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Published: February 25th 2019
Over the past 15 years or so I’ve been to NYC on a good number of occasions but mostly for day trips and rarely for a weekend. My family and I have enjoyed many Broadway plays, Radio City Music Hall, the ballet, a museum or two, and some fun restaurants. One event I’ve been wishing to attend has always been just out of reach for one reason or another. That event is the “New York Times Travel Show,” and this year my wish was fulfilled!
Now a fixture on New York City’s winter events calendar, each January brings the much-anticipated travel show to those of us seeking travel destinations inspiration. Staged in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, this marked the 16th year that this 2-day event has been held. Last year's show topped 30,000 in attendance. This year's show drew over 500 travel and travel-related exhibitors representing almost 200 destinations. Exhibitors did their best to entice potential travelers to stop by their booths, encouraged questions from attendees, and handed out tourist guides, maps and helpful information on what their countries and companies have to offer. In some cases, country exhibitors also offered a taste of their national cuisine. More
than a few exhibitors also had interesting giveaways for the taking: flags, reusable fabric tote bags, bookmarks, pins and pens, notebooks, candy and more.
Though having traveled now for several decades, for me there was more than enough travel destination inspiration at the show to fire up my imagination about future travel plans! Learning about several niche destinations and adventurous travel experiences were enough to make me wish I was 25 years younger.
Once set on going, my husband and I decided to make a weekend of it in New York City. We could attend the show and visit our daughter. The critical detail was to secure a hotel booking and ensure that the hotel of our choice was within walking distance of the Port Authority, the Javits Center, and other places we might want to visit. Finding a suitable hotel was easier than I imagined and I booked it about 5 – 6 weeks in advance. Located near the venerable Theater District and Restaurant Row, the small but charming French Quarters Guest Apartments Hotel ticked off all our requirements as well as being quite a gem, and I have no doubt we’ll be using it again.
The final details to be nailed down for the weekend were booking round trip bus tickets, followed by securing tickets for the show. Since this was our first time attending the Travel Show, and my husband isn’t quite the travel zealot I am, I only booked one-day show tickets for us and received a substantial discount by using an e-commerce site. With the discounted ticket price, the resulting savings paid for just over half of our lunch bill on the day of the show. Full price one-day 2019 tickets were $20 per person and 2-day tickets were $25 before any discount. Even at full price these tickets would be considered very reasonable for a full-day’s entertainment at a NYC event.
Catching an early afternoon Greyhound bus on our selected day of travel, we were in the city after only an hour and a half, and on our way on foot to our hotel, The French Quarter Guest Apartments Hotel, a real gem by the way, and our room was ready only minutes after our arrival. We were feeling some hunger pangs by this time and luckily the hotel has the added bonus of a wonderful restaurant and bar, the
“Bourbon Street Bar & Grille,” which was perfect. Since the time was long after the lunch hour and too early for dinner, we nearly had the place to ourselves. We ordered burgers & steak fries, and found them both to be way above average. We were surrounded by flickering gas lamps and our table had a clear view of the ornately carved, massive wooden bar all of which was set against the backdrop of earthy brick walls. Atop of the bar's high, wooden pediment was of all things the figure of a full-length alligator -- another connection between the hotel and the area of the country from which it took its name. Quite fabulous I have to say. As it turned out, our daughter also met us here for dinner, and though the restaurant was not as quiet as just a few hours earlier, our daughter enjoyed her Jambalaya while we shared an appetizer with a round of drinks. The next morning at the hotel the included continental breakfast was served on the mezzanine level of the restaurant making for quite a unique setting.
The following day after we enjoyed the very adequate breakfast, we embarked on our walk
to the Javits Center by way of our daughter’s apartment so that she could join us. Though the show opened at 10 am, we arrived about an hour later, and the process to exchange our printed ticket vouchers for our passes went quickly and smoothly. The passes then became our entry IDs hung about our necks from a bright orange lanyard. As we made our way through the entry, we were immediately confronted by the sheer size of the venue and the first exhibitor in our path was the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates, and one of the largest sponsors of the travel show.
I think it’s fair to say here that while we picked up a paper guide to the show at the registration area, it was virtually no help in locating specific exhibitors for us. The printing on the map was tiny, the exhibitors’ booth numbers almost unreadable, and therefore the coordinating exhibitors list with booth numbers virtually impossible for us to match up. We decided the best plan was just to walk up and down the aisles in a grid pattern by which we were able
to see nearly all that was within these crowded aisles that so many unexpected sources of travel inspiration came to light. Exhibitors’ booths for the most part were grouped according to continent. Cruise lines had their own section. Unfortunately, the very country exhibitor I was hoping to visit in particular, Bulgaria, was a no show.
However, thanks to the travel show I now have on my radar Uzbekistan and the Silk Road countries, French Polynesia, a Trans-Siberian rail journey, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the list goes on. However, also on my short list are the Azores, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Poland, and more of eastern Europe but only a few of these countries exhibited here I believe. Perhaps the most gratifying experience came after speaking to one of the ladies at the Poland exhibit booth. My husband questioned her about a particular town in Poland as he believes he has relatives who immigrated from there when it was a part of Prussia. The helpful lady suggested my husband e-mail her with more information, and since the show she has been as good as her word and communicated with my husband about the town several
times and put him in touch with another helpful person who researches ancestry in Poland.
For the traveler who feels they’ve ‘been everywhere, done everything’ and needs new inspiration, the NY Times Travel Show won’t disappoint you. Companies offering adventure “travel experiences” that were anything but run of the mill also made an appearance at the show: diving in the Artic region around Spitsbergen, Kvitoya, and circumnavigating Svalbard; mountain biking in Cappadocia, Turkey; Artic Safaris, and Igloo stays in Igloolik, Nunavut; Ayurvedic treatments in Sri Lanka; Chernobyl Tours in the Ukraine; and, gorilla trekking for the very fit in Uganda.
There were many seminars on all manner of travel-related subjects scheduled on both days of the show, but we never got to attend one of them! The seminars & discussion panels were led by some well-known names in the travel industry, experts as well as TV travel show hosts: Pauline Frommer, Samantha Brown, Rudy Maxa, and Steve Perillo to name a few. There were also book signings by these and other travel writers.
A couple of hours or more into the show, we felt we could use a break and get off our feet. Although a few
exhibitors and some of “Taste of the World” seminars offered food tastings, they were very popular and the lines were long as you can imagine. We sampled some Turkish Delight and baklava sweets at the Turkish exhibit, but we needed something more than sweets by this point in the afternoon.
There were a few walk-up food venues and a Starbucks to be found on different floor levels but seating spaces were at a premium as there was another show going on in the Javits Center that same day. Soon we were lucky enough to find an empty table which I held while my husband picked up two hot pastrami sandwiches which granted were rather on the small side but definitely delicious.
We spent at least 2 more hours at the show before calling it a day. Our travel destinations have already been set for 2019, but for those potential travelers who came looking for discounts and travel deals, there were lots available at the show. Those in search of the perfect suitcase, travel attire for specific climates, travel insurance, and mobile Wi-Fi services could find company vendors at this show. Even a prominent publisher of travel guide books
had a presence at the show.
I was pleased for the most part with this first experience at the NYT Travel Show, but felt that through my own fault I missed some great travel seminars as well as some of the performances and traditional dances staged by certain countries. Also wished I had photographed more of the cultural presentations, but the crowds made this almost impossible. It would have been fabulous to win any of the many contest prizes offered by exhibitors for tours, trips or lodge stays, but winning one of these obviously wasn’t in the cards for us. We have already decided not to miss next year's show, but we will definitely attend both show days.
We spent the evening with our daughter enjoying New York pizza and Italian cannolis for dessert while we enjoyed talking about past family travels in different parts of the world. But, time flies when you're having fun and so we finished off our NYC weekend on Sunday with a mid-morning breakfast at Romeo & Juliet Colombian Coffee on West 42nd
Street, a popular place for great coffee and food at unexpectedly reasonable prices. Though there was a bit of a
wait, it was worth it. We really enjoyed our flat white coffees and personal-size tasty spinach quiches with small side salads.
Lingering here with another flat white would have been so relaxing, but regrettably it was time to make our way to the Port Authority with luggage in tow for our bus trip home. However, this time I was carrying an extra 10 lbs. of maps, travel brochures, tour books and information and of course those nifty giveaways. It'll certainly be fun to read all of this information and dream of future travel destinations when really bad weather gives me the perfect excuse to stay indoors.
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