Another new thread already ....
I missed joining in the discussion about the shopping and the NYC hop on-hop off busses in the last thread so I'll add a few things quickly now.
I second everything already said about the amazing shopping. Each year in Hawaii I go crazy shopping up a storm and then last year when I got to the mainland, it was even more amazing. It's not just the prices, it's that here in Australia you might be looking for an item in particular - say a suitcase for a trip. You might have a choice here of 3 different stores and each store stocks the same 3 suitcases. In the USA, you could go to 7 different stores and each store has 10 different suitcases. In supermarkets, there are whole isles of one product! I went into Wal-Mart for a hair colour while in Hawaii last trip and rather than the choice of Garnier, Nice'n'Easy or Loreal in Coles, I had about 15 different brands to choose from, and more shade choices that I've ever had before. Some came with bonus hair treatments, or colour protective conditioners. Some came with bonus hair brushes and some came as a complete kit with hair cap, professional re-usable gloves, application brushes and mixing bowls. It really was a huge level of variety for each product, the likes of which we don't have here. I was in awe, and in heaven! As also mentioned, plus sizes are so readily available and in styles not reminiscent of your grandmother. It's ok to be plus size and fashionable in America.
DH and I pack light to head over there each year and buy up big for current and future seasons. I purchase the standard 20 or so kilos of luggage allowance for the trip over and pre-book 40kgs at least for the trip back. Jetstar charge you something like $70 for having the extra pre-paid when you book online or $100 per kilo at the airport if you go over. It's far better to pre-purchase when you book your flights.
Last trip we took a large 4-wheeled spinner bag each with a medium spinner bag inside it. We packed our clothes in the medium bag inside the large one so we still only had to wrangle one bag each for the trip over and the first few legs. By half-way through the trip we had done enough shopping that we had to take the medium bags out and fill the large ones too so on our flights between New York and Vegas and then Vegas and Hawaii we paid for 2 suitcases to be checked in each. It was handy having the spinner bags because they roll very easily and we just placed them back to back so the handles touched and were able to roll 2 suitcases in one hand each. We also took cabin sized spinner bags as carry on but these because insanely annoying. Once we had 2 suitcases being pushed along in one hand, and then the carry on spinner bag in the other hand, we didn't have hands free and I was also wrestling with my handbag/camera bag and DH had the laptop in his carry on and had to stop and unpack it each time we went through security - which by the end of the trip was 12 times. We knew after only one leg of the trip that the best way to take carry on was in a backpack so you can wear it and have your hands free. It also makes it easier to get the bags down during your flight to get things out if your carry on bags are not hard case spinner bags.
Next trip in September, I have bought a firm-sided duffel bag. It's not hard but it's not all soft and squishy either. I put pics on my blog a while ago when I bought it after the last trip. I liked it because it's deep and I plan to buy my whole make-up kit and camera lenses that need to be in boxes so normal suitcases just won't be deep enough for those boxes to be packed into. I found a couple of durable soft duffel bags at the airport last week that I am going back to purchase this week. They are completely folded down into a small pouch and we'll take them over with us packed into our other bag and then fill them with all the clothes we'll buy over there and they will then be our second bag on the way back. In some instances it might be annoying to some that they won't have wheels but we found that at all the airports we could easily get a trolley and push our bags so having the roller bags was a little useless really. We didn't get trolleys because we didn't need them but they were easily accessible if we had needed them so I don't get the point of spinner bags anymore. There really isn't a point where we had far to go with our suitcases. We got out of taxis at the front door of airports and hotels and only had a few steps to walk in before checking in our suitcases. When we got off flights, it was a few steps from baggage claim to the front door and into a waiting taxi. I had been all hyped up about the spinner bags when I bought them before the holiday and a little over it when we were finished. Plus they were trashed by baggage handlers so I felt like I didn't even get my money's worth from them. The wheels were ripped off because they stick out and they were battered and dented by the time we got home. They've all gone in the bin since then.
Long story short, we're taking one duffel bag each with a collapsible duffel bag inside for the return home, a backpack each as carry on and I'll have a handbag.
Ok, the hop-in, hop-off busses in NYC. I found that they were totally worth it for our trip. We bought them with New York City Passes so we had admission to 50+ attractions. It was $300 for 2 adults total. We had 3 full days to do everything we wanted and the busses were awesome for getting around NYC both uptown and downtown. On our first day we took the downtown loop and got off at the 9/11 Memorial. We did the memorial, walked down to Battery Park and got the Staten Island Ferry over to watch a baseball game there. We came back to Manhattan and walked up Broadway via the Stock Exchange to the entry to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked over the bridge and back and arrived to find a bus waiting right at the end of the bridge so we jumped on and continued on the loop. We went through China Town and Little Italy and we got off for about an hour at each stop for some food and a little look around. Then we jumped back on the bus and headed up towards Times Square. We went to Top of the Rock (the bus pass thingy gets you express entry) and then we went to the Empire State Building. The last leg of the bus we got off at the street our hotel was on and went into Madame Tussaud's.
On the second day we did the uptown loop and got off the bus at St John the Divine's catherdral, then took the bus to Harlem and wandered around there. Next was the Upper East side and the museums (loved them all!) and then we got off on Park Avenue and rode bicycles around Central Park (also included in the New York City Pass). We walked over to Columbus Circle and did some shopping (more shopping - Wholefoods Market is fantastic!) and then we got back on the bus and did a whole uptown loop all over again so we could hear the whole commentary from the guide. That is by far the most valuable part of the busses, the information and history the guides tell you as you drive around taught me so much about New York. I'd do the busses again just for that.
The last day we rode both uptown and downtown loops just to go back to places we liked the first 2 days - and to get photos of things I missed out on once my camera battery went flat. It was really easy to get around on the busses and there were plenty of bus stops near all the attractions. I had read so many bad reviews about this bus service but they were on time, easy to use and really enjoyable. They helped us get our bearings of the city quickly too.
Wow, I totally babbled there! If you read all that then you're a champ!
8 months and 2 days til I get back "home". Well, it's pretty late so it's almost 8 months and 1 day - not that I'm counting at all
Sorry I just wrote an essay, that's what happens when I get busy and forget to come in here to keep up to date with you all!
ETA: Mellie Kate:
In Honolulu I use A8 Taxi every time. I think I linked their website on my blog under the page about Oahu and getting around. The owner Chris is so used to us we just call him up and tell him our booking with only our first names and he knows who we are. For $30 - $40 you get a private, clean, air-con van for up to 4 adults and all your luggage. That price is per car, not per person. You only get charged slightly more if you go over 4 people per car.
In NYC, don't use Super Shuttle. Just DON'T. They were terrible - late, rude and then hit me in the head with my suitcase and nearly knocked me out! DH went off at them but the driver didn't even care and then when he got us to our destination, he still stood there with his hand out waiting for his tip!
This post has been edited by ~Kee~In~Hawaii~: 16/01/2013, 10:17 PM