First time in the USA

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Last summer was a summer of beginnings and endings. The reason simply being finishing my degree in London and starting a masters degree in Edinburgh. And what’s between the two? A summer (or at least two weeks) full of adventures that also includes a first-time visit to the USA!

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First time travelling to the USA

View from Manhattan Bridge
View of Chinatown and the Financial District from the Manhattan Bridge, Sony ILCE-5100 [AD]

This year my family and I decided to organise a “big” trip since this is probably going to be one of our last “family” adventures before my brother and I move on to separate ways. One of the most wanted destinations of the three of us was the USA, especially New York for the skyscrapers and Orlando for the theme parks. Short after that, we were on the search for flights and accommodation. In the meanwhile, two more people joined our small group: my boyfriend Christos and his mother.

Brief timetable of pre- and post-trip activities

Late January: Flights booked

Early February: Accommodation booked

Early March: New York and Orlando Lonely Planet travel guides arrive

Late March: Exams

April: Visa application and interview, preparation of the initial plan of activities (the final one differed very little)

May – Mid-June: Final Year Individual Project (my undergraduate thesis), buying advance tickets for the various attractions and museums

Late June: Project presentation, moving out, trip preparation, etc.

Early July: USA trip

Mid-July: Sleeping all day

Late July – Early September: Trip post-processing (i.e. looking through the photos, categorising them, preparing content), planning my next adventure (details to be confirmed soon), moving to Edinburgh, starting a new degree!

In search of flights and accommodation

The view from our room in Orlando, Sony ILCE-5100 [AD]

I could spend ages discussing how we concluded on the flights that we booked and the accommodation that we chose. I could list all our options and explain my reasoning in detail. However, I won’t do this as you probably won’t stay for long here. Instead, I will just list some of our requirements (I will publish a more detailed article with more tips soon – so watch this space).


  • Leaving and arriving at the airport during daytime (only exception when arriving in Cyprus)
  • Having a rather long layover than a short one (at least 4 hours) when changing airports and/or flight companies.
  • Preferring to pay a bit more for the transatlantic flights (but up to a sensible amount).


  • Preferred a hotel than an apartment to be closer to the city centre/theme parks
  • Staying in a hotel in Midtown, and certainly not in Times Square (too noisy there) – for New York
  • Having free in-room wi-fi (many hotels – especially well-known chains don’t provide that unless you are a member of their loyalty programs and book via their website which is often more expensive than other booking sites).

The trip

New York from Above
New York as seen from my window seat! iPhone 6s [AD]

Fast-forward to July and everything (and everybody) is ready for the “big trip”. Personally, I wasn’t ready for that, I still had so many things to do beforehand but I am never ready so let’s move on.

Continue reading this travel diary here: Part I – First time in New York City

P.S. This post ended up being quite long, so I broke it up into two parts, Part I – New York and Part II – Orlando.

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Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Mary

    Very well written Elina. I’m happy that we had this transatlantic adventure together. Although you had limited time for organizing this trip we had a great time and were able to visit places with amazing views. Keep up the good work and I’m sure that many trips will follow. All the best for your masters degree!!

  2. Andreas

    Excellent work. Keep it up. Grandpa