Saturday, July 23, 2016

New York City ~ What I Learned

Wow, I can't believe this is my fourth post about New York City! We were only there about 48 hours. We arrived around lunch time in the city and left two days later in the afternoon. This is a nuts and bolts post (partially for my own memory if we ever do it again). Our trip to New York City was a big undertaking for our special needs family. I planned out lots of details for weeks before we left home. I had backup plans in case other plans didn't work out. I am a planner.

My traveling buddies ~
  • Me ~ The Mom, the worrywart, juggler, organizer and probably the most energetic of the bunch.
  • Husband ~ The Dad, supporter, map reader, driver and fixer of things that break along the way.
  • Stepmother ~ Grandma Sue, helper, the fun one, driver (she was the brave one that drove us in and out of the city).
  • Tim ~ Oldest son, 26 years old, brain injured with lots of developmental delays, loads of anxiety, very obedient.
  • Dean ~ Second son, 14 years old, tons of sensory issues and mild cerebral palsy, the comic in the bunch.
  • Anne ~  Daughter, 12, compliant, organized, a little drama driven at times. Okay, this child might be more energetic than me. 
My oldest son announced in the middle of the trip that I am a worry wart; my husband is too goofy; and if any one was going to get lost, it would be my stepmother because she is so easily distracted. I am afraid my son hit our personalities dead on.

One of the big issues for this trip was money. We live on a tight budget and a vacation of this magnitude is a big deal. We tried to make as many cost-saving choices along the way without compromising the experience. 

The second major issue was energy. My husband and boys are all low-energy people. The boys needed lots of breaks and got overstimulated easily. They wanted to be in the hotel room more than I had expected. I always try to plan trips with some downtime, but the boys didn't experience downtime in the places I thought they would (Central Park and restaurants). They only felt rested in the hotel room. My husband stayed back with them one late afternoon/evening while we three gals went out on the town to see the Rockettes. 

Travel ~ The first compromise was to drive into the city instead of taking the train. That saved us close to $400. Our hotel stored our car for a fee. Grandma Sue paid for the storage of the car and all of the toll roads going up and back from NYC (thanks). Once we were in NYC, we also decided  to use the subway rather than take cabs (since our family would not fit into just one taxi) or take the hop on and off tourist bus (which is pricey and not always there when you want it). We also walked our feet off. One of the best things I did before leaving home was to buy each person a new pair of sneakers. 

Subway ~ One thing we learned about the subway is that you can buy one subway ticket and use the same one for four people. We were originally told that unlimited people could use the same ticket, but that is false. We, unfortunately, learned that the hard way. Tim and Dean were the last two of our group to try and use the ticket. It would not let them through the gate to the platform and we had to hand them more money through barred fencing and explain to them how to purchase another ticket. This was a very high stress situation and caused Tim a huge anxiety attack that affected him for the rest of the trip. From that point on, we always made sure that there was a parent/grandparent in the front and back of the line. Otherwise, the subway was a great experience. The maps were easy to read and people were very helpful. We found New Yorkers to be very kind and understanding. Some even overheard us talking and advised us on better routes. 

Food ~ The cost of food in NYC can be very expensive. However, there are ways around it. We did one expensive meal at a themed restaurant, one moderate meal at a fun, historic restaurant and the rest we ate from cheap street vendors, hole-in-the-wall pizza places and little delis. The boys and Dad ate in the hotel bar one night when they didn't want to go see the Rockettes. They had fish and chips. Also, to cut down on costs, we carried coolers of water and drinks when we checked into the hotel and then packed a few drinks at a time into our bags each morning before setting out. 
We ate at the themed restaurant, the Jekyll and Hyde Club.
  • There is a Starbucks on almost every corner in Manhattan. There are 212 to be exact. So my husband had plenty of caffeine at his finger tips.
  • We found the street vendor food to be good and cheap. There was lots of variety.
  • On the Lower East Side, we found pizza on almost every corner. You could buy it by the slice for 99 cents. 
  • For breakfast each morning, Anne and I  went to the local deli on the corner and bought bagels, scrambled eggs (they make them how you right want on the spot) and fruit. Then we crossed the street and got Starbucks. We arrived back at the hotel room with a nice breakfast for six for less than $40.
  • We treated museum cafeterias like snack bars instead of full meals.
  • Fruit is sold at vendors every few blocks. 

We went to Carlo's Bake Shop from the show, Cake Boss, and met Maddalena. Anne was so excited! She loves that show and was very excited to meet a real reality star. Maddalena was so sweet. We also bought some great treats. They were yummy!
Meeting Maddalena at Carlos Bakery

We stayed at the Holiday Inn on 57th street. The location was great and not too noisy. The hotel was nice and it was convenient that they stored the car for us. 

Things I would do differently or try to adapt next time ~ 
  • Tim struggled most with the travel piece of the trip. He had a hard time with the subway and all of the walking. He found the streets way too crowded and was very worried about our group being separated. I might consider how cabs could work better for him next time.
  • I would do more museums, because they were most enjoyable to the kids.
  • I would go at a different time of year. NYC is blazing hot in July!
  • Dean felt that we needed more time to sit down, since the walking was hard on him. He would have liked for us to sit down to eat each time instead of eating while walking on the street. He felt overstimulated by all the commotion. 
  • Try to stay one more night so that downtime wouldn't seem so much like a burden to the higher energy people. The clock was ticking in my mind all the time. 

Things that really worked ~
  • Having music and MP3 players for the boys. 
  • Having a hotel in a calmer section of Manhattan.
  • If it had been cooler, Central Park would have served as a calmer oasis.
  • Splitting up the one night so the guys could rest and the gals could still have fun.
  • The subway once we knew how to use it, but it was still hard on Tim.
  • Carrying drinks helped tremendously.
  • Our experience was that people were very friendly and helpful. We felt safe our entire time in NYC.
Blessings, Dawn


  1. Interesting. Especially about the different energies of each of you. Gary and I would be similar energy and we would try always to have lots of down time and relaxation. The children are another matter all together! They have unending energy and are fortunately getting to an age where they can go out and burn some off without us :)

  2. What great insights to traveling with your family. I've never been to New York, and honestly the thought kinda freaks me out. I'm happy to hear it was doable and enjoyable for you all.