From Beijing to the Big Apple

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The Travelers
Jerry Chan, his wife Cecilia and their daughter Marianne (3).

The Plan
The Chans flew to New York City (NYC) to attend a wedding and tacked on a few extra days to tour the city. Their itinerary included a stroll through Central Park, a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, a visit to Times Square (as well as the world’s biggest Toys R’ Us store therein), a visit to the Museum of Natural History and walking tours of Union Square, Washington Square Park, the World Trade Center and a wedding at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn Harbor in Long Island.

The Cost
The Chans booked roundtrip plane tickets with Air China from Beijing to NYC with a return flight out of Los Angeles for around RMB 29,000, including tax. They stayed at the Marrakech Hotel ( on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A room was booked through the travel bidding site at a rate of USD 170 a night before tax (about 15 percent of the room rate).

The Best Part
Central Park was the perfect family outing. Just a ten-minute walk from the hotel, the 87sqkm park includes spectacular vistas, gardens, meadows, lakes and ponds, playgrounds galore and even a zoo, which was Marianne’s favorite part of the trip.

The Worst Part
Upon arrival, the Chans were dismayed at the hotel’s decrepit state: shoddy rooms and cramped "Queen"-size beds, lack of elevators and the unprofessional staff. Because of Priceline’s policy, the Chans were locked into their hotel. At least, they didn’t find any bedbugs.

While the Big Apple doesn’t come cheap, the city is filled with delis, diners and food stands with an assortment of relatively inexpensive eats. The Chans enjoyed breakfast at the Hot & Crusty Bagel Café near their hotel, as well as delicious pizza and hot dogs around town. For food, NYC has it all; the Chans even sampled Cambodian sandwiches at Num Pang near Union Square, courtesy of Jerry’s cousin Rosie. The average cost of a meal for three was around USD 25-30 excluding tip (which ranges from 10-20 percent).

Getting Around
New York’s famous subway system ( is the most efficient way to get around town and a ride costs USD 2.25 per trip. For discounted rides, purchase one of the unlimited ride passes that range from one day to 30 days. Free subway maps are available at the stations. Subway lines generally run up and down the city, but buses will take you crosstown. Bus and subway transfers are free within two hours of the first MetroCard swipe. A ride from JFK airport to any destination in the city is charged at a flat fee of USD 45 (excluding tip). Otherwise, the minimum taxi fare is USD 2.50 and the rate goes by USD .40 each additional 1/5 mile (0.32 km) or two minutes. An additional USD .50 is charged for rides taken between 8pm-6am.

Other Tips
"Hop-On-Hop-Off" double-decker bus tours stop at major sites (Times Square, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty) throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Prices vary according to the route, but average USD 50-80, with discounts for kids. If your schedule permits, the Bronx Zoo ( is a family-friendly must. Comprising 264 acres, it is the largest metropolitan zoo in the US and has animals, outdoor exhibition spaces, a monorail and an aquarium.


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