I can’t even begin to explain how long I spent dreaming of visiting New York, it was a place that had been on my travel bucket list for as long as I could remember. There were so many places I wanted to visit that I had seen photos of, heard about and seen on television and movies. New York is one of those magical, faraway places you dream of visiting and slowly, over time, amass a mental list of all the things you want to see and do. For me it had always seemed like a fairytale kind of place, somewhere I knew would feel surreal to visit.
When Matt and I decided to do a trip to the U.S while we were over that side of the globe, living in London, we were both incredibly excited. As soon as you start planning that mental list of things you want to see and do emerges and things start to get overwhelming. Ugh! There really is SO much to see and do… I want to visit all the shops and eat at all the restaurants… I want to walk the streets and climb the buildings…. I want to catch the boats and see the famous people! This is how we found ourselves facing questions many a traveller has faced before… “How long should I spend in New York?” and, “Exactly how much time do I need to see and do all the things on my New York bucket list?”
The best advice I can give you is to spend as much time as you can afford to! We spent around 7 days in New York and would have loved a little more time. We have friends who spent a month in New York over summer and even they wished they had been able to spend longer. I guess it’s just one of those places where there really is so much to see and do that you always feel like you need more time.
There’s no doubt you could get a great taste of the city and cover a lot of ground in 3 or so full days, but if you really want to enjoy yourself I’d recommend 7 days as a good starting point. If it’s somewhere you’ve been dreaming of visiting for a long time, I’d suggest looking into staying longer – possibly around the 14 day mark. It really is one of those places where you should spend as much time as you can afford to spend there, which will of course depend on budget and how much time you have available.
Staying for around 7 -10 days gives you the ability to relax a little more and take things slow as well as tackling your ‘to do’ list. You’re able to dedicate some time to walking around and finding things organically, not just following a list from place to place. You’re also less likely to feel guilty about taking part of a day or two off to sleep in or stay up late or watch movies in your hotel room. We found ourselves pretty exhausted because we were so busy and having so much fun, we needed to take a bit of time off to recharge and rest before going out again.
Even though we covered a LOT of ground while we were there, we still didn’t see all of the things we wanted to see. In fact our list kept growing bigger and bigger because we kept getting great tips on places to eat, shop and things to do and see from the people we met. Before we booked our trip to New York we had asked friends how long they thought we should visit for and I remember them laughing, trying to convey that we would never ‘see everything’ and that we would definitely want to go back… so the amount of time we spent there on our first trip really didn’t matter.
Once we arrived I understood what they meant. The sheer size of the streets is huge and I definitely underestimated it, thinking ‘oh it’s just a few blocks… we can walk there easily!’ A few blocks is a long way, guys, trust me. So by the time you cover these long distances to see all the different places, landmarks, restaurants, shops etc, you’ve lost quite a bit of time in transit. Not to mention all the cool places you stumble upon and want to stop at to take photos or explore a little more. Before you know it the days have rolled by and you’re already packing your bags to head home.
When it comes time to plan your trip to New York I recommend spending as much time there as you can afford to spend, aiming to go for a minimum of around 7 days to make the most of your time. If you’re worried about whether or not this is going to be enough time you can stop your worrying right now, because it won’t be enough time and you are probably going to want to go back again. Your best bet is to make the most out of the 7 or so days you have there, knowing you’ll come back again in the future and work on your next ‘must see and do’ list while you’re there. If it is your first visit to New York and it’s a place that’s really special to you, I’d recommend spending longer than 7 days.
Have you visited New York? If you’ve been before and have some tips or insight into how long you think people should stay for, please share in the comments below.