There are few places more magical than New York, USA at Christmas time. It’s a mecca for shopping enthusiasts at any time of the year but there is something about the crisp chill in the air, the glint in children’s eyes and the lift in the spirit in even the most curmudgeonly of folk that give it a sprinkle of joviality that no other time of year can compare to. Well, at least that’s one side of it. Of course, there are the crowds, the manic bargain hunters who’d snap your right arm off for a discounted Chanel. But for those who thrive in the mania, it only contributes to the charm. New York is a labyrinth to navigate as a first timer, so the better prepared you are to minimise your walking time and maximise your spending potential, the better equipped you are to take the Big Apple by the Christmas baubles and conquer the shopping war like a true N’yawker.
Winter market at Bryant Park, New York © Luke Redmond
Time is your tightest budget
We’re going to go ahead and assume that you don’t have 2 weeks to explore every neighbourhood, breathe in the sights and catch every Broadway show of the season. Time may well be your greatest enemy so combat it in advance by firstly, booking accommodation in or close to Manhattan. Times Square, 5th Avenue, Union Square, they are going to be where you are going to want to spend the majority of your time so while you may think you are saving money by staying in Brooklyn, the time you lose out trying to find your way to Manhattan and back will cost you dearly in the form of sweet precious time. If you want to keep as much money as you can for shopping, think about renting a room on Airbnb. You can find a room in a well-located apartment in or around Manhattan for as little as £30pp/ per night. You may have to compromise on luxury for that price but it is doable for even the smallest of budgets.
Sniff out Discounts, They’re everywhere…
You don’t need to be a Class A Sherlock to find discounts around NYC. While Brits may be world leaders in bargain-hunting, Americans can skulk out a coupon from a 500-mile radius. Foreigners receive a 10% discount in Bloomingdales and Macy’s when they show their passport. This can soften the blow of the tax that is added to every purchase when you come to the till. Many outlets offer discount codes and coupons online so stalk your favourite stores online, and sign up to newsletters in advance of your trip to avail of any offers that might come your way. If you’re willing to travel for a bargain, and I know you are, you can pick up designer goods at the popular Woodbury Common Premium Outlet at discounted prices. However, these are still designer goods and aren’t cheap as such so if you‘re not fussed on big brand names, don’t bother spending the $40 on the bus to get there. However, if you are interested, the range of outlets is HUGE and you can easily spend the whole day there. Allnewyorktours.com can set you up with a transfer.
Timing is everything.
Savvy shoppers know that the best time to go Christmas shopping in NYC is just after Thanksgiving, which is known famously as Black Friday. The ominous title is drawn from the heavy crowds that flock to the streets in search of the best deals. It is hectic, it is noisy and it is exhausting but there are a few measures you can take to make the shopping blizzard worth braving. Now as much as you might want to look like Bradshaw on Broadway, don’t even dream of donning a heel. Black Friday is a day for the sensible shoe; the croc, the New Balance, the whatever-the-hell-keeps-your-feet-from-agony. The chances are that you are going to be spending more time queuing than you are shopping so take a Kindle or magazine to keep you occupied. Try to get in first thing in the morning. And this rule applies even if you choose to ditch Black Friday in favour of a calmer Saturday or Sunday. Stores are more organised at this time and there is still a smidge-just a smidge-of oxygen circling the air.
A few bite-sized takeaways
Know your UK-US conversions before buying a pair of shoes that are actually two sizes too big for your mother. The shop assistants may know them, but hailing one down can be harder than hailing a cab on New Years’ Eve.
Travel light to economise space in your luggage for return goodies. Prepare for the returning luggage in advance by booking on an extra suitcase, which will set you back $100 but will be cheaper than shipping everything back home or paying the excess fee on check-in.
Layer up the weather outside may well be frightful but you will feel like a rotisserie chicken in those crowded department stores. Choose a coat that is warm but not puffy. Trying to carry an armful of clothes dressed like the Michelin man will only make things harder for yourself.
The second you’re not having fun, have a break. You’re in one of the most entertaining cities on the planet for Christ’s sake, so if your feet are weeping in pain, skip out to an impromptu matinee, grab a slice of New York-style pizza or a bagel. Nip off to a nail spa or take a carriage around central park. Whatever you need to rejuvenate- Do it! Or the magic dust of New York at Christmas will brush off your shoulder like a spec of lint and you’ll be back at home with a sack full of presents, and no enchanting memories to speak of.
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