A few weeks ago we came home from New York City tired, exhausted and so proud we took the leap!
We were very apprehensive to say the least and purchasing the tickets seemed like a commitment we soon wanted to find a way out of. I kept thinking of the jet lag in a toddler or trying to get her to take naps in public which has NEVER been her MO. So traveling to the city that “never sleeps” all of a sudden sounded like a very bad idea.
Now that I’m home and thinking back to the days in New York, I can say that overall the trip was a success. We took both sets of grandparents with us as well as one uncle and two close family friends. We definitely had people wanting to help us out and sometimes that makes all the difference. My arms could rest, I could drop her off at one of their hotel rooms and head back to mine for a quick shut eye before the next excursion.
I highly recommend staying in the heart of the city, as I talk about further down in this article. But if you decide to stay closer to the Newark Airport in New Jersey (generally cheaper flights and less crowded than choosing JFK Airport), and save a few extra bucks by booking your hotel outside of the City, we highly recommend the Renaissance Marriott OR the New York Liberty International Airport Marriott. Earn 80,000 bonus points with the Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card. By clicking these links you will be directed to how you can save even more money, earning FREE nights.
The hotel was super comfortable and perfect for travel days when you need to stay closer to the airport. For travel into the City, take the Air tram from the airport to the Airport train station. From there take a direct train to Penn Station in NYC.
Each day with a baby or toddler on vacation presents new challenges to learn from. I’ve learned things through trial and error. I often felt if someone had just told me about this we could have avoided a ton of issues. So I’m here to lay out a few tips for your next trip to the Big Apple. And I think we should definitely talk about the Subway, right out of the gate.
1.) NY Subway system. If you are like us, you’re always out to save a few bucks traveling from here to there. Getting around Manhattan is challenging between car and pedestrian traffic. And the choice of transportation varies from walking, to Uber or taxi, to the subway system.
The subway is the cheapest option besides walking your feet off and feeling completely worn out, eventually needing to purchase new shoes and more mole skin… yeah you might as well take the subway.
Now if you have a toddler, you more than likely have a stroller. We chose to bring the smallest footprint of a stroller we could, which meant the small cloth stroller that folds up like a large umbrella. We checked this stroller at the gate of the airport and carried then her in our Ergo front pack.
The Ergo is another option while walking around the City, but as ergonomically fantastic as this front pack is, I still wanted to push a stroller and throw my purse on the handles. And this small stroller was just the ticket we needed to easily navigate NY’s crowded sidewalks.
Unfortunately, the NY subway was never designed for strollers or wheelchairs. There are no elevators helping us down to the deck we need. There are only stairs cut out in the middle of sidewalks taking us underground to an experience unique to the City. So what did we do with stairs and a toddler in a stroller?
My husband got in front of the stroller and picked up the foot rest while I grabbed hold of the handles and we went down together. Because we chose to bring the lightest, smallest stroller, this actually wasn’t difficult or uncomfortable. But the awkwardness, well maybe a little but we soon got used to it as you’re traveling this way at least twice a day.
Then we would reach the ticketing machines. We’d purchase our tickets, which toddlers are free of charge, and then we were facing the turnstile. The large, multiple lane hunk of metal where you swipe your purchased ticket and filter through to other side, a lot like cattle.
How in the world do you get a stroller through this thing?? It was a little too tall to just sneak underneath the bars, and I refused to take her out and carry her through, unpacking the stroller and folding it up only to swipe and then reopen, repack and resnap her in every. single. time. we faced one of these things! NOT happening.
So I got creative. I made my hubby go in through the turnstile first and then he would bend down, pick up the footrest again and we would float her over the bar and set her back down on the other side. I could then swipe my ticket and meet them on the other side. This made things so much easier, especially when she miraculously fell asleep in the stroller after an exhausting day… the last thing I wanted to do was wake her up to take her out!
2.) The restaurants in NYC are what my mother in law calls “punishingly loud”. And it’s true, anywhere that’s anywhere draws a huge crowd, not an empty chair in the room no matter where we chose to eat. And with the crowed rooms came loud voices, so loud we could barely hear the person across the table from you, making you yell “WHAT??” even louder. With all this noise, it can be a little overwhelming for little ones.
Our little girl was not used to the crazy night life of the City. The good news is once baby starts whining and squirming and maybe even crying a bit, no one in the room cares or even notices, it’s just too loud! Don’t let the crazy keep you from going out to dinner at night. Take your little one out and let them be little, let them make a mess on the ground and be loud right along with the crowd. If things get really crazy, take out your phone and turn on some animated clips for them to watch and zone out with.
3.) The 1 World Trade Center. For family outings, there are the obvious choices such as Central Park and The Natural History Museum, both of which we did during our last trip and little girl loved them both. But something that we found to be a very fun afternoon activity was the Trade Center. Not only do we remember what this tower represents but it also was a sobering moment, seeing the views of the entire city up 1,250 feet in the air, 360 degrees. It was incredible.
The elevators are among the fastest in the world, reaching 2,000 feet per minute. So definitely have a food pouch or something for baby to suck on so the ears can pop, just like on the airplane. The tickets are worth it, the views are worth it.
4.) Make the trip fun and easy, aka Family Vacation. On days when you need to take it easy and relax, don’t count NY out. There are ways to slow down with a little forethought. Take a day to just experience New York.
If you are staying in the heart of the City (which we highly recommend in order to make travel time quicker and easier) try to schedule a day to just BE a New Yorker. Start in the morning with going to get a latte and bring it back to the hotel room for a leisurely morning.
Don’t forget to pick up some NY bagels, they are an experience all in themselves. Check out these rainbow bagels, unique to Brooklyn and surprisingly delicious!
After a long relaxing morning in the hotel room, hopefully with a city view, head out to the streets. Walk around and discover hidden gems. We found that the NYC Library was only a few blocks away, so we enjoyed touring this incredible building mid-morning, stepping us back in time 100 years.
After some tourist shopping and picking up some tacky street souvenir knockoffs (no judgement), grab a NYC hot dog! Street food is a must, and there’s a ton of delicious food to be had! Be adventurous and order up! After lunch on a park bench, head back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.
Lets admit that traveling will wipe you out, not to mention your little one, and all the walking will tear up your feet. Realizing you’re only in the City once, you still don’t want to kill yourself to the point where you don’t fully enjoy it. So take that nap and get rested up for your dinner experience.
Now it’s no secret that the City has so many options when it comes to incredible food. The melting pot does not disappoint, and don’t feel guilty ordering dessert, I promise you will walk off any extra calories you consume! But for this relaxing night, opt for some authentic New York PIZZA! It’s an experience people will ask you about once you get home. We went to Joe’s Pizza, arguably one of the best pizza spots in the City.
All in all, New York City can be an amazing family vacation. Don’t discount it because it’s all concrete and crowds. We made some beautiful memories as a family and with some planning, I’m sure you will enjoy every day exploring the Big Apple.