Going on vacation is almost always fraught with peril. Anything and everything can go wrong, and unless you’ve got a busload of friends in the city you’re visiting, you may not have anyone to take care of you if your affairs take a turn for the worst. This is especially true in New York City, which a great (wo)man once called a “concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh.” It’s a complicated urban environment, which still baffles me to this day. I first visited New York two years ago, during a freezing winter I was not prepared for at all. I came back to Los Angeles with the worst sinus infection I’ve ever experienced in my life. Needless to say, I bring a coat now.
I’ve learned quite a bit about how to get by on holiday in New York, and most of that wisdom was earned through painful trial and error.
1. Bring money.
This is an expensive place. If you think you can get by eating Subway for every meal and avoiding impulse purchases, then you might be able to do a quick trip to New York without breaking the bank. You’re going to feel completely ill for most of the time you spend in the city though. Do you want to be on the toilet for the majority of your trip? Maybe you do. Maybe the best view of New York is the view from your bathroom. Probably not, so eat something real, for God’s sake.
2. Don’t spend a bunch of time taking pictures.
Yeah, I bet you think that it’d be really neat to document your vacation. I’m sure you feel like Instagramming yourself on the High Line is the best use of your time. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. You’re so wrong. New York isn’t going anywhere, plus you’re not going to reinvent the selfie in the next few days, so take one or two, and move on. Also, if you’re constantly stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to snap pics, someone will probably run into you, get pissed that you aren’t aware enough of your surroundings to keep the walkways clear, and chew you out. Do you want to remember your trip as “that time I got into a fight with a dock worker who was late getting back from lunch”?
3. Keep your hotel room clean.
New York City is a filthy place. Garbage is left on the street, sometimes for days at a time. Truck exhaust blowing in your face is common. People leave cigarette butts and food wrappers on the ground with impunity. You’re going to need a safe space to come back to, a refuge from the grim and grit of the city. Don’t leave a bunch of your dirty undies everywhere to come home to every night. I accidentally left a pair of underwear in my bathroom after a shower, and the maid had to pick it up and move it to a safe spot underneath the sink to do her cleaning. I left her a $10 tip to apologize for her having to wade through my filth.
4. Avoid eye contact with strangers on the subway.
I made this mistake once and barely lived to tell the tale. If you lock eyes with someone on the train, they just might think you either want something from them, or you “have a problem” that only fisticuffs can solve. Pick a particularly engaging advertisement and stare at it. Create a fun story around the making of said ad. Try to develop backstories for the models in the ad photos. Use the tagline of the ad as a mantra that you repeat over and over again. Not only will you avoid insulting a real New Yorker, you might also get some well-deserved meditation done.
5. Invent a fake story about how you’re a local.
This can be a fun bar game where you make idle chitchat with someone in a bar or at the park, but pretend you live in New York. Express displeasure with the current state of the Mets. Lament the death of the “real Brooklyn.” Complain about de Blasio. Declare your hatred for CitiBike. Mention “congestion pricing.” Whine about the rent. There are so many clichés you can employ to approximate the average New Yorker that you can probably get by for at least about ten minutes before specific questions like “What neighborhood do you live in?” or “Where’s the closest Duane Reade in Midtown?” start coming up. See how long you can last before your cover is blown. My personal record is 23 minutes.