New York City Public Transportation:: MetroCard

I grew up in a town of about 7,000 people. I live in a town with less than 4,000 people. I think there is one taxi in a neighboring town. We don’t have a public bus system or a subway…except for Subway the restaurant! So, when I visit a big city, public transportation can be a little intimidating. When we got to New York, we took a taxi to our hotel because it was the easiest option that required the least amount of thinking. We knew, though, that we would be using the subway system because it was going to be the quickest and most cost effective option. We were only in New York City for 3 nights. I wasn’t sure which option was our best choice because I didn’t know how many times we would be riding. I thought it would be right around 13 rides and that is the number that makes the unlimited option more cost effective. In the end we decided that if we had the unlimited and then made a mistake that we wouldn’t have to worry about it. We made only one mistake that we weren’t able to “fix.” We went into an entrance that the train was heading south and we wanted to head north. We had done that before but were able to get to the other side of the track without exiting. At this location, we weren’t able to do that. We tried to leave and go to the other side but when we swiped we couldn’t get through. The screen read “Just Used.” I read later that you have to wait 18 minutes before using the card again. I suppose that keeps people from sharing a card. We ended up walking that one! By our last day, we were even able to take the subway to a bus transfer (which was included in the cost of the MetroCard) and take the M60 bus to LaGuardia from Astoria. At least we saved the fee of the cab on the return to the airport as well, which would have been $20. We paid $31 each for the 7-Day Unlimited and a fee for a new card. If you are staying for 3 nights or more, I think that the Unlimited would be the way to go.



I copied this chart from here:


Ways to Save

Number of Rides Refill/Buy this Card Cost Your cost per ride
Fewer than 13 Pay-Per-Ride ($5.25 value with 5% bonus) $5


13 trips per week

20 trips per week

25 trips per week

7-Day Unlimited $30




48 trips per month

50 trips per month

60 trips per month

30-Day Unlimited $112




Express Bus Rider

5 days per week (10 rides)

7-Day Express Bus Plus $55


Occasional Express Bus Rider


($10.50 value with 5% Bonus)





Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL

My bestie, Jamie, and I decided we would go to Brookfield Zoo with our families for Mother’s Day this year. Both of our families are fairly early risers and like to get moving in the morning so we figured we’d get an early start. We found out though that the zoo doesn’t open until 10:00 a.m. So, we decided to leave early anyway and stop for a late breakfast on the way up there. We stopped at Cracker Barrel at the Weber Road exit but found the wait was going to be 1-1 1/2 hours. So, we drove down the street to McDonald’s with a playland. The kids were quite pleased with the choice. We left there about 9:30 and arrived at Brookfield Zoo at 10:00.

We haven’t been to Brookfield Zoo very many times and each time I go I realize why. With 3 young kids, it is hard to see the whole zoo. I felt like we were skipping exhibits and it felt necessary because the kids were wiped out. If we weren’t with our friends, I’m not sure how much I would have actually enjoyed the day. We added on the dolphin show to our entrance fee and went to the 11:30 show. It was a nice show with music, commentary, and the dolphins were fun to watch. The show at Shedd Aquarium is better, but this one was still good. Overall, if you want to see animals and don’t mind walking, you could have a great time. If you have small children, a smaller zoo could offer the same or better experience. The kids had a good time, the adults had good conversation, and we didn’t lose anyone, so it was a good day!


How do I Choose a Great Hotel?

I often have people ask me how I travel with kids. They ask me where they should go and where they should stay. The best place I’ve found to search for hotels is on They also offer Welcome Rewards which is free to sign up. Once you stay 10 nights, you get one free.  After you fill in your information such as where you want to go, when, and how many people, it is helpful to narrow the results. I usually make the max price about $130, depending on where we are going. I mark 2, 3, 4, and 5 stars. Then the crucial guest rating. I always look for a 4.0 or higher. I might consider a 3.9, but any lower than that and I have to be desperate. Depending on the type of trip, sometimes I mark pool in amenities. Once you have your list of potential hotels, you can sort them by using the “sorted by” on the right side of the page. I usually sort them by price, but there are other choices as well. If you decide to book a hotel, just make sure you sign into your account first so that you get credit toward your free night. We’ve earned 4 free nights in 4 years. That’s not too bad, especially since has the best prices anyway.