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What we did with over 8 hours in New York City

When I began the booking process for our $245 trip after using points to Europe (Portugal, Italy, and the United Kingdom), the flight that I got out of Los Angeles did not allow for a direct flight to Europe. Instead, the United flight required us to have a long layover in New York. “Oh, darn!” that’s what I said – “you mean I have to spend over 8 hours in New York City, my favorite city in the world? Bring it!!!”

I didn’t have to pay extra points to get to NYC. It was part of the whole travel itinerary. It was a great bonus to have included NYC. No complaints here.

I didn’t want to pack

It felt like we haven’t fully recovered yet from our trip to Hawaii in March/April, and our trip to Peru in April/May. Things in the homefront and at work have been quite hectic that I simply did not get any chance to plan anymore for this trip. The kids were finishing up the remainder of the school year and it was just one thing after another.

The fact that it was a trip with just me and Madison, and not the entire family, led me to dragging out the need to pack. I knew I wanted to pack light for our two-week vacation. Light as in just using a carryon luggage and a backpack. It wasn’t until the day of the trip, Saturday, when Maddie and I began packing. We planned on leaving the house at 6pm, and finished packing just in time.

We left the house just past 6pm and stopped by Ola’s (where Ethan worked). He wanted to make sure he saw us before we left. We were on the road just before 630pm, and made it to the airport just after 7pm.

Missing these two while on vacation

We ran into our dear good friends, Cindy and Yeman, along with their kids, Anneliese and Colin. We all arrived at LAX around the same time, we were off to NYC, they were off to Orlando for a two-week vacation. I had plans to go to the Alaska Lounge via my Priority Pass and we invited Colin to join us. It’s a good thing that Colin also had TSA Precheck, it worked perfectly. There was no long line at TSA Precheck, and we breezed through it.

Colin and Maddie at LAX

We headed over to Terminal 6, a five minute walk from Terminal 7 and made it to the Alaska Lounge. We had minestrone soup, chips and salsa, chunks of cubed cheeses, and downed it all with fountain drinks. That was enough to somehow fill us up before our flight.

Colin and Maddie inside the children’s play area LOL!!! – Alaska Lounge

We made it back Terminal 7 and brought Colin back to his family just in time for their flight to Orlando. So great seeing the Wong Family!

The Wong Family were off to Orlando, FL for vacation

The redeye flight to NewYork/Newark

Our flight from Los Angeles left at 10:36pm. I usually don’t have a hard time sleeping during a redeye flight. But I haven’t really been feeling well, I was just getting over a bad cough. I didn’t take any sleep aid prior to the flight. Overall, Maddie and I slept on and off during our nearly 5 hour flight. It was just enough for our bodies to recuperate and prepare ourselves for our day in NYC.

Luggage services in Newark

Our flight to Portugal was not due to leave Newark until 9:45pm on Sunday evening. This gave us an opportunity to get out of the airport and head to the city. I’m not a stranger to this concept. I’ve done this many times in the past. However, we had our carryon luggage with us. I thought United Airlines would take our luggage from LA, and my plan was just to pick them up in Portugal. But, since we had over 12 hours of layover in Newark, United required us to take our luggage with us.

Luggage services in Terminal C between carousels 8 and 9 – baggage claim
The pricing at Luggage Services

It was a good thing that I did my research. I found out about the Luggage Services offered in Terminal C, which happens to be our terminal. We had 2 pieces of luggage. We were able to check them in and paid a fee of $15 total ($10 for the 1st item, $5 for the 2nd piece). This gave me peace of mind that the luggage stayed at the airport, instead of us dragging them along in NYC.

From Newark to Manhattan – easy peasy

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve done this trek so many times and it was just like riding an old bike. The goal was to get from the airport to Manhattan. One could take a cab, Uber, rent a car, or in our case, we decided to take the train. This was the most convenient of them all.

New Jersey Transit kiosks where you can purchase tickets to ride the train towards New York Penn Station

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the Airtrain station from your terminal
  2. Prior to boarding the AirTrain, go find the New Jersey Transit kiosks (orange-blue colored kiosks)
  3. Purchase your tickets to New York Penn (you will take a train that has a final stop in New York’s Penn Station
  4. Purchase the appropriate ticket you need (one way or roundtrip)
  5. Once you’ve purchased your train tickets, go up to the AirTrain Station and wait for the AirTrain.
  6. There is usually an airport personnel at each station who will guide you and inform which train to take
  7. Take the train that will take you to the Newark Liberty International Airport AirTrain Station (this is a free ride)
  8. Once you get to the Train Station, follow the signs that will take you to the track that will take you to New York Penn Station (be careful, there is also a Newark Penn Station, so do not get off of that station)
  9. Use your tickets to scan and enter the station
  10. There are monitors that will show you the expected arrival time of the train
  11. Once you board the train, just have your tickets ready for ticket inspection
  12. The train ride should be no more than 20 minutes, and you could be stopping 2-3x before reaching Penn Station in New York City.

The cost of the ticket was $26 roundtrip for adults, and $7 roundtrip for a child.

The AirTrain Map


Hello, New York!

It was just a little over 5 months ago when all six of us were in New York City. It was cold, the city had its first blizzard of the year. We had layers and layers of clothing. Not today. The temps reached over 90 degrees.

Outside our train when we arrived at New York Penn Station

It was already in the 80s mid-morning when Maddie and I walked from W. 33rd St. towards the theatre district.

One Shubert Alley

Since this was not our first visit to NYC, our goal was to catch one of the new Broadway shows – Mean Girls, My Fair Lady, or Carousel. But we didn’t have any tickets purchased so we took our chances, as always, by trying to get discounted rush tickets or lottery tickets to Broadway shows (click here to find out how).

Harry Potter is now on Broadway on West 42nd St.

We also took time to head over to Bryant Park, and walked down Sixth Avenue where there were outdoor booths.

Gotta love Bryant Park no matter the time of year
Bryant Park

We slowly made our way to Bibble and Sip, my new favorite dessert place on W. 51st St. It was already hot that late morning and we opted for the Lavander Lemonade and White Chocolate Matcha Pistacchio Cake. That was delicious.

White Chocolate Matcha Pistachio Cake and Lavander Lemonade – Bibble and Sip

The restaurant wasn’t crowded at first, but a crowd soon built up by the time we left.

The crowd at Bibble and Sip

Mean Girls or Carousel

We checked out Mean Girls, but there were no rush tickets being offered. Instead, we could join their in-person lottery before 1pm. So we decided to walk down to W. 45th St. to the Imperial Theatre. It was around 11:20am when we got to the theatre and there were already over 20 people in line for rush tickets to Carousel starring Jessie Mueller and Joshua Henry. The box office was set to open at noon.

I won tickets, but…

Whenever we go to NYC and try for discounted tickets, we have to keep our options open. We were quite specific with the shows we wanted to watch, but I went ahead and submitted digital lottery entry to a few other shows. Digital lottery meant submitting our entries online via the show’s website or the show’s app. Around 11am, I found out via email that I won tickets to 2 shows – Escape to Margaritaville and Sweeney Todd. I had to make a quick decision not to go with those tickets. I wanted to watch Carousel.

We waited until 12 noon, and finally made it inside the box office. After 40 minutes of being in line under the heat, we got two tickets – box seats at $40 each.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Lunch at City Kitchen

I wasn’t particularly hungry, and yet at the same time, wasn’t motivated enough to explore the city. I mean, we ‘ve visited many times so I just wanted to hang around the area. The heat was getting to me. Maddie had sushi for lunch over at City Kitchen. There were other selections, but I decided to just hang out, relax, and kill time. There was free Wi-Fi, great air-conditioned hall – I was just fine.

Back to Patzeria Perfect Pizza

All roads lead back to getting me a slice of NY pizza. And whenever we’re near the Theatre District, there’s only one choice and that’s Patzeria Perfect Pizza on West 46th St. We ordered a Margherita Pizza and a Pepperoni Pizza plus a Snapple lemonade to quench our thirst. It was quick, easy to order, and most of all, delicious – not to mention, budget-friendly. All of that, for around $11.

Pepperoni Pizza at Patzeria Perfect Pizza

Carousel on Broadway

We made it just in time to go to our matinee show at 3pm to watch Carousel. We had excellent seats for $40 – box seats. Sitting in a box means that there were some scenes that we couldn’t see, but that was perfectly fine. I love watching live theatre up close, love seeing the expressions of the actors. My friend, Tracy, convinced me to watch Carousel, and I was so glad we did. It was a fantastic production, the score was beautiful, the staging was artistic, and the singing was spectacular. I highly recommend this show.

Stood in line for 40 minutes outside the Imperial Theatre for Carousel

After the show, we decided to walk towards West 33rd St. back to Penn Station. It took us about 15 minutes to walk there. As a suggestion for those who are making this trek back to Newark Airport, this is what we had to do. Since we had already pre-purchased a roundtrip ticket back to Newark, we didn’t have to buy tickets anymore at Penn Station. But you could easily use the same orange kiosks to purchase your ticket from New York Penn to Newark Airport.

NJ Transit ticket from Manhattan back to Newark Airport EWR
  • There were big schedule screens that show the train schedules for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit (NJT)
  • Look for the route with a picture of a plane (meaning it will pass by Newark Airport)
  • I opted to go with Northeast Corridor route
  • You will notice a lot of people just standing in the middle of Penn Station looking up at the schedule
  • Once your route schedule is updated, it will tell you which track to go to, in our case – 8 East
  • You will notice the crowd move towards that direction and make sure you follow the signs to your designated track
  • Board the train that leads you to the right track, have your ticket/s ready for inspection
  • There were about 3 stops from New York Penn Station before making it to Newark Liberty Airport
  • Once you get to the airport station, you will then make your way back to the airport tram – the AirTrain
  • Have your tickets ready with as you exit the train station
  • Head towards the AirTrain and board the right train back to your terminal
The crowd watched the screen as the train status changed

Once we made it back to Terminal C, we headed down to Baggage Claim and went straight to claim the luggage that we left with the Luggage Services. It was quick easy, efficient. We gave our receipt, the rep went to get our luggage, came back, and handed over our $15 cash payment. They only accept cash. Easy peasy!

For the next couple of hours, we opted to head to Terminal B and availed of the airport lounge. We used our Priority Pass and got free access at Art & Lounge.

Priority Pass members warning

At first, Priority Pass users were not allowed due to the crowd size. But I was advised to wait for a few minutes as the patrons began making their exit. I was then allowed to enter.

After walking over 16,000 steps in NYC, it was good to just relax inside the lounge. That’s it….that’s how we spent over 8 hours in NYC. Next stop, Portugal.






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