Earlier on this month, I visited New York with my Mum and Dad, I wanted to write a post on the trip as I thought some of you might enjoy reading it and it will also be a nice post for me to look back on in the future. I’ve wanted to visit New York for years so this was a dream come true for me.
Grab a drink and a snack, this is a long one!
We booked the trip back in August last year through a travel operator which we have used before, they were extremely helpful and accommodated our needs. They even booked me assistance at the airport so that things were easier for me as I have a visual impairment.
We planned everything in advance, we bought our train tickets to the airport, decided which attractions we wanted to visit and bought an explorer pass so that we could visit a number of attractions at a discounted price, rather than paying for each individual attraction when we got there. By getting an Explorer Pass, we saved a lot of money. Planning meant that we were organised and knew where we had to go.
The months flew by and it was soon time for us to fly to the USA!
We got an early morning train to Manchester Airport and arrived in plenty of time to check in and go through security.
The lady at the check in desk told us that our flight may be delayed as expected due to the current weather conditions in New York. She also noticed that it said on the system that I had a visual impairment so instructed us to go to the assistance desk where they would give me a lanyard which indicated that I had a disability so would be able to get assistance if I required it, as all the staff knew what the lanyard symbolises. I think this is a great strategy by Manchester Airport and personally I think that many more airports should offer a similar service.
Having the lanyard meant that we could go through the fast track security queue which was a bonus and was a lot less hassle.
Once through security, we noticed that the departure board said that our flight was in fact leaving on time, so we got something to eat and made our way to the departure gate where we were then told that our flight was delayed. There had been heavy snow the day before in New York so this was to be expected as JFK had had to close but was due to reopen. Also, the plane that we were originally meant to be on was stuck in Washington from the day before so we were going to be on another plane.
After waiting around for 45 minutes I decided to check Twitter and found out that JFK had actually reopened and flights were arriving and departing so there didn’t seem to be a problem at that end.
WE were eventually able to board the plane at around 1pm, we were able to be one of the first to board the plane which was brilliant. The lead member of the cabin crew introduced herself to me as she had been told about my visual impairment, she gave me a braille copy of the safety information leaflet and just had a general chat with me. I thought that this was great as she was very disability aware and was more than happy to help us.
As it was a transatlantic flight, there were screens that you could watch films/tv shows on, listen to music and track where you were whilst you were on the flight but unfortunately these weren’t accessible for me so I had to get my Mum or Dad to work it for me.
We eventually took off at 1.30, meaning that we had been delayed for two hours. During the flight, we were provided with food and the same lady was very good in terms of telling me where everything was on my little table and happy to help.
I spent the flight listening to audiobooks and listening to music.
We landed at JFK at around 4pm local time and that was where the drama started…
We ended up taxiing around the runway for over two hours until a stand became available, we all just wanted to get off the plane, get our bags and start enjoying our time in New York. However, the stand that we were in was at terminal 2, and we needed to be at terminal 4 so we had to wait an extra half an hour for buses to pick us up and take us to terminal 4. A member of the cabin crew communicated with staff at the airport and told them that I had a visual impairment so asked if they could provide assistance. The assistant came on the plane to assist myself and a passenger in a wheelchair, however they didn’t sighted guide me as they obviously assumed that I was with my Mum and Dad so didn’t need it. So, it was rather pointless of them coming in the first place.
WE eventually arrived at terminal 4 and went through immigration and went to the baggage hall to wait for our luggage.
Everyone’s luggage seemed to be turning up apart from our planes, we waited and waited but still nothing.
After a while, people started to ask members of staff what was going on as we all obviously wanted to know where our luggage was but they didn’t know. As time went on, everyone got more and more frustrated as no one was helping us, and no one seemed to be bothered either. We kept being told “oh your luggage will be 2 hours; your plane is being moved to terminal 4” but this wasn’t the case at all.
At one point, we were told that our plane had clipped wings with another plane so the airport was shut as a temporary measure whilst it was sorted. After some more investigating, it turned out that our plane wasn’t even involved in the accident so we were lied to yet again.
A while later, we were told that our luggage would be another two hours. Again, this was not the case. We weren’t even allowed to go out of the baggage hall to go and get some food or some fresh air, as staff said that we wouldn’t be allowed back in if we did so. We ended up having to ask for food and water several times, when we were eventually given a limited amount. They didn’t even provide anything for babies! By this time, the Thomas Cook staff had left and the staff at JFK weren’t interested in helping anyone.
We were waiting around for that long that a lot of passengers decided to leave and go to their hotels as nothing was being done.
The next day arrived and we were still sat on the airport floor, waiting to be given an update on the luggage situation.
To cut a long story short, we spent 20 hours in the airport, meaning that we missed a night in our hotel, before we were told that our plane had frozen and they couldn’t open the doors in order to get the luggage out or move it to the correct terminal. The worrying thing was that our medication was in our suitcases, along with everything else. All we had was our hand luggage, no spare clothes, no toiletries, no hats, scarves or gloves, and no medication.
Me, my Mum and Dad along with some other passengers literally had to shout at staff to make them understand but it was no use; they said that the best they could do was get the luggage delivered to our hotel but they didn’t know when it would be, they couldn’t even guarantee that it would be before we left New York the following Thursday. Our only other option was to come back to the airport when it was available but they didn’t know when that would be either.
By now, we had had enough and decided to get ourselves some food before we literally passed out and made our way to our hotel (without our luggage).
We ate in a traditional American diner before getting a cab to the hotel.
When we arrived at the hotel, we quickly checked in and made our way to our room. It was my Mum’s birthday whilst we were away so the hotel had left her a card which we thought was a lovely gesture. Our room was spacious and was nice. We stayed at the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel in Midtown Manhattan which was walking distance of the attractions that we wanted to visit and all the popular places, so it is definitely an ideal hotel for tourists.
We were mentally and physically exhausted, but we decided that we had lost enough time already so we decided to go out. However, we had to go and buy some clothes and toiletries as we didn’t know when we’d be getting our luggage back, so we weren’t able to enjoy ourselves just yet.
Once we had bought the necessities, we decided to go to the Rockefeller Centre, they still had the famous Christmas tree up so that was great to see that.
A while later, we went to get ourselves something to eat to take back to the hotel as we were cold, hungry and tired. We relaxed the rest of the evening, as we didn’t want the rest of our trip to be spoilt any more than it already had been.
The following day, we woke up to no more information on our luggage; my Dad went down to reception to see if they could call the number that we had been given. They were more than happy to do so, but none of the staff could understand the answerphone message as it was in a language that no one understood.
I spent the morning tweeting Thomas Cook, trying to get an update but they weren’t much help either. They eventually advised us to go to the airport and collect our luggage as they couldn’t give an estimated time when it would be delivered to the hotel.
So that’s what we did.
We arrived at the airport, and were told to search through piles of bags in order to find our suitcases. We managed to find two of our cases, and luckily my Mum saw our third case being wheeled past on a trolley so quickly got hold of it. We have no idea where that one was going!
Two hours later, we finally had our luggage! We left the airport 5 minutes before a water leak in the terminal that we had been so that was a lucky escape!
We returned to the hotel, and could finally unpack (two days late might I add). The trips to and from the airport cost us around $140 altogether so it wasn’t cheap.
Once we had unpacked, we went to get something to eat and spent the evening wandering around Times Square which I absolutely loved! Times Square was buzzing with people and activity, it wasn’t too overcrowded which was nice so we were still able to walk around without being pushed and shoved too much.
The following day was my Mum’s birthday so we decided to get room service for breakfast as a treat, that’s an experience in itself. The food was delicious.
The first place that we visited that day was Grand Central Station, which was probably even bigger than I imagined. It’s certainly not like your average train station.
We then made our way to Times Square to do a bit of shopping. We also had a drink in the Hard Rock Cafe, I’ve been in the one in London so I wanted to visit the one in New York. The Hard Rock Café was a very vibrant, lively place which had feel good music playing.
Later on in the afternoon, we had a wander down to Broadway as we were going to a show later that evening and needed to pick our tickets up. We arrived at the theatre and collected our tickets, which was a much quicker process than we imagined. We then went to have a meal at an American Pizza rear. The pizza was gorgeous!
After our meal, we then made our way to the theatre where we were seeing Jersey Boys. I didn’t really know what to expect but Jersey Boys was fantastic, we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
Once the show had finished, we made our way back to the hotel, taking in New York City at night.
Tuesday arrived and we all agreed that our time in New York was going far too quickly. We got some breakfast before heading to the Rockefeller Centre which was only a short walk from our hotel.
We arrived at the Rockefeller Centre, showed our explorer passes where we were then given tickets, we then went through airport like security before queueing for a short while for an available lift which took us to the top of the rock. Whilst in the queue, a short film was playing which was all about the Rockefeller centre. As we went just after Christmas and New Year, the film explained about the famous Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree which was really interesting.
The lift whizzed up to the 67th floor which was an indoor observation area and also had a gift shop where we bought some souvenirs for family back home, I also bought myself a tee-shirt.
After taking some photos from the 67th floor, we decided to head up to the very top of the rock; the 70th floor!
The 70th floor offers 360-degree views of New York, you can see much of the city, including some of the popular attractions such as the Empire State Building, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty.
Although being able to see New York City from such a hight is such a visual thing, it was still an unforgettable experience for myself as a blind person, I doubt I’ll ever go to another skyscraper like that again! It was a very weird feeling to be at such a hight, thinking about the bustling city below. It was a rather chilly but sunny day so my Mum and Dad were able to get some fantastic photos.
We made our way down in the lift to the concourse on the ground level where we then went to get something to eat and drink as we looked out onto the famous Rockefeller ice skating rink.
We had a look in a few of the shops nearby before making our way to Central Park. I bought myself a new necklace from Tiffany & Co and also a t-shirt and a jumper from Abercrombie & Fitch.
We arrived at Central Park late afternoon so experienced it as it was gradually getting dark. There were various people trying to get you to pay to go around the park on a bike or a horse and carriage but we just wanted to have a stroll around the park, taking it in for ourselves. What made it more magical was the fact that there was snow on the ground all around the park, and a lot of it at that! It made it feel very wintery, if you have the chance to experience a snowy Central Park then I’d definitely recommend doing so!
Many of the lakes were frozen which gives you a feel of how cold and wintery it was.
We also saw the famous ice rink in central park, it’s safe to say that New Yorkers love ice-skating!
Once we left Central Park, we decided to head back to the Rockefeller Centre as earlier on we had seen an Italian which seemed to do lovely looking pizza slices, and let me tell you, they were the best pizza slices that I’ve ever had! In fact, I want one right about now…
As we had lost two days of our trip, we had to pretty much cram everything into the final few days, so on the Tuesday evening we decided to go on a bus tour. The tour took us around Manhattan and into Brooklyn.
There were only five of us on the bus so we were able to ask the tour guide any questions that we had. It was really good for myself as his audio commentary was brilliant.
Once we had finished the bus tour, it was late on in the evening so we went back to the hotel.
Wednesday was another jam-packed day; we went on a river Cruise which went on the Hudson River. Like the bus, the cruise had an audio commentary, so I was able to listen to that which was really interesting. The person who did the commentary was fantastic as well. We went by famous attractions and landmarks including the World Trade Centre, Brooklyn Bridge and even had a close view of the Statue of Liberty.
Once we had finished the 2.5-hour cruise, we did some shopping down Fifth Avenue where I made a few purchases, including something from Sephora, I seriously wish we had a Sephora in the UK!
We had a quick snack break and then got a taxi to the 9/11 memorial.
When arriving at the memorial, we first saw the 9/11 Ground 0 Memorial Pool which we thought was a very thoughtful commemoration for the victims of that awful tragedy.
We then decided to go to the 9/11 Memorial Museum which was a very emotional experience. Inside the museum there were various exhibits from the towers. You are also able to listen to phone calls that the victims made to their friends and family and also some from the victim’s friends and families, they were truly heart-breaking to listen to. There was also the chance to watch the news coverage of the tragic events as well.
There were a lot of pictures as you would expect in a museum, but there were things that I could experience as a blind person such as video and audio footage.
It was mid-evening when we left the museum so we got a taxi back to Times Square and went for something to eat before having a walk around and having a look in a few shops.
Me and my Dad tried a Hershey bar, I was very disappointed and really disliked the taste. I think I’ll stick to the chocolate that we have in the UK, that’s all we’ll say on that one…
New York City is completely different during the day and at night so I absolutely loved experiencing both.
Thursday soon arrived and we were heading home later that day, I was honestly really sad to be leaving. Although our holiday had a rough start, it was incredible and something that I will never ever forget and cherish those memories forever!
We spent the morning packing, before heading out to enjoy our last few hours in the concrete jungle.
We did a bit of shopping, and decided to visit Central Park again but during the day this time. It was really nice to visit the park both during the day and at evening time as it was completely different both times. This time, there were buskers and little stalls. We also saw some of the animals being fed at the zoo as well.
On our way out of Central Park, we decided to try a typical American hotdog, it has to be done! To be honest, I wasn’t that keen myself, but I’m glad that I tried one.
Time quickly went by and it was soon time for us to get ourselves something to eat before making our way to the airport. We decided to go back to our favourite little Italian in the Rockefeller Centre for our last meal because why not?
We then took the walk back to the hotel and got a taxi to JFK airport where we had been all too many times that week.
We checked in, and asked where we needed to go for me to get my special assistance. The lady asked if I needed a wheelchair which we tried to explain that I was blind so didn’t require one, but she didn’t seem to understand. Eventually we just gave up.
It was soon time to head to our departure gate which we were stood at for ages and delayed yet again, but we had no idea why.
We were eventually allowed on the plane. When we boarded the plane, the cabin crew didn’t seem to notice that I had a visual impairment or have it on their paperwork, so the experience was completely different to the flight out to New York, thus meaning that they didn’t help me like the other member of staff had done on the way out. It was rather disappointing as it should have been on their system.
We arrived back in Manchester early Friday morning, we went through the usual checks before getting our luggage and catching our train home. That’s when the jet lag kicked in!
We got home safely and then had the boring task of unpacking…take me back to New York!
That concludes todays (very long) post, I hope you have enjoyed reading about my trip to New York.
I am extremely grateful to my Mum and Dad for this opportunity of a lifetime and cannot thank them enough! It was a trip that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Have you been to New York yourself? Feel free to leave your experiences in the comments.
As always, thank you for reading.