New York City with a Toddler

Jane is the clever mummy behind the fab Brisbane based blog ‘eat out with kids.’ 2 years ago Jane travelled to the United States with her then 18month old son, we chatted about the good, the bad and the very expensive health care…

I had been threatening to go to the east coast of America for years. New York City has been on my must-go-to list for 20 years. My best friend lives just outside Washington DC and I have a cousin in New Jersey. I saw everywhere else in the world first, and then decided it would be a great idea to go with my husband and 18 month old boy, Clancy.

We thought ‘Our little traveller is a chilled out dude we’ll cope with 19 hours in transit and 2 flights to JFK airport, then an hour trip to my cousin’s place’ and so 8 months before our departure we booked our flights and started planning.

We booked the bulk head seats for the flight which meant we had access to the bassinet. Clancy was only just small enough to fit it.

(Travel With Tots - just a side note, generally bassinets are restricted to children under 12 months or under 10 kilos and approximately 70cm depending on the airline so if your bub is older/bigger than this don’t count on the airline allowing you to use a bassinet, some will but many won’t).

My memories of the first leg of the trip from Brisbane to LA are actually quite fuzzy; we didn’t have a good time. I wish I could tell you it was easy because we did this and that, and that made a happy toddler. We packed a portable DVD, toys, snacks, took him for walks up and down the aisles, hid in the toilet, everything we could think of, but Clancy just wouldn’t settle. The female hosties were very understanding, the male hostie, not as much. About 6 hours into the 12 hour flight, I really thought I was going to go insane and Tim (my husband) later told me at that half way mark, he was working out how he was going to tell me he wanted a divorce because the holiday was my idea! Somehow, we made it to Los Angeles. We changed terminals for the Qantas flight to New York and this is where the story gets MUCH happier!

The flight from LA to NYC was almost empty. Apparently Qantas flights across the USA often are. So if you’re planning a trip like this, I highly recommend Qantas for the internal flights. Other friends who’ve done this trip with other airlines, have found the planes very crowded. I think that would have broken us if we were on a crowded busy plane on that second flight. Luckily, we had 4 seats to ourselves on this plane. When we got on board, Clancy lay down, fell asleep, and woke up shortly before we landed in New York. Sanity restored.

Thankfully we were picked up at the airport by my cousin’s husband and an hour later, we were at their place tucked into a home cooked meal. By then it was 9pm so it wasn’t long before we were tucked up in bed, and we all slept soundly and didn’t suffer any jetlag on the way over.

We hit the ground running, and Clancy was a dream for the whole 3 weeks we were away. We were lucky to stay with friends and family who had portacots so we didn’t have to take one. The only special gear we took was the pram which was a Quicksmart, it folded up to nothing and was worth its weight in gold. It was easy to transport, and very handy to have a compact stroller in crowded places like NYC. I had an Antler handbag which ended up being a great nappy bag, fitting in all the necessary gear while still being very compact.

My cousin was generous enough to loan us their car which was perfect, especially as it already had a baby seat in it! We drove from their place in New Jersey to Virginia to stay with my best friend. I can’t tell you how good it was to stay with friends. When kids are involved, it’s great to have a place to base yourself, so you can see the sights and come home to a home, that’s familiar to the little traveller and have a somewhat normal routine. The trip was so much easier having friends and family to stay with. I think this is the main reason Clancy was a complete dream once we got there! It was also a bonus to be able to leave Clancy with my cousin and best friend and spend a day on our own in NYC and Washington DC to see the sights at our pace. We were very mindful to take our time seeing the sights with Clancy. We didn’t push it and didn’t get disappointed with changed or cancelled plans. Which reminds me; don’t THINK of going to the USA without travel insurance. Clancy got conjunctivitis and a trip to the GP plus some antibiotics cost us $US450!

NYC and Washington DC are surprisingly child friendly. In NYC we saw the sights, and stopped in on FAO Shwartz (see photo of Clancy on the famous keyboard which featured in the movie BIG), Toys R Us (which has an inside Ferris wheel!), played in Central park and went to the zoo there.

Washington DC was a surprise; it’s a great place to go, even with kids, and most things are free. The National Air and Space Museum was great, as was the American History museum where the original Kermit the Frog and Dorothy’s ruby slippers live. It was a fantastic holiday, and even worth the hideous 12 hours from Brisbane to LA!

Travelling in the USA is not difficult, even with a toddler.

Nappies, wipes and in fact every child related product you could possibly conceive is readily available. It is a consumers dream, and it’s WAY too easy to part with your money. We had no issues with finding nappies or such, so there’s no need to go too prepared- if you pack the first couple of days of child related supplies, you won’t have any trouble sourcing child related products. In fact, you’ll probably come home with all sorts of bit and bobs that you never knew you needed! You’ll find everything you need in supermarkets, and pharmacies that are the size of Bunnings!

The trip home was a walk in the park compared to the trip over. Clancy wasn’t 100 % happy the whole way, but he seemed more accepting of the situation, and we returned home still happily married and vowing we would go to the States again, one day.....