THE BLOG
12/30/2013 04:31 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

Leave Me Behind! Save Yourselves: A Native New Yorker's Guide to Surviving the Holiday Crowds

Okay, this one's for you, my embattled fellow New Yorkers. If you're a tourist, go check out my post from yesterday.

During the time between Christmas and New Year's, even the strongest among us want to get out of the city and run for the hills. I do not blame you, my comrades, but for those of you who can't manage that, not all hope is lost.

We all know well that tourist areas become epicenters of holiday madness, so my top suggestion for you would be to stay away from 42nd Street in Manhattan until the dust (and confetti) settles. Particularly, leave Times Square to the tourists and the people working to make sure they have a good time. You can hang out there anytime -- not that I get why you'd want to -- and around this time of year, the crowds don't need you to make them bigger.

Speaking of Times Square, for newcomers to the city, if you've never done NYE there before, and you have any interest in doing it, pick a year, go once, and be done with it. It is an experience far worse than it's worth. Unless the idea of being crammed into a pen with thousands of other people for 12+ hours, with no access to restrooms, food, or water appeals to you. In that case, go for it! You'll have a blast.

Your other problem is going to be dealing with the awful combination of tourist transportation snarls, commuter schedules, and holiday transportation changes. For this, I recommend that you add extra time to your journeys and make an effort to use an app like HopStop, or one of many others, to get directions that account for delays. The MTA site also has up to date information on cancellations and delays if you just need to check your regular route. It's made a bit easier by those subway lines that have live schedule displays in stations now, but still, like I said in my piece about the tourists: know before you go.

The easiest part is figuring out what to do between Christmas and New Year's Eve. If you've got work, you go to it and you get things done, no need to be out getting into tussles with tourists. If you're off work, stay out of the tourist areas, like I said, and find your fun with friends and family. It shouldn't be all that hard.

But then, of course, there's New Years' Eve, the Queen of Madness in a Wonderland where it's easy to lose your head. The first adult NYE I spent in New York City, I had a pretty interesting time. I did the Times Square thing, though I had to do a little parkour through alleyways and sweet-talk every cop from 59th Street to 42nd, since I was late to meet my friends... the rest of the evening, after the end of the Times Square deal, I watched a half-passed out man silently puke what looked like blood all over a subway car, then get up, wink at me, and hop off the train. And I'd call that a tame experience. It turned out to be vodka and cranberry juice. Don't ask how I know.

If your strategy isn't to get out of Dodge, then you need a plan. The tourists who haven't read my advice won't have good plans, and those folks will make your life harder if you haven't thought about what you're to do. There are numerous parties available, for every flavor of debauchery. Personally, if I'm in NYC for NYE, I like my parties alternative and my fellow revelers weird, but there's something here for all stripes. If you like what I like, I'll put a shoutout here for the Nonsense NYC list, which is also doing its annual year-end fundraising drive. Check them out.

The thing you want to avoid, though, are parties that go over capacity. Stick to event promoters and planners that have a good track record. On that score, the Internet is your friend, because it can tell you what things have been like in past years. That's never any guarantee, but it's like Eisenhower said: "Plans are worthless. Planning is everything." It's not bad to have a back up plan.

For my part, I like to go low-key for NYE. I live a crazy enough life on normal days that I like to just get out of the crazy areas and go somewhere quieter in Queens or Brooklyn, get together with some friends, and chill out until FEMA declares the area safe. I'd recommend the same, but that's not for everyone.

No matter what you do, the second big challenge this time of year isn't just avoiding the crowds and craziness on the way out, but also on the way back. Remember Cranberry Vodka Man from a few paragraphs back? That sort of thing is all too common this time of year, though let's not kid ourselves, you see some weird stuff year round. Jaded as we may want to pretend to be, though, we need to also be smart and not let impressions of being thick-skinned lead us into dangerous spots.

For that reason, be smart about your plans to get back. The subway is going to be crazy, but a cab could be worse -- if you're getting into one at the same time that people who drove in from the suburbs are starting to go home, drunk drivers could be an issue. In that case, dealing with nutters on the subway might be a better bet. That comes with its own risks, though, and I'd say that if you're going somewhere that isn't an easy trip back, be sure you're going back with at least one other person you trust. You never know what'll happen, and it's always nice to have company.

All my advice for dealing with NYC this time of year can be summarized as "plan ahead." It never hurts the rest of the year, either. Be prepared and alert, and you'll have a much easier time of things. Easier means more fun, and if you manage to have fun this time of year, I'd say you're doing it right.