Travelsavant
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    Travelsavant Gold Member

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    A couple of travel tips:
    DC has a convenient bus on a downtown route that covers all the major sites; it's easy & fairly cheap ($1 per ride) http://www.dccirculator.com/ You can also buy a 1 day (24 hr) ticket for one of the hop on-hop-off tour buses that goes around all of DC, including night tours to several monuments, such as http://www.bigbustours.com/eng/washington/custompage.aspx?id=washington_sightseeing_tour&gclid=&fromsite=1&&gclid=CMe6tNCA5bUCFYxDMgod7T8AnQ. You should be able to find many of these via google search & possibly discount coupons too. Also, on www.tripadvisor.com you can get reviews of all the tour companies, hotels & lots of other helpful information for both DC, Niagara & NYC.
    Given your very tight schedule for DC, I would recommend you stay in a hotel near the "National Mall", so you can take advantage of your time in DC. Best Hiltons for that would be: Capitol Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn (DC Downtown) & Embassy Suites, DC Convention Center. If you don't like these, Hilton has lots of other hotels in DC area.

    Niagara: Falls are magnificent but the rest of Niagara is mostly hotels & resturants. Great wine area nearby but no time for that. Honestly, 1day/night is just about right, especially if you arrive in early morning, spend whole day touring the falls, including boat ride - then dry off at your hotel, have dinner & next morning, early flight to NYC. Just remember when planning your boat tour, you will most likely be very wet after, even with rain ponchos. Hotel with fall view would be good; maybe this one? http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/on...fallsview-hotel-and-suites-XLVNFHF/index.html

    NYC: Top of the Rock has fantastic views & it is NBC Center, in a historic building at Rockefeller Center. I think you can get advance tickets, which over the holiday would be a good thing. Empire State Bldg, considered by most a must see: http://www.esbnyc.com/ You don't have to do both, but you should do at least one for great view of NYC. Hilton has over 20 hotels in NYC. I would check the hotel reviews on tripadvisor to get a general feel for both the location & hotel & see which one works best for you & your family.

    Good luck & have a great trip!
     
  16. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    My suggestion, since you're leaving out of DC and therefore have to make your way back there regardless, just get the hell out of town as soon as you arrive and deal with Niagara Falls right away.

    The IAD-BUF flight is less than 2 hours, so you can look for a flight that leaves that same afternoon and be in Buffalo for dinner, and probably a night-time tour of the falls.

    Spend 9/1 doing the touristy thing, do the boat tour and walk around buying t-shirts and get some rest if you feel like. Personally I would leave 9/1 and head to NY, but since Niagara is your "must do" then I suppose you can spend that day and night there and leave for NY on 9/2.

    On 9/2 you start your NY trip, and although it's Labor Day proper, most of the festivities take place outside of Manhattan (Eastern Parkway / West Indian Day Parade) so you should have no issues getting around town with extra crowds or anything of the sort. I'd arrive 9/2 and leave 9/5 (maybe even 9/6 if you can help it).

    Then (either 9/5 or 9/6) head back to DC. Again, incredibly short flight and on the same time zone so you're not going to waste much time traveling and you can certainly enjoy 3-4 full days of proper sightseeing.

    My point is when you get to Niagara you have one or two things you want to do, and that's it. I'd get there as soon as possible, do what you have to do and head out.
     
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  17. LAM

    LAM Silver Member

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    Just an FYI the Circulator bus no long runs around the mall. You can go to Georgetown on it. Sorry to be a downer on people's ideas. I live in the area and I am an active participant on the Tripadvisor DC board.
     
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  18. Travelsavant
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    Travelsavant Gold Member

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    Thanks for the correction; too bad as that was one DC transport that was really useful & convenient.
     
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  19. Travelsavant
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    Travelsavant Gold Member

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    Good suggestions!
     
  20. bqkali

    bqkali Active Member

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    If your final plans involve heading directly between DC & NYC at any point, you might want to consider Amtrak service instead of flying. Trains take between 2hr45min-3hr30min depending on whether you splurge on Acela service and can be just as fast as flying by the time you factor getting to the airport an hour early and making your way from the airport to Manhattan (dependent on which DC/NYC airports you choose).

    You can check ahead of time to see if your parents will need a visa to enter Canada:
    http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp#exemptions
    I have no first-hand experience entering Canada with a non-US passport, but my observations have been that formalities tend to move quickly, and delays are more based on the sheer number of people queuing. Unless you try to head there over the holiday weekend, I wouldn't worry about it too much. If you do decide to head to Niagara Falls over Labor Day, you can check estimated delays ahead of time at http://niagarafallsbridges.com/traffic_conditions.php3 and plan accordingly (perhaps just kill time eating lunch or something and try again). Off-peak times usually have delays of no more than 15 minutes, often no wait at all.
     
  21. drymartini

    drymartini Active Member

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    Thanks again Bqkali and Viguera for great advice.

    I have been leaning towards amtrak too rather than flying dca - jfk and cab to manhattan (45$ flat according to research).
     
  22. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    A yellow cab has a fixed fare of $52 (it went up recently) plus tolls.
     
  23. joinajmmi

    joinajmmi New Member

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    visit exedia.com
     
  24. misman
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    misman Gold Member

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    Any suggestions on tour companies from Toronto to Niagra Falls, ON? I'll have some time on Saturday (need to be back in Toronto by 6:00 p.m.,) and was thinking about doing a tour to Niagra Falls. As many have stated this should be just about the right amount of time.

    See more info at this post for the purpose of the trip.
     
  25. StevenGerrard

    StevenGerrard Silver Member

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    FYI the Circulator bus no long runs around the mall. I know an active participant on the Tripadvisor DC board and I think there's a review or two around here somewhere. and do 3 days in DC and 3 in New York
     

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