So this tour was quite literally the best NYE of my life and I suspect it’s going to take a fair effort to top it.
To anyone considering this tour, it is a great way to see one of the most amazing cities in the world in a very short period of time. Although I would recommend some extra time in NYC, certainly if this is all you had you would feel as though you have seen the best.
A brief overview of the tour (presumably it will follow a similar schedule next year):
Day before (December 29th)
There is a tour meeting at the hotel where you are staying. I didn’t know about this until I got my documents (although perhaps if you had been on a contiki before you would have). This is certainly helpful to go to if you can manage it because you receive itineraries and a weekly metro card – so basically you get free travel sooner. And you get to meet up with your other tour mates.
Day 1 (December 30th)
The day starts ridiculously early at 7:30am with a guided bus tour of the city. The guide was great; knew so much about the city, was really funny. You see most of the major sites and get off at a few places like Rockefeller Centre and Grand Central Station. The tour ends after lunch down at the 9/11 Memorial where you have included tickets to the actual memorial itself, which is quite and experience (and I think there will be more there by next year as well).
After the memorial is the first optional extra – the helicopter tour of the city. I originally had no intention of doing this but peer pressure got the better of me and I am so glad it did! See my photo album for a picture but it is the most amazing experience. We went right at sunset, which meant the skyline was stunning. As our guide said, you will never see the skyline in the same way and he is absolutely right. There are 2 options, 1 is $137 and the other is $190. The $190 one is about 15-20 minutes (the other is less than 10 I believe, so definitely go the $190) and you basically go up and down the Hudson River – amazing experience.
That night you have an included dinner and then you head to Times Square for the group photo. This is another optional extra, everyone is included in the photo but it costs $17 to purchase. Another strong recommendation – you can see ours in my photo album. The photo taken by a professional and is well worth the $17 – a great souvenir (everyone knows how hard it is to get a good group photo!!)
Afterwards you have to option to go out to a bar with the tour guide. The bar we headed too was pretty far away and a lot of us were pretty exhausted so I went for a walk around Rockefeller Centre (amazing with the Christmas lights) and had an earlyish night. Remember, Day 2 is a big one!
Day 2 (December 31st)
This morning you head over to Brooklyn to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. This is a great way to see the skyline of the city and also a good way to meet and chat with other tour members. (I have also uploaded a photo in my photo album).
Afterwards you take the subway down to Battery Park to catch the ferry over to the Statue of Liberty (ticket is included). You can spend as much or as little time there as in the afternoon you have free time, unless you decide to do the Sex and the City optional tour. Having never really watched the show, I didn’t do it, however if you are a fan, I am told it is good fun and costs $40.
I chose to spend the afternoon shopping for a NYE outfit ;) Actually not a great idea because the streets are crazy at that time of year. It’s also a good time to sneak in a nana nap before the big night.
This year we went to Planet Hollywood and I would be surprised if you didn’t do it again. I certainly hope that you do. The atmosphere is amazing, you have an included (albeit kind of small) buffet dinner but most importantly, open bar. The party starts at 9pm but you have to leave the hotel at like 8pm to fight the crowds through Times Square. There is no outside viewing of Times Square from Planet Hollywood, but I really believe you aren’t missing anything. Someone who did wait from 2pm in Times Square (and you can’t leave for anything – including the bathroom once you go in) has told me that the ball is quite small and then there is a lot of confetti. So I definitely think we had a better deal. Just before midnight you can head to the dance floor and you are surrounded by huge tv screens which makes you feel as though you are right out in Times Square. Honestly, it was the one of the best nights of my life. To put it in perspective, if you chose to go to Planet Hollywood, not as part of the Contiki tour, it would cost you $250 – so a pretty good deal to have that included. You get kicked out at 1am and can head to another bar. Some of us chose to just walking around Times Square and soak up the environment before heading back to the hotel/hotel bar, which was a great experience too.
Day 3 (January 1st)
If you are up for it (or you feel guilty because you paid for it already), the TV and Movie Tour takes place at about 10am (don’t worry, it’s a bus tour, not much walking required!) This tour isn’t quite as good as I expected, mainly because I expected to see more famous places. However, you see places like the FRIENDS building, the Soup Nazi store, the inspiration pub from How I Met Your Mother, the Ghostbusters firehouse, something from the Cosby Show to name a few. You also get to see a lot of other parts of the city which you didn’t see on the bus tour on day 1, like Soho (great shopping) and Tribecca.
Afterwards you meet up with the rest of the group for a walk through Central Park – also optional. A lot of people have seen Central Park by now so you don’t have to go if you’d rather do something else.
That night dinner isn’t included but a lot of us just at together at the hotel restaurant and then you head to the Empire State Building (ticket included). It will undoubtedly be absolutely freezing but well worth it for a stunning view of the NYC skyline at night (I love me a good night photo!) You can stay up there for as long as you want and then head to a local bar afterwards for one last night of drunken craziness.
Day 4 (January 2nd)
You have until 12pm to checkout and head your separate ways!
You can also choose to do the optional Gossip Girl tour ($38) but there actually isn’t an allotted time for this, you get a voucher at a discounted rate and do it whenever.
There were 3 groups all doing this tour. My group stayed at the Skyline Hotel a few blocks from Times Square and the other 2 stayed at the Sheraton in Brooklyn. Basically it seems that the people who booked first stayed in Manhattan. Obviously I can’t comment on the Brooklyn hotel and whilst I hear it was very nice, it was so convenient being so close to Times Square. We could walk home from Planet Hollywood. I don’t know if this is something that frequently happens or if it was just this year? The hotel was also very comfortable and my room had a pretty sweet view as well (see photo album). I did however hear rumours of using a different hotel next year. Try to get confirmation from Contiki as early as possible but don’t be surprised if they don’t give it.
Top 3 favourite moments:
2. Empire State Building
3. Statue of Liberty
1. Book early!! This will hopefully ensure you get the hotel in Manhattan, in case this happens again where they decide to use one in Brooklyn as well. I paid the deposit in around February and the rest in October.
2. If you are travelling alone, I highly recommend a single room. It might sound unsociable and it is more expensive but it is so nice to have your own space especially because you know every tour has more than one of “that person” who drinks too much and vomits everywhere.
3. Don’t worry too much about booking pre/post accommodation at the same hotel as contiki. A lot of people tried to do this assuming that everyone was staying at the Skyline and ended up staying in Brooklyn (or visa versa). The hotel is actually quite expensive and you can do a lot cheaper and just get a taxi/subway the morning of the tour. I recommend the Pod Hotel (about a $10 cab ride away from the Skyline) or the Hilton Garden Inn.
4. Budget for some of the optional extras. It’s a great way to meet more people on your tour and really gives you 3 solid days of sight seeing.
5. Plan a couple of days after the tour to stay in NYC and do all the things you didn’t get time for (you do a lot but there is always more to do!!)
6. Pack a lot of warm clothes, including boots and good coat. We had pretty mild weather but it did drop to around -11 a few days after which was ridiculously cold.
7. Pack nice clothing for NYE. It is inside so you can rug up just to go outside. The idea is “dress to impress” and most people make a pretty nice effort. I don’t recommend leaving shopping til the few days before NYE. Way too hectic!
1. Get to see so much. You can really cover a lot of the city in 3 days if that is all the time you have.
2. NYE night is sensational. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to stand out in Times Square. This is much better.
3. You get a lot for your money. I think to stay at the hotel around that time was over $200 per night, plus NYE night, a few meals, a few included tickets, included 7 day metro card ($29) so no paying for travel – well worth the price.
4. The optional extras are great and you still have enough free time for anything specific you want to do.
1. For a big company, Contiki could be a bit more organised. Expect to be left in the dark a bit about accommodation. Try to confirm you accommodation with them as well. We had people receive documents with the wrong hotel name on it and thus turn up to the wrong hotel.
2. I could be wrong, but I think staying out in Brooklyn would really have been a pain so hopefully they don’t do this again, but book early and it shouldn’t be a problem!!
I hope this is helpful to potential travellers. This was my first Contiki tour and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I met a great group of people and spent the best NYE of my life in one of the most amazing cities in the world. I can’t recommend the tour enough. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know anything else about it.