The Top Ten Rules For Traveling in New York City So You Don’t End Up Hating It

If you know me at all (even a little bit) you know that I love New York City. But my obsession didn’t start with one trip, one ride in a cab, or those two tickets to Hamilton. (Although to be honest, the Hamilton experience didn’t hurt.) No, my love for New York City grew in my heart the way the sun rises, slowly—so imperceptibly that it’s hard to actually distinguish when the night ended and the day began.

Part of my slow-growing love, though, came from making a lot of mistakes. I’ve made ALL of the rookie mistakes. I’ve done ALL of the things that people desperately want to avoid so they don’t look uncool. Whatever. New York gets you. It trips you up with its obstacles and people and differences from every other city in America. But it doesn’t do this with prejudice. New York isn’t out to get tourists. It’s just out. And if you know it’s quirks, and some quick tips—I believe you will grow to love it just as much as I do. (Okay, maybe not that much… but a lot.)

Don’t look at your phone in the cab.

It’s tempting. You’ve just arrived off the plane. You’re excited. Where to first? The cab line! You wait and you tell the driver where you want to go, and then you sit there for half an hour as he bumps and stops through traffic, all through the city. It’s extremely tempting to check in on your e-mail, your social-media, to take a cab selfie and post it… or whatever you’re about to do. But DON’T. You will get sick. Cab nausea is a thing, and it is as hard to kick as a hangover once you get out of the taxi and onto the street. Don’t start your first day in New York off with motion sickness. Trust me. Put the phone away.

Bring water and a large tote.

I know you’re not allowed to bring water on the plane, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring an empty water bottle and fill it up as soon as you arrive at Laguardia. Water is essential in the city and helps to ward off the aforementioned cab-nausea. If you’re going to have a water bottle with you, I’d also recommend (especially for the ladies) carrying a large tote bag rather than a small purse. That way, as the day goes on, you have a place for little souvenirs or things you pick up, as well as that water bottle. You want your hands free.

Go to the bathroom whenever you’re given the chance, because you won’t always have the chance.

This rule is kind of obvious, but much to my chagrin, I often forget to follow it. Especially if you’re keeping water close at hand, it’s important to take any opportunity you’re given to use the john. If you’re in a pinch, the city hides its bathrooms in large department stores and Starbucks coffee shops.

How To Pack For New York City


Wear Sneakers.

Sneakers are to city living as water is to the fire department: essential and live-saving. Invest. (These are my current favorites. These are another pair I love. And another.) Wear them with pride. If you’re afraid of looking like a tourist, check out the next rule.

Pack in Three Easy Steps: (1) Grab everything you have that is black. (2) Pack it. (3) Oh wait. Sorry, just two easy steps.

New Yorkers don’t wear black because they’re mean or boring. They wear it because they’ve learned the city—and you WILL sweat, no matter the season. Black helps you avoid embarrassing sweat stains and also helps you to pull off those sneakers you’re not used to wearing. Almost any sneaker looks awesome against an all-or-mostly-black attire. Also — you won’t have to worry about choosing what to wear and wasting precious time each day. Just throw on the black and go.

Use the Subway Without Fear.

The Metro isn’t hard and it isn’t dangerous. Fill up a Metro Card with $20 (there are little touch-screen kiosks in every station), and you can share that one with your fam. Just swipe, move through the turnstile, and pass the card back for the next person to swipe. (This is much easier than buying a card and for everyone to have to dig in their pockets for their card while the rest of New York waits behind you, annoyed.) Take a cab, only whenever absolutely necessary. If the light is on, the taxi is available to hail. Nothing is more embarrassing than spending all your energy yelling at taxis that already have people inside of them. (Been there. Done that.)

Stay Local.

Do a neighborhood… not the city. For example, Soho is great for shopping. The Upper East Side is great for little cafes and strolling through Central Park. Midtown/Times Square is good for nothing. By keeping your adventures limited to a neighborhood, you’ll help yourself from burn-out and save some things for your next trip. (Because you’ll want to come back.)

Four meals a day.

If you’re visiting the city, you’re going to be on the go a lot walking, seeing, experiencing. By choosing to eat four or five small meals a day rather than three big ones—you’ll give yourself a bit more flexibility to sit back and take a rest when the afternoon comes and you’ve been walking for a long time. Eat breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at 12 p.m., a later lunch around 4 p.m., and then a proper dinner at 8 p.m. or later. Little stops for coffee or juice are also good excuses to get off your feet (and find a bathroom).

Take your time.

NYC gives you the feeling that everyone is moving a hundred miles an hour, but that’s not necessarily true. They just know where they’re going. Most people in the city follow the same route every day—walk these blocks, take this subway, go into the office, then do the same commute in reverse. If you’re exploring the city, it’s okay to not know where you are. Just pause, move over to the side of the road, look at your phone, figure out where you’re going. No one will fault you for this. They will fault you for standing in the middle of the sidewalk and trying to figure it out.

Do one thing you would normally do at home in the city.

For me, that’s going to brunch. For someone else, that might be going on a run or going to a yoga or spin class. That might mean finding a ju-jitsu gym or tracking down the best beer brewery. The coolest thing about NYC is imagining how your life might look if you lived there. And no one lives in Times Square.

So there you have it people. My ten tried and true rules for loving New York City. Do you have any tips that you would add to the list?

(P.S. — here’s an old post about my past rules for NYC. You can see how they’ve changed.)