Tips for Visiting New York City With a Baby
Our recent trip to New York City was the first time I truly feel that I failed Deacon as a father – a down on my knees begging for forgiveness kind of fail. Luckily, he’s only seven months old and wasn’t quite aware of what was going on around him.
It was our last day in the city. Shannan left for work, and it was my job to make sure Deacon got a full morning nap, pack up the room, and check out of the hotel. Deacon and I then had several hours to spend exploring the city before we were to meet Shannan back at the hotel mid-afternoon to catch a ride to the airport.
I left the hotel around 11am to the backdrop of beautiful, clear blue sky for the mile-and-half walk from Madison Park to Chelsea Market. I planned to grab a quick lunch there, and then we were going to walk Highline Park. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had alternative plans.
As we approached Chelsea Market, the skies let loose into a torrential downpour. With the entrance to the market in sight, I ran as fast as I could without toppling over the stroller, squeezing in the doors with hordes of others also trying to escape the rain.
“No problem,” I thought. We’d simply wait out the storm while I ate lunch. We’d still have two hours to walk Highline Park and make it back to our hotel. I grabbed an Italian sandwich from Cappones and used the excuse of “I have a baby with me” to share a table with a stranger.
So far, so good. The sandwich was amazing, and Deacon was loving watching all the people walk by as Chelsea Market began to fill up.
When I was done eating, I politely gave up my table as seats were now at a premium and ventured to the exit. The rain was nowhere near letting up and the temperature had dropped 15 degrees. Deacon and I were stuck without proper raingear and warm clothing for him.
“No problem,” I thought again. Chelsea Market is pretty awesome. I’d simply check out some of the shops and booths that I didn’t get to visit last time.
The only problem was that most of New York City was in Chelsea Market also escaping the rain. It was nearly impossible to navigate the stroller through the mass of people, so I looked for anywhere with a table that I could grab a cup of coffee (or a beer). Not an empty seat was to be found.
Defeated, I found a group of strollers parked in a corner as other parents sat on the ground waiting out the storm. I continued to monitor my watch as I attempted to keep Deacon from getting fussy. The time for me to walk back to the hotel had arrived, but there was no way we could walk in the downpour without proper clothing and rain gear for him. And, I left the hotel without the car seat so we couldn’t even catch a taxi.
This was one of a series of mistakes we made on our trip to NYC with a baby. To help you avoid the pitfalls we experienced, I offer this list of tips for navigating NYC with a baby.
Arrange for a car service to pick you up at the airport
And I’m not talking about Lyft, Uber, or a taxi. You’re going to be stressed after navigating the airport with a newborn and you’ll have a lot of stuff with you. An arranged car service will meet you in arrivals, help you with your luggage, and sometimes pre-arrange for a car seat so you don’t have to pack yours. We booked a business class car through Blacklane, and it was the smartest decision of our trip (it’s also not as expensive as you think).
Stay in a suite if you can afford it
We stayed in two hotels on our trip to New York City. The first hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan Chelsea, was your standard, tiny NYC hotel room. While the hotel was nice, it was a miserable experience with his crib just inches from our bed in those tight quarters. When he went down at 8:00pm, we had to go to sleep. We he napped, we had to nap. We tried to stay awake, watching TV or reading, but the distraction was too much for him. None of us slept very much.
At our second hotel, The Evelyn, we were upgraded to a two-room suite. It was paradise. The crib was set up in the sitting room, so we could shut the door during his naps and bedtime. We all slept well and were energized for exploring the city. The Evelyn was an overall awesome hotel, by the way, and I’d highly recommend it.
I highly recommend staying in a suite if you can afford it. Check out suite prices for an idea of rates.
Consider renting an apartment
Services like TripAdvisor Rentals make it easy to rent an apartment for your stay in New York City, which can provide a more affordable option to a hotel suite. However, not all apartments come equipped with a crib like a hotel suite. Be sure to contact property management before booking or search for a local crib rental company.
Avoid the subway at all costs
Subways are not stroller friendly, especially if you unluckily catch it during rush hour. I almost got into a fight with a not very understanding rider in what my wife now describes as a “Papa Bear” moment. Also, many subway stops do not have elevators, so you’ll have to carry the stroller up at least a flight of stairs.
Plan to stay where you plan to play
A great way to avoid the subway is to plan your activities ahead of time and try to congregate them in the same vicinity. Then, look for a hotel in that neighborhood. TripAdvisor has a great tool for letting you search for hotels by neighborhood.
Bring a snap and go stroller / car seat combo
We have the Britax B-Agile/B-Safe Travel System stroller. It’s a car-seat stroller combo, and we love it! It really is perfect for traveling as the car seat snaps out when you only need the stroller and snaps back in when you need both (which I should have done on our excursion to Chelsea Market). It’s lightweight, compact, and, most importantly, easy to use.
Do not take advantage of the no car seats needed in taxis law
Yes, by law, you do not need a car seat in a taxi or livery in NYC. THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT’S SAFE! Do you feel safe in a NYC taxi with your seatbelt fully fasted? I don’t. Either order a car service like Blacklane, which offers car seats, pack a stroller combo system like I mentioned above, or stick to one neighborhood. UberFamily does offer car seats, but these are forward facing car seats only for children 22 pounds and up, not babies.
Honor at least one naptime in your hotel room
Many family travel experts will tell you that traveling with a baby is easy, “They can sleep wherever!” This is partially true. They can take little catnaps almost anywhere. These aren’t full naps, and the child wakes not fully rested and a little cranky. Honor at least one full naptime in the room. Deacon takes two naps a day, and we made sure either the morning or afternoon was in the crib for the full two hours.
Buy a waterproof stroller shield
My walk back to the hotel would have been possible if I had a waterproof stroller shield to protect Deacon from the rain (I didn’t care about getting wet). Don’t leave your hotel without one in NYC as the skies can change on a moment’s notice.
Carry a light rain jacket with you at all times
I typically carry a packable rain jacket with me wherever I travel, as they are easy to stash into backpacks, day bags, and, most importantly, diaper bags. Here are both his and hers packable rain jackets that we own and recommend.
Eat out as your normally would
Don’t shy away from dining out in restaurants. If your baby has the temperament to allow it back home, then NYC should be no different. We found restaurant staff and customers to be very accommodating wherever we went. Several customers at Eataly even asked if they could hold Deacon.
Be smart about it though. Don’t make dinner reservations at 9pm if your child goes to bed at 8pm.
Rock the ergo
Let your baby see NYC as you see it by using an ergo. You’ll get a kick out of his reaction and so will those around you!
Always have extra wipes with you
Pack two extra packs of baby wipes and make sure an unopened package is always at the ready in your diaper bag. You never know when a bird will poop on your baby (true story).
Bring multiple blankets
We carried two blankets us with us at all times in New York City – one for warmth and one in case we stopped in a park. Both were well utilized.
Pack a hooded sweatshirt for the little one
This was another mistake I made as I watched the temperature drop in Chelsea Market. Make sure you have a hooded sweatshirt for your baby in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
I realize all of this may sound quite intimidating and just a little frightening. Don’t be though. These are all just precautionary steps. You’ll have a great time in NYC and make some awesome memories!
What other tips do you have for visiting New York City with a baby?
Disclosure – This post was sponsored by Blacklane. Regardless, readers receive my honest feedback as my opinions are not for sale.