How to Prepare for Walking Tours in All Weather

My policy is that tours run rain or shine, except in the case of extremely severe thunderstorms (e.g. with lightning, or with rain heavy enough to impede visibility) or hail, blizzards, or other dangerous weather. If you’ve booked one of my tours and are ever in doubt about whether or not it’ll go, please check this website for updates. I post weather-related updates on my homepage whenever it looks like it might be an issue. You can always call or email me if you have questions. A full list of my cancellation policies is available here.  In the meantime, read on to see how you too can be prepared to walk in all weather!


The Folding Plastic Inevitable

In a perfect world, everyone would have a small, collapsible umbrella with them at all times. We’d also be able to eat all we want without gaining weight, and win the lottery every time we bought a ticket. But since, in reality, we are hasty, unprepared little creatures, we have to contend with the fact that we’ll occasionally be caught in the rain with nothing to ward off the wet and cold. Well, never fear, because New York City’s got you covered: the owners and proprietors of our many fine delis understand the city’s never-ready, always in a hurry, disposable mindset and have stocked their emporia with oodles of cheap, black, identical umbrellas. They’re an inconvenient length, with curving handles that make them impossible to fit into a handbag, and they all come with a magic curse that ensures they’ll be left at the first bar or movie theatre you go to. They’re also five dollars. Five bucks! For less then the cost of an average Starbucks gewgaw, you too can be shielded from the elements. You’re never more than two or three blocks from the nearest deli, so duck under some scaffolding and run – don’t walk! – to your inclement-weather-helper, the blessed vendor of the Plain Black Umbrella. When you’re done with it you can pretty much count on throwing it away because those things can NOT withstand wind. They’ll be toast by the end of your three-hour tour.

The Art of Layering

Repeat after me: I will always wear three layers. Always. If you want to be comfortable on any walking tour, you’re going to need at least that number. Why? Because you’ll be hotter after walking a few miles than you were when you were just standing around, silly. Conversely, you might start a tour at 7:30 p.m. and find that, hey, it actually gets colder when the sun goes down! But layers are bulky and heavy, you complain. Who wants to carry all that around? Ah ha. You raise a good point, imaginary patron. Let me tell you what I’ve figured out in my three years of tour guiding: hats and scarves are your friends. Your very best friends. I totally agree with you that you don’t want to tote a backpack with a hoodie in it all around the West Village. It’s too much. But we all know that you lose 90% of your body heat through your head. The simple addition of a warm hat can take you from day to night with very little fuss. A scarf is another surprisingly effective way to warm up; wrapping a scarf around your throat can do more to keep you warm than a long-sleeved shirt sometimes. You might look like a hipster, sure, but you’re in the big city now, you don’t give a damn what people think of you.

“Oh, but Moe, the dank! The dank!”

We’ve addressed the rain, we’ve addressed the cold. We’ve even alluded to the wind (but more on that in a second). But what about the damp, the dank, the dreaded chill that gets into your very bones and makes you feel like you can never warm up? This can make a long walking tour seem like pure hell. I’ve got two words for you by way of a solution: liquid heat. Yes, sir, a hot drink will save your life. Now there are two ways to go about it: first, you can stop at a deli or coffee shop and grab a coffee or tea to go. If your tour guide is understanding (and they will be because guides are supremely awesome people), they shouldn’t have a problem with this. Take two minutes to grab a steaming paper cup of hot tea, wrap your fingers around it and let its warmth seep into you. Drink it all up and radiate heat from within. And the second way? Well, depending on the nature of the tour, the guide, and the guests, you could do worse than pop into a “spiritual establishment” and do a shot of whiskey. Bonus: your tour will automatically become more hilarious and interesting! Take it from me: the best way to battle cold wet weather is with hot drinks.

Lawrence of Arabia: Dealing with Heat and Wind

The other day I was at Rockaway Beach and an unholy wind whipped up the sand until it looked more like the setting for Lawrence of Arabia than the Irish Riviera. And I realized how torturous heat and wind can be.

For dealing with extreme heat, the first step is always to adjust your attitude. Take a deep breath. Calm yourself as much as you can. The more upset and excited you get about the heat, the worse you’ll feel. Take slow steps. Chances are your guide will be doing the same but if they’re not, ask them politely to slow down a little. Try to find a bench or stoop or somewhere to sit while they’re speaking, and course seek out shade where you can. Buy the coldest bottle of water you can find, or bring a frozen one from home to carry with you (and apply it periodically to the insides of your wrists and the back of your neck). Then drink plenty of that water. Wear a hat if you have one, or shade your head with your purse or a newspaper if you don’t. Wear your sunglasses; it won’t feel as hot if it’s not bright.

Wind is a little harder to deal with. The best advice I can give about dealing with strong winds is that glasses and/or sunglasses can help at least keep some of the dirt and grit from flying into your eyes. But of all the elements, wind is the one you can do the least about.

You guide and the tour company will use their judgment to decide when weather conditions are too extreme to conduct the tour. When high winds morph into tornadoes, or rain into hurricanes, or in the event of lightning, tours can and will be postponed or canceled. Always call beforehand to check on the status of your tour.

But if you are out there, and things do start to go awry, remember the basic tips outlined above. They should keep you in good spirits despite the adverse weather. And remember, attitude is about 50% of it. Instead of saying to yourself, “Rain sucks,” think about how much more apt you are to see a ghost in the rain and fog (this admittedly works better for ghost tours than any other kind). Is that humidity? No, it’s the spirit of the wrongly-hanged Rose Butler lightly brushing against you as you walk beneath the Hangman’s Elm in Washington Square Park… see? Mind over matter. Oh, and remember: as Kurt Vonnegut said, “Don’t forget the sunscreen.”