My travels to New York: Planning and execution

This trip was a gift from my mom. Every time I gushed about my travel dreams; every laptop and cellphone wallpaper she saw; all the pop culture I spent hours saturated in, and every career goal I ever mapped out – she listened to…she observed. On the day commemorating my birth, she willed this incredible dream  to me on a silver platter – in service to the loudest wish my heart ever vocalized.

I was beside myself. My head felt muffled with disbelief, and thanks, and awe.

Between one breath and the next, I threw myself into planning everything meticulously, to ensure I had the best experience – beginning with the scheduling and budget. When would I be landing in New York City? and how much do I have to work with, to ensure I have the best experience?

As a final gift to the child I was, and the adult I am, mom said my budget was R30 000.00c – about 10 grand up from the wicked London graduation trip long passed.

The first piece of advice I have for you, is create an Excel Spreadsheet. It keeps so much order. I had everything I exactly needed in one column, its cost in another, as well as columns for the estimated date and times I’d be there/or that things are needed for; as well as the specific addresses, my point person for communications, and additional notes.

Naturally, I HAD to choose September. I’ve never hungered more for an experience, quite like that of New York Fashion Week.

…But would Trump let me in?

Only a visa approval would tell!

VISA

For a South African adult heading to New York City, you’ll need to apply for an American Visa. Here’s how I did it:

-The DS-160 form is the one you have to fill in.

-Assemble the paperwork and details you need to have at the ready (these include parents full names and surnames, dates of their birth, proof of your address, an idea of where you may be staying, a basic itinerary of sights you want to see etc. , the details of any possible friends or family in the region, some kind of proof that you have ties in South Africa that will bring you home, 3 month bank statement and your personal details).

-Insure you have a proper Passport Photo – US has different dimensions and specifications to other nations, so please make sure you heed the instructions on the website.

  • When you have read everything off the website mentioned above, and proceeded to finish your DS-160 online application form and submit, you’ll follow the really easy steps from the resulting email sent to you, with attached documents.

-The email will basically encompass everything you filled in, in the application

-You will need to Print and keep the DS-160 barcode page for your records, and for the next step.

-You will HAVE to book a personal visa appointment at your nearest Consulate or Embassy; For everyone across the world, you can head to the US Department of State’s Service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, to figure out your nearest Consulate or Embassy.

South Africans will be redirected to the official SA website set up for US Visa Appointment services. You’ll have to set up an account based off of the details from your DS-160 form, such as the reference numbers you were given, Passport and/or I.D numbers etc.

  • You have not needed to spend money thus far, unless you had to go take new passport photos, make a new passport or whatever. The personal visa appointment you will have to do, however, requires R2 160.00c for South Africans. This is not only for meeting with someone at the Consulate, but the labor and admin required to process your application, do background checks, and provide you with the actual Visa(delivery included). You pay this money only when you have picked a specific time from the consulate calendar, for your interview. It can only be booked formally for you, once payment is processed.

-Sometimes you cannot find an opening for your interview for months on end; but I checked the calendar daily, and people are permitted to revise their initial interview dates right up until a couple of hours before it was initially meant to commence. I managed to go from waiting 2 months, to merely a week.

  • They say be prepared for your interview. I was prepped with papers galore(Proof of residence, work, existence, parentage, itinerary etc.), that would prove I did not lie within my DS-160 application.

I survived the Dubai & JFK International Airports crowds thanks to tea, style, literature & hydration. For this @nyfw trip, my travel vices include: . The @hi_online_ Moto Z with all the kick-ass gadget mods . . Sunnies for swag and sun . A cute handbag by @cathysteedpr's @colettebycolettehayman . . Earl Gray tea for my 'delicate' sensibilities . One of my favorite authors books . …and the @Maccosmetics Prep + Prime 😍 #KlaasInNYC #fashionweek #KlaasyNYFW #maccosmetics #colettelove #colettehayman #travelblogger #hionline #pprosa #motoz #insipio #lifestyleblogger #newyork #tech #nyfw #photography #fashionblogger #smartphone #travels #klaasinsession #canonphotography #wanderlust #travel #fashion #style #streetstyle #fashion #style #instapassport #newyork_ig #motorola #travelphotography

A post shared by Olwethu-Thando Klaas (@lady_crunk) on

-Please remember your passport, Identity Document, 3 more passport photos, and DS-160 barcode page.

-Leave all weapons, cellphones and the like, in your transport. Walking through the Consulate checkpoint is tantamount to security check-in at US airports international terminals: Rigorous!

-My interview took 5 minutes and they told me immediately afterwards that I was approved. Boom! Done! I just had to wait 5-7 working days for my passport with the visa within, to be returned to me.

Plane or Ship?

Okay. So you can sail the seas with awesome Contiki cruise deals, or you can fly like the great majority.

After your visa is attained, head to Travelstart‘s website to do a price & time comparison for your travel. I may not want to plug them here, but they are currently the most efficient and convenient means to view practically every airlines flight times in conjunction with prices, and bookings, all on one platform.

I flew with Emirates – considered one of the best airlines in the world, but THEY MISPLACED MY LUGGAGE!

but I’m not mad…much!

I really wanted to fly with Etihad again, as I had an absolutely superb time when I went to London.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking you don’t need Travel Insurance. You want to save money, but foreign lands mean you might catch everything from a tummy bug to a flesh-eating disease. You may get hit by a bus, your luggage may be stolen or lost, and you may find yourself in the midst of a natural disaster you need aid in.

Get. Travel. Insurance!

Travelstart let’s you buy an insurance premium, certified through Regent Insurance, for R750.00c – which is reasonable as hell.

So one return flight purchase from an award-winning comfortable airline, and verified travel insurance, all purchased at once from one company, for a total of R14 390.00c

That is a good deal, and efficient planning.

Luggage

If you’re a fashion addict like I am, put money aside for luggage excess.

I put aside R700.00c for the New York Fashion Week goodie bags, Madison Avenue & Consignment shopping. You don’t want to be teary eyed at the airport; heartbroken because you can’t lug all your purchases back to South Africa with you.

Other Transport

People forget that they actually need to travel to the airport, and again within their destination. It is not just the flight that matters.

So remember to put some money aside for when you are travelling by cab, subway, ferry, taxi, Uber, private chauffeur etc.

People going to New York for a bit HAVE to invest in the 7-Day Inner city Metro Card pass for $34 (trust me, you can’t avoid the subway). New Yorkers tell you to not only rely on the nigh unattainable yellow cab or glitchy Uber, but download a similar service called Juno.

Please ensure your Maps app is up-to-date, and check out your destination and how you’re getting there before you exit a WiFi zone. One of the best apps I recommend for those using public transport, is Citymapper. Thank me later!

Health & Safety

If you are from South Africa, it is not mandated right now, for us to get Immunizations and/or inoculations, but hit up a Travel clinic like Nedcare, near you, and see a travel doctor. The US advises Africans to sort themselves out for: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B ,Food Poisoning, Travelers Diarrhea, and Yellow Fever.

Money

How do you expect to buy things, hmmm?

The fees you’re likely to be charged when swiping with your own bank card, will leave you reeling.

Invest in an American Express Multicurrency Cash Passport Card. Mine currently has 4 currencies on it, which I reload from Rands to Dollars or Pounds, at my nearest American Express. This card lets you swipe like a debit card, and withdraw at nearly every ATM in a foreign city housing your chosen trip currency.

cash_passport

American Express basically require your passport, plane ticket and proof of address, and they’ll give you a card which can be used like a Debit Card, but you pre-load your money onto it within your home country.

Cape Town has AX on Long Street, at V&A Waterfront, as well as one at the airport...in case you were wondering.

Accommodation

Tough luck if you do not have a good friend to house you comfortably for the trip, like I did. It saves a butt load on cash.

Insure within your Excel spreadsheet, that you’ve included accommodations and their addresses and costs, as well as a point person you’ve made contact with. This is important for your visa application too.

Never know when the US Department of the State might genuinely check up on your trips details.

If you’re heading to New York, please sleep a night or more, at the Gramercy Park Hotel. It is a perfect tapestry of rich sophisticated history and eccentric, modern, art deco.

Food

Spontaneity is good, but if you’re in a city famous for its vast variations of dining experiences, make a brief list of the ones you want to visit most.

On your Excel spreadsheet, note the places, prices, addresses and days you want to go visit that TV famous hot dog stand, celebrity breakfast eatery, hipster Wifi hot spot, or health haven market.

Tourist Traps

Fall into them. With a healthy dose of tourism fever, revel in the exciting landmarks that attract your gaze, and walk the paved pathways to avenues you’d wish to live.

New York is kind of really easy that way. The entire city is basically a movie & tv show set, shifting from day-to-day. There’s the biggies you have to pay entrance to be in, like the Empire State Building($53) and Madame Tussaud; and then there’s the ones you can only witness from a distance (via ferry or yacht or something), like the Statue of (Lady) Liberty. You can walk the Brooklyn Bridge for free, stand suspended in entranced motion thanks to Times Square lights, and make a holiday of Central Park alone. Rockefeller Plaza is where you can queue for free Standby tickets to the tapings of The Late Show with Seth Meyers or Jimmy Fallon. SoHo is great to shop at, and Chelsea is where you go for the best thing in the city: Comedy!

Hell’s Kitchen is where Fashion Week spills over.

I am the tourist all tourist traps wish for. I’ll drop cash for the experience, and gush about it online for free.

Research your destination and figure out what your bliss will be…and then let it consume you.

The rest of the story….

Landing in Dubai took a bit of time. They don’t lie when they say the airport there is huge, and remains ever-expanding. It was quite the adventure.

I figured I’d have time between flights, but an hour and a half goes by quick there. I barely passed the shopping center when I had to go through the many security points, wait while my plane got prepped, and then straight on to Emirates again. It is magical flying above snow-capped mountains and navy blue oceans, towards JFK airport in New York.

Having a 5-year-old child be racist to you while waiting for a flight in a foreign land, is startling. Realizing airplane food from UAE airlines, is consistently good, was a good moment for my tumtum. I love love LOVE flying; so hours spent in an airplane, is my idea of heaven. Having 4 seats to recline on, is even better!

I enjoyed the rushing and stress of the whole trip, if ‘m being honest. It’s not every day you get to plan your dream. It was deeply satisfying to see all my planning paying off, being mostly prepared for hiccoughs like running through Cape Town airports terminals trying to find containers to pour toiletries more than 100ml, or hailing cabs at JFK when the airport WiFi ceased to function for me, long enough to order a Uber.

The cab drivers in New York, are really nice and helpful. I arrived in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy euphoric but in good spirits – deciding to relax the rest of the day rather than brave the streets.

The rest of the trip?

…well its best told to you in person, or in film.

Stay tuned for that!

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