By Sally Pinkthistle, International Accommodation Correspondent
One of the biggest problems facing any visitor to New York is what to do with your luggage in those precious hours between your morning hotel check-out and your flight, which could be quite late in the evening or even in the early hours of the next morning.
With all that Manhattan has to offer laid out before you, the last thing you want is to be dragging your suitcases around, not only marking you out as a tourist and but also making you huff, puff and sweat your way around one of the World's greatest cities - it is bad enough walking around in the stifiling New York heat and having to adapt to the freezing cold air conditioning that Manhattan stores seem so fond of, it will be even worse if you're dragging your suitcases around with you - it will be like repeatedly alternating between hacking through a tropical jungle and trekking to the North Pole.
It is also important to remember that, in a city as security-conscious as New York, leaving your luggage lying unattended for any amount of time, even just a minute or two, is completely unacceptable - the last thing you need, with your flight in just a few hours, is to spark a major security incident and end up with Bruce Willis pinning you to the floor.
What you need is somewhere reliable to leave your stuff so that you can prance about New York with a care-free spring in your step and a Gershwin tune in your head. Print out or bookmark these suggestions so that your final day in New York will be as enjoyable as your first. Incredibly, there are very few places were you can leave your luggage in Manhattan, you will be surprised to discover that transport hubs that you might imagine would be obvious locations for storage lockers, such as Penn Station and Grand Central Station, offer no such service.
Instead, you must venture out into the streets of Manhattan and find the independent providers who fill this vacuum. Remember, these are small, independent businesses, you should always phone ahead to confirm that they are still in operation at the same location, the New York business landscape can change very quickly.
The longest serving luggage storage provider is Schwartz Travel Services, which has two locations: Their main location, close to Penn Station & Port Authority, is open from 8am until 11pm, 7 days a week: 355 W 36th St., 2F NY, NY 10018 (between 8th & 9th Ave.) ... although they claim to offer a 24hr service by arrangement, their 24hr phone number is 212-290-2626.
Their second, "limited location", close to Times Square & Grand Central, is only open from 9am until 6pm, Monday to Friday: 34 W 46th St., 5F NY, NY 10036 (between 5th & 6th Ave.) ... it should go without saying that you MUST be sure of your times before using the limited location and be absolutely certain that you won't turn up late.
Schwartz charge between $7 and $10 per bag, the cost seems to fluctuate not only according to size but also according to what the guy thinks he can get away with - if you actually walk in with your bags, he knows you're not going to turn around and go elsewhere over a few dollars so, if you care about those few dollars, you should email or phone first to agree an acceptable price. It is worth noting that, by the time you visit, the price may have increased anyway, so, don't take the above prices as gospel.
This being New York, you can haggle but, again, if you are standing there surrounded by towering stacks of luggage, they know you don't have that much choice. They do offer special "Group & Student" rates but neglect to mention what that discount might be so, again, it would be wise to negotiate such things before you turn up.
Schwartz accept cash only, important to remember if, in your final days, you have run through most of your remaining US currency and are relying more on your credit cards. Schwartz do offer, with remarkable reluctance - they actually say that it is "not really recommended" - a pick-up service, whereby they will arrange for your luggage to be picked-up from any midtown location within an hour and then delivered back to you within an hour. This service costs a minimum of $50 and, personally, we would be reluctant to rely upon a service when the providing company itself seems so reluctant to provide it. If, however, their startling reticence is not enough to put you off, you should contact them for further details.
Cautionary note 1: Many out-of-date websites (and there are many, many such sites littering the Web) list Schwartz's old address on 43 W 46th St. The company no longer uses that location.
Cautionary note 2: You must show photographic ID both when you drop and when you collect your luggage - no exceptions.
Cautionary note 3: Don't lose your ticket - Schwartz operate a very simple system: ticket = luggage. If you lose your ticket, or if the wallet you are keeping it in gets lost during your day in New York, you are out of luck. They will not simply accept the photographic ID you showed when you dropped your luggage, only the ticket AND the photographic ID will get you your luggage back.
Cautionary note 4: Turn up to collect your luggage with plenty of time to spare. Most people seem to have good experiences with Schwartz Travel but we know of at least one incident when the sole employee on duty fell asleep and travellers were left waiting outside for a couple of hours. Again, this is the only incident of this kind that we are aware of but it is not the sort of nightmare you want to run up against when you are rushing to the airport. Any small business is only as reliable as the people working for it and our understanding is that, incredibly, this particular employee still works there.
We mention all of this simply to hammer home the importance of understanding their service, planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time - we want your trip to New York to be wonderful in every way and not spoiled by any avoidable problems. The good news is that the vast majority of people have no problems using a luggage storage service and it frees them to really get the most out of their last day in New York. We ourselves would no hesitate to use such a service, we would just be careful to note the opening times and to carry our ticket and photographic ID in a safe place.
Other Companies now offering luggage storage
Other companies have also started offering luggage storage in Manhattan,
Below are two others we know of. Check out there websites below