For months—no, years now—my hubby has been inviting us to accompany him on his business trips. I’ve taken advantage of a few with him sans children, but we’ve never gone beyond a DC trip with the whole family. So, a few weeks ago when he mentioned a 5-day jaunt to New York City, I began to imagine what it would look like to take the kids. After all, the hotel would be free so it seemed a good time to go. As the date got closer, a little, annoying thing called Hurricane Florence began to threaten our trip, but when she turned away from Virginia we wrote the plans in ink and told the kids. I think they were as thrilled about the adventure as they were about missing a few days of school! We researched flights and train schedules, and finally decided Mama was going to drive up with the babes. Solo. So, last Wednesday, with Graham already in the city, I packed the car and schlepped the kids to NYC for what would be a 45-hour whirlwind adventure. And I’m happy to say that WHEN we do it again, we’ll have a few more tips in our back pocket. If you’re considering a trip with kids to the Big Apple, or if that thought seems completely daunting, here’s 10 things we learned along the way:
Get to the city in the way that makes the most sense to you. For us, that meant by car. Even though our family and friends thought we were nuts. But here’s the thing. The train sounds lovely, and I’d do it in a heartbeat if Graham were with me, but I couldn’t imagine trying to contain my toddler for 6 hours by myself. A car seat sounded much better. We also wanted to do the trip as cheaply as possible, so flights were out of the question. I picked up a little tip from my friend that worked beautifully: no one speaks from the Lincoln Tunnel to the hotel. Mama was able to concentrate on the GPS, and everyone survived.
Find a hotel with benefits. Of course, tagging on to Graham’s business trip made the accommodation decision a no brainer, but many hotels in the city offer perks for staying. We had a $25 daily voucher for appetizers and drinks at the bar, and we got 5 free tickets (one for each night of Graham’s stay) for the Big Bus tour of the city. Look for hotels that offer similar deals, serve complimentary breakfast, or give points.
Prep for walking. I should have told my babes that we’d be walking a few miles a day. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. Cause they didn’t know, and turns out my big kids weren’t ready for city life after all. Pack comfy shoes and thick socks. Then tell those whiny kids of yours to get moving.
Don’t pet the pigeons. No really, don’t. They’re not a rare bird, nor are they beautiful. Don’t follow them around the park. Don’t chase them while we eat our breakfast bagels. Don’t collect their feathers. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t toss them a crumb. The rodents of the sky will find their breakfast, but it won’t come from our hands.
Get past the smell. Listen gang, cities are stinky. There are a lot of people who produce a lot of trash. NYC is smelly, especially in the morning before the refuse is picked up from the night before. And who really knows where those puddles on the sidewalk came from? Appreciate that you’re in a big city, and know that you won’t take your clean air for granted when you get home.
Look up old friends and ask for tips. Between Graham’s cousin, my sister-in-law, and our dear friend, Lesley-Ann, we didn’t have to scour Trip Advisor for things to do on the visit. Everyone knows someone in NYC. Look them up and ask them for tips on taking in the real parts of the city.
Take the subway & kids under 44″ ride for free. Don’t make the mistake we did and buy a ticket for your toddler!
Get out of Times Square. Because Graham’s conference was in Mid-Town, his hotel was right in the center of Times Square. As fun as seizure-inducing artificial lights are, we tried to get the heck out of Times Square as often as possible. Minus a quick trip to H&M and the daily walk-through of the M&M store, we skipped the lights and walked to more authentic places in the city.
Talk about hard things. When we decided to go to New York, we bought tickets to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The kids had so many questions on this year’s anniversary, so we thought it might be helpful for them to see the memorial for themselves. There are a lot of parents out there who want to protect their children from evil and cruelty in the world. Of course I want that too, but I guess I’m in a different camp. If, by exposing them to hatred, I can better explain love, then I’ll do it. Every time. In terms they can understand. In ways that make sense to their developmental stage. We took our kids to the 9/11 Memorial and we talked about hard things and they are better for it.
See the city through their eyes. The vast amount of buildings. The skyscrapers so tall, your kids nearly do a backbend to see to the top. The horns that beep and sirens that blare constantly. The window washers on the 54th floor. The rooftop gardens where vegetables are grown in baby pools. The pull-down lever marked Rubbish on the side streets with dumpsters collecting trash below (my kids thought this was great!), the excitement of the subway, the open-mouth amazement of seeing the city come in to view as we drove through New Jersey. . . A few hours in to the first day, Harper asked why no one smiles in New York or says hello. I told her to start a new smiling trend and see what happens. She took the challenge seriously for the rest of the trip.