Survival Guide To: Riding the subway

“You will love the subway”

Is what some strange delude person told me when we first moved to NY.

“It is way better than the tube.”

I believe this person did not have any children, a sense of smell and infinite patience. While there are many things New York does well, underground travel is not one of them.

The subway has very few lifts or escalators. So with a small child it’s a tough place to negotiate. Sometimes people help you with the pushchair up and down large flights of stairs and sometimes they literally run screaming so they do not have to assist you.

When there are lifts they are slow moving tiny cubes full of lazy people who have no business being there and they always, always smell of wee.

If you do manage to get on the train you then have to negotiate the space issue with the huge double pushchair you stupidly decided to bring. I have had to wrestle out of the way a group of people doing a freeze frame “artistic movement piece” to fit onto a subway car as well as many an angry commuter.

I have also had to berate a man who wanted to entertain us with bongos on a subway ride when I had boarded with a just asleep child. It was a tense stand-off but I was pregnant and on the edge so I won.

You may think you have encountered crazy people on the tube but my dear sheltered London friends you aint seen nothing compared to the crazy people here. And of course your baby will always find the said nutter and insist on waving at them because they will wave back.

The subway runs 24/7 so they never clean it. It is so so dirty and your children will insist on trying to lick the window or hand rail at least once and without hosing them down in sanitizer fluid after every journey you just have to pray you escape the trip disease free.

Top Tips for subway Travel with children:

  • A carrier/lightweight umbrella pushchair is the best option for lugging up and down stairs but if your children, like mine, reject this combination brush your hair at least before leaving the house and smile sweetly at anyone passing for help (if one kid or you are crying you may get extra help)
  • Take snacks, and I mean a lot of snacks. Most of these will be eaten on the way there so you will need to restock on the way back.
  • Time a longer journey around naptime and get them to sleep before getting on. I can often be found pacing a subway track trying to will a child to sleep before we get on. Now this is a risky strategy as the nap may be interrupted by bongo players, angry New Yorkers shouting, other non-napping children or dance troops who feel your journey requires extra entertainment. But if it does work you are golden
  • Have a kid who likes trains. For my toddler riding the subway is a huge adventure now as he loves choo choo trains. I don’t really want my child to turn into a train spotter but this is the game we play to keep the journey happy. “Mummy is it the the F or the G train?” is his current favourite activity.
  • Get to know which subways stations have lifts and walk a bit further each side to avoid stairs
  • Download some good games onto your phone
  • Sit next to a grandmotherly looking person who will inevitably coo and entertain your baby for free
  • Lower your expectations surrounding the next 30minutes/hour of your life.
  • Do it rarely!
  • Try to earn a bit more money and get a taxi

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