Hello, all! I’ve just come back from an 8-day trip to New York with the fam’. I’ve always loved the place. The skyscrapers, the lights, the cabs, the rush, the hotdog stalls, the glitzy store fronts, the accents, the secret bars and glamorous cocktails, the steaming manhole covers. But then I’d only ever been with Julian (BF-turned-husband) before.
Now, however, we are in possession of a 15-month-old boddler – a baby-toddler – called Jasmine. How would this work? Both of us wanted to go to New York again but neither of us wanted to leave Jasmine at home with the monitor on and a cot full of snacks. There was only one thing for it.
And how hard could it really be?
Fortunately – “Hurrrrraaaaahhhh!” – it went pretty swimmingly for the most part.
So, for any other willing/mad parents of babies or toddlers who are contemplating it, here are our best tips and suggestions. Just so’s you know: we flew from Heathrow, London – but much of this will apply wherever you fly from.
MANAGE YOUR FLIGHT TIMES (AKA working out nap times Vs time zones)
If you’re flying from the UK like us, try and book yourself an afternoon, weekday flight. They’re much quieter. We flew out at 3pm on a Thursday and the plane was only half full. Also, it means by the time you get to New York, it’s bed time for your boddler – and customs is quieter, too.
At your departure airport, book yourself some extra leg room then smile sweetly and see if the person at the desk will block a 4-seat row out for you. This really takes the edge off the 8-hour endurance test to come. Note: this is doable on an afternoon flight; not at all doable on a Friday evening return flight, which we’ll come to. *weepy emoticon face*
We decided that Jasmine would have two hours’ sleep on the plane so she’d be ready for a night’s sleep at the other end. She walked the aisles and played with the in-flight remote for the first hour, slept for the next two – giving us the opportunity to watch an actual film from start to finish – and then we woke her with three hours to go. Those three hours weren’t easy but it was worth it.
We arrived at our hotel in Greenwich Village at about 9pm, after flying through customs and getting a cab. Once in our room, Jasmine had her milk and was soon sleeping like the proverbial baby in her snug-looking new cot. Yay. We’d beaten the ‘lag. (For this leg, anyway…)
DON’T MAKE A FLIGHT BACK-MISHAP
We totally ballsed up our flight home, though. Word of warning: don’t book a Friday evening flight. They are rammed. And they’re fast. Meaning no real time to have a quasi-night’s sleep. Jasmine got 4 hours; we got none. I was so grumpy by the time we got off, in the rain, that I could barely muster up a goodbye to the airline staff. In fact, I only started to feel like there was any light left in this godforsaken world once we’d got home, slept for 3 hours and showered it all off. My advice: go from midweek to midweek!
FIND THE RIGHT HOTEL
We booked The Jade in Greenwich Village. It wasn’t cheap but nothing in New York is. (We knew this was a blow-out holiday and accepted in advance that we’d be eating beans for the rest of the year.) We had a bonus two cosy double beds (good for naps) in our Art Deco-inspired room and a luvverly view of the Freedom Tower.
Greenwich Village is also one of our favourite areas in Manhattan. It’s pretty, full of character, relatively leafy and Bleeker Playground and The High Line are within walking distance – perfect for our active boddler.
There are good deals to be had on hotel rooms in all areas of Manhattan at this time of year, however. My mum Maria came to NYC for a couple of days with her hub Colin while we were there, and found a good deal on a Midtown hotel. It was cheaper than ours and the bedroom was huuuuge. So it’s worth doing your research.
Wrap up that boddler warm – or slap ’em with suncream if you go in summer – and get out there. Early morning, preferably. You’ll feel like you have the whole city to yourself and you can squeeze into cool coffee shops and breakfast hangouts without your buggy and kid causing too much of a ruckus. Explore Chelsea Market, too.
Manhattan has a lotta dogs. Those things beloved by babies, toddlers and boddlers everywhere. Manhattan’s canines outnumber little people by 200 to 1. That’s how it feels, anyway. Many an excited squeal arose from the Bugaboo or baby backpack as we pounded the streets and encountered the city’s finest – most of whom were dressed better than us. We made special trips to the dog run in Union Square just so Jasmine could get her fix.
GET A BABY BACK PACK (AND REINS)
Another trick – and something that was initially an experiment but came to be the best thing we ever did – was splash out on LittleLife Ranger child carrier. It’s like a huge backpack for boddlers and offers them an adult’s eye view of the world. Jasmine hates being strapped into things. She can’t ruddy stand her car seat; she’d much prefer to wander, and we weren’t particularly hopeful the first time we cooped her up into her backpack and she screamed her head off. However, once we got out there and she became aware of its benefits, she was smitten. She even took to “giddying up” her dad whenever he walked slowly.
DO TIMES SQUARE
Whether in a buggy or on your back, your little person is going to love this shiz. All you need to do is walk through the place. They’ll get a week’s worth of back home-stimulation in 5 minutes here. And if you’re feeling brave, take them into the Disney Store. If they walk, strap on the reins and let them explore. It might sound a little tiresome but, like me, you might get swept up in the joy of it all. And – corn alert – seeing Times Square through your boddler’s eyes really is magical. It made me fall in love with the place when I’d only ever been sniffy about it before.
Go to the American Museum of Natural History on a weekday. Show them the dinosaurs and the big blue whale and let them talk to the museum staff, who, like most people in New York, seem to love babies. This, I’ve decided, is because boddlers are such a novelty. I’m not sure where Manhattanites keep all of theirs; but they must exist somewhere as school-age children aren’t in short supply. Anyway, walking around Manhattan is a very different experience to walking around ten-a-penny, Kid Central, Crouch End, where we live. You’re much more likely to get someone come up and tell you how cute your kid is, which is nice. Because you’ve always thought the same thing too.
We didn’t get time to check them out, but we also heard good things about the Children’s Museum in Greenwich Village and the Brooklyn Transit Museum.
VISIT THE PARKS
We loved Bleeker Playground; it comes complete with a sandpit, swings and toys donated by local residents. Jasmine had her first go on a scooter at Bleeker Playground, while a neon “Liquor” sign flickered in the distance. It was a very poetic moment. She also had a walk on the High Line, the tarted-up disused railway track that runs through downtown Manahattan, and where we spotted Clare Danes on a very serious jog. We didn’t make Central Park this time round as it was a bit of a walk. And a bit frigging freezing. But if we’d gone in summer rather than February, we’d have done it all.
EAT OUT – YOU CAN!
Honestly, dining in Manhattan’s finest and funkiest eateries is not a thing of the past when you have a baby. You just have to re-jig your schedule a bit. Fortunately, thanks to the ‘lag, Julian and I have always been “morning people” in New York. It’s perfect when you have a small person too. We made it to some of Manhattan’s best new coffee shops and restaurants all before 8.30 am – and the best bit, our boddler was not turned away at the door. It’s the dining out experience, just done early.
MAKE BREAKFAST YOUR THING
We had coffees and pastries at new coffee joints Kava Coffee in the Meatpacking District and Third Rail Coffee, near Bleeker Street, where we spotted killer-thighed former Bond Girl Famke Jannsson and her dog. We also enjoyed brilliant brunches at Bubby’s on the High Line, The Grey Dog’s Coffee in Greenwich Village and Coffee Shop on Union Square. We also went to our old favourite, Penelope, near the Flatiron Disctrict – it does the most divine Nutella French toast you’ll ever get your laughing gear around. We also managed to experience the legendary Reuben sandwiches at the East Village’s Katz’s Deli, – yep, the When Harry Met Sally one – with boddler in tow (see above). Our tip: get there when it opens.
Another brilliant thing about all of the above is that they PROVIDE HIGH CHAIRS. This is not a given in Manhattan so ring ahead if you’re trying out somewhere new.
GET YOUR COCKTAIL FIX
Manhattan practically forces you to have a cocktail in the morning. Most menus have a breakfast cocktail section. Mimosas! Bloody Marys! Blackcurrant belinis! It would be rude not to get tipsy before 10am. Drinking a cocktail in the morning has two benefits, too: it gives you a warm Ready Brek-like glow as spend the rest of the morning, sightseeing – then brings on a totally cosy co-nap with your Little at midday. Leaving you refreshed and ready to start again at teatime.
5pm-ish is a very good time to eat out with a boddler. Child-friendly and cocktail-offering places that welcomed our Jazz included Eataly in the Flatiron area; my fave, Penelope; Dos Caminos in Times Square, and The Rink at the Standard in the Meatpacking District, where, not only will your Little get to watch the action on The Standard Hotel’s ice rink, they’ll also get their own menu, colouring book, crayons and an extremely warm welcome from the modelesque staff. (While you warm up on Cold Fashioneds).
ENJOY THE NIGHTLIFE
Nightlife. Schmightlife. We all know fauxialising is the new socialising anyway. So make the most of your boddler’s early bedtime. Buy yourself a bottle of vino, order room service and watch a pre-downloaded film on your iPad – on subtitles. Sound boring? We were so tired after our full and busy days that we didn’t make it more than 15 minutes through any of the buggers. It’s all works out: you get to have a big sleep, rise and shine early, and do the above all over again.
Admittedly, we had one set of grandparents there for a couple of nights and so we let them look after Jasmine for one in exchange for a bottle of Campo Viejo and a bar of Green & Blacks. Then we hotfooted it to The Standard (when in New York…), where we got drunk on two cocktails at the ridiculously beautiful sky top bar (pictured below) and nipped around the corner for rock shrimp at Buddakhan, and the next night had fish tacos at the Mermaid Inn. During the day we brought Jasmine round to peer at the views of downtown Manhattan from our floor-to-ceiling hotel room windows. Another see-it-through-a-child’s-eyes that’s made us feel all warm inside.
AND SOME MORE TIPS…
- Pack LOADS of healthy baby snacks. Jasmine’s appetite was not what it usually is, which we put down to jet lag and unfamiliar environment. Without her regular highchair, even her standby cereal and HIPP organic meals, which we brought with us, were a no-go. So for a week she mostly existed on bowls of berries (New York does good berries) Organix raisins, Organix rice cakes, Ella’s veggie pouches, BEAR’s 100% fruit sweets – and toast. She got unusually stressed and fussy if we put anything more daring down in front of her. Thank the lord for milk!
- Know that every Duane Reade in town stocks Pampers and Ella’s – or at least their US equivalent
- Pack your kid’s favourite soft toy and books
- Download a load of films and TV shows on your iPad before you leave for your ‘Netflix and Chill’ nights
- Download some kids’ shows too
- Pack for the season – we bought Jasmine an extra warm snowsuit, which made her look like the Stay Puft marshmallow man
- Have extra boddler snacks on you at all times, including on both flights
- Prevent aeroplane ear-pop: during takeoff, take measures to avoid the dreaded ear-pop. We gave Jasmine water from a bottle and had the emergency soother (okay, dummy) to hand
- Don’t expect regular changing facilities in NYC. Most of the places we went to didn’t have baby changes. This didn’t affect us too much as Jasmine will no longer tolerate lying on a changing mat, anyway. Apparently, the big stores – Macy’s and Bloomingdales – are the best places to go. Otherwise, you might need to get creative on those big restroom floors
- Explore Brooklyn and in particular, Williamsburg. We heard great things about how baby-friendly W’burg was, but again, ran out of time before getting to check it out
- Just be aware that jet lag may strike once you’re home… But remember: it’s worth it!