New York City is without a doubt the most invigorating city in the world. The whirl of the cabs, the deli guys yelling to the delivery guys across 7th Avenue, the pick-up-your-pace foot traffic forcing you to play Frogger on city sidewalks. It's the lights, the skyscrapers, the people.
It's the city people love to write about that makes it difficult to write anything new. It's this marvelous madhouse of Manhattan that we decided would be the perfect destination for our son's first big travel adventure.
Baby's First Flight
I had a work trip scheduled for NYC, so we decided to make it a family trip too.
Three months before the trip, I started researching the best baby travel gear, tips for traveling with a baby, tips for family travel and tips for visiting NYC.
At 4 am on a Saturday we woke up and started getting ready for our trip. Our son knew something was up. He was very excited the night before.
My brother picked us up and we loaded up the minivan with two suitcases, my son's carseat, his new lightweight stroller, a tightly packed hiking backpack/diaper bag, and my laptop.
We got to the airport at just the right time. There was only one guy checking in at the e-ticket booth alongside us. Both of our suitcases could have been carry-ons, but with only four hands between us, we thought it best to check the luggage for our baby's first flight.
Best Travel Stroller
Our baby's new stroller is very cool. It's a red Combi Savvy Soho (similar to this travel stroller). It's so compact, I actually love to fold it up and carry it just for fun.
The Graco stroller we have is awesome for every day, but the new stroller will take him well into the toddler years and is easy to maneuver through crowded city sidewalks. My fave travel stroller features:
- a great bag underneath the seat
- side pockets on top for a cell phone and change
- another back flap pocket for extra pacifiers, burp cloths, etc, and
- a built in stereo system if we wanted to pipe in Muppet music to enhance his ride.
Going Through Airport Security with a Baby
Going through airport security with a baby for the first time was no problem. Thank goodness!
We took stuff off and put it back on as we went through the security screenings almost as if we had done so a million times with a baby. Everyone was super friendly and kind. We expected the worst so it felt great.
Waiting for boarding, my son got hungry. Breastfeeding session in public #1 was in terminal D-1. No problem, no hassles.
Flying with a Baby
If you have a baby or toddler, you get to board early. Take advantage of this! We boarded early, and it was heaven.
My husband installed the carseat near the window and I sat in the middle for easy feeding.
Our son was in sensory overload - the buzz of the engines, the constant chatter around him, the faces and bodies zipping back and forth, the new smells of airplane air, forthcoming breakfast, and a hundred individual body scents. He made a few of friends on the plane: smiley lady across the aisle, seasoned NY woman in front of us, the flight attendant who kept cooing at him while I was breastfeeding.
He slept at the right times, laughed when it was playtime and only fussed a little bit when he was getting sleepy and didn't want to miss all of the excitement. He was the perfect little traveler.
Deplaning, getting our luggage, catching a taxi - everything went smootly on our way from Newark to Manhattan. My husband installed the car seat easily into the taxi and off we went.
New York Family Travel Tip: Choose Your Airport Wisely
I highly recommend flying into Newark - so much easier than dealing with the madness of JFK (flying out is another story...).
It also helped that we booked a direct flight. For all the moms wondering which seats they should book when traveling with babies (front, back, bulkhead), in my opinion, it really doesn't matter. Just make sure you book a separate seat for your little one. This gives you more room to change your baby, feed him, a separate place for him to sleep. A separate seat for your baby makes a HUGE difference in your travels, in my experience.
Our son fell asleep during the cab ride to the hotel. Once we got there, he was ready to take in the city.
EXPLORING NYC WITH A BABY
What a great city to explore with a baby! He loved all of the walking we did - to Central Park (twice) and all through Midtown. I understand why New Yorkers are so proud of Central Park. It is a beautiful oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle. It is where the families really live. As we pushed his stroller up and down the paths, Boo started mumbling so he could hear his voice vibrate - cheap entertainment!
We also passed by stroller after stroller, double strollers, rollerbladers, joggers, kids playing on the huge rock formations, couples having a picnic lunch, big well groomed dogs and small yappers. And of course the tourists (can you take our picture? Sure, can you take ours?). I love, love, love Central Park. And E did too. We never did find the zoo in the park, but he'll probably appreciate it more on his next trip there anyway.
We stayed between 6th and 7th avenues and 53rd and 54th street - it was perfect. We walked to all of the main television stations (you can take the girl and the boy out of television, but you can't take television out of our blood). We saw Ann Curie and Al Roker on the Today Show plaza (A kept jokingly saying "kiss my baby!"). We saw Greg Gumbel as he prepared to go live for Sunday's CBS Sports show. We went shopping on 6th, ate at diners on 7th, and Boo slept through the multi-sensory adventure of walking through Times Square.
THE TIME I WALKED OUT ON DONALD TRUMP TO FEED MY BABY
During this trip, there were a few times Boo had to be fed while I tended to some business. The first time, I left Donald Trump's presentation early so I could nurse my son ("You're such a good mom," I was told by a fellow PR person to my left.).
We tried to give our son formula (Enfamil) and he would have none of it. I panicked: we had to eventually give him formula. My supply went down after returning to work and even with pumping every moment I could, I knew that eventually a bottle of formula would be needed. I brought the hand pump on the trip, but after using the mega electric monster four times a day, no hand pump could work as efficiently. So we headed to three different stores and finally found some other formula.
The second time I had an evening event (praying he would take the formula - mama was really looking forward to a glass or two of wine). Boo took the new formula (Similac) much better. Hooray!
The third time formula came into my son’s life was when A and I both had to attend a celebration dinner. Our dear pal J agreed to babysit, bless her heart. Now this was on our third day and Boo was getting a bit fussy. He has also started to become weary of people other than us holding him. So we were nervous for J. We tried to have everything set as best we could, and just prayed he wouldn’t scream the whole time and not take his formula. Well, poor J. He took his formula, but didn’t seem to want to be a happy, calm baby. He was in a new place without his parents with new people. We feel terrible. We know he wasn’t as terrible as he could have been, but it’s still hard. We are ever SO thankful though (gift is in the mail, J!). While J was babysitting, A and I had a fabulous, luscious dinner at Gramercy Tavern. Our group had a private room, wonderful cocktails, wine, a succulent lobster appetizer, perfect salmon entrée and some magical sort of peanut and chocolate parfait dessert. It was grown-up heaven. We hadn’t eaten out at a truly magnificent restaurant without our son. We'll take him anywhere, but sometimes it's just nice to have grown-up time.
Travel to NYC with a Baby
New York City is a great place for kids. No, we didn’t go to any Broadway shows. We didn’t eat at Nobu or Le Cirque with him or go anyplace with him that required me to actually think about what I was wearing (i.e. shirts that could hide spit-up). We didn’t hit the clubs at night and we didn’t use public transportation that much. We did enjoy exploring the city on foot and found a lot of family friendly restaurants, shops and attractions.
Here’s the thing: you have to move fast. We, as tourists, were completely appalled and annoyed by other tourists and slow New Yorkers (yes, we’ve come to realize there are a few) who would dawdle down the sidewalks, stop to look around immediately as they stepped onto a curb, and those that seemed to do the stop-and-start constantly. If you know how to walk and take everything in without the stop-and-start, without the dawdling, then everything is great. It was invigorating to be in a real walking city again. They say our hometown is, but nobody lives downtown, and very few people I know take the bus on a regular basis. We love our cars. Especially with a little one. It was so nice to be able to zoom about the city on two feet (plus four stroller wheels).
We know our son won't remember this trip. We'll have pictures, but we think he enjoyed it as much as a baby could. We want to expose him to as many experiences, cultures, foods, places as possible. We want him to see the world. We want him to be happy and healthy and to live a life that is well-lived. And we love that we are here to help him to do that.
Traveling with a baby is the best. It opened our eyes to a New York we had never seen. It made traveling so much more fun and adventurous than it normally is, and we never even knew that was possible. If you have a baby and are hesitant to travel - just do it. The drawbacks are very few; the rewards -for you and baby- are plenty.