Visiting New York in winter with a baby might not seem like the best of ideas, but we really didn't have much of a choice. You see, we currently live in Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) where daytime temperatures are around 25 C (80F), and were traveling to Spain to spend Christmas with my family. The cheapest flights involved a stopover in New York, and after some research I saw that there was no way of telling if there would be snow, rain, or even how cold it would really be, so we went ahead with the opportunity, booked the flights and planned as best as possible.
Just a week before our outbound flight was due the weather forecast changed, and the first snow of the season in New York was expected...on the same day we were landing. This also meant freezing temperatures, and of course all the inconveniences one might expect when doing tourism in cold weather with a baby. At four months old Fedi had never been below 20 C and had never been sick. This was going to be the first big trip of his life, but how was he going to cope with all these big changes?
Where to Stay
New York is a huge city, but with only three days available we knew we were only going to explore Manhattan. I had been in New York a couple of years before and visited Manhattan in summer and on my own; this was going to be very different. We needed to find accommodation that would be well located, hopefully met several requirements and was also good value. We ended up staying in two very different places: a hotel in the financial district and an apartment in New Jersey, just across the river. You can read my reviews of the Q & A Residential Hotel and the surprisingly affordable Luxury Apartments in Newport, both of which I highly recommend.
Traveling with a baby is a completely different ball game, let alone in winter. You need winter clothes and weather protective gear that are bulky and take up a lot more space. Time outside may be very limited if the weather is extremely cold, so you want to be close to where the action is. There's the baby food you need to have with you at all times and be able to heat quickly if the baby is hungry. You have your own suitcases which take up space too. There's the stroller, cameras, a laptop (in my case)... the list goes on. What does this mean in terms of accommodation?
When traveling with a baby and are looking for accommodation remember:
- You need space, the more the better. Tripping over the stroller trying to reach your baby's suitcase while he's crying because there's not enough space between the bed and the wall doesn't sound like much fun.
- Ideally you want a kitchen. Not only do you save money by eating "at home" but you have access to a microwave, a fridge and other commodities that will make feeding the baby easier.
- How about a room just for the baby? If you have the TV on or need to cook the noise won't bother him.
- Other perks may include a washer, dryer...all will come in handy. We left New York with no dirty clothes, for example.
Getting around New York in winter with a baby can be challenging. Even if it's not snowing it can be very cold outside and long distances are a challenge to cover on foot. The subway may be a solution sometimes, but many stations don't have an elevator, and carrying the stroller up and down the stairs can be tricky. You may be thinking about using public buses, but the strollers are tricky again, and knowing where to get on and off requires some city knowledge. What did we do?
Despite the freezing temperatures and cold weather we quickly realized that sightseeing on foot wasn't much of a problem for our 4 month baby son. We had him well dressed up in layers with a snow suit and used the J is for Jeep Weather Shield to cover his Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System stroller. The plastic cover not only kept the snow, rain and wind away, but also provided a warmer micro-climate.
We used Uber to cover long distances that we couldn't cover on foot (Lyft is also very popular in New York) as we didn't want to juggle with the inconveniences of using the public transportation system with the baby. Had it been summer we may have used it, but if you're traveling with a baby you want to keep things as simple enough. Still, we only needed to use Uber a few times.
And then there's the Hop on/ Hop off buses. You don't have to worry as much about where you are and can even choose not to get off if you don't feel like it as you'll be driving past the attractions anyhow. More on this later.
Winter Travel Essentials for Your Baby
The success of a New York city winter escape with your baby will largely depend on how good your planning is. There are a few essential items I highly recommend you make sure you carry right from the beginning- we used all of them during our trip.
- Rain cover for the stroller. We have the J is for Jeep Shield, effective and cheap.
- Hat and gloves for your baby
- Footed fleece pajamas. Useful while at the hotel and on flights
- Leggings. Boy or girl, it doesn't matter. They'll keep your baby warm.
Trust me on this one and make sure you bring all of these. You can thank me later 🙂
Visiting New York in Winter With a Baby Does Make Sense
Sightseeing in cold weather is not particularly comfortable, but it can be done. We have plenty of travel experience as adults (which certainly helps) but had none when it comes to babies, and this was our first long trip with ours. It was also the first time we were taking him to cold weather. The destination itself isn't easy either: New York is huge, expensive, and during winter the weather can change from mild to miserable within hours. Yet our trip went so well that we'd do the same thing all over again if we had a second chance. What did we do?
Manhattan may just be one the five boroughs in New York, but with a population of 1.6 million people it's still immense and the most visited of them all. Getting around requires some careful planning to save commute time and money. The key to our trip was having a flexible plan to follow. It might not make much sense to you, but let me explain.
New York has many attractions outdoors, but there are also quite a few that are indoors. Thus, if you're visiting New York in winter like we did spend as much time as possible outside but plan to take specific indoor breaks to 1) warm up and 2) let your baby spend time outside the stroller without the snowsuit. You can also use these breaks to feed your baby, eat, or simply rest while eating great NYC food. If it suddenly starts to rain or snow, it won't feel as if you're wasting your time seeking shelter while the poor weather rolls by... if it ever does. We applied this simple concept during our time in New York, and adapted our sightseeing to the weather with flexible discount passes too.
Make Travel Easy and Save Money With Tinggly
Many of New York's attraction include purchasing tickets for entrances and tours you might want to join for sightseeing. There's also the hop on/ hop off buses I mentioned before that make travel easy, and while I'm not a big fan of these I do agree that they're very useful when you have a limited amount of time or the weather isn't good.
You may be familiar with discount passes like City Pass, Smart Destinations or Sightseeing Tours, but when approached by Tinggly a few months ago I checked they're offer and was looking for an opportunity to use their services. Tinggly offers "experiences" in over 170 countries around the world, which usually consist of day tours, cooling lessons, passes or a combination of them. Because of the flexibility we needed we opted for the Experience New York your way ticket which includes 3 entrances to choose from a list of 64 popular attractions in New York. This became very handy as we had to change our plans because of the weather (we had initially chosen to join a walking food tour but once the snow was confirmed we changed it for a Hudson River/ Statue of Liberty sunset cruise). I now act as a brand ambassador because I was very pleased with what they offer (this is not the reason I'm giving a good review though!).
Day 1: The Financial District & Sunset Hudson River Cruise
We spent our first night at the Q & A Residential hotel, which we strategically picked because of its large rooms and location. It's only a 3 minute walk away from Wall Street and very close to the One World Trade Center, St Paul's Chapel of Trinity Church, the World Trade Center Memorial, the Charging Bull, Battery Park and a few other attractions, all of which we visited during our first day- with some shopping as well.
Mid afternoon we grabbed a Uber and made our way to the Pier for the Hudson River sunset cruise. Truth is it was already dark by the time we reached the pier, but even though there was no sunset to be seen it still offers a very different perspective of the city, and made our way to the Statue of Liberty, one of New York's must see attractions.
Day 2: Times Square, Central Park and Skyscrapers
On the second day we grabbed a Uber from our apartment to Times Square and spent the whole day walking around the area, visiting Central Park, 5th Avenue, the Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building. We used our Tinggly vouchers for the express lines on all, and saved some money too. I do want to point out the security at the Empire State Building was quite rude and annoying. They made us wake up our baby, take him through the metal detector, and separate the stroller into parts that would fit inside the X-Ray machine. Unnecessary. At the Rockefeller center they simply used a hand held metal detector to do their job with a smile.
The views from both skyscrapers are similar yet nothing short of spectacular. You may wonder why we went up both instead of doing something else, and the reason was that in each case the visit also served as a break in a warm place where we could feed our baby and take him out of the stroller.
The last activity of the second day was a night bus tour with Big Bus Tours, comfortable and warm for our already tired baby. The buses have plenty of space for the folded stroller and the guide was fun and entertaining, and highly recommend it. Unfortunately it was during this tour that I dropped my camera. The lens broke and I was not able to take any more pictures of this tour or for the rest of the trip (which was almost done) but I was able to fix it in Spain three weeks later.
Day 3: Shopping
There's always good bargains to be found in the US, so we left our last morning the New York for shopping (think baby clothes and gadgets?). There's a mall and a Target within walking distance of the apartments, and this is where we bought our stuff before heading to JFK later that day for our flight to Madrid in Spain.
Would I Recommend it?
It is definitely possible and worth visiting New York in winter (December) with a baby. It requires some more planning, a lot more clothes and gear, and you need to be willing to cope with the snow and cold weather.
Our son did very well with everything; the days were long and we were always rushing from one place to the other, but he had fun looking at all the lights and slept often in the stroller. Once we reached the hotel he would fall asleep soon after and all through the night, something he had not done before. We made sure we fed him at his usual times, kept him warm, and took breaks to play with him outside the stroller.
Let me know if you'd like any more tips and if you have any questions. If this trip is something you're planning, go ahead and enjoy!
I want to thank Big Bus Tours and Tinggly for providing me the tickets we used during the trip. Both companies have great products and online reviews, and recommend them to anyone visiting NYC.