My first visit to NYC was prompted by two special friends as a celebration for my 40th birthday. I fell in LOVE with the city. Someday I knew I wanted to take my family back to visit this incredible place. I love variety, so for me to revisit a travel destination it has to be GOOD, real good. Fast forward to the present–my son ended up going to NYC in high school with a friend and my husband voiced disinterest in NYC, so the idea of a mother/daughter once-in-a-lifetime dream trip to NYC was born. Twist my arm!
I’m blessed with two daughters, 23 and 20, and I love spending time with them! We enjoy many of the same interests (shopping, duh!) and have similar preferences for pace and activities which makes us great travel companions. Plus, I’m paying, which means they pretty much have to do whatever I say. Well, sort of…I learned some things about planning mother/daughter trips that hopefully you’ll find interesting and useful!
Tips for a Successful Mom & Daughter Trip
- Instead of your preferred time of year, choose a date that best fits their work and life schedule
- Last time I visited NYC end of May (perfect in my opinion!). I always prefer warm over cold temps, but I was willing to book a trip in March for two reasons: (1) timing with a school break and (2) off-season pricing. I knew I didn’t want my girls to have to deal with homework (been there done that on trips, ugh) because in this city, you’re constantly on the MOVE. Also, by scoring some incredible deals on airfare and hotels, we were able to splurge anxiety-free on some really fun experiences.
- Let your daughter(s) choose the itinerary…with guidance, of course
- A couple months before our trip, I purchased this NYC guidebook, asked my girls about their top needs/wants/wishes (museums & shopping!), and then studied the book from cover to cover for insights, tips, and how-tos. You definitely don’t want to just show up in this big ol’ town. But I also realized my girls aren’t as experienced at traveling and might not think of details. I prepared a list of top sights they should consider, and we started planning together from there.
- Prepare a definite itinerary for at least the first 2-3 days, then let their interests be your final guide
- There were some experiences I really wanted them to have and that I really wanted to do with them. I planned those up front and if they involved reservations or tickets, I made sure I had done the research and made the purchases well in advance. I hate missed opportunities on a trip! After that, everything on my preferred list was negotiable–I definitely let go of a couple of things (they didn’t want to go to the Statue of Liberty?! Say what??) but my end goal was a fantastic experience for them.
- Remember the goal: relaxed, happy, fun
- It didn’t hit me at first, but taking them to a place I loved but had already been to was really kind of ideal. I wasn’t frantic to maximize MY time seeing everything I wanted to see. This helped me let go of any expectations or agenda. We ate where they wanted. We moved on when they were ready. We adjusted sleep times to fit their needs (within reason–they would’ve slept half the day away but I insisted on an 8 a.m. wake time). We had down time when I could’ve kept pounding the pavement. Let it go, Moms. You’re the girl with the Biggest Pants on.
I don’t know about them (feel free to comment girls ;)) but I had one of the best times of my life on this trip. For moms, nothing is more special than making memories with your kids. My advice: don’t wait, make some sort of getaway an annual affair, and start planning. These are precious moments and it’s money spent that you will never regret.
Now for the nitty gritty deets! I love seeing trip itineraries from other people and I’m hoping you’re the same…
Day 1: Friday, March 2nd
- 9:30 p.m. flight to JFK (took a gamble on the red-eye…this is how I flew to NYC last time and it worked great but I wasn’t sure if my girls would rally. We landed at 6 a.m., took a taxi into downtown, checked into our hotel, and then hit the ground running! All the new sights/sounds keep you perky!)
Day 2: Saturday, March 3rd
- 7:30 a.m. Taxi from he!! to DoubleTree Hotel, Times Square. Our room wasn’t available yet so we ate breakfast and then changed and freshened up in their very nice lobby bathroom. Stored our luggage with the hotel.
- Noon. Taxi to National Museum of History. The girls were tired so we kept our first day very low-key. Lunch at the museum cafe (expensive!), 3-4 hours at the museum, coffee and pastry a short walk from the museum at Parliament Espresso.
- 4:30 p.m. Taxi back to hotel. Checked into room. Relaxed until dinner.
- 6:00 p.m Dinner at Joe’s Pizza on Broadway. Decent New York style pizza in a converted church. Cool vibe and a long line, but it moved fast.
- 8:00 p.m. Lights out–catching up on zzzz’s from that red-eye.
Day 3: Sunday, March 4th
- 7:00 a.m. Mom wake-up; 8:00 a.m. Girls wake-up.
- 9:00 a.m. Started walking towards Empire State Building, hoping to find coffee & pastry for breakfast.
- 10:00 a.m. Empire State Building. Get a 6-attraction CityPass for the best deal and to avoid long lines.
- 11:30 a.m. Taxi to Guggenheim Museum. The building is the thing here; we were actually surprised there wasn’t a lot of art on display. Entrance is included with the CityPass however, so it’s worth seeing.
- 12:30 p.m. Taxi to Plaza Hotel. You really could walk, but we had a reservation for tea and didn’t want to be late.
- 1 p.m. Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court. Probably gratuitously touristy but who cares. So fun and decadent to experience with your daughters! This was one of those splurge experiences I was talking about.
- 2:30 p.m. Walked down 5th Avenue towards Times Square. Designer stores, incredible architecture, gothic cathedrals, Tiffany’s!! We soaked it all in while making our way back to our hotel.
- 5:00 p.m. Down time in hotel.
- 5:30 p.m. Grabbed Subway sandwiches around the corner and brought back to hotel for a light dinner.
- 6:30 p.m. Arrived at Gershwin Theatre for 7:00 p.m. showing of Wicked.
- 10:30 Back to hotel.
Day 4: Monday, March 5th
- 9:00 a.m. First subway ride to Esso Bagels for authentic New York bagels. Long line and not much seating (a problem everywhere we went!), but huge bagels with lots of spread options.
- 10:00 a.m. Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was the #1 Must-See for my history major and art major daughters, so I knew we had to allow plenty of time here. This museum is so huge and fascinating it will suck your entire day if you let it. I had to keep them moving along here. Lunch in museum cafe (most expensive meal of the entire trip!). Make sure to leave plenty of time for the gift shop.
- 3:30 p.m. Walked across Central Park. My big regret last time was not spending enough time in the park. I sooo badly wanted to rent bikes to tour the park more thoroughly but it was too cold for the girls (I would’ve done it anyways!) so I compromised with a forced meander through the park instead. This is the one downside of NYC in off-season–colder temps of course, but also the park isn’t as pretty without all the greenery.
- 4:30 p.m. Snack at Joe Coffee
- 5:00 p.m. Walked through Upper West Side heading back in the direction of Times Square.
- 5:30 p.m. Subway from Columbus Circle to Soho.
- 6:00 p.m. Shopping in Soho.
- 8:00 p.m. Dinner at Cafe Gitane. We asked a clerk for a recommendation for dinner. She suggested this hip, where-the-locals-eat spot that is apparently the birthplace of the avocado toast craze. It was authentic and good.
- 9:30 p.m. Subway back to Times Square.
Day 5: Tuesday, March 6th
- 9:00 a.m. Breakfast at another sub-par coffee spot. Seriously, where’s the good coffee in NYC? Sorry, we’re Seattleites and beginning to realize we’re very spoiled.
- 9:30 a.m. Subway to Chelsea District. Walked the Highline Park. Beautiful elevated stroll through buildings and downtown sights. Visited five art galleries for my art major daughter’s class assignment.
- Noon. What we should’ve done: Chelsea Market because I’ve been chastised for missing it. What we did do: Pad Thai Noodle Lounge, which was not a disappointment. So good. So cheap.
- 1 p.m. We were at a crossroads here–Circle Line Harbor Cruise to see the Statue of Liberty or Ground Zero. We didn’t have time to do both. This was one of those decisions I had to let go because I really wanted to do the cruise, but it was cold and they weren’t in the mood. Hopped on the subway.
- 1:30 p.m. Walked around Ground Zero. They didn’t want to do the museum, which I know is worth it, but it was either that or the Brooklyn Bridge. They chose the bridge, which was a highlight from my last visit.
- 2:00 p.m. Dropped by Trinity Church. George Washington worshipped here!
- 2:30 p.m. Short walk to Brooklyn Bridge. Walked across bridge with all the hordes of people who had the same great idea. For some reason I didn’t remember it being so crowded last time.
- 3:30 p.m. Coffee at Greg’s Coffee in Brooklyn. Again, sparse seating so we squeezed our bums together on one tiny bench.
- 4:00 p.m. Walked back across bridge. Pictures are better from this direction.
- 5:00 p.m. Subway back to Times Square. My girls were begging for down time in the hotel at this point.
- 6:30 p.m. Dinner at Osteria al Doge in Times Square. Italian restaurant with good reviews and thankfully no line.
- 8:00 p.m. Back at hotel.
Day 6: Wednesday, March 7th (we were supposed to fly home today, but due to an incoming snow storm we changed our flights to Thursday)
- 9:00 a.m. Breakfast at Brooklyn Diner. It was freezing and wet outside so we found this place right nearby our hotel. Old NYC vibe with decent food, but nothing amazing.
- 10:00 a.m. Major shopping day today. Snow was beginning to fall so we changed our plans from Soho to staying in Midtown for shopping.
- 3:00 p.m. Coffee and chocolate croissants at Maison Bakery. FINALLY, excellent coffee in NYC!! Only steps from our hotel all this time…
- 4:00 p.m. Back to hotel. It’s just too darn miserable out.
- 6:00 p.m. Not leaving our hotel again. Ordered pizza delivered to our hotel.
Day 7: Thursday, March 8th
- 9:00 a.m. Breakfast at Maison Bakery. AGAIN. It’s that good.
- 10:00 a.m. Walked to Bryant Park and explored the New York Public Library.
- 11:00 a.m. Walked back towards Times Square and stopped by Rockefeller Center. If you have more time, include Grand Central Station when you’re in this area.
- Noon. Hershey store, M&M store, and last minute souvenirs.
- 1 p.m. Taxi from he!! to JFK. Next time I’m figuring out the subway to and from the airport.
Hope this is helpful! We would love to hear from you about your mother/daughter or mother/son trips in the comments below!