NYC Logistics with a Young Kid

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Lots of families who collect miles and points like the idea of using them to visit NYC. There is lots of stuff to do there, you can get a “good bang for your point” since prices for things like hotels are typically very high, and it is a destination that doesn’t require an overseas flight. However, for families with young children, there can be a few logistical challenges to overcome to really enjoy the trip. For those used to just hopping in the car, driving to a destination, parking in a parking lot and then continuing on there is a huge culture shock just in the way you get around. I lived in NYC and visit frequently, but recently had my first opportunity to experience the city with a young child of my own. Here are a few things we experienced that might help other families when they are planning their trips.  Also, here are the other reviews from our trip:

Getting to NYC: BusinessFirst on the 787

The Macy’s Santa Line

Grand Hyatt – VIP Suite Review

NYC Holiday Activities with a Family

Andaz Fifth Avenue – Splash Suite Review

NYC Logistics with a Family (this post)

Get a car service from the airport:

In my experience, there are some things in Manhattan that are just going to cost more because you are a family. As a single traveler I have no problem doing the bus to subway or train to subway transfers from the three area airports of La Guardia, JFK, or Newark, but as a family there is no freaking way. When you take into account you will have just finished a flight with a young kid and you have all of your (often massive) gear, it just isn’t worth it to mess with public transportation to save a few bucks. It can be confusing at first for a new visit, the turnstiles aren’t really luggage friendly, and there is no guarantee there will really be room on the subway or bus for your family and all your stuff. Of course, if your family is the type that straps their kids on their back and backpacks through Europe, then you will probably do just fine with public transport. For the rest of us, just get a car service (or at least a cab) to save some stress and sanity.


Of the three airports, La Guardia will be the cheapest for a car or cab, followed by JFK, and then Newark. There are a million answers on which service to use – many use Dial 7, Uber has recently become pretty popular for car service, I have used Groundlink, and there are a bajillion other companies as well. We did install C’s car seat for our drive from Newark to Manhattan.

Teach your kids not to lick the handrail in the subway:

While I am not an advocate of using public transportation to get families to and from the airport, it is a great way to get around the five boroughs. That said, kids like mine have barely spent any time on anything resembling a subway. She did a great job, but it was a shocker when she licked the pole that everyone holds on to. The subway was too full for us to sit (and don’t expect anyone to give up their seat for you, even if you have a young kid), and I was teaching my then-two-year-old to hold on tightly to the pole when she turned and licked it because she was a “pretend kitty”. The whole subway car pretty much gasped at the same time I did. I don’t even want to know all the germs and other disgusting things that were probably on that pole. She lived, but I strongly recommend reviewing all rules ahead of time. I would also recommend coming up with a plan in case your family doesn’t all end up on the same subway train for some reason.

While we are on the topic, up to three children 44 inches tall and under ride for free on subways and local buses when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. Infants (under two years of age) ride express buses free if the child sits on the lap of the accompanying adult. You can pay per ride or get an unlimited ride ticket if you think you are going to have a bunch of subway trips. We didn’t do an unlimited pass on this trip as we typically only went to about one subway destination each day we were there.

Consider going to nicer restaurants during “off” times:

One of the things I used to love a ton about living in or visiting NYC was the amazing food. Of course, not all amazing food is in nicer restaurants, but don’t totally discount eating out at a nicer restaurant with your kiddos if that is something that your family enjoys. We went out to eat with our daughter for a late lunch at a nicer restaurant and the place was almost empty and we didn’t disturb anyone at all.  Lunch is also often much more affordable, so your investment isn’t near as high anyway.




Truthfully, on most of our trip we didn’t really get to focus on where we were going to eat because our daughter was too tired to eat out well for most meals, and food was more of a fuel than a delicacy (which was a little sad since I love eating in NYC so much). It was just a trade-off we had to make for most of this trip – still I’m glad we ate out once or twice.  For anyone who is curious, our meal shown above was at Morimoto NYC which is located right next to the Chelsea Market.  It wasn’t the best sushi I have ever had, but it was pretty good and was perfect for us since they were open for lunch and had plenty of available seating for a last minute reservation.

Walking isn’t a spectator sport:

Walking in NYC is a full contact sport – or at least it will be if you don’t watch where you are going.  We had to quickly teach our kid to watch directly in front of her.  Do not window shop and walk, look straight ahead and walk quickly.  She actually caught on really well after some near misses.  We did not bring a stroller, and were glad that we didn’t as it would have been a pain on subways, in cabs, in stores, etc..  Of course if you have a younger child then a stroller may be a necessity (though I would prefer to wear my younger kid if at all possible).  We did have to put her on our shoulders from time to time, but for the most part she did well.

Car seats in cabs?

Okay, I can’t tell you what to do with this one as it is a potential safety issue, and and I’m sure it is quite controversial.  I will tell you this, car seats are not required by law in NYC cabs and for-hire vehicles.  Cabs do have to allow the parent to install the car seat if they wish.  Children seven years and under are allowed to sit in their parent’s lap in a cab.  Essentially the laws and policies allow you to go either way.

If you do use a car seat, you are going to have to carry it to the cab, deal with it wherever your destination is, and lather, rinse repeat to get back to your origin if it’s a return venture, all of which may be quite cumbersome.  My understanding is that most parents do not use car seats in NYC, but of course there are some that do.  The Car Seat Lady lists some tips for using car seats in cabs.

We found NYC to be absolutely doable with an almost-three-year-old.  There were things we gave up (like eating out as much as we would have liked), but overall if you do a little advance planning you can absolutely manage the logistical challenges that those of us who are used to suburban lifestyles may have.

What other tips do some NYC pros have to share?


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  1. I love the tip of: Teach your kids not to lick the handrail in the subway. Haha, that is so something one of my kids would have done. Glad she survived 😉

  2. The sushi looks amazing 🙂 You are SO right about walking (more like power walking) in NYC. The first time my daughters and I visited, I was lost within the first 15 minutes. They organized the same time of walking as you did except I walked in front of them so that they could keep tabs on me LOL.

  3. Good tips MP! I agree on transport in. Going on my own (which I do very regularly) it’s the Q33 or M60 bus and the subway into town, but with family we usually get a cab because the kids love watching the TVs or I get car service. Being a points blog worth adding that Carmel teams up with various programs (AA, US Air etc) to give some points on bookings when you book online. Their cars and service are pretty much on a par with Dial 7 and the other usual suspects.

  4. My son (now 3yo) loves trains and planes. So we prefer public transportation. Imagine mixing planes and trains (metro). No matter if it’s DC, London or Paris. It’s exciting for a young kid. This is of course easier if the father is around to carry the child if he/she falls asleep. My money is on public transportation (buses can be cool too).

  5. Morning MP.

    Here is Restaurant week in NYC link. Morimoto, Mario Batali’s Del Posto (right across the street), are usually participants. HighLine overhead is nice to walk, minus vehicular traffic !! Also inside Chelsea Market, where I have worked in for a number of years has some nice relaxing lunch, coffee / tea spots.


    Major League Baseball and NY 1 News share space in Chelsea Market, so you just might see some MLB ball players hanging around, or other famous people coming and going from interviews).

    Hope this is useful for someone 🙂

  6. I’ll add that the Happy Hour and Savored iPhone apps offer up great discounts and 30 percent off total bill respectively. Used both apps with kids to great effect in NYC and other large cities (SFO etc)

  7. We took our 1-year-old to NYC a couple of months ago and I can attest that strollers are kind of a pain there, although a necessary one in our case. The toy store (Toys R Us, I think) with the ferris wheel is good entertainment for the kids of course.

    And generally speaking: for those of you with young childen, we just took a 1-, 3-, and 5-year old to Central America. It wasn’t always easy, and of course you have to temper your expectations, but don’t let having kids, even small ones, keep you from traveling, especially when there are so many ways to defray the costs via bonuses, loyalty programs, etc.

  8. I highly recommend that if you have a trip planned to NY that you sign up for living social and groupon manhattan/NYC a few weeks before your trip. Every few weeks they run a black car “groupon” which represents significant cost savings over a standard black car price. Here’s a referral link to a living social one running right now:

  9. Went to NYC by myself and a 4&6 year old last year to see Mary Poppins during Broadway Week (2 for 1 tickets) that corresponds with restaurant week! We went to a very nice French restaurant where I ordered off their Restaurant week menu and since there was no children’s menu, asked the waiter if the chef would make my kids grilled cheeses- to which they happily did- they were the most elegant grilled cheeses you ‘d ever seen! Here’s a tip for restrooms/ we always find a hotel to use their restrooms as it is very hard to find public restrooms whole out and about.

  10. It’s been a while without writing (nor reading, for that matter) in your blog. But now that I also have a boy and a daughter, life has become a little more complicated.

    I just returned from NY after 9 days there. The airports and planes were fine with my kids, 2-10 and 4-month old. However, the trip was a logistic nightmare. We were a family of 10, from a 72-year old grandpa to a 9-year old cousin to a childless couple, most of them not used to NY winter.

    The most important lessons I re-learned were: very flexible schedules, improvisation, no walking after 4 pm, spare clothes, no rush and patience above all. I guess my son is in those “terrible two” and that didn’t help either.

    I was thinking yesterday of abandoning travel at all, at least to crowded cities and/or with itineraries not completely controlled by me and my wife.

    I guess I will have to start reading your blog again 🙂

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