Hotel Living with a Toddler
July 26, 2019 6:33 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are taking my toddler to NYC for two to three weeks in August. We will be living out of a hotel while we are in NYC. I am looking for your advice on hotel living with a toddler, specifically around food and laundry. I also welcome activity recommendations.

My daughter is almost two. We have family in CT and will not be in NYC all of August, but will be there for a significant portion of it. We will be in Manhattan by the South side of Central Park.

My plans:
- We will be driving, but have rented a parking space and I plan on leaving the car parked the whole time we are there, unless we are making a trip to CT to see family.
- Keep a small amount of milk and our breakfast in the mini-fridge. Alternatively, I was thinking of stocking up on shelf stable milk before we leave. Otherwise, we eat out or buy from hotfood/salad bars and bring back to hotel.
- Use a wash and fold service instead of the hotel laundry service to save some money. I've never used one of these services before.

Some things I'm nervous about:
- My daughter has *just* started to be interested in climbing onto the toilet. I'm all set with a potty seat at home, but I don't know how to support this interest in a hotel room. I'm not interested in transporting the potty seat and don't want to buy/use a separate toddler potty.
- What's using the subway with a toddler like? What about walking in the city? We are bringing our stroller, but my daughter prefers to walk independently right now. I'm good at staying right next to her, but am worried about crowds and traffic.

Do these plans make sense? What else should I be thinking about?

I also welcome recommendations of things to do, though I feel very confident we will find a lot to do!
posted by CMcG to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hi! I live right by there. Your plan sounds great.

Wash and fold is by the pound. You just bring it in and it’s dead simple. They can deliver to your hotel too once it’s done.

Bring a light stroller or buy a cheapie one from CVS. You’ll want it for crowd control and when kid invariably gets tired of walking.

Subways w toddlers are a pain. Lots of stairs. Many subway stops are not wheelchair accessible with elevators which means lots of carrying strollers up and down stairs. MTA lists accessible stations in the most inscrutable way possible. If you are near southwest corner of Central Park, ABCD19 lines do have an elevator there. That being said we do it every day and it’s fine.

I will memail you! Happy to help more directly.
posted by sestaaak at 6:49 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

Won't comment on the potential potty problem, but we used to take our toddler to the city all the time and it was never a problem. NYC is a pretty good place to walk around in -- big sidewalks, no right turn on red, and a significant portion of the drivers are professionals (watch out for the bike messengers though). Only in Times Square will you find crowds difficult to navigate on foot, so just avoid it if you can, particularly during rush hours. Likewise, subways are also good outside of rush hours. You will usually be able to find at least one seat, even on a crowded train, so I'd put the child there and block her in if you have to. And South Central Park is a great location, the park is tons of fun for kids. Have a great time!
posted by ubiquity at 6:50 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far! I want to note that I made the location New York, New York on my desktop (and that’s right). Don’t know why it’s showing up as Las Vegas! Sorry!
posted by CMcG at 6:53 AM on July 26, 2019

I don't have children, but something I've seen in airports that gives the parents a break is those backpacks with leashes for the small children. It might be a backup to having child hold your hand all the time.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 6:57 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Seems location was correctly entered but somehow didn't take -- I've nudged it and it seems to be set properly now, *shrug*.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:59 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

You should definitely bring a potty seat. I realize it's a pain, but you will be out and about, and there will be public toilets, and you are going to want that potty seat. There are folding ones, even. Bring that and some antibacterial wipes for it and you're good.

I highly recommend the transit museum in downtown Brooklyn for people of all ages!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:00 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also, I assume it's an umbrella stroller? If not, consider buying a cheapo umbrella stroller. Your kid will probably get tired from walking, but you also want to be able to fold it up right quick to hop onto a bus or get down the subway steps. Don't assume wheelchair-type accessibility for public transit -- it largely predates any ideas about universal design.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:02 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

(Credentials: was a toddler in NYC, had a toddler in NYC.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:03 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify on the potty seat thing: toddler is still in diapers and is more like “what’s this?!” About toilets than determined to use them. I was thinking more about fostering that interest while at the hotel and wondering if there were any parent hacks for when all you have is an adult sized toilet. We will have all the diaper changing things necessary to keep her clean and safe.
posted by CMcG at 7:05 AM on July 26, 2019

If you have the option book a room with kitchenette area and perhaps even a washing machine/dryer unit in the room. They exist and that would make your life much easier in terms of eating and storing food, laundry, cleaning up any mess a toddler will invariably make eating anything at all.

Other than that a lot of hotels have a guest laundry where you do your own laundry.

What is the room layout, i.e. where is your daughter going to sleep? Will you have a 'suite' where the bedroom is separate and your daughter can be asleep in that room or will you all have to sit in a dark room and be quiet after she goes to sleep? Again, try to book a room that avoids that as I can see it getting old really quickly over that amount of time.

Clearly, take these suggestions with a grain of salt as I am not a parent so what do I know. I just know I find these amenities helpful when I travel alone or with friends and I imagine a young family may have more needs for things like that than I do.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:10 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Stock the hotel room with applesauce pouches and snack bags and bring a small bottle of shout to pretreat any major stains. If she’s still using sippy cups, bring a bottle brush and dish soap. I also usually bring a handful of outlet protectors and a night light.

I’ve had good luck asking hotels for a high chair. It’s nice to sit the baby down with a snack so you can do other things without them underfoot.

After a difficult time navigating public transportation and busy city streets with an almost 2 year old, I went online and bought a toddler carrier. There’s usually a few minutes of fussing, but so worth not lugging a stroller around.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 7:17 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

We took our kids to NYC around that age. We spent untold hours in the playgrounds in and around Central Park and Riverside Park and they just loved it. The playground near the Met (the "Ancient Egypt" one), the Diana Ross playground, and "River Run" and "Hippo Park" in Riverside Park were favorites.
posted by Mid at 7:18 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Unplug all the phones.
posted by whuppy at 7:26 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hey! We spent a lot of time in hotels when my child was a toddler.

My basic advice is "don't be afraid to make the hotel more like home". Plan for a lot more food in the 'fridge - not just breakfast but bedtime snacks, naptime snacks, snacks for adults, maybe a couple simple microwave meals to have handy if you're all exhausted and don't want to leave the room. Do a little local grocery shopping when you get there. Having food on demand is super important for kids and adults. We generally stocked the room right up with sandwich stuff and fresh fruit and yogurt and kid snacks and all sorts of stuff, because going out to eat constantly was just exhausting.

When you first arrive, round up all the cruft in the hotel rooom (menus, notepads, pens, phone books, bibles, remote control, etc) and stash them all together in either a singe drawer, or (better) in the closet. Nobody will bother them. Just remember to put them back (ish) when you leave.

Nobody will care if you do dishes in the sink. Get a bottle brush and some dish soap and make a little dishwashing station. Keep sippy cups and some simple plates in the room. Also, Clorox wipes are your friend (not because the hotel isn't clean enough, but because toddlers are sticky and sometimes you just need to clean up the table.)

Tip housekeeping well. I would normally leave an extra generous tip my first night there (and let housekeeping come in to see all the kid stuff and clean the room), with a note that says something like "thanks so much for your hard work keeping this room clean for our family!". Being there for a while you'll get to know housekeeping. Having them love you makes a huge difference.

Build hotel routines. Unpack fully. Have meals together at the table in the morning. Get kiddo a booster seat so they can sit with you at the table. Have an area with books set up. Bring a quilt or blanket specifically for floor play time. Make sure there are little islands of familiar things within the endless expanse of newness.

This sounds like a great adventure. I hope you all have a wonderful time!
posted by anastasiav at 7:52 AM on July 26, 2019 [5 favorites]

Instead of a stroller, you might consider an Ergo on-body kid carrier so you don't need to hassle with a stroller on stairs or the subway.

Does the hotel have a pool? With proper floatation device, it can be a great way at the end of the day to tire a kiddo out splashing in even a small pool. You'll need pool diapers too.
posted by nickggully at 8:27 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Tip generously (you will be leaving an unusually substantial mess), and tip every day (it's not always the same person cleaning your room). Put in an envelope marked "housekeeping" or similar so that the maid knows it's for her.

Stroller accessibility for the subway is a huge pain. Passersby will often offer to help, but it's not a great system. I agree with the person who suggested that buses might be preferable if they don't triple the travel time. Easier on/off, a little less weird for your toddler, and you get to see the streets as you go. It's a lot easier to get around on buses than in most cities, at least in Manhattan, because of the grid; you can easily orient yourself by looking at a passing street sign and so you're a lot less likely to find yourself inexplicably in an industrial zone at the edge of the city. The newer buses have better signage, too, and the free MTA BusTime app is actually pretty good about predicting arrivals in real-time. Just remember that if you're catching a "select"/"SBS" bus (which has USB outlets!), you need to get your ticket from the machine with your Metrocard at the stop before you board, and for regular buses, it's a Metrocard or change only for the fare (so, again, get your Metrocard loaded up first).

Have fun!
posted by praemunire at 9:12 AM on July 26, 2019

Please know that you have to collapse the stroller in advance of getting on the bus. I wear my almost-2-year-old on my back in an Ergo-like carrier because of this...
posted by valeries at 9:45 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding HIPPO PARK! Omg, the best. There are so many great playgrounds, with water features and everything. Everyone goes and plays together. It’s the most New Yorky, and the best.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:26 AM on July 26, 2019

On a recent trip (not to NYC) we rented baby gear. I used babyquip, and there are many other places to rent from in New York. I think I saw potty seats when I was looking through the accounts on my trip. It's expensive compared to bringing your own, but you could potentially rent a stroller, high chair, books, and toys too.
posted by beyond_pink at 10:34 AM on July 26, 2019

If they can't empty the minifridge, ask the hotel if they can bring up a regular-type minifridge for you. I bet they have ones for this exact reason.
posted by radioamy at 10:38 AM on July 26, 2019

If you do decide to go grocery shopping when you arrive, skip Ernst Kleine & Co.... it's basically in my building and holy woah is it overpriced. Go around the corner to Morton Williams instead. Or even to Duane Reade. Tho beware, all grocery stores are going to be expensive in Manhattan, but EK&C is just ridiculous.
posted by Grither at 11:12 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think for the potty, I would just help her sit on the hotel potty occasionally. Just to keep her in practice. It will probably be a lower toilet, but she may need help balancing on it. Otherwise I’d stick to diapers.
One thing I like to do is give them a bath as soon as you can in the hotel room. It’s always nice to bathe after traveling, it can be calming, and a bathtub is a familiar place for kids. Most of the time I’ll just climb in the tub too! It can also be exciting for kids to make a little pillow fort or even a fort with extra sheets in a hotel room. That could buy you some chill time if it turns out she likes hanging out in the fort.
I usually try to remind myself to “lean into it” when I’m traveling with kids. Good luck!
posted by areaperson at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2019

Check out Mommy Poppins for kid friendly NYC.

If the hotel gives you any issues with the fridge, just tell them your child's medicine needs to be refrigerated.

There is so much to do with kids in NYC and most people love kids and are really friendly and helpful. Relax and enjoy, it will be fun!
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:33 PM on July 26, 2019

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