I love exploring the city with my children, but I have to admit that for the first couple months after my first child was born I basically didn’t leave the neighborhood. Navigating public transportation with a child can be stressful and traveling in a taxi feels awfully dangerous at times. I love traveling by foot because it is great exercise, fresh air is good for both me and my children and I feel totally in control; however, it isn’t always a practical option depending on the distance, weather and my kids’ moods. Below are my helpful tips for getting around New York City with children.
When walking around New York City
When walking with a baby or toddler in a stroller it is important to check the weather before heading out to make sure both you and your child are properly clothed and that you have a rain cover or sun shade if necessary. But beyond that, there is little planning involved and you have a great basket to carry any beverages, snacks, extra clothes and diapers.
As my children get older we try to go without the stroller whenever possible. This has some positives and negatives of course because I lose the storage space and the ability to strap them in, but it gives us the flexibility to go into small stores or take the subway without lugging a stroller up and down the stairs. However, I find my anxiety level skyrockets at times while nagging them not to run ahead, hold my hand and walk faster. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I have heard the Hold On Handles help alleviate some of these problems. They can be attached to a stroller, shopping cart or you can just hold onto it.
Taking the NYC subway
Taking the subway definitely requires more thought, but is, in my opinion, the safest way to travel greater distances and the most economical. Up to three children under 44 inches can travel with a paying adult on both the bus and subway. If possible try to travel on buses and the subway during off-peak hours to help ensure your child gets a seat and that they aren’t rushed up and down the stairs. If you have children that walk it is a relatively simple process other than the occasional person who comments on their lack of speed on the stairs.
Have a baby or toddler
If you have a baby or toddler, carrying them in a carrier is the easiest option. However, if you have to travel with a stroller plan ahead and try to bring a light stroller that you can fold up and carry. Though the official rule is that the stroller must be folded on the subway and bus, I have seen many people with open strollers on the subway. From what I have seen the bus drivers are quite strict about this policy. Planning ahead is key if you are traveling with a stroller that cannot be collapsed and carried because you cannot always count on finding a helpful stranger to assist tackling a potentially long staircase if the elevators or escalators are not an option. Both the MTA and Apple maps allow you to search wheelchair/stroller friendly routes and the MTA has a list online of elevator outages.
One final, but important part of subway travel is to stress to your children that they must stay a safe distance from the tracks and walk at all times on the subway platform. Though people are generally kind enough to offer seats to children, it doesn’t always happen and I feel for safety reasons that it is okay to politely ask someone to give up their seat. Children are not strong enough to hold on and often let go without comprehending that the bus or subway may stop suddenly. Once you get off the subway, don’t forget to wash or sanitize your hands.
Taking a taxi with young children
Getting around New York City with children in a cab can definitely be the easiest option, but it is not the safest option. According to the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission website, taxis are exempt from car seat rules and there aren’t a lot of clear recommendations around traveling with kids in a taxi. Taxis can seat four people (the mini-van ones seat five), but infants and toddlers don’t count as long as they sit on an adults lap. Traveling with an infant in a car-seat is relatively easy with a Snap N Go, but once they outgrow the infant seat it becomes more challenging. Obviously, the most common recommendation is to bring along your own car seat, but as a mother living in Manhattan, I know this is not always possible or practical.
If you do need to take a cab, do not strap yourself and your child in with the same seat-belt. This is extremely dangerous because your child can get crushed between you and the belt. Both you and your child should have on the seat-belt with the shoulder strap going across the body. Make sure it is secured tightly. For my kids, this is never easy since they are constantly reaching for the TV in the back of the cab or squirming to try to see out the window. It is a stressful battle that I avoid whenever possible. When traveling to the airport Kid Car New York is a good choice. They have car seats and trained drivers. You can also book them for shorter trips and if this is something you will be doing often you can become a member which will get you reduced rates.
Despite its challenges, getting around New York City with children gets easier the more you do it for both you and the kids. They love the adventure and for me it is far better than getting them in and out of the car seat like you have to do every time you go somewhere in the suburbs.
Is the publisher of the Macaroni Kid NYC Downtown newsletter and website. Each week she publishes a list of family-friendly events going on in Manhattan along with articles covering topics such as show reviews, product reviews, recipes and more. She has been living in Manhattan for the last 13 years. Before becoming a parent Jessica and her husband Bill loved walking the streets of NY, running in Central Park, eating out, going to shows and having fun. Once they had children they continued doing these things, but of course, the types of shows, restaurants and distance of each outing had to change. Jessica is excited to publish Macaroni Kid and hopes it enables you to plan some fun-filled family adventures.