Prior to having a baby last year, my husband and I visited New York City every festive season as a romantic, fun tradition. The lights, skating, comfort foods, tours, parks and more never failed to lure us back time and time again.
When our first December with a baby approached, we considered going back as a family. Then my husband booked a work trip there and plans solidified.
We invited my mom to come along for help, we upgraded our room to a junior suite and then off we went figuring we took all the necessary precautions.
LOCATION: New York City, Manhattan
DURATION: 4 days (ended up being 3)
DATES: Dec 11 – Dec 15, 2014
WHO: Rick, Angie, Grandma Sue and 9 month old son
New York, at any time, is extremely high-energy, over-crowded, bustling and full of long line-ups. Add holiday shopping, light tours, special festive shows, skating rinks and so on and it’s somewhat of a nightmare when traveling with infants. Although the trip was memorable in its own right, I don’t recommend taking a baby to NYC between November and mid-January unless you do it smart.
1. Plan for Winter Weather
First and foremost, it ended up taking us two days to get there. This isn’t a black mark against traveling to NYC per say but New York airports are notorious for cancelling, delaying or postponing flights at the mere gust of wind. Our flights were delayed steadily for the first travel day, finally cancelled, and then rebooked deep into the second day. It was my aggressive research that turned up a connecting flight that would get us there early on the second day instead. My mom had already traveled in from Chicago and was waiting there for us so even the more reason to get there ASAP. We ended up running out of diapers into our long stay at the airport and didn’t plan well for the winter weather. Make a back-up plan if family is traveling in from other cities (have alternate names already at check-in etc)
2. Expect Delays
In line with our flight issues, we also experienced longer than normal waits to get a cab from the airport (huge line there) and in the hotels for check-in. Make sure your infant can handle these extremely long, cold days. Even at the hotel, it’s hard to get your room early during peak season (we wanted our baby to stick to his nap schedule as much as possible) so be prepared. We stayed in the lobby for two hours which wasn’t ideal. On another trip, I would call ahead (during slow season) and solidify check-in times, book a crib and stress that I need early or extended times in my room.
3. Don’t Count on Favours
During peak season, staff often do all they can to accommodate your needs especially when they see a baby. However, there is only so much they can do. Getting you into your room early or upgrading your room on site just isn’t possible when the city is submersed in festive flare.
4. Forget the Stroller
At night time we walked around to check out the holiday lights. During the day we toured Central Park and watched the skaters at Rockefellar Center. But sidewalks aren’t stroller friendly when packed with people and snow. And few tourists and New Yorkers want to make room for a clunky stroller. If you really need to bring one, opt for the umbrella stroller. It’s honestly so difficult to move around in that city that you’ll regret anything of normal size (we brought our Uppa Baby Vista and ended up using the ErgoBaby Carrier instead)
5. Assess Sleeping Situation and Plan Accordingly
We tried our best to book a hotel suite because our baby doesn’t sleep well in a room with us. Plus, we didn’t have to have to sit around quiet as mice when he napped. New York hotels aren’t equipped with very many suite style rooms. You’ll need to look at older hotels with apartments if you want a connecting door/bedroom. We knew we didn’t have access to any of these extra rooms so we planned ahead. I packed an extra large sheet, some tape, white noise machines and two blankets and I actually built a little room in the corner of the suite. We hung a sheet from the ceiling, put the noise machine right next to crib and brought all things our son was familiar with at bedtime so he would know that he was expected to sleep in his nook (as opposed to thinking he had a new fort).
6. Be Ready for NYC Noise
Not only is it NYC but it’s New York during the holidays. The city is bursting with parties galore, holiday weddings, Christmas parties, family vacations and romantic couples. This all means noise. Noise, noise, noise. Your hotel hallways will be noisy. The streets are loud. People are enjoying themselves everywhere you turn and there’s no escaping it. So forget quiet nap time in the stroller etc. It won’t happen.
Overall, our trip to New York, while memorable and fun, was less than ideal. I don’t know that I would go back during the peak holiday, festive season with an infant. We watched other tourists experience anxiety attacks in the crowds, push & shove each other and so on. This isn’t to say it isn’t an incredible place to visit with family and friends. We go annually and love it. I would simply advise waiting until your child can walk so you don’t need to stress about room size, strollers, crowds etc. Or plan well in advance and book someone’s apartment on VRBO.com or Airbnb.com