When talking about the purpose of travelling, you’ve probably come across the phrase “it’s all about the journey, not the destination”, right? Well, while I agree with it for sure, I don’t think anybody ever meant to say that the journey had to be a path of suffering, right?
I cannot even count how many dodgy hostel beds I’ve slept in, how many hours of lost sleep on buses, trains and planes and how often I got lost thinking something would be ‘surely just around the corner’. Or those times my airport shuttle showed up late so that I traveled to airport in a constant state of stress. Those times my backpack got lost. Those times when people around me snored or slurped hard enough to make my journey lose a bit of its magic.
Maybe I’m just getting older, but I seem to choose comfort over cheap more often when I travel. In this article, I’d like to share some of my recent travel experiences from our holiday to New York City in the United States, where we will show you how to travel comfortably (and what that did to our mood).
We all know that the earliest flight of the day is usually also the cheapest and it’s been more than once that I stood at the bus stop at 4:30 AM shaking my head and wondering why, again, I got tricked into going for this ticket.
While in London we have 6 airports, they are all 1,5+ hour from our house and adding on the roughly 2 hours you want to be at the airport to go through bag drop, security, eating something and finding the right gate and of course the time you need to get ready in the morning (for me at least 30 minutes), it means that even a reasonable 9 AM flight makes me have to leave the house around 5 in the morning. Ugh.
On our recent trip to New York, we decided to be wise and picked our departure time carefully, not having to leave too early and not arriving too late in the evening. We went for the 5:30 PM flight and arrived at a reasonable 8:30 PM. While seen from our London time zone, we arrived basically at 1:30 AM, but we could go straight to bed and get into the rhythm of New York right away. No jetlag and it has never been easier to get up in the morning!
LESSON LEARNED: Think carefully about your departure time (based on how long it takes you to actually get to the airport) ánd the time your arrive in your new destination (especially when changing time zones). This will save you a lot of stress and you’ll arrive much more relaxed!
While on board, make sure to drink plenty of water, use the amenity kit & blanked if needed and do like we did: bring warm socks or slippers on board to be able to take your shoes off -nice!
As independent travellers, we always sort out our transportation from the airport to our hostel, hotel or apartment as soon as we land on the airport. Usually this is a shuttle bus or train, depending on what we’ve figured out first. Sometimes it’s pretty smooth and very cheap, but often finding the right ticket, platform/stop and departure time can be quite the hassle. Shuttle buses often stop at all the hotels before reaching your destination, trains only take you to a certain point from where you have to figure the rest out…
Like I said before, we arrived at New York’s JFK Airport at around 8:30 PM, then going through customs and all that made it about 9:15 PM when we got out in the end. Not too late, but it was dark outside and being tired from the flight (it was 2 AM in our time zone), we were very happy to test the services of ‘Blacklane’, a professional driver service. The company has been providing rides since 2012 and have since grown to serve over 180 cities in 50 countries.
Blacklane has four type of vehicles, ranging from economy class Toyota/Honda’s, business class Mercedes cars and business class Mercedes Van/SUV to first class Mercedes/BMW cars. We got to experience the Business Class Mercedes Car and couldn’t be more happy with it.
What we liked about this service, is that they manage the full experience instead of just the booking. Some examples of what that means:
- They provide you with information before you leave, which means you book in advance, so you always know you will get a ride.
Booking is also really straightforward, they even have a handy app you can book from!
- Then they send you texts when the driver is approaching (they track your flight so they are always on time) and when he is arriving. They even give you the driver’s phone number and name and the drivers are all licensed, insured and regulated.
- When they pick you up from the airport arrivals hall, they have a name sign (always makes you feel special, don’t you agree?) and then you get the smooth ride to where you need to be.
On the website, you can choose what to write on your welcome sign. We wanted to write ‘The incredible talented and hardworking Nick and Nienke, who definitely deserve this holiday!’, but we kept it informal this time
- The car is top quality (especially nice when driving past some seriously shattered yellow cabs along the way) and the driver already knows where you need to go, so no time wasted anywhere. They drive you all the way to your door, so very safe when you arrive late at night.
- And then when you arrive, you’ve paid already, no hassle. Everything is all-inclusive, although we decided to still tip the driver as we had such a good experience and a nice chat with him.
Sorry for the blurry photo, it was late and we were tired :) But the car was very spacious, as you can see and the ride super relaxed!
LESSON LEARNED: Taxi’s have been invented for a good reason. Personal driver services like Blacklane have been invented for an even better reason: getting you from A to B in the most comfortable, hassle-free and safe way possible. Definitely worth to consider spending some money on this your next trip!
When travelling together, Nick and I like to do things our own way. No group tours, no reservations, time for ourselves and free to go where we want, whenever we want. We’re definitely not scared of hostels and have stayed in many together before, but we’ve started to choose private rooms over dorms and most of the time hotels over hostels.
The hotels in New York City were ridiculously pricey and soon enough we got to the Airbnb website to compare prices. We’ve stayed in two Airbnb’s before (one in Sydney and one in the South of England, both were brilliant) and decided to go for it again. We found a reasonably priced apartment for the week and couldn’t have been happier.
The place had a view over the skyline of Manhattan, was close to all the subway lines (just 2 stops from Grand Central Station) and cozy, clean, quiet (we definitely needed this, our house in London is VERY noisy)… so everything we could have wished for.
LESSON LEARNED: Find the accommodation that best suits your personal travel style and you’ll feel much more comfortable during your trip. If you’re looking for freedom, spending time together with your partner and don’t break the bank, an Airbnb could be perfect for you!
View from the rooftop terrace. WOW.
Weekly Metro Card
After you’ve gotten to the airport, through the flight and off the plane to your accommodation, it’s time to explore the city, right? Well, you all know that it’s tempting to walk everywhere you can to soak up as much atmosphere as possible of this new city. So did we! But when you realize you’ve just walked 20 kilometers on a single day for the past 3 days… and still the rest of the week to go, taking public transport a bit more can be quite relaxing.
When we arrived in New York, we got ourselves a weekly metro card that lasted us for the entire stay, it was probably the best purchase we did all week. While we still walked plenty, we were more tempted to go back to the apartment for a bit, to relax there and then go out again for the rest of the afternoon or evening. With an unlimited transport card, you don’t have to limit yourself!
LESSON LEARNED: With a weekly transport card, you don’t have to spend your precious time in a new city figuring out how the ticket system works or buy a new ticket every time you decide to take a metro, train or bus. You can cover more ground and feel less tired at the end of the day!
In New York City, the Metro Card also let’s you use the Roosevelt Island cable cart, so much fun to do!
We hope you found these tips helpful in planning your next trip, so you too can travel in comfort. What do you do to make sure your holiday is as comfortable as possible? Share your tips below! Check below for all practical details and some more travel tips and inspiration!
Airbnb Website: www.airbnb.com
Blacklane Website: www.blacklane.com
New York City Metro: web.mta.info/metrocard
London Metro: tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments (click on adult, then see PDF for prices)
Disclaimer: This article is written in collaboration with Blacklane, who provided us with a ride and made sure we started our holiday as relaxed as possible! All photos and opinions are our own.