As a belated 40th birthday present for my husband – earlier this month we headed off to New York for 4 days and nights – leaving our 4 children at home (they were supervised!) I thought I would share with you our experiences and top tips for parents being let of the parenting leash for a few days!!
1. Enjoy the holiday from the moment you leave the house. No ‘are we nearly there yet’ on the way to the airport – and even stopping at the drive thru Starbucks at the Welcome Break service station on the way to Heathrow was a special treat when it was just for the 2 of us and no one was arguing about the fact they’d got the wrong frappucino / smaller slice of cake / whipped cream on their hot chocolate when they’d decided they didn’t want it – despite having always had it before!
2. Make use of all freebies on offer. We’d cashed in our British Airways Avios points and so were only paying taxes and charges – but flying First Class. This meant we got to go in the very exclusive ‘Concorde Room’ at Heathrow (and at JFK on the way back). This was fabulous – champagne, massage in the spa, uninterrupted newspaper reading, wifi so the husband could work (this will be a recurring theme – we have our own business, we never truly escape!), amazing food – in fact I would probably have enjoyed just staying in that lounge for the whole 4 days!
3. Find the optimum food / film / sleep ratio on the plane. The husband (and in fact the son, must be a male Price thing) can fall asleep instantly when he gets on a plane. I, however, am my mother’s daughter – and like to get my money’s worth – even when it was a bargain flight for us (the flights would have been £19,000 if we’d paid – wow!!!) Therefore food and drink has to be consumed before I can drop off to sleep. As you would expect in First Class on Britain’s flagship carrier, the service, food and drink were impeccable – and being able to enjoy these whilst watching a film uninterrupted by little people (why do kids like going to the toilets so much on planes?) was BLISS. However, one film in, I turned my chair into a completely flat bed (showing off now!) and slept until nearly landing – perfection.
4. Be lovely to the hotel staff at check in. We got to the hotel at midnight – not the best time for anyone to be at their best – so even though the reception staff were a bit grumpy, we were sweetness and light! The bell boy who helped with our luggage was perhaps the chirpiest person ever at that time of night (it worked, we tipped him well!)
5. Jet lag is your friend. The next morning husband was up early to deal with emails / clients back in the UK. There are 2 photos that I could have posted here – one where he was totally naked, and this one (from the next day) where, thankfully, he was dressed!
Even with his pitstop for work, we were still out and about early each day. We had paid to ‘skip the line’ at the Empire State Building – but our early arrival meant this was completely unnecessary! (Although I think it would have been very useful if we’d arrived later in the day)
6. See your destination through as many possible mediums / media (haven’t done Latin for years). We had pre booked loads of things with British Airways before heading off (as I like to be as organised as possible!) so we saw New York by air (in a helicopter, I vommited afterwards, but it was amazing!)
By water – on a cruise (it was chilly on the water, layers is definitely the way forward when dressing for New York)
By skyscraper – we went up the Empire State Building (mostly because husband is a film buff and wanted to re-enact Sleepless in Seatlle or such like!) We were incredibly lucky with the weather and the views were amazing!
By horsedrawn carriage – we were typical tourists and did the trip round Central Park – and it was great fun. Not only is the park an oasis of calm in the midst of Manhattan – you recognise loads of it from films and TV shows.
By yellow taxi – well, it’s a must really isn’t it!
7. Learn stuff. Without the kids in tow dragging you to look at stuff / needing a wee / demanding a drink it was possible to actually read about exhibits and listen to commentary both on the helicopter and boat trips, and also up the Empire State Building and at the American Museum of Natural History (from the film ‘Night at the Museum’). The Empire State Building was really, really interesting (although this could be because we run a construction company so are both geeks about such things!)
We were less impressed with the American Museum of Natural History – it just felt a bit dry, and not a patch on what London has to offer in this regard.
8. Keep your eyes peeled for famous stuff / people. Our Central Park tour guide took us to the fountain from the start of Friends! I’m not sure we would have found it on our own – and we were very excited as you can see!
One evening we got into the lift and a short bloke with white blonde spiky hair asked us where we were from. I replied ‘Birmingham, in the UK’ to which his response (in a mid Atlantic accent) was ‘Oh, my Dad is from Acocks Green’ – which is a not very salubrious suburb of Birmingham – and I told him how I’d worked in a branch of WH Smiths there as a teenager. Then we got out the lift and he wished us a good stay in New York. I turned to the husband and said ‘wasn’t that man familiar?’ – to which an American lady – who had been struck mute in the lift, said ‘OMG that was Billy Idol’!! Still gutted I didn’t get a selfie and instead told him about my Saturday job #starspottingfail
9. Enjoy the little things. I suspect like many parents, lots of the simple pleasures of yesteryear are long forgottent! You’re not going to ‘waste’ a babysitter on going to the cinema, or sitting in a bar drinking and reading a book for a few hours. Well we did both of these things!! We went to see Gone Girl at the cinema (which was handily next door to our hotel) and then sat in the amazing bar at The Hudson Hotel for a few hours on two afternoons! The DJ in there on the Saturday afternoon was playing loads of 1980s / 90s dance. She was about 20 – so it was probably ironically trendy for her – but we were in our element!!
10.Shopping. Most people rave about the shopping in New York – and there are, admittedly, a lot of shops – but we think that the UK has come on in leaps and bounds with regard to shopping in the last decade or so – and that, combined with a far less beneficial exchange rate as years ago, meant it wasn’t as much of as a big deal as we’d expected. Husband in particular was gutted with the legendary toy shop FAO Shwarz (from the film Big – as you can see, most of his reference points were movie related!), as it’s no Hamleys!
We also both described Macy’s as Rackhams on steroids! This will only mean something to Brummies of a certain age (for everyone else, substitute Rackams with a House of Fraser store!)
11. Enjoy just being a couple and being reminded of why you wanted to be together in the first place! We had both lived a lot before we married each other (and I mean a lot!) but within 15 months of meeting we were married with our first (of four!) children. We haven’t let having the kids hamper our travelling and experiences – but equally, we try to make time to ‘be together’ (obviously said in a really Brummie accent, like that old advert!). It’s not always as flash as New York (although let’s face it, we do try!) but even one date night together is a great break from the old routine.
There you have it – a brief run down and edited highlights of the photos of our 4 days and nights in New York!!