London to New York
Our westbound trip around the world began with a flight crossing the Atlantic. When we decided to go on another big trip we decided it wouldn’t be without flying again. That was a great way to travel and we had so much fun doing it. If you haven’t read about our around the world without flying trip then click here.
Crossing the Atlantic
However, crossing oceans takes time by ship and this was a long trip already. So we compromised. This time we flew across the two oceans but otherwise travelled overland. So our first target was crossing the Atlantic. It’s a trip we’ve made many times as we like visiting the United States.
Still, it’s quite different when crossing the Atlantic is the beginning of such an epic trip. So finally we are on our way as we set out from home by train. Normally a trip from our local station to London Gatwick is very straightforward. Just hop on the Gatwick Express and it’s one train all the way.
Getting to Gatwick Airport
Unfortunately, we travelled on a Sunday with engineering works in progress. So that meant a change at East Croydon then on to East Grinstead to catch a bus. So many connections take time but it wasn’t really a problem. In fact, it turned out to be pretty straightforward. They had put on an express train to East Grinstead and there was only a 5-minute wait there.
At East Grinstead, the loudspeakers directed us towards the waiting buses for our onward journey to Gatwick. Of course, boarding was a bit of a disorganised scrum. We had to put our cases under the bus with no idea whether we would then get a seat or not. However, it worked out ok and the drive to the airport took around 15-20 minutes. One plus – the bus dropped us right outside departures so cut out a few moving walkways.
Crossing the Atlantic with Norwegian Airlines
We chose to fly Norwegian Airlines this time. Mainly because they are cheap and the flight times suited us. There are a few differences to the airlines we usually use for crossing the Atlantic. You can get a super cheap fare which does not include meals or checked luggage. However, since the cabin bag limit was 10kg we needed to check our wheeled bags. So I paid for the ‘plus’ fare which is a bit extra but includes luggage. It also includes meals and a seat reservation.
I always prefer online check-in but it wasn’t available on this flight. So we used the self-check-in machines at Gatwick. A nice Norwegian Airlines official helped us stick our baggage labels on. She also marked details of our onward flights to Australia on our boarding passes.
Travelling to the USA on a one-way ticket gets their attention when travelling on an ESTA (visa waiver) apparently. Anyway, no problem for us as we already have exit flights booked and we were checked in and on our way in no time.
As I said, we’ve never flown with Norwegian Airlines before, but the prices attracted me. A flight to New York for under £250 each is good value. They say that their low prices are due to the new Dreamliner aircraft they use which are more fuel-efficient and eco friendly. Onboard the experience is comparable with Virgin or BA. For instance, the same seat space. The individual tv screens are large and there was a good selection of movies, tv etc. Take your own headphones though as they charge $5 for a pair.
The meals were ok for airline food. I often don’t eat the food on flights but the raspberry truffle dessert was actually pretty good. The service is low key. Apart from meals, you can order snacks/drinks via the touchscreen so the cabin crew only come along if called. But they were all very friendly and things seemed to go efficiently so definitely no complaints there.
Travelling economy for 8 hours is never a great experience but back to back films helps. I watched San Andreas as you can’t beat a good disaster film when flying! Then there was a really cheesy Bradley Cooper film set in Hawaii which helped pass the time.
JFK Airport New York
I think we landed at JFK as far away from the gate as it is possible to get. Or possibly we taxied all the way from Boston because we were trundling around the airport for an eternity. We got there eventually though and there followed a brief pause in immigration. Slow but moving steadily. Then we grabbed our bags and headed for the Airtrain to Jamaica Station. This is one of those typical airport links. We had landed at terminal 1 so had to go through all the others. There does not seem to be a 3 or 6 but we got to go past all the rest through 8 before arriving at Jamaica. You pay on exit so we had a brief wrestle with the machine and Paul’s credit card. Apparently, dip your card means to push it in and out quickly.
JFK to Manhatten by Train
To summarise, to get from JFK into Manhatten. Firstly, take the Airtrain to Jamaica Station from the airport. It’s easy to get to Jamaica Station. Just follow the signs for Airtrain and take the inter-terminal train link if necessary.
Next, change at Jamaica Station to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) which goes to Penn Station. You need to buy a combination ticket from the machine at Jamaica Station (Airtrain / LIRR).
Then follow signs for the LIRR. I thought it sounded quite confusing before we went but it’s really straightforward. Just keep looking for signs.
Look for the machines to buy your ticket. Remember to dip, push your card in and quickly out again. Once you have your ticket look at the overhead displays for train times. We caught an express directly into Penn Station and took no time at all. Late evening there were hardly any passengers so we got to spread our luggage around.
We exited Penn Station onto 8th Ave just as Madison Square Gardens was emptying after what we think was a basketball game. The pavements (sorry, I mean sidewalks) were crammed with people. All going in the opposite direction to us of course since they were heading to the station.
Crossing the road helped and it was only a short walk to our hotel in the Flower District. It was 10.30 pm US time by the time we arrived at our room. So it’s been a long day. But we are on our way!