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Thanks for the point of booking directly. I have already signed up with the membership programs at the hotels I am looking at.
BTW, I am a middle aged woman traveling solo (hubby doesn't like to travel) and I find it exciting. When I returned from my London trip last time, the customs guy at SFO asked me if I had traveled all by myself. Yes, I did. ;)
Last time I visited NYC, I stayed at a BW in Newark and would take the PATH into NYC. The hotel had a shuttle to do p/u and d/o at the nearby train station. Not the best neighborhood, but much cheaper to stay. I just know that staying in a hotel mid-town would be very expensive.
I've spent quite a bit of time online over these past months, so I pretty much have an idea of pricing & times. I like United because they have a non-stop out of SFO to LHR that gets in at 7 am. I flew this flight two years ago and it was great getting in early and having the rest of the day to sightsee.