Going to Manhattan for a relaxing vacation may sound like an oxymoron. Especially if you have never been.
Navigating the travel aspect alone feels overwhelming.
I have been to New York City several times before this current trip. Were those trips fun? Of course. Relaxing?No.
To be honest when my teenagers asked to visit the Big Apple, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but they had never been. Personally, I wanted to travel to a destination that I had never been to. Torn because I also wanted Leo and I to be the people who took them on their first tour of Manhattan, we were off.
Driving instead of flying was also a new experience. If you are considering driving, keep reading for some tricks and tips you will be grateful for!
>> Toll roads can be stressful for those who are not used to driving in these areas on a regular basis. What lane do you drive in? Will you need cash? What happens if you go through the lane for those with the transmitter? Order an EZ Pass before you leave. The transmitter will arrive in the mail for you to place on the dashboard of your vehicle. You can then just drive straight through, staying in the EZ Pass lanes. The lowest price is given to those with an EZ Pass account, saving up to 60 percent.
>> Stay in Jersey City. Driving into Jersey is easy peasy and the view of Manhattan is unbeatable! From the Exchange Place district, you can choose a hotel room with a birds eye view of the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, and all of Manhattan. Since this is the city’s financial and business hub, you have access to a parking garage that your hotel will validate for a discount, and even better, the train and ferry is just outside the hotel door. Not to mention, Jersey will offer a larger room for less moolah.
>> We stayed at Hyatt Place. To the left of the front door there is a train to explore Jersey. A short stroll across the boardwalk is the train to Manhattan or a three minute walk in the other direction you can take the ferry to Manhattan or the Statue of Liberty. This train only goes to the World Trade Center. It is from here that things will get a little more complex. These convenient options certainly offer the most effective ways to explore all that New York City has to offer. Another step to keeping you cool and calm is knowing what trains you will need to take once you cross over into Manhattan. Download the app to stay on top of any changes the Subway may announce.
>> You will want to purchase cards to surf the train on your stay. This can be confusing and there are no humans to help you. Also, do not plan on money being in the ATM so take special note of this section. There are two card options at the kiosk. The Metro Card can be used to get you over to Manhattan and while there. This card costs $1 and can be refilled. The SmartLink card is $5 for the card and can also be refilled. We found that this card may be cheaper for longer stays or multiple people, but it only works at the port to and from Jersey City to Manhattan. You do not need to purchase separate cards for each person in your party if you will all be together the entire trip. Just swipe the same card as your family moves through.
>> If possible, explore Times Square and the busier spots of Manhattan during the week. You’re never going to avoid the large crowds in Times Square, but you can reduce the numbers. You will be more likely to get into restaurants that you want to try and less likely to get clipped by a taxi (yes, this happened to me on a previous trip).
>> Take your child out of school. Parents often feel anchored to the school schedule. As a mother who has had children in school for the last 25 years, trust me, it’s not a big deal. Ask the school for a travel form at least two weeks before you leave. Your student will not be counted absent and teachers are often excited for them to share with the class when they return. All travel is educational!
>> Take time to walk and meditate on the pier each morning before leaving the Jersey side of the river. Once the business folks settle into their day, the pier becomes yours! Setting the intention for peace and fluidity will serve you on the flip side of the Hudson. If you have small children, there is a play area to keep them entertained while you center.
>> Speaking of children, teen years are the perfect age to tour the big city. While you probably still don’t want them out of your site, they can have freedom while in stores and it is less stress on you. While seeing many families with strollers and small kids, I was grateful that we waited to take our children when we did. It would certainly be more tiring with all the things a toddler needs.
>> Prepare for a lot of walking and stairs. Know how many stories the stairs are before committing. The escalator was overly crowded. The family and I decided that we were taking the stairs, as we had done plenty. Not seeing the top until we were halfway up, we realized this particular spot was about 20 stories. We made it, but had we known, we probably wouldn’t have sprinted the first few flights. This doesn’t mean that if you cannot walk the city you shouldn’t go, but plan your alternate transportation ahead of time.
>> Research the boroughs, landmarks, museums, restaurants, and stores you want to visit before you go. There are so many wonderful things to explore that you will not hit all of your interests in one trip.
>> Returning to Jersey City after a long day, you will be greeted by the gorgeous New York lights sparkling off of the Hudson River and the sound of the water hitting the shoreline. Breathe that in with no rush.
>> Fit in some time for Central Park or one of the other tucked in nature areas. If you’re someone who lives in nature, the sounds of the city can trigger anxiety and feel like stimulation overload.
>> People watching not only provides an opportunity for you to sit down for a moment of serenity, but it can provide entertainment, heartfelt visions, and even a glimpse of how animals also make the best of urban life.
>> If you didn’t get your fill of food while in Manhattan, the many rooftop restaurant options in Jersey City are delish with a view. I suggest The Iron Monkey, just a couple of blocks up from Exchange Place. The building is historic, has several levels, and a dessert line-up that you don’t want to miss.
The Big Apple can be as relaxing as you allow it to be. As someone who lives in an area of Kentucky that generally considers a traffic jam to be a tractor and three cars, I still had one of the most enjoyable vacations to date.
If you feel like an area overflowing with people is not your thing and you generally avoid highly populated areas, I encourage you more than anyone to give it a try from the mindful side of the street.