Should I take my baby on this trip?
October 2, 2012 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Car trip from Massachusetts to New Jersey with a 16 month old. Staying two nights in a hotel. I'd like to day trip into NYC with the toddler. Is there a way to make this work or is it just a bad idea?

My husband is going to a convention in Morristown, NJ next month for three days and two nights. Our son will be 17 months old then. I am basically a stay-at-home mom.

If I only had myself to consider, my ultimate idea of fun is to wander around NYC for a day. Or even an hour. I am at the point where seeing a three-legged dog is an exciting day for me.

As I see it, I have three options.

A. Leave the baby at home. My parents have offered to take the baby for all three days, but I don't think I can let him go for that long. If it were one night, I could do it. But two nights?! I think I'd miss him so much that the trip wouldn't be any fun.

B. Take the baby. This could potentially work but my son has never slept away from home except for brief naps at Grammy's. He's never been on an eight hour car ride. He's never slept in a hotel. He has a routine that he's used to at home. But he is a remarkably good-natured and tolerant little man and he loves people.

We could take the train into the city but the Internet says that takes 74 minutes and I think that'd be pushing it, round trip. We could drive into the city or somewhere nearby (no, I've never driven in Manhattan) and park somewhere. Can anyone recommend a place? I'm willing to pay about $50. I'd like to just walk around the Village or Midtown.

C. Stay home. This kind of sucks but it might be the best option for the little guy, who really isn't going to get much out of a trip. My husband and I could take another trip sometime for one night, but realistically my husband doesn't like to travel, so I am trying to seize an opportunity while I get it.

Any advice from parents or NYC experts would be much appreciated.
posted by gentian to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (16 answers total)
I think you should take your baby and go.

He's at an age where it's good to shake him up a bit, he might really enjoy getting out and seeing all kinds of new stuff.

Be sure to bring things that are familiar to him, his stufties, his blankie, whatever it is that comforts him.

He'll probably sleep in the car, but a portable dvd player with his favorite shows will serve you well too.

Stop frequently and run him around to expend energy. You can start getting him used to the car by taking some long drives.

I don't recommend driving in NYC, unless you're really comfortable with one-way streets and insanity. I am, but I have nerves of steel.

Maybe take him to a park and let him do kid stuff. Then walk a bit. Then lunch. Then more walking. Then another stop at the park. Then back on the train.

Personally, that all sounds exhausting.

I do think that this would be a perfect time for the little dude to go to grandma's for a sleep over. NOW you can go and do adult stuff. Catch a matinee, walk to your heart's content. Look at some art, whatever it is that you want to do.

You can enjoy some time alone with your husband. A meal without someone throwing cheerios will be good for you.

It's two nights, and he'll be fine and you'll be fine.

In fact, of the two ideas, I like this one the best.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:43 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Option A, no question! It's two nights! You will both survive.
posted by valeries at 9:44 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

We have put Toddler Murrey through much, much "worse". 13 hour road trips, 8 hour flights, NYC in the middle of a heat wave, 2 hour train rides. He never batted an eye and had fun. I say do it..all of it. You never know how resilient these little people are are until you let them have something to be resilient about.

I mean the following with all the love a fellow mom can give...your fears seem way more about your ability to handle it, rather than your little guy's. If he is half as good natured and tolerant as mine is, none of the things you are throwing out there will remotely affect him. Get both of you out there in the world and have fun exploring together!!
posted by murrey at 9:46 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you want to take the baby (I'm opinionless on that) NJT is an easy hour train ride no changes or transfers from Morristown. Penn Station is very Stairy, but as long as you leave post rush hour I think you can handle it and I suspect people will help with the stoller if you can't find the elevators. Once you are at street level it is a question of how far you think you can walk with the stoller. The heart of midtown is about 8 (times square) to 20 blocks north (moms). Downtown is 20 blocks south. Assuming you don't want to screw with a cab.
posted by JPD at 9:51 AM on October 2, 2012

"8 hour" car ride? Where in MA are you traveling from? Boston is less than 5h to Morristown. Even if you're driving from the tip of Provincetown, it's only 6 hours. Of course, the baby adds time, but it's certainly not an 8 hour drive straight through.

I definitely, definitely vote for B. Having a kid is a little daunting in NYC, but I think the kid will totally love it. Hell, our then-3-month-old loved the city, even though he couldn't really process it (being a country boy, we like to think that he thought the buildings were really big trees). There's so much to see - so many people, so many buildings. Take him to the parks (e.g. Central, The High Line); take him to a museum; take him to Time's Square. He'll have a blast.

Stairs in public transit are a pain, but if you're viewing it from a tourist perspective, you don't have any place you need to be so you can just take your time. It'll be annoying, but there are elevators (that sometimes even work!) and people are generally helpful if you ask for help getting a stroller up stairs.

So, take the kid, take him into the city on NJ Transit and take him wherever you think would be fun for him. I wouldn't recommend this if your son was grumpy or not good-natured, but it sounds like he has the ideal personality to take on this new adventure.
posted by Betelgeuse at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should definitely come! And I promise, whether you leave the baby with your parents or you bring him with you on day trips, either way it'll be fine.

We took my (then-nursing) toddler daughter with us on a few business trips at that age, and it was perfectly manageable, even with planes and security to deal with. You do need to be willing to let go of your schedule for a while, but if you're a stay at home mom, then you can likely afford a few weird days to get back on track with your schedule after you get home.

Road trips are better if you can drive when you expect the baby to be sleeping anyway. Otherwise, it would be kind to plan on spending some time in the back seat playing. Eight hours is a long time.

I've also taken toddlers into the city before. 74 minutes by train is fine, trust me. If you bring a baby sling or carrier instead of a stroller, you'll have a much easier time of it. If you absolutely must bring a stroller, bring a light umbrella stroller. The subways are terrible about accessibility, and hauling baby + diaper bag + stroller up and down the stairs by yourself is a real trial.

Pack lots of snacks, for you and for baby. But, hey, go have an adventure! It'll be fun!
posted by Andrhia at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2012

I think you should do A. I really think you should do A. You'll be close enough that if the first night is Toddler-pocalypse and you, your parents, or the kid freak out, you can hop a plane and be home fast. That's your emergency backup plan. Keep it in your pocket.

He's old enough that a little flexibility is good for him. And that you can use some time to yourself. I say this as kind of an attachment patenting hippie who (surprising even myself) left my 9-month-old for 48 hours pretty recently. It was fantastic! He is a determined, fickle, demanding baby and it went great. We were thrilled to be reunited.

I really think you should do A.
posted by purpleclover at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Option A for sure! Your parents will have a ball and so will you. Start looking at the nyc tag! Enjoy your trip!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2012

You know, some parents I know really like spending time in cities with their small kids. Some really do not. I can't tell which kind of parent you are. You might not know yourself. Maybe tomorrow or another day this week you could go on a trial run? Drive to the nearest city (or even take public transportation!) and see how you feel about it?

Also, I am with Betelgeuse in confusion over the 8 hour travel time. But my pro tip for driving from Massachusetts to points south is that there are no handy places to stop as you drive through New York state, so it's a good idea to take a break before you leave Connecticut.
posted by mskyle at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2012

Hmmm...I'd prefer option A these days. However, we did something similar last Thanksgiving. Our little guy was only 11 months old at the time. We were staying with the in-laws in Long Island and made it out to Manhattan for a few hours. What worked for us: meticulous planning.


- Plan to stop every 2 hours on your drive to NJ. Make sure your kid is entertained - when we have made long trips, we include an easily-reachable basket of toys, and have a few other toys up front with us to give to him at various points along the way. Have playlists, sing songs, whatever. Leave during his nap so that you have a little quiet time.

- Depending on your toddler's current sleeping situation, get a suite (as in separate rooms with a door separating them). The worst was eating in the dark or with the TV on mute so as to not wake the little one.

- Your routine with him is paramount, especially during bedtime. Do not deviate from it during your trip. Things may not go perfectly, but it won't be as bad if you don't stick to the routine.

- Work around your toddler's nap schedule. We waited until after the nap, which made the whole experience much more pleasant.

- Don't underestimate your toddler. Yes, 74 minutes on a train may seem long. Being in Manhattan with a little kid is tough. But all of the sights! sounds! people! may prove to be a source of great entertainment for your little guy and he might really, really enjoy it.

- We drove into Manhattan and parked in Midtown for around $35 for 4-ish hours. You can find coupons online. Driving in Manhattan isn't so bad (but I'm from Chicago, YMMV). Print out your map. Memorize it. Know exactly where you're going. It makes it much easier.

- Plan plan plan. Have a few destinations in mind, but don't be afraid to cut your trip short if the little guy is going to explode. Bring snacks. Bring diapers. Bring wipes, so many wipes. Pre-map public spaces that may have family-friendly bathrooms, if you have to.

- Be prepared for it to suck. Seriously. Fortunately, our time in New York was awesome. Unfortunately, we got stuck in traffic on our way back to Long Island and had to listen to our little guy scream bloody murder for 2 hours.

Whatever you do, please do not choose Option C. Good luck.
posted by photovox at 10:20 AM on October 2, 2012

Aww. You're so sweet. There's no reason why you can't do *any* of these options—my first choice would be to skip out on the kiddo and go have fun!—but there's most of all certainly NO reason the kiddo should hold you back from any of them. He's 18 months! I know plenty of kids who've been hauled around foreign countries, who've gone back and forth repeatedly from the U.S. to China, who've been carried up mountains in Ireland. Certainly I know a bunch who've been schlepped around New York City.

A little New Jersey Transit into NYC is not going to do either of you in. (You could also drive, literally thousands of people do this every day, but I think you'd find that more taxing and stressful.)

posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:21 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Option A. The kid will be fine at his grandparents', they will probably love to have the opportunity to spend so much time together, and you will enjoy a day of exploring NYC, and some time with your husband. It'll be good for all.
posted by Fig at 10:35 AM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you should go. If you bring the baby, consider taking a less stressful trip than NYC. Montclair is on the same train line and is just a really nice, cute little downtown with stores and cafes and an art museum. I've taken that train into NYC many, many times and it's a really long trip and I think it might be a bit much if this is your first time making this sort of day trip.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:42 AM on October 2, 2012


There is no question in my mind.

I genuinely believe that it's good for parents to have some independence from their kids and kids to have some independence from her parents. Yes, it'll be worrying for you. However, time alone with your husband strengthens your marriage which is good for your family and your child. As your child grows having established that the grandparents can care for the kids for a few days will be a Godsend.
posted by 26.2 at 10:45 AM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

I also support taking the baby. We've traveled quite a bit with our kid; it's not as fun as traveling alone, but it is fun. We have done a lot of stuff I thought I would never do: Eat lunch at a museum cafeteria, settle for room service, spend two-thirds of the day in the hotel room and at the hotel pool. Seconding maybe not venturing into the city. And I still support going without him. But don't stay home!

"attachment-patenting" instead of "attachment-parenting" in my previous answer! Jeez. If only there were an edit window ... oh, right.
posted by purpleclover at 10:53 AM on October 2, 2012

You should definitely go! As for the baby... I think it depends on his temperament and the time of year. If it's going to be the dead of winter, leave him with grandma. If the weather will be nice, taking him should be fine.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:01 PM on October 2, 2012

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