How to Plan Absolutely Nothing for Your Trip to NYC (and still have an amazing time!)
Nobody in their right mind would call me spontaneous. I live for my planner, adore schedules, and read reviews like it's my job. However I also realize that you can't plan everything in life. Especially if you are insanely overwhelmed by having a million and one things on your plate. When planning something as easy as what to have for dinner makes you shed a tear or two (true story), you need to take a break and you need to be spontaneous. Which is why it's perfectly okay to plan absolutely nothing for your trip to NYC, even if you're type A, because you're going to have an amazing time.
New York City is only an hour north of my hometown but going into the city has always felt like a big production. Train schedules, maps, restaurant recommendations, how are we going to see this and that, and on and on. The whole planning of the trip into the city starts to feel so overwhelming that I don't even want to go in anymore. What I didn't realize is that NYC has got my back and that when you plan absolutely nothing for your New York City trip, sometimes things work out just fine.
The number one reason that you don't have to plan anything for your trip to New York City is that there is just so much to see. There is hardly a city block that doesn't have something interesting, weird, or exciting to check out. When Nick and I stepped off the train and onto the streets of NYC a few weeks ago, we had no agenda in mind so we started walking. In a few blocks we stumbled into Washington Square park, grabbed a seat on a bench and started listening to a guy playing a baby grand piano while watching old men school each other in chess. Just like that we were experiencing the city. Meandering a few blocks over we found a whole street full of wine bars and taverns and juice shops and ice cream parlors. Your best bet for seeing New York is to just walk. The first step to not planning anything for your New York City trip is being willing to walk around and see what the city has to offer.
The second thing that makes a trip to New York City with minimal planning so easy is the internet. Social media is my BFF when it comes to taking a trip on short notice. The internet and social media shrink the world down and place it neatly in the palm of your hand. Before you think about going anywhere, find a blogger who talks about where you want to go (shameless plug: I'm always sharing my favorite spots and 24 hour guides to Philly!). Some of my favorite NYC-based bloggers are: Love Taza (good for kid-friendly recs too), York Avenue, and Styled Snapshots. Another quick update I make to my social media before I go anywhere is finding some Twitter accounts that are based in that city, whether it be a blogger, a website like Eater or Thrillist, or just a person who gives daily updates on the city. This may be obvious and somewhat essential but have a smartphone with you or the very least a tablet or laptop. You can stop and search for reviews for the restaurant you're standing outside of or see if there's a better way to get from the West Side to the East Side without wasting money on a taxi.
Another great way to plan absolutely nothing for your trip to New York City is to either know where you want to go or be okay with exploring. Sometimes I go into New York City dead set on seeing something like the new exhibit at MOMA or walking on the Highline or having lunch in Chelsea. Other times it doesn't really matter. If you desperately need to see the Flat Iron building or want to have lunch at Balthazar, then you're going to need to plan it. New York City has so many amazing things to offer but sometimes everyone wants to do the same thing and you can waste your time in line or not have what you need like cash or the right outfit or finding out that it's closed on Sundays or Mondays. However, if you're a-okay with just letting the good times roll and maybe seeing or doing something or maybe not, then don't worry about planning. One of the ways I plan without really planning is I keep a running list of NYC places I see online or hear about from friends that seem like they're worth checking out. That way if one thing doesn't work out, I have a back-up. There is so much to see and do in the city so that if you just don't feel like standing in line or it's not working out the way you thought, move on and go find something else.
Now while I'm all about not planning, there is one thing you absolutely to need to plan: transportation. Whether you're taking a train, a plane, or an automobile into the city, you're going to need to have a vague idea of when and where you'll come in to the city and where you'll go out. For our spontaneous trip into New York City, Nick and I tried the PATH train out of Jersey City for the first time. That meant we had to drive from our place in Central Jersey to North Jersey on the turnpike (for you non-New Jersey people, this might seem like a lot of work but this is Jersey life for you). It ended up being super easy and much more cost-efficient than taking New Jersey Transit. Taking the PATH also put us in a different part of the city, the West Village, which had just the kind of hip but relaxed vibe we were looking for. If we took the regular NJ Transit train, we would have been plopped right in Madison Square Garden and the chaos that is Midtown Manhattan. Neither way is the right way or the wrong way, it's just what you're into. So the only thing you're definitely going to need to decide on and plan is how you're going to get yourself to the city.
The most important thing you need to remember for how to plan absolutely nothing for your New York City trip is to be open to possibilities. There is no other city quite like New York City. It's got a rhythm and an excitement like no other city I've ever visited. It is completely possible to visit the city hundreds of times and not even scratch the surface of things to do. Walk around, soak it up, put down the camera, and always look up. If you see something interesting, explore it. If you're not really feeling it, walk away. New York City may seem like a big, scary beast of a city to be tamed but you'll find out that it's best left wild.