Sunday 23 September 2018

Can you do New York in a day trip? This new flight makes it possible...

Low-cost airline Norwegian is offering trips to New York with a difference ­- out and back in 24 hours. Mark Evans tests out a service aimed at Ireland's most dedicated shoppers

Mark Evans in Woodbury Common
Mark Evans in Woodbury Common
Norwegian. Photo: Deposit
People walk through the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets Mall in Central Valley, NY. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
Woodbury Common
Shopping at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets Mall in Central Valley, NY. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
Woodbury Common is less than 30 minutes from Stewart International
Woodbury Common
Woodbury Common
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

Many of us grumble about crossing the city to go shopping - yet low-cost airline Norwegian believes some of us will fly Stateside to bag a bargain or two at New York's massive Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.

And it's no mean feat ­- leaving on an early-morning flight out of Dublin, crossing the Atlantic and over Canada, and then landing in Stewart International Airport, an hour's drive north of Manhattan.

That's a whopping 6,200-mile round trip, with 13 hours in the air in all. And yes, technically it means you can do New York as a day trip.

So is it the bargain-hunting journey of a lifetime? or a case of shop till you (literally) drop? Check out my hour-by-hour guide on what to expect...

6.15am

It's an early start at Dublin Airport's Terminal 2, but Norwegian's check-in queue is mercifully short and fast-moving, followed by a 10-minute trip through security.

6.45am

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US pre-clearance at Dublin Airport.

It's time for US pre-clearance - and another security check of your carry-on bags. But one of the great advantages at Dublin, is that you clear immigration on this side of the Atlantic and I'm quizzed by a (thankfully) very friendly border agent who stamps me through.

8.00am

It's time for take-off on the Norwegian flight.

Given that it's my first time on this airline, I'm pleasantly surprised. While its rock-bottom lowest tier fares are no frills, it's a cheap but cheerful experience. The cabin crew are friendly and efficient and the plane, though small, is comfortable.

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Norwegian Airlines

Norwegian uses brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which are sparkling, shiny and spotlessly clean. I've got an in-flight meal pre-booked (see panel for costs and in-flight tips) and lucky to have an exit row seat with loads of legroom, even for me at six foot two.

There are drop-down TVs, but don't expect full-frills movie and personal entertainment options. That said, the flight's comfortable and the hours move by quickly.

10.16am US time [3.16pm Irish]

Seven hours and 16 minutes later and we're landing in upstate New York at Stewart International.

10.36am

And just 20 minutes later my empty - and waiting to be filled with shopping - checked-in case is coming out of the carousel. Thirty seconds' walk outside is the dedicated bus service, waiting for Dublin passengers, to take them to the mall.

11.33

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Woodbury Common is less than 30 minutes from Stewart International

Woodbury Common, watch out - the Irish are here.

Not far off a million square feet in size (double the size of Liffey Valley), it's got 250 stores, from household names like Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Nike to the luxury brands of Prada and Versace. It's also got world-exclusive outlet stores like Tom Ford, Dior and Breitling, and the only Givenchy, Chloe and Celine outlets in the United States.

And the biggest attraction? The prices. If you're a savvy shopper, the discounts can be incredible, typically from 10-65pc, and sometimes even beyond.

More: Read our tips on what to do with kids in New York here.

Noon-12.45pm

A quick wander around to get some bearings, and soon my first bargains are bagged - three discounted Calvin Klein T-shirts for $53 (€45).

But there's no mad dashing necessary from store to store - I've got until 5.45pm (the time the return bus leaves the mall) to keep filling up my empty case.

12.45pm

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Mark Evans in Woodbury Common

Feeling peckish, it's time for lunch.

The mall has been expanded in recent times with the renovation of the Market Hall food area, offering a range of restaurants to simple fast food to international cuisine. It's also a great place for finding your bearings as all the main avenue radiate from it, so even though it's a sprawling place, it's hard to get lost.

Other food options are dotted around and I grabbed a bite to eat in Le Pain Quotidien, a where a turkey club and corn chowder cost $14. It's a trendy healthy eating spot, with the added advantage that it's beside two must-see stores: Adidas and Tommy Hilfiger.

1.30pm

When you've got a teenage son, you have to visit Adidas for sporty T-shirts. Across-the-line 30pc discount makes it more affordable, and three T-shirts and a hoodie set me back $79.

Across the road, another favourite: Tommy Hilfiger. What would cost you an arm and a leg in Dublin is much more affordable here, and two T-shirts are bagged for $24.

2.30pm

Wife stuff. Skechers are doing a buy one pair of runners, get the second for half price, deal. Oh, not forgetting, you take 10pc off the total price too.

Final bill - $82 for two pairs.

3pm

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People walk through the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets Mall in Central Valley, NY. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

Normally Banana Republic is a bit pricey for my liking, but (you've guessed it), everything is on sale here. A shirt, already heavily reduced to $30, is up for grabs for just $17. I don't resist.

3.30pm

And for the ultimate in savings, a trip to Neiman Marcus Last Call.

And this really is Last Call - the store's going to close on July 13, so if you're heading over, get there fast. Discounts are up to 90pc - yes, 90pc - and I got a designer women's handbag that's normally $235 for $23. I also pick up a nice black dress - not for me, obviously - for $9, and grab another bag, again just $9.

4pm

I can't resist - having wandered off, I come back to buy two more bags at $9 a pop. The case is filling fast.

4.20pm

Final stop, and it's to my favourite, American Eagle Outfitters. Two pairs of jeans for $39 each and three T-shirts later, I'm shopped out, and still well below the Irish customs limit of $430 such were the bargains.

Twenty minutes later, I'm ready for a drink. The Black Dirt Bourbon Barn sells on tap, by the bottle, or has booze to bring home. It's all from the local area, and I sit down with an IPA and shot of gin (total price, with tip, is $14).

5.30pm

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Shopping at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets Mall in Central Valley, NY. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

The bus is waiting for the trip back to the airport (journey time about 15-20 minutes) for the later flight. The airport is small, but it's got none of the stress or long hikes you suffer in big terminals.

Check-in is a stone's throw from the bus stop, and even the TSA security staff have smiles on their faces (a rarity in itself).

After security, there's an all-in-one bar-sweet shop-burger joint, and a small duty free area (cigarettes at $47 for a pack of 200; with deals for multiple buys).

It's a quiet airport, and the atmosphere is pleasantly chilled, with some really nice staff and none of the crowds of New York's larger airports.

9pm

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Norwegian. Photo: Deposit

Delayed for 30 minutes, the Norwegian flight is ready for takeoff. No exit row seat this time, so it's a bit tighter in row 17 but the food is served within 45 minutes of getting airborne, and a glass of red wine knocks me out. The flight home's a short five hours 45 minutes and I wake up over Howth.

9am Irish time

I've got my bag, and leaving Dublin Airport. Credit card? A little lighter. Case? A lot heavier. Jet lag? None.

Verdict

A day trip is very do-able, and the airport experience at both ends takes away a lot of the pain of flying. Definitely one for the bucket list, but do also think about spending a few days longer in the area, with shop-and-stay packages also available in a region that's known for its cute towns, state parks and stunning scenery that's close to, but a world away, from the concrete jungle of Manhattan.

As old Frank Sinatra himself used to say, it's up to you, New York, New York.

Flight Facts

Norwegian flies double daily service direct from Dublin to New York Stewart International Airport. Fares start from €129 one way, or €219 return including all taxes and charges. To book visit norwegian.com/ie or call 0330 828 0854.

If you want a few more frills on the journey, from €65 each way you can add meals, checked luggage and seat reservation at time of booking. Hand baggage is a maximum 55x4-x23cm and one small personal item (max 25x33x20cm), which combined weigh 10kg. It costs €35 if you pre-book a bag online, and it's essential to have an empty case on the outbound leg if you want a real shopping experience.

Top tip? There are drop-down TVs, but download your own movies from the likes of Netflix and watch them on-board on your own tablet or phone. Or bring a book, or whatever you need to pass the time.

There's no on-board map, but the chirpy pilots were good at telling you your route, and what part you're travelling over. Planes should have on-board wifi by the end of the year, so keep an eye on this column in the coming months for updates on speed and prices.

Getting to Woodbury Common

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Woodbury Common

The Coach USA bus service to the Woodbury Common outlet mall is bookable on the Norwegian website for $20 return. It's fast, reliable and, while patchy, there's a bit of wifi on-board too.

Mall facts

Woodbury Common Premium Outlets attracts shoppers from all over the world. Half of China seemed to be there when I visited, buying up stacks of clothes like they were going out of fashion. The best days to visit are Tuesday and Wednesday, when the mall is quiet and you can shop at your leisure.

Top tip: When you arrive, be sure to pick up a mall map and Savings Passport booklet. It's also worth noting (and I only found out back in Ireland) that with your receipts you'll also get more money off vouchers if you return to the store in the same day.

Shop-and-stay packages in the area are also available on the mall website, and the local area has a new casino and is soon getting its own Legoland theme park.

Useful facilities at the mall include luggage storage areas, free wifi and phone-charging areas. For all the latest news and deals, check out premiumoutlets.com and click on Woodbury Common.

Read more:

The New York Bucket List: 25 things to do in the Big Apple before you die!

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