When we first arrived in New York City, we were already off to a rough start, thanks to our red-eye flight and a crabby shuttle driver. In fact, I was almost in tears when we were standing in front of our hotel with a pile of luggage and two groggy children. I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. We were working on just over an hour of sleep and had a whole day ahead of ourselves since it was barely 9 a.m. ET.
Our hotel saved the day by putting in a rush for our room to be ready. By 10:30 a.m. we were checked in and putting our children down for much needed naps. It wasn't until 4:30 p.m. that we awoke from our jet-lagged induced coma, ready to attack the day, when we realized it was raining outside.
The bad weather continued for the first two days of our four-day trip. It alternated from being windy and rainy, while all the while it was very cold. We were disappointed to say the least with our weather misfortune, but tried not to let it get the best of us. We continued on and enjoyed as much of the city and sights as we could bear.
We took a bus tour of the city, which was a great option for us seeing that we had two small children and the weather was less than desirable. We visited the American Museum of Natural History and strolled around Central Park enjoying the scenery and even the moisture. And when the weather finally decided to cooperate with perfect sunny skies, we took the train to the Brooklyn Bridge and walked across to the other side and devoured some of New York's finest pizza.
Weather, jet lag and ToddlerTravels licking a pole on the subway aside, we found the trip to be not only pleasant but enjoyable as well. There were some disappointments and we didn't feel like we actually got to do all that much. We spent a great deal of time before we left home mapping and planning out our itinerary, leaving time for naps at the hotel and time for the children to play and run around. However, it seemed like things just couldn't ever work out right. Lots of museums, attractions and plans were missed.
Navigating the subway system with two small children was actually easier than I anticipated. The only real challenge we had was our double stroller was heavy and there were lots of stairs, so carrying it was uncomfortable to say the least. I wore BabyTravels in a sling and when we could make it work it was easier to leave the stroller behind and have ToddlerTravels walk or have one of us carry her.
I do want to note that the people on the subway were always very accommodating to us. Not once did a train ride go by where somebody didn't offer a seat to me and the baby and usually Reid and ToddlerTravels, as well. New Yorkers seem to have a bad reputation as being rude and pushy, but we found them to be the opposite. They were always smiling and talking to the girls and frequently asking if we needed help.
By far our favorite part of the whole trip was visiting Central Park again on Sunday afternoon before we left for the airport. This time the sun was warm and inviting, and while it seemed as though half of Manhattan had the same idea, it didn't feel overcrowded and congested. Instead, we enjoyed the scenery and each other’s company, knowing our journey had come to an end and satisfied, despite it all, with the memories we had made.
Some tips for bringing young children to New York City:
Having our hotel in a central location was really helpful. We were right across the street from Penn Station, so no matter where we needed to go, we knew that we would be able to get there easily and get back quickly.
The bus tour was one of the smartest things we did. It was a double-decker bus tour, but regrettably it was a little too cold for us to ride up top. The downstairs was heated and had stadium-style seating and still gave us a great view.
Opt to bring a lightweight stroller like an umbrella stroller. Our double stroller is very useful but in the city when traveling mostly by train it was awkward to deal with and a nuisance to carry up all the stairs. Using a sling for the baby helped give me an extra hand when I needed it to keep a strong hold of my toddler.
You can make as many plans as you want, but understand that in a city this big, things can change very quickly and there are many things left up to chance that you can't plan for or expect. Be flexible and remember to enjoy your surroundings and the adventure.
Hilarye Fuller lives in Salt Lake City, where she stays at home with her two young daughters and pens the travel blog DottingTheMap. For more information on 12 in 2012 Challenge, and for tips and reviews, visit http://www.dottingthemap.com