G'day USA!!

May 5th, 2013, 06:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 13
G'day USA!!

Hi everyone, I'm travelling over from Australia this July to take my 16 yo daughter to a week long teenage summit at Harvard university and somehow wrangled a holiday as well!

Itinery is as follows;
From here to Los Angeles where we will be staying at magic castle hotel for 3 nights.
No real plans for there yet, not really interested in Disney land but would love to do a couple of tours and hopefully do a bit of horse riding if possible?

Los Angeles to New York City where we have 7nights. After much searching and many hours on net I have booked an apartment near Empire State Building, I booked this through smartstaynyc aka city lights rentals. It was a bit scary booking from here when we really are newbies! It seemed really good value and close enough to central areas and public transport.. Has anyone had dealings with this company or stayed in that area?
We will probably purchase a New York City pass or similar and do all of the naff tourist things but would also love to do some local markets and outer suburb journeys. We will be there on the 4th July and would love suggestions on places to celebrate!

THEN Boston! thinking that catching a train or bus is best, as long as I'm at logan airport by 8pm where I will picking up another 16 year old local friend whom is also attending Harvard. I have then booked us into a lovely Fenway trilogy apartment for 4 nights. I want to take the girls on some American history excursions, of course the history trail and maybe go to Plymouth for a day trip.. After 4 nights I have rented a apartment through airbnb close to Davis square. The girls will then be boarding at Harvard and I have 7 nights ALONE! I love a good game of poker and would love to find some local games and perhaps even go down to Connecticut for a night at casino? I would also like do some horse riding or quite happy to just hang out.. The girls will then return to me for a further 2 nights before we return home..

We are all so VERY excited so please excuse my rambling!
ANY suggestions on ANY of these subjects would be fabulous!
We are on a pretty tight budget but with all of the shopping around I have done for accommodation etc we are doing pretty good so don't mind spending on a few really special things.. She just wants to eat at lady gagas dads restaurant and wear heels all day!?!

THANKYOU all in advance, even just for getting through this post!!!
Regards, Rebecca x
aussiebec is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 08:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,080
Welcome to North America!

In response to some of your questions: Bus or train NYC to Boston is a good plan. As far as things to do those 7 days while your daughter's boarding at Harvard, you could go check out Cape Cod during that time; I don't know about horseback riding but cycling the dunes by Provincetown I found just lovely.

Have a great trip! Daniel
Daniel_Williams is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 09:02 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
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G'day backatcha!

That sounds like fun. I would warn you, though, renting apartments in NYC is largely illegal. SO if there's something wrong, or if it's a scam, you have no recourse. Get a hotel. If you decide to take a chance make sure you have enough money to get one if you show up at the apartment and the doorman doesn't know what you're talking about.
suewoo is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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Join Date: May 2013
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Thanks guys! Yikes in regard to apartment in NYC! Had to pay 50% deposit and being through a real estate I sort of took it for granted that it would be legal! I'm arriving at JFK at 5.10pm, how crazy is it likely to be getting into east 32 street and would taxi be best?
THANKYOU SO much for help x
aussiebec is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 09:35 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
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I always take a taxi. You'll see a line outside the airport. There's good public transportation, but I'm always ready to get where I'm going.

Take a look at this link. It explains the apartment situation better than I can.
suewoo is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 09:50 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
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Casinos are illegal in Massachusetts (well, they're starting to allow them but none have been built yet).

But two of the biggest casinos in the US are in Connecticut -- Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Foxwoods is enormous with more gambling options, but a little bit older-looking property, Mohegan Sun is smaller but with a really beautiful interior. You can find a poker game at either one.

Also on the Foxwoods property is a great little museum of Native American history, definitely worth a visit.

You may not know: in many cases, except for Nevada and Atlantic City NJ, casinos in the U.S. are found on land granted to Native American (indian) tribes, which do not have to obey state laws prohibiting gambling.

You can take a bus from Boston, if you don't want to rent a car.
capxxx is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 09:54 AM
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For JFK to city - how many of you will there be? Taxi is fixed fare - plus bridge or tunnel toll and tip (20% of fare but not toll). IMHO makes sense for 3 or more.

You can take Airtrain and LIRR - which is about $13 per person - but you need to walk to the apt from Penn Station. Whatever you do, do NOT take the Supershuttle which can take hours driving around in traffic from one hotel to another.

Yes, short term apt rentals in NY are almost all illegal - and many are scams. I would contact the people you dealt with and ask them to demonstrate that the apt you rented is legal under NYC laws. Also I assume you have hte specific address, have checked it out on google earth and have seen references for this specific apt. The city is cracking down on these illegal rentals (and legal tenants in the building are more frequently making complaints about illegal "transients" to the city. So even if this is not a scam I strongly encourage you to rethink the chances you are taking. (If you have paid by CC that will not help - since they are not responsible for reimbursing you for illegal transactions.)

(To be legal sublets need to be for 30 days or more - or rooms in private homes sublet by the resident/owner - rare in a city in which a townhouse costs millions.
nytraveler is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 11:54 AM
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Magic Castle is a good choice, as a guest you will be able to visit Magic Castle magic club which is not open to the public, only members and guests of members.
There is horseback riding in Griffith Park, also there are stables in Palos Verdes (but you would need a car to get there). Griffith may be possible via transit, look at metro.net and use their trip planner.
Any interest in visiting Six Flags Magic Mountain (most roller coasters in the USA)? You would need a car, although you can take a tour (I think Starline goes there). Beach?
jamie99 is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 03:07 PM
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Thanks again everyone, information is greatly appreciated! Shall look up horse riding in these areas and although not too interested in beach as such as have plenty here I think Venice beach would be a must see, is this close enough to magic castle area? Have heard that magic mountain is fun but roller coasters are maybe a bit big and scary compared to our big one at dreamworld! Also it will just be me and my 16 year old daughter from Queensland Australia and all she wants to do is try and track down lady gaga!! :/
aussiebec is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 03:43 PM
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You are probably renting an illegal apartment in NYC...please try to change it to a hotel or apartment/hotel.
SusieQQ is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 07:33 PM
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If you want to take a studio tour in Los Angeles, I recommend Warner Brothers as the most hands-on and informative.

In NYC the best thing to do is get a good guide book and spend a good part of your time exploring neighborhoods on foot. There is a ticket booth in Times Squares that sells discount tickets on the days of performances.

On the 4th of July you want to see the fireworks, but it is difficult to get a spot where you have an unobstructed view. You might get close, but find yourselves behind buildings that block your view of most of the action. Research where to be, and get there way ahead of time.


PS Regarding staysmartnyc.com, I couldn't find anything positive about them on the internet. That worries me. If you are concerned, you should consider having making an alternate booking. I agree with SusieQQ.
happytrailstoyou is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 08:30 PM
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Hey aussiebec,

Your trip sounds fantastic, I am sure that you will have a amazing time.

We are also from Oz,and did a West Coast trip at a similar time 3 years ago.

We loved Venice Beach and would recommend that you go there, but I dont think it is anywhere near your hotel.

Consider hiring a car for the day and driving along the coast. Hire cars are cheap, you can get a nice convertible for a reasonable price and it is the best way to get around by far.

You could start in the Malibu area, explore Santa Monica and Venice Beach and then drive South to some of the OC Beaches like Laguna. This will give you a great cross section of life in LA. It's not really about the beaches themselves, more about the communities around the coast that makes this a "must-do" in my opinion.
shanek is offline  
May 5th, 2013, 10:51 PM
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aussiebec, I urge you to take seriously the advice to change to someplace else in NYC. Not trying to put a damper on the trip but it would be a shame for you ( and more importantly for your daughter ) to have it spoiled. Good luck!
Peteralan is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 12:09 AM
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If what you guys are saying is correct, and I certainly do not doubt you, then aussiebec is in a tough situation.

She has mentioned that there has been a 50% deposit paid that may be very difficult to get reimbursed.

I had a look at their web site and they look to have been trading for some time. There are several mentions of them on different travel sites that date back some time.

So if they are trading illegally, I find it quite astounding that they have been allowed to do so for so long. Surely it would be very easy to prove that they were doing the wrong thing and to put a stop to it. They seem to be a licenced Real Estate Broker and this practice would be in contravention of their licence... would it not?
shanek is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 12:21 AM
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I have just done a little more digging and have come up with this article..


It appears that they have been trying to put a stop to it.
shanek is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 02:47 AM
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Wow thanks so much for all of your comments! I spoke to my bank today and it seems that there's not a lot I can do at this stage as far as disallowing them to withdraw funds from credit card as I have signed a form allowing them to take near $1000! I could cancel card but that is a massive inconvenience as genuine hotels I have booked with have details for their reservations.. I just hope that Shanek has a VERY valid point! Sadly it seems though us Aussies might be a bit too trustworthy as something like this in Australia would not be an issue at all.. Of course there's good and bad everywhere but would someone really stoop this low?? If I turn up and are homeless does anyone have a spare bed??
aussiebec is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 03:45 AM
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Yes, this particular person has switched company names several times in order to avoid action by the authorities - and in the past suits from travelers that they had scammed. I'm not sure if people were ever left without anyplace to stay - but there were reports of the lodgings being switched at the last moment and the substitutes being nothing like the apartments shown or described. This includes fewer rooms and beds, poor condition, buildings that were not secure (broken locks on outer doors, etc).

My very strong suggestion is to make other arrangements for NYC and to present this article and other information to the credit card company as proof that the renter is operating illegally. In any case - better out a small amount now (any future payments should be able to be cancelled) than to arrive and have no place to stay.
nytraveler is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 04:33 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Are you saying that you have signed a guarantee but no funds have been taken yet?
Why not cancel the card?
Surely you could issue the other hotels with the new card number.
If this saves you $1000 and stops this crook from gaining financially from your honest mistake... Just do it.
shanek is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 05:07 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 13
Hi again, I have cancelled accomodation with smartstaynyc and they have promised (in writing) to return all monies paid within 10 days!! Time will tell but thanks to everyone for helping!
Now need to find an alternative, any suggestions received with much gratitude!
Myself and 16 year old only, somewhere central, maximum budget of $2100 for 3rd to 10th July..
aussiebec is offline  
May 6th, 2013, 05:17 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
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Ask the great nywhiz on Tripadvisor. That girl knows everything.
suewoo is offline  

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