What's Wrong With This
Vacation And How To
Fix It

Nick Negato and Betsy Goodwill

Panorama View of Lower Manhattan
Panoramic View of Lower Manhattan

Nick Negato, here. I'm the type of guy who wants to know what's the worst that can happen before going anywhere — sorta like Brando in The Godfather. So with my recent East Coast vacation behind me, here's a list of problems that most travel agents won't tell you about.

Lets start with the easiest city in the US of A to hate and love. New York City, Manhattan in particular. It's too damn expensive. And there ain't no way to get around it. Say you're lucky enough to get a room at a decent hotel for less than a hundred bucks — BUT LOOK WHAT HAPPENS... Garbage trucks and screeching emergency vehicles wake you up at 3:00 am and just as you get back to sleep, the sounds of early morning rush hour traffic start. WHAT A WAY TO START THE FIRST DAY!

To save money, breakfast is a bagel and in-room coffee. The money saved on breakfast is quickly gobbled up by the cab ride to South Street Seaport for one of those boat tours around Manhattan for twenty or twenty-five bucks. Damn, I forgot a down parka and it's cold and windy so I pass on it and walk over to Greenwich Village, visit Dean and Delucca, get a cappuccino and take a look at chic groceries that delight the senses but are best left on the shelf.

Fifth Avenue

This city is one enormous mass of humanity.

There's plenty of shopping along West Broadway where the shops are what some call cutting edge, but to me there're on the rough side and unless you're a teenager with rich grandparents, the mall or Wal-Mart's back home is where I'll buy stuff.

Another cab ride back up-town where lunch is a banana bought from a fruit vendor on E 50th St for 20¢ and over to Rockefeller Center where the skating rink is great but how long do you want to watch a few good skaters and weaving through the tourist-class skaters. The exhibitions are fine in the basement but it seems to be just a huge food court at some fancy mall. Then it's short cab ride to The Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Natural History Museum but that's for tomorrow; these cabs seem reasonable at first but after two or three rides we might have to cut this vacation a little short. So next to Rockefeller Center there's St. Patrick's Cathedral and I'm impressed but then I always was a sucker for a free attraction with a grand gothic theme. Neat gift shop but you know my thoughts on shopping away from home.

Stop back at the hotel to freshen up and then an early supper that Martha Stewart would die of — a sausage on a bun bought from the hot dog stand down the block from your hotel. While gulping the last of my dinner, I ping pong through the crowded streets, toward the Great White Way (Broadway) to STUBBS, then wait in line for half an hour to buy half price theater tickets ($50. after the discount) of some revival best left buried.
Times Square

So this is Broadway!

This is Nick Negato signing off. MAYBE NEXT TIME I'LL TRY SAN FRANCISCO.

Nick, stop whining. You do not need a Visa Card with a $20,000 credit limit. Make reservations and know what you want ahead of time. Read and be informed. Above all search the web and remember you can say NO to any offer.

Try making reservations at AaccessMaps.com, plus call the individual hotel directly after you make your reservations if you have any doubts. Or try TravelNow.com for most of your travel needs.

Let's say you made a reservation at one of the more inexpensive but respected hotels. Here are some problems you may face before you arrive and when checking in:

  • Save money on airfare.
    If using Frequent Miles that most airlines offer, BOOK EARLY. A year to six months is not unheard of. Try to fly into Newark; it's smaller and less hassle than JFK and more accessible than La Guardia. If you're within 300 miles try driving to Newark or a suburb that is serviced by commuter trains, they're less money than Amtrak. Think about renting a car and dropping it off in Manhattan or a nearby suburb. You do not want a car in Manhattan.

  • Check in early.
    Even if your room is not ready, the hotel will hold your bags so you can get out and about. Also when checking in early, you stand a better chance of getting a room more to your liking because hotels have a better inventories of rooms earlier in the day. Remember when checking in be firm about what you want and demand a room that is on the upper floors; they tend to be quieter and may have a pleasant view.

  • Be super critical.
    If it's a non-smoking room make sure it looks and smells like it is; also make sure it's a good distance from the elevator and does not overlook an alley or street that's a potential trash pick-up location (It seems to me that south of 70th Street, nightly trash service is the norm) and before you tip him ask the bellman as he shows you the room if it is quiet or if a better room is available.

  • Do not skimp on food.
    Enjoy the variety of restaurants in Manhattan. If you are on a tight budget, ask the desk clerk or concierge for an Asian restaurant or local deli — they are generally cheaper than even moderately priced American or Continental restaurants. For ideas about where to dine, go to: halfprice.restaurant.com or www.restaurant.com.

And remember there are hundreds of attractions that are free everyday of the year or on specific days of the week or month. For instance the Staten Island is FREE. Take a look at these photos of the City, Brooklyn Bridge and The Statue of Liberty all taken from the ferry.

Lower Manhattan Skyline, Closeup
Lower Manhattan Skyline
The Statue of Liberty
Brooklyn, Manhattan & Williamsburg Bridges

On that day, do you think I'd want to be any place else?

Betsy Goodwill