When you live in DC, you are often faced with this question: Is a whirlwind #OneTankAdventure weekend trip to NYC with two young kids a good idea?
Is it better to travel from DC to NYC with the kids in the winter or the summer?
Can a 5-year-old stay up for a 7pm performance of the Rockettes?
Do we dare tackle I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike (barring any Governor Cristie revenge bridge closings) on a busy holiday weekend in December? Or should we cough up the extra money for train or plane tickets?
And in the end, the ultimate parental-evaluating-a-trip-question must be faced head on: Will we bleed money and end up carrying the kids more than anything? (spoiler alert: every parent knows the answer to this one).
I decided December 2013 was the time to find out the answers to these deep questions. As anyone knows who lives in relative close proximity to NYC, deciding to head there for a weekend trip with the young kids is not a simple question. There are so many things to contend with: traffic, crowds, weather, astronomical prices (starting with how best to get there; plane, train or automobile). But there are also just as many good reasons to take the kids to NYC for the weekend: amazing museums, beautiful architecture, unforgettable theater experiences, entire stores dedicated to candy….to name a few.
So how to get there, where to stay and what to do? My sister lives in Brooklyn and in previous years, just me and the eldest WM’ette would travel up to NYC for a whirlwind weekend holiday jaunt. We’d crash on their sofa and tool around town, it was fun and easy and relatively affordable. Then things got more complicated. My sister now has a toddler of her own and my youngest is now old enough that there’s no way you can take off for a weekend and hit toy and candy stores, see decorations and possibly even a play – and her not find out about it. Suddenly our tradition of quick and affordable holiday weekend for two became a family of four and we needed a hotel room.
Last fall as we were considering planning the weekend, I was contacted by a representative from Ford Motor Company offering me a Ford Escape for a weekend. They asked if we had any trips coming up and would we want to give it a whirl? It seemed like the perfect time to try out a new car – a trip up 95 North in the Ford Escape – and we locked it in.
Next question we faced – where to stay and should we spring for tickets to the Rockettes? I knew that at ages 5 and 8, our girls were the perfect age to invest the $500 (yes, you got that right, $500 for 4 seats in the nose bleed section) in taking them to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes.
Final question – where to stay?
We reasoned that if we were going for one night, we should get the 7pm tickets to the Rockettes in order to maximize our time around the city, and we should spring for a hotel close to Rockefeller Center & Radio City Music Hall because by the end of the night, the kids would just be DONE. We ended up booking a room at the Omni Berkshire, a few blocks from Rockefeller Center.
Ford delivered the beautiful blue Ford Escape the day before we departed, back in mid-December, and the next morning we heard rumblings of snow. Being a DC’er, I chalked it up to maybe a few inches but probably nothing. Being a chronic over-packer, even for a 24 hour jaunt, Mr. WM noted just how much storage space we had in the Escape. We loaded the kids and bags into the bag, set up our portable DVD players and set off towards I-95 North. With Mr. WM behind the wheel, he noted the comfort and leg space he had. In particular, he doesn’t like it when his legs hit up against the middle console, a common complaint he has in smaller cars, and he complimented the interior comfort of the vehicle and the space he had for his long-ish legs. I enjoyed the back-up camera, the satellite radio and of course, the blind spot detection on the side mirrors – loved that feature.
I quickly began to wonder if, in fact, this incredibly fuel-efficient small SUV would result in a #OneTankAdventure for us because we were averaging a whopping 26.2 MPG. Obviously highway travel is more fuel efficient than stop-and-go city traffic – but considering we were headed to NYC – we were bound to hit stop-and-go city traffic. Either way, this car was averaging more efficient mileage than my small Mazda3.
Upon arriving in Midtown, we quickly realized that the snow was coming down at a good rate and it was more than a fluke and poorly predicted DC-style snow storm. The valet had whisked away the trusty Escape and we headed out front to grab a cab to the Upper West Side to meet my sister at the American Museum of Natural History.
Enter the first big question to be more strategically evaluated when planning a trip to NYC. If the weather is turning bad, should you leave the neighborhood where you are staying? Was traveling so far from Midtown a good decision given the snow? Would getting back be worth the effort?
We didn’t worry about those things as we spent a few hours enjoying the museum, especially the dinosaurs and any exhibits featuring human bones, of particular interest to my 5-year-old. It was when we left the museum and realized we had three really tired kids, along with fierce winds and a few inches on the ground that we knew maybe we should have stuck closer to 5th Avenue.
What ensued was a long, cold and really magical walk through Central Park. Back to the original question – do you end up carrying kids more often than not? I offer you exhibit A:
Now onto the next question, is a 7pm show a good idea?
Hmm. I still stand by the fact that on a normal night, our youngest goes to bed around 8:30pm-ish – so a 7pm show wasn’t outrageous. But see, factor in whipping cold wind, driving snow, a long magical stroll through Central Park and insane Christmas crowds – and well – a little one doesn’t have much energy left.
Did she stay awake for the duration of the show?
Did we tell her she did?
Did my oldest blab and note she slept through more than half and missed tons of great things?
Oh totally. But she shushed that dream killer and told our little one she barely missed anything. She bought it.
The next day, much to our total shock, all the snow was gone. Unlike DC where upwards of 6 inches would have shut us down for at least an entire day, all the snow was completely removed from the streets and sidewalks of midtown. It felt like we had a snow-filled dream and perhaps it never really happened?
We honestly had never seen anything like it.The Omni valet delivered the Escape back to us at the hotel and after a lovely morning stroll around Midtown, we headed to Brooklyn, still with about one-quarter of a tank of gas left, enjoyed lunch with baby Jack and his parents before heading back down the turnpike and 95 in our sweet, fuel-efficient ride.
Overall – we had a really great weekend.
Did it feel like we were bleeding cash?
Yes, of course, it’s NYC.
Did Mr. WM end up carrying the youngest on his shoulders pretty much the entire time?
Of course but you all knew that would happen.
Should I have purchased tickets to the 4:30 showing of the Rockettes? Yes, probably but that would have really cut into our day – so them’s the breaks.
Was springing for a hotel so close to Rockefeller Center worth the extra expense?
Absolutely. In the blinding wind and snow at 9:30pm, after a long day of touring around town, this time I was the one carrying the sleeping 5-year-old and you better believe the room was worth its weight in gold at that point.
Did we make it to NYC and back to DC on one tank?
No. We were driving an entry-sized SUV, loaded with baggage and 4 of us…but we still averaged a whopping 26.2 MPG, filled up one time on the Jersey turnpike, crossed all bridges and tunnels without any unexpected traffic drama, and enjoyed the comfort of our loaner ride.
Will we do it again? Oh absolutely. Right now I’ve got my eyes on a May trip to NYC to see Matilda and celebrate a certain someone’s second birthday…….
Disclosure: Ford Motor Company loaned the Ford Escape to me for the weekend but my opinions here are all my own.