Independent Families: 'How can we take in NYC and upstate New York?'


Q. My husband, two teenage children (14 and 17) and myself are enthusiastic to explore New York City for a few days this summer. From there we want to travel independently around New York State for the remainder of our two-week holiday. Can you advise on the best way to go about this? Packages seem to cover NYC, but is there an option for an upstate NY leg?

Chris Webber, via e-mail

A. New York City is an ideal destination for a family with teenagers, but summer temperatures regularly hit 30C and the city can become sticky and claustrophobic. So, scores of New Yorkers jump into their cars and head off to other parts of New York State, whether it's to kick back in the Catskill Mountains, schmooze in the Hamptons, or fish in the Finger Lakes.

The most practical way to approach such a holiday is to book a fly-drive package. These can provide you with flights, three or four nights' accommodation in New York City, car hire, and hotel accommodation along a pre-set route around the state. It doesn't afford as much flexibility as an independently organised trip. But with such a lot to see, packages cherry-pick the highlights, ensuring you make the most of your time. They also guarantee accommodation in the busiest period. I have selected four different options, focusing on upstate New York and the beaches of Long Island. Most include an average of two to four hours' driving time on the days you are on the move, spending around two nights at each stop.

American Sky (0870 904 0920; www.americansky.co.uk) offers just such a self-guided trip. Its 13-night "New York's Nature" tour incorporates three nights in the city. The itinerary starts in Manhattan at the Edison Hotel, well located for sights like MoMA, Grand Central Station and Times Square.

You then pick up your car and head north up the Hudson Valley to the state capital, Albany, perhaps stopping at Bear Mountain State Park (001 845 786 2701; nysparks. state.ny.us) en route - a popular spot for mountain biking, fishing and swimming.

After a night in historic Albany you'll continue north to Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains, where again, there are lots of outdoors pursuits on offer. Then it's on to Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands region, the chain of islands in the St Lawrence River trailing along the US and Canadian border (there are about 1,800 of them). Despite being the birthplace of the sickly salad dressing, the area is spectacularly beautiful and best explored by boat.

After two nights there, you'll move to Rochester, where you can visit 18th-century Fort Ontario and go kayaking on the Erie Canal. The penultimate stop is Niagara and its spectacular falls - getting soaked on a boat tour is always a winner with teenagers.

Before heading back to the airport you'll spend a night in Syracuse, a university town sliced in two by the Erie Canal. From there you could explore the stunning Finger Lakes region - 11 thin stretches of water, straddled by the State's best vineyards.

The price of this itinerary, based on a 9 July departure, is £1,069 per person. The price includes return British Airways flights from Heathrow to New York JFK or Newark, three nights in Manhattan and nine upstate as well as car hire, maps and insurance. The hotels are on a room-only basis.

A similar option is Virgin Holidays' (0870 220 2788; www.virginholidays.co.uk) "New York, New York" package, which covers almost the same route but in the opposite direction. The seven-night tour can be added to a short break in the city. After a few nights in Manhattan, you would drive upstate to the Hudson Valley and the old money and mansions of Poughkeepsie. Not far from the town, the resorts of the Southern Catskills used to be popular with New York's Jewish communities - immortalised in Dirty Dancing.

Next stop is Corning - a historic glass-blowing town. Then it's on to Niagara for two nights, then Rochester and Lake Placid. The final stop is Lake George in the Adirondacks. The cost is £1,137 per adult, which includes four nights' room only at Skyline Hotel in NYC, and the seven-day fly-drive package including car hire and hotel accommodation.

Alternatively, a four-night New York City package could be extended by 10 days, costing £3,444 for the four of you, based on an early July departure. The price includes return Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow to JFK and four nights' accommodation in Manhattan. You could then make your own arrangements for the next 10 days.

Get information from New York State Tourism (020-7629 6891; www.nylovesu.co.uk).

Tailor-made trips are offered by companies such as Premier holidays (0870 043 5950; www.premierholidays.co.uk) which can plan a trip for you including flights, hotels and car hire. The Hudson Valley Resort is close to the Northern Catskills - a rugged, wooded area a far cry from the paparazzi frenzy of The Hamptons. That's not to say the beach resorts on Long Island aren't good for celebrity gawping. Rates for accommodation range from expensive to extortionate. However, on Long Island's northern shores the Woodbury Inn, is an affordable option.

From there, you could explore the Hamptons or Montauk - a wild expanse of coast. A 12-night trip through Premier would cost from £1,765 each for you and your husband and £745 for each child. The price includes return Heathrow to JFK flights with Virgin Atlantic; four nights' room-only accommodation in a quadruple room in New York City and two nights' room-only in Long Island, Syracuse, Albany and Poughkeepsie; car hire is also included.

Send your family travel queries to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail crusoe@independent.co.uk

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