Ask an expert: First timer in the Big Apple

Each week, Flight Centre's team of experts answer your travel questions

Get in a New York state of mind and marvel at the bright lights of Times Square.
Get in a New York state of mind and marvel at the bright lights of Times Square.

As a first timer to be visiting the Big Apple at the end of December, I am so excited to be able to celebrate New Year's Eve in New York. However, with a massive city to explore in just four days, other than the Rockefeller Centre, Statue of Liberty and Central Park (which I am dying to visit), what other things can you recommend for me to do? Also, I would love to visit a top building viewing deck to take in the scenery of New York. Where would be the best building - or the best place - to do this? - R Wibisono

Trish Little from Flight Centre Downtown Auckland shares her top tips for the Big Apple.

New York is my favourite place in the world. December is a great time to visit, with the whole city sparkling with Christmas lights and decorations. A visit to the massive Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre will leave you feeling very festive.

I highly recommend purchasing a New York City pass before you go - this will give you access to six of the top attractions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Empire State Building and a river cruise past the Statue of Liberty. As an added bonus, it also allows you to skip the queues. Another great way to see the city is with a hop-on-hop-off pass with routes all over the city.

Central Park is a relaxing haven from the hectic pace of the city. Wrap up warm and head to the ice rink or pay tribute to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields. Take in great views from Belvedere Castle or try to spot celebrity joggers on the reservoir track.

I would also recommend seeing a Broadway show or, better yet, pre-purchase tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This famous show sells out fast so don't leave it too late.

For some of the most spectacular views, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck is the place to go. Situated at the top of the Rockefeller Centre, there are three levels of unobstructed views of the entire city - your New York City pass also includes admission here.

Make the most of your New Year's Eve in New York by welcoming in the new year at Times Square and watching the ball drop as you ring in 2014, with one million new friends and amazing memories of the city that never sleeps.

We want to take our 15-month-old on a family holiday to the Pacific Islands. Can you recommend which island is the most family friendly and best value for money? -K. Oliver

Vicki Valentin from Flight Centre Glenfield counts the Cook Islands as one of her favourite holiday destinations. She shares why it's great value and family friendly.

Rarotonga is a beautiful island and a great destination for a relaxing family holiday. It's just a four-hour flight from Auckland and within a few hours you're in paradise. And to make things even easier, they also use the same currency as us so you don't even have to worry about changing your money.

There's a wide range of accommodation on the island and something to suit every budget.

I highly recommend the Pacific Resort - it's at Muri Beach, and has a kids' club, babysitting services, a la carte restaurants and cafes, gorgeous gardens and a swimming pool.

A self-catered villa with full kitchen facilities is a great option if you don't want to eat out all the time, particularly when catering for young children. Another bonus is that you can bring a range of packaged food with you from New Zealand, which really makes things simple once you're there.

If you're comfortable leaving your child, use the childcare and treat yourself to some time out. Coconut Tours offers a fantastic half-day tour with the locals - they are very passionate about sharing their culture and you will learn how to husk a coconut among other things.

If you're there on a weekend, check out the local markets. They're popular and have everything from handcrafted trinkets to local foods that you can either eat there or take away.

As well as the local food markets, a family favourite is Trader Jacks, the island's best pizza and seafood restaurant. It is right on the beachfront and a must for any visitor.

For rest and relaxation, Muri Beach is the place to be. The crystal clear water makes it a great spot for snorkelling and there is a huge range of tropical fish to marvel at. If you have time, Captain Tama's lagoon cruise on a glass bottom boat is also worth doing. Your little one can spot all the different coloured fish through the bottom of the boat - as well as the island's very own giant eel.

Lastly, I recommend visiting other resorts on the island, even if you're not staying there. They will still welcome you to the restaurant for a traditional Island Night or even just a refreshing beverage and a swim in the pool. It's a great way to see what all the different places have to offer.

Most importantly, make sure you get some rest and relaxation - it's the perfect location for it.

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Email your questions to travelexperts@nzherald.co.nz for answers from Flight Centre's experts. Include your full name and phone number in the email. Not all questions will be answered.

Flight Centre has return airfares from Auckland and five nights' accommodation at the Edgewater Resort & Spa in Rarotonga, with tropical breakfast daily and return airport transfers from $999* a person, twin share. Kids aged 2-11 travel from $515* each. Valid for sales until August 19 and travel from November 1-18 and January 28-March 31.

Flight Centre has New York holidays including return airfares and four nights' accommodation go from $3099*, a person, double share. Valid for sales until August 19. Travel from October 13-31 and November 4-27. Pricing based on Sunday-Thursday night stays.

* Price subject to availability.

- NZ Herald

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