Washington DC, Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Royal Carribean, NYC advice - Jan 2013
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Dec 6, 2012 7:53 AM Last Post By: bzookaj
Dec 2, 2012 5:16 AM
I’m travelling with my wife to the USA in January for around 18 days and would greatly appreciate some advice on certain items please. We’re 26 years old and newly married, South African citizens and will be visiting the USA for the first time. We want to relax, do some sightseeing and do some decent shopping if possible. I’ve put down our itinerary below, together with the questions when they occur. Apologies in advance if I’ve supplied too much/too little info on certain items.
Dec 31 – land in Washington DC (IAD)
1.Is it possible to purchase electronics (want to buy a digital camera) from the duty free shopping area on arrival at Dulles airport?
2.Would above be cheaper than buying it from a store in DC? Would like to buy it as soon as possible to capture the trip, as won’t be coming from South Africa with one.
3.We’re looking at staying at The Liaison (http://www.affinia.com/Washington-DC-Hotel.aspx?name=Liaison-Capitol-Hill) which is on New Jersey Avenue in Northwest Washington. Would that be a good base to explore Washington from? We want to visit the White House, Capitol Hill, The Mall, Smithsonian, etc.
4.Are there any food recommendations? We’re looking at low – midrange options and not high end restaurants. An area/street will suffice and we’ll explore on foot once there. Our preference would be towards Italian, Indian, Seafood, Vegetarian, Mexican.
5.Are there any recommendations for things to do for new years eve? We aren’t major party goers and we don’t drink, so am aware that limits options somewhat.
Jan 2 – after 2 nights in Washington, travel to Miami area to spend 3 nights
1.It looks like flights are the best option to travel and Ft Lauderdale is cheaper to fly into than Miami. We’ll book a ticket accordingly. How do airline luggage policies work in the USA? From what I’ve read online, your onboard carry on item needs to confirm to certain dimensions, but there is no weight limit (correct??), you’re allowed an additional personal item (laptop, handbag, etc) and those are both free. For check in luggage, the first bag is around USD 25 – 35 and second thereabouts too, with weight limits as per different airline rules. Is that correct, or is there anything else I’m missing?
2.Hotels in Miami (we’re looking for good 3 or 4 star places, but our budget is USD 150) are insanely expensive and was thinking about staying in Ft Lauderdale instead and travelling to Miami for the few days that we are there. Is this a viable option? It seems you can travel cheaply between Ft Lauderdale and Miami both ways.
Jan 5 – we’ll be taking a Royal Caribbean cruise around the western Caribbean for 7 nights.
Jan 12 – cruise returns to Ft Lauderdale
1.What’s the fastest way to get to the Ft Lauderdale airport from the Ft Lauderdale cruise port? I think the ship docks at 7.30 and our flight out is booked for 10h15 – is that sufficient time to disembark the ship, travel to the airport and then check in?
Jan 12 – Jan 18: NYC!
1.we’re choosing between the Sheraton Tribeca (Tribeca) and Affinia Shelburne (Murray Hill/Lexington avenue) hotels and have read through hundreds of reviews on Tripadvisor, so am ok with the both hotels.
2.Are there any good outlet/factory shops to visit besides Woodbury Commons, Tanger Outlets and Century 21?
3.We plan to use a $29 unlimited subway card each whilst there, but are there any major challenges due to flooding/damage from Sandy that we should know about?
4.On January 18th, our flight is back to South Africa from Dulles and departs at 17h00. We want to be at the airport by 14h00. What would be the most reliable (so we don’t miss our flight) and cost effective (because we’ll probably be broke by then) way to get from NYC to Dulles by 14h00 on the same day – ie. Leaving New York the morning of the 18th? I’ve seen some sites online that offer shuttles from NYC to Dulles, which looks like a more convenient option than mass transit, because there seem to be many stops and connections on mass transit and we’ll have lots of luggage with us.
That’s it for now and thanks for your time!
Sofy & Mo
Dec 2, 2012 5:52 AM
When you enter the US, you will pass through immigration, pick up any checked luggage, then pass through customs. This will put you outside security. The duty free stores are all inside security. In other words, you will never have a chance to stop by one anyway.
An area/street will suffice and we’ll explore on foot once there. Our preference would be towards Italian, Indian, Seafood, Vegetarian, Mexican.
Main areas to look in: DuPont, Penn Quarter (which has the above two), Georgetown (all in DC), Clarendon, Courthouse, xAlexandria (all in VA), and Silver Spring (MD). Metro makes it easy to get around, so don't worry about the restaurants farther afield. (Just make sure you get back before Metro closes, especially if you head across the river into VA.)
Also look on Chowhound.
Be aware that some may already be fully booked.
Checked bags must be below 50 lbs, in general. Two airlines, Southwest and JetBlue, do not charge for the first checked bag. The former does not charge for the second, as well. When comparing prices, take that into account (JetBlue even uses DCA, the closest airport, for non-stop flights to FL).
If you rent a car, it's ok, but not ideal.
Take a look at Priceline or Hotwire instead.
Oh, when some tourists say "Miami," they really mean "Miami xBeach." These are two, separate cities, the former on the mainland, and the latter on a barrier island.
You need to be at the airport around 12:30. You could take a very early cheap bus (Bolt, Mega, DC2NY, etc.) or train, but that will leave you downtown after about 3-4.5 hours. That means you would still need to take the (roughly) hour or so to get out to Dulles (either by cab, shuttle or transit).
If you can leave the day before, you'd be better off.
Dec 2, 2012 8:44 AM
22 nights in Washington doesn’t leave you time for a side trip to Baltimore which is kind of a seafood capital. Maybe it’s just as well, sightseeing Baltimore involves a lot of outdoor time and January might be a little cold.
In DC the nice areas are Georgetown (in the northwest but not really on a subway line) and DuPont Circle which used to be a gay ghetto, but now it’s just kind of an artsy area. Georgetown has all sorts of esoteric food choices. Ethiopian cuisine?
There are a handful of nice restaurants on the Southwestern waterfront. They are kind of touristy, but the atmosphere is nice, and walking the waterfront at night has an appeal to it.
Once you get your hotel worked out, the rest of DC is actually a budget travel destination. Lots of monuments, important buildings and museums, pretty much all of them are free.
NYC has a tendency to bust one’s budget. There’s a lot of great stuff to do here, but keeping one’s NYC trip affordable can be a real challenge. My first choice for going NYC to Dulles would be Amtrak, but every once in a while I come across some amazingly cheap bus deal. It takes about 4 hours.
Dec 2, 2012 8:48 AM
3Oh Tanger outlet, here on Long Island is nice, but the Crossings in the Poconos, PA is the best I've ever seen. http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=59
Dec 2, 2012 11:17 AM
4I'm quite surprised that you are finding it cheaper to fly into Fort Lauderdale than Miami. Every time I've looked, it's always about the same. However, I've never flown from DC. Note that there are two airports in DC and not all airlines show up in flight search engines like Kayak and Expedia. I bet if you do some searching you should be able to find Miami flights at comparable prices to FLL. I say this because if your intention is to visit Miami you should stay there for at least one or two nights. (And by Miami, I mean South Beach or as close as to there as your budget allows.) Traffic can be awful on the I-95, the highway that connects Fort Lauderdale to Miami. There is a train that actually looks quite decent in terms of schedule...only 40 minutes from downtown Fort Lauderdale to downtown Miami...and then there are shuttle buses that connect the stations to other locations...so it seems doable if you don't want to drive. That being said, South Beach is a much more interesting place to stay, especially if you want to stay out late. Have fun!
Dec 2, 2012 11:20 AM
Dec 2, 2012 1:44 PM
6Yeah I live in the landing pattern for Islip airport. It's not really an NYC airport. JFK and La Guardia are the main airports. Newark used to be "the cheap one" but I don't know if it still has that status.
And yes, DC has three airports, BWI, Dulles and Reagan. Reagan is right on the metro line and thus the most convenient. I think it is also the smallest.
Dec 2, 2012 4:20 PM
Dec 2, 2012 5:53 PM
8Staying at the Liaison, in addition to #1's suggestions, I'd recommend dining in Union Station -- America has a large, multi-regional menu (but check it's reopened, there was construction a few weeks back), B. Smith's is excellent southern-oriented, and Rolling Thunder has a Southwestern tilt. Or Capitol Brewery for a bistro menu in a great venue across the street to the west. Hotel George's Bistro is good but pricey.
You asked about being at Dulles by 1400, not 1230, because your flight's at 1700. So an early bus or train is feasible. Still, given that IAD's your destination I'd lean to flying since that's much more convenient. Train's a bit more reliable than bus, especially if weather's an issue. Cheapest way would be Tripper Bus or another bus line that goes to the Virginia side of the river rather than downtown.
If you're traveling light enough to make this work, there's a huge mall, "Tyson's Corner," on the way in from IAD to DC. But why not contact your hotel, arrange for them to accept shipment of an internet-purchased camera (like Amazon or "42d street photo")?
Dec 2, 2012 6:52 PM
Dec 3, 2012 11:49 AM
10Regarding your camera purchase: Your best option would be to shop online at a few retailers and they will ship it to a store you select to pick up. If you just "go shopping" for one after you arrive, the stores will likely only have a limited number and variety in store at any time, and the best deals are typically offered only online. Best Buy and Target are two options, and they both have a store in Columbia Heights, DC, which you could get to easily from your hotel on the Green Line. Walmart is also a good option. They have a store a few miles from Dulles in Chantilly. That would require a short cab ride, but it could be worth it. So, buy it online and they'll ship it to the store to pick up. If you can have it sent to the hotel, so much the better.
Dec 6, 2012 7:16 AM
11Thanks for all the responses and great advice! Apologies for the delay in my reply – been a hectic week of work.
Our plan has changed slightly, so just outlining the itinerary again with a few (more) questions that have come up.
Dec 31 – January 02:
1. Im going to order a camera online and have it delivered to the Hotel/a store for collection. Would obviously prefer the hotel for the sake of convenience, but don’t want to have a bad experience with an incorrect/missing item, etc. Have found some decent deals on Amazon.com and will most likely go for one of those. Besides Best Buy, Target and Walmart are there any other stores easily accessible by Metro that I could look at for my camera? The more I think about it, the more I doubt the feasibility of the hotel option from the perspective that something might go wrong.
2. It seems to be off peak in Washington and I’ve seen people picking up 4* places for 50% off regular rates, so have decided to give Priceline a shot and am looking at White House area, Dupont Circle, Georgetown Foggy Bottom as the three areas in which to stay. Should I consider Arlington too, or is it a hassle to get from there across the Potomac (assume there’s a metro tunnel link?) There's a Hyatt there which is USD 90 at the moment on booking.com.
3. Have made a note of all the great (thanks!) restaurant recommendations and found some more interesting DC food blogs, so places to eat is sorted.
4. For New Years Eve, have decided to either go for a Prix Fixe menu at a good restaurant, or go for the Monuments by Moonlights Trolley Ride. Issue is, I’m thinking its going to be ridiculously cold for the Trolley Ride and have written to them asking if they have heating etc, but no response yet. Any very strong opinions for/against either one? (Also looked at the Kennedy centre, parties at hotels, etc and not too keen on them)
January 02 – January 5:
Fly to Orlando; spend a few hours shopping at the Premium outlets on International Drive; spend a full day in either Walt Disney World or Universal Studios; head to Miami for Friday (4th) night and then board our cruise the morning of the 5th January.
1. Which are the best sites to compare low cost/find the cheapest internal flights in the US? I’ve been using Kayak, but noticed that sometimes it doesn’t search certain airlines.
2. Was thinking of renting a car for this period – I assume that an international driving licence accompanied by my own local licence (in English) will be sufficient?
3. Any strong opinions for WDW vs Universal studios for a young (26) married couple who are going there for fun and will most likely be back in the future with their kids anyway?
4. If we don’t rent a car, it seems to be cheap (USD 30 each) and easy (lots of bus/shuttle companies) to get from Orlando to Miami.
5. We’re looking at a basic place to stay along/near International drive, as we can get on the I Hopper trolley to get to Premium Outlets and I assume to get to WDW or Universal too….right? (for Orlando)
6. For Miami, will just book a good hotel, its just 1 night anyway.
January 5 – January 12:
Western Caribbean Cruise.
1. Does anyone have any suggestions with regards to which shore excursions are the best? Our itinerary is Ft Lauderdale, Labadee, Falmouth, Cozumel, Ft Lauderdale. To be honest have not researched this bit yet, but will check cruisecritic.com etc.
2. We dock at 06h15 and our flight is at 10h15, so I think we’ll disembark asap and look for a cab. Apparently it’s a short ride to Ft Lauderdale airport (sites say 15 min).
3. Weight/Luggage on Airlines – is the rate paid for check in/additional check in bags the same online as it is at the airport? Not sure whether to add another bag online or see how it goes and only do it if necessary at the airport.
4. Just remembered - to enter an airport in the US, do you need a print copy of your ticket? I've been to some countries where this was required to just enter the actual airport and to others where you didnt need to present anything at all. Just want to make sure there's no hassle with printing random documents. This is 2012 after all.
January 12 – January 18 : NYC
1. Bzookaj – what was the reason you preferred the Sheraton to the Affinia? Sheraton works out to USD 159 per night and Affinia to 138. I have free-cancellation bookings for the period with both at the moment and plan to cancel one of them.
2. Getting from JFK/La Guardia to Manhattan with luggage during winter – is it possible with mass transit or should we get a cab instead, as well as a rough estimate of what a cab would cost?
3. Any recommendation for Broadway/Off Broadway shows? Am thinking about Blue Man Group and then will go for something else Off Broadway too. Broadway at USD 180 per person is a bit steep, but will see how it goes when we're there.
January 18: Fly out of IAD (Washington)
1. Flights from NYC to Washington are minimum ($100 + around $50 for luggage) x 2 = $300 to get both of us to Dulles in time. That’s a lot of money for the broke souls we’ll be at that stage.
2. Next I looked at Amtrak and the cost per ticket (with checked in luggage) is USD 199 per person, which is USD 400 in total. Again, a lot of money.
3. I looked at the bus/shuttle company lists provided and looks like we’ll take one of them for about a fifth of the price – will have to leave NYC really early to ensure we get there on time and it wont be a fun journey, but that’s unavoidable.
4. Once in DC, depending on where the shuttles drop us off, would you recommend cab/mass transit to the airport? I’m also working on a 1 hour buffer from arriving in DC to getting to Dulles – is that sufficient?
So yeah, that’s the deal. What do you think?
Dec 6, 2012 7:34 AM
But it's easy enough to walk around the monuments at night yourself, so I would lean toward the dinner, with the walk afterward.
Here is my standard answer:
There is no set "cheapest airline." We don't have "low cost" airlines like in Europe or Asia--any airline may be the cheapest at any time, dependent on dates, routes, etc.
kayak.com, itamatrix, cheapoair, farecompare, mobissimo, vayama, priceline, expedia, travelocity, orbitz, hotwire, the individual airlines, etc., etc., etc.
Make sure you compare prices like for like (some focus on subtotals, others totals).
It will take a lot of effort on your part.
And don't expect cheap last minute fares. Prices go up as you get close to departure.
And don't get suckered into the "Southwest is cheapest" myth that is repeatedly pushed here. They aren't any cheaper or more expensive on a regular basis than any other airline.
But it might be easier with a cab if you have a lot of luggage. It's a flat fee of $52 plus tolls from xManhattan.
If you're not picky, go to the TKTS booth in Times Square. They sell cheap tickets to less popular shows. Lines do form.
Dec 6, 2012 7:42 AM
13There are plenty of on-metro large electronics vendors in and just outside DC. Google Maps will show them geographically with a search. Columbia Heights mentioned above. Best Buy at Tenleytown (red line) is another. Radio Shack a couple blocks south of Dupont Circle. Ritz Camera (check their website and store locator.) If staying in Arlington, there's a large mall at Pentagon City, and also a Costco in Pentagon City at 1200 South Fern Street Arlington, Virginia 22202 Phone: (703) 413-2324
Dec 6, 2012 7:53 AM
(3 star Hotel)
From US$271.00 per night
Las VegasBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$94.00 per night
Las VegasBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$95.00 per night