Where to stay and how to get around New York City with a family
Figuring out where to stay and how to get around New York City with a family of any size can be difficult. But with a family of 5, it takes the game to a whole new level.
Where to stay:
A larger family can’t all cram into one hotel room, especially with the tiny hotel rooms in New York City. When it’s just the 2 of us, Hubby and I have stayed at The Palace, The Waldorf Astoria, and the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square. When it’s the whole family, staying in an all suite hotel has worked for us in other cities. Places like the Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Hyatt Place, etc. But the prices for Thanksgiving weekend were outrageous. I’m not willing to pay for $750 a night for those rooms. If you have them, using points and rewards is especially smart in New York City because you tend to get a lot of bang for your buck (point). Just make sure you look way in advance for the best availability. Although I do play the points and rewards game a lot on my travels, nothing really worked for this trip.
Sometimes larger families like ours seem to do better renting an apartment or condo. When you add up the cost of two hotel rooms, renting from places such as Airbnb and VRBO works out in your favor. Four years ago, we had good luck renting a condo in a high rise complete with a doorman right in Times Square through VRBO. It was directly above the M&M store, with great views of the action. Duke sat and people watched from 12 stories up. Although we were only a family of 3 for that trip, the price was right when you considered hotel taxes, free wifi, and the ability to eat breakfast in the tiny kitchen. But even rentals through VRBO charge more during the peak travel seasons like Thanksgiving.
This time we used a company called One Fine Stay, that operates in only 4 cities. This UK company rents out local apartments, provides linens, bath products, and even an iPhone for your use in the city. Catering mostly to international guests, they did not seem to have an upcharge for Thanksgiving weekend. So I kept my mouth shut and made the booking for our family of 5 to stay in a Soho loft. I have to say this midwest girl is always a little nervous renting from a city slicker, so the idea of a company in charge made me feel a little better. Silly, I know. Each listing has a “home truths” section, which gives you some realistic details to help make your decision. We had never stayed in Soho before, but with 2 different subway lines close by, I was sold.
Our check-in host met us at the loft based on our incoming flight and showed us how to use everything in the loft as well as the provided iPhone. We didn’t use it for the phone (like international visitors might) but it was preprogrammed with local shops, restaurants, stores, etc. It really came in handy when we needed to buy wine for 18 people for Thanksgiving dinner with friends. Overall, I don’t think it was necessarily any better than searching on VRBO. Although, if you were staying with a really large group, or wanted something really high end, I would definitely check their inventory. The price and location were right for us this trip, and I’ll add the company to my search list in the future.
Our family enjoys commuting around New York City by subway. Since we don’t have much public transportation back home, the subway is fun for our boys. They like trying to figure out which entrance to go into, and which side of the tracks to stand on. Day traffic is crazy in Manhattan, so you’ll probably make better time on the subway anyway. When you are staying multiple days it makes sense to purchase the 7 day unlimited pass at $30/person. Every station should have a kiosk for you to purchase a Metrocard, but they will only charge the same credit card twice. So make sure you brought enough credit cards if you are buying quantity for your large family.
Taxis might work for small families, but with more than 4 people they can be hard to find on the street corner. We’ve taken separate cabs in the past, but that tends to be cost prohibitive. New York City does have UberXL. It operates the same way as regular Uber, which I wrote about my first experience with here. However, UberXL is a larger car with more seats and/or storage. We used UberXL late at night when the traffic was much less, on our way back to the airport, and when we hauled a case of wine from Soho to the upper east side for Thanksgiving dinner.
Using any kind of Uber in New York City should come with a warning. During peak times, the prices can be high, although there is a warning screen on your smartphone when that is in effect. We had few choices when we commuted 5.73 miles in Manhattan on Thanksgiving Day with a case of wine. It cost us $59.81 one way. I still prefer Uber to taxis. As an example, our taxi from the airport was $65 and our UberXL to the airport was only $47.92. If you are new to Uber, you can get a $20 credit by using my referral link here. Then refer your spouse, and you can each get another $20 credit to cover a few trips. So while I would use Uber over taxis, Hubby and I definitely use Uber more when we are traveling without the boys.
No matter where you stay and how you choose to get around in New York City, be prepared for walking. Save the high heels and uncomfortable shoes for the theatre or dinner since you’ll be sitting down the majority of the time. As a mom, I always make sure I carry a small kit of Neosporin and Bandaids, in case of blisters. We certainly don’t walk that much at home, but in New York City, it’s an adventure.