A ‘Big Apple’ trip was always on the cards once my daughter was born. With best friends living in Queens, New York and the realisation that the cost of flights for children dramatically increases once they hit 2 years (from the age of 2 up to 11 kids pay 75% of adult prices plus taxes) - New York became top of the list for my first long haul trip post-baby.

Pre-trip planning

I can’t lie, the thought of throwing on my backpack and taking my little girl on her first big adventure was pretty exciting – imagine all of the fun we’d have and the new stimulation for her! Whilst the trip itself filled me with much pleasure; the idea of packing, organising and actually flying with her was slightly more terrifying. I made sure to read blogs and speak to friends for useful tips on how to survive long-haul with a toddler;

  • Pack wisely. Be ruthless, not only for yourself (you won’t believe how light you can pack for yourself once you have a baby in tow!) but also for your child. Remember that you can pick up most baby-related things when you arrive, so it’s not worth panic-packing 200 nappies (unless you’re heading really off-the-beaten track). Your luggage needs to be easy to manoeuvre as you’ll have plenty to keep your hands full whilst in transit.
  • Take a sling on the plane. You won’t have your buggy until you’ve collected your baggage in most countries, so you’ll need a sling after a long flight when you disembark and hit immigration and customs.
  • Check the airline policy on infants. Most carriers permit you to bring both a buggy and a car seat as part of your infant allowance, so check with the carrier and plan what you will need accordingly.
  • Hand luggage. Ensure your hand luggage is filled with easy snacks, a bottle for milk (get it filled at the coffee shop in departures, they’ll even provide it warm ready for take-off!), and distractions galore. I bought 3 or 4 new toys (just small things), and offered them throughout the flight. The combination of a new book/toy/magazine along with the staggered intervals kept her going for a good while - stickers are particularly useful! I also brought some sachets of Calpol - easy to administer on the go if needed.
  • Clothes. Take a couple of changes of clothes for your baby and one for you too, in case of any unwanted accidents. I found a pashmina scarf a good alternative to a bulky blanket as it packs nice and small and will keep a sleeping baby cosy.
  • Sleeping. If you won’t have a travel cot available in your accommodation or you’ll be moving around, it’s worth taking a travel cot with you; it will be something familiar for your little one and may well help them sleep better too. I bought a pop-up tent which was as light as a feather and very easy to transport. It even has a mosquito cover for hot and humid destinations!

The plane journey itself was tiring, I won’t lie, but my daughter enjoyed it immensely and despite barely sleeping throughout the entire door-to-door journey, she was so exhausted when we arrived that she went to bed with no struggle, a rarity indeed!

Just to note; US Immigration is a very busy place to be – both entering and exiting the country – so make sure you have water and have been to the loo before you start queueing - babies are very tired at this point. Allow more than enough time when leaving as there are rarely any family-only queues.

New York City

There is no denying that New York City is an exciting place to be! We stayed with friends in Queens, just across the river and a 15 minute journey on the subway into central Manhattan.

Things to do with children in New York

Children’s Museum

We spent the first day in the Children’s Museum of Manhattan which was a lifesaver on a rainy day. Located on the Upper West, it’s a five story building packed to the rafters with things to see and do. Tickets allow you to re-enter the same day, which is useful as there isn’t a restaurant on site, so you can leave for lunch and come back again later if you wish. From soft-play downstairs to 3 floors full of immersive and educational play and an exhibition level for older children (suitable for ages 0-12 in total) it really is a wonderful experience and can easily fill a day.

Photo credit: www.nytimes.com

Exciting eats

Now let’s be honest, eating in New York is a joy for any age and I found eating out was a fun activity! Despite my daughter mostly existing on sweet potato fries for 10 days, she did explore new tastes and flavours in some very sociable settings which was great fun. She tried her first hot dog, ate tacos, noodles, rice, eggs, pasta and bagels – the portion sizes for her were big enough for me too so you can share if you’re on a budget!

Top of the Rock

Another highlight was Top of the Rock, the space at the top of the Rockefeller Centre. Head up for some fantastic views of the city over 3 levels, both indoor and outdoor, with a history of the Rockefeller family and the building too. You can get entry reduced costs by purchasing a pass for 3, 5 or 7 excursions in one go. If this takes your fancy, ask a Travel Nation consultant for advice and tips for what else you can pre-book to help save money.

Central Park

No trip to this city is complete without hitting Central Park – free and a classic New York experience. People watch, hire a horse and carriage, run around, follow the pathways, boat on the lake, admire the scale of the park and the buildings and avenues to the sides – it’s a great afternoon out for all the family.

Cut yourself some slack

Hitting the sights can be hard with a little one. You’ll want to cram in as much as possible but there are feeding and sleeping needs to meet. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to fit it all in, and likewise don’t worry if you get home later, if naps are shorter, longer, later or whatever – you’re all on holiday and need to adapt and enjoy yourselves.

Day trips outside the city

I chose a handful of Manhattan activities before spending some time outside of the city. One day we took a train from Grand Central Station (an amazing building in itself) beside the Hudson River to the upstate town of Beacon. My daughter loved the scenic train journey and there was plenty of space on board and lots to wave at from the window!

Beacon is a popular weekend getaway spot for New Yorkers and is home to an amazing modern art gallery (you don’t need to lose out on a bit of culture just because you’ve got a baby in tow now!) We spent a couple of hours strolling around the Dia Gallery before having a relaxing lunch in town. The station is right beside the river and the sun was setting over it as we headed back for the return journey – a fantastic day away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Coney Island

We also took the F train from Queens out to Coney Island – it’s kind of ghetto, faded and run down but you can see they are investing money into improving the beach front. The beach itself is huge; amusements are right on the promenade and there are plenty of restaurants. They’re famous for hot dogs so grab yourself one with a beer and head outside to bask in the sunshine for an hour or so.

How to do this trip

Flights to New York can be found at bargain prices if you travel off-peak and book well in advance. We flew from Heathrow to JFK in February 2016 with Virgin for £350 per adult and just £75 for my daughter (under 2). If you’re travelling further afield, see our range of USA multi-stop flight ideas – if you can’t see what you’re looking for let us know as we can create any route!

Getting around

Public transport in New York is easy, but if you’re travelling solo I definitely recommend using a sling as there aren’t always lifts available for buggies. Trains offer a convenient way to get around the city and if you fancy a trip out of the city for more than a night I would suggest renting a car so you can travel easily with your luggage. Speak to one of our consultants for more advice on US car rental and train tickets.

Accommodation

We stayed with friends but this luxury isn’t always an option, so let us help you find your perfect accommodation. Think about where you want to be situated, what your budget is and how much you room will require and we’ll do the work to find the perfect room or apartment. Be conscious that New York accommodation can be expensive compared to other cities and you’ll be out and about a lot, so you can save costs by considering your location (away from Times Square helps!) and amenities (a small kitchenette means you can save on some meal costs too).

Interested in visiting New York or travelling with a baby?

If you have plans to travel with a little one in the USA or anywhere else, we can help! Plenty of our team at Travel Nation are parents who have lots of experience flying and travelling with kids all over the world.

We can offer helpful advice and tips on trip ideas, accommodation and family-friendly campervans as well as finding you ideal flight times. We’ll help you plan a holiday that is stress-free for you and exhilarating for your little one! Simply call us or request a quote by email.

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