I have so much to tell you about New York and Christmas in New York it's really quite overwhelming, so I'm trying to 'chunk it' a bit so you I both don't overwhelm you with detail and so I can focus and give you as much information as I can in a useful way!
This post follows the how to prepare for your trip before you go post, this one it's what to do to get yourself organised when you arrive... you can do some of this ahead of time too if you like to be super-organised!
1. Don't think you're going to see everything
New York offers so much to so many, whatever your interests, and depending on the time of year. For me it was all about Broadway, Shopping, Architecture, Food. But I didn't in my opinion do enough of any of that and I didn't see any shows like Saturday Night Live, see the ballet at Lincoln Center or go to Brooklyn. I've accepted I will need to go back possibly even on my own to do these things. What we did was write down our list collectively of what was important to us and we compromised on some things and had a basic plan of what we were going to do on what day. It's important not to overplan though - you do need rest days. If you have a lot of things planned that include admission prices - check out the New York Pass to save some money overall.
2. Get your mobile phone sorted and make sure you have a Skype account
We used WorldSim because we doing a round-the-world trip but USA only plans can be much cheaper. T-Mobile has some great deals as do TelAway. Organise this a few months before you go - then you can add your US phone number to your itinerary to family and friends before you go.
Skype, sign up for a free account then you can do video calls where you have wifi whilst you are away!
3. Get a weekly subway ticket
Even if you just do a few stops a day, you'll get your money's worth - they are about $30 each.
4. You don't need cash to catch a taxi
All yellow taxis now have a swipe option, which we found really useful.
5. Christmas specific tips:
Shopping for Kids
We bought our gifts when we got there - and we didn't buy much to be honest (just stocking fillers) because we gave the girls iPads (for our sanity) for the flight over for Christmas in advance. (Good investment!)
Toys R Us Times Square is open 24 hours a day the week leading up to Christmas. The lines can get long though - I did a line up at 11:00pm on Christmas Eve and queued 45 minutes. There's also boxes EVERYWHERE.
FAO Schwarz is awesome, but it is super-dooper crowded too. A friend of ours paid $90 for their giftwrapping and delivery before 9pm Christmas Eve, it arrived 10pm and unwrapped - you can imagine the stress that prevailed! They did get a refund though.
If you have girls - the American Girl Store is a must even if your girls aren't into dolls anymore (but if they are - they are worth the $120 a doll - you can get them to look like your child!) - the books there I think are really age appropriate and not to 'baby-ish' Things like the 'smart girls guide to the internet' and 'the smart girls guide to liking yourself' are fantastic. I will be blogging about our visits soon!
Buy your wrapping paper at Paper Source or at Macy's - Paper Source are scattered all through New York City.
Shopping for Adults and friends at home
Check out the Christmas Markets either in Bryant Park or Columbus Circle, you can get personalised New York themed Christmas decorations, hand-made good, great artwork and hot chocolate and food!
Macy's DOES NOT have a toy department. That was my rookie mistake. You can buy fabulous homewares (I got some fabulous Martha Stewart things) and they are open 24 hours a day in the days leading up to Christmas. If you are buying for friends at home or Christmas stuff at Macy's wait until after Christmas for their sales. I again, stocked up on Martha Stewart Christmas decorations for 90% off.
Also, buy your luggage from Macy's in the post-Christmas sales - because I am telling you - you will bring things home! We arrived with 6 bags and left with 8. One of those was just Christmas decorations, so I don't think we did too badly!
Don't forget - you can shop ahead online! Have it delivered to your apartment or hotel - think Amazon, GAP, Old Navy, Macy's, Sephora (for perfume, cosmetics!) !
Last minute lollies, novelties you can get at the chemist/drug store - Duane Reade - they are everywhere!!