I’ve been living in NYC for 3 years now, and I have no doubt this is where Kate and I belong. We LOVE it here.
And the one thing (among many) we really appreciate is how accessible everything is.
Everything is within reach. And if not, it’s a delivery away… via a few taps in an app. I see friends and family from out of town more often than I expected, since people actually want to visit here.
I can walk to everything. Subways are usually quicker than cars (when there aren’t nightmarish delays). And if I want to ride in comfort, I can hail a car from my phone.
Speaking of accessibility and travel / face time with actual humans in real life, I want to share a few metro-centric products and services I love — true city living essentials that I find myself using regularly.
What? You don’t live in NYC? No problem! Not all of these things are limited to this city.
Oh! Before I forget, I want to mention our Fall Reader Meetup!
OK, now, for some cool city living essentials
Here are a few products/services I use and think will interest you. Full disclosure – some of these are affiliate links, which basically means I earn a few cents (from the company’s pocket, not yours) if you choose to buy something using one of these links.
For some of these services, you’ll get a significant discount just by using my link. And I get a credit too. Win-win!
The Best Lunch and Dinner Subscription Service (NYC, Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, London, Paris, and more)
No time to cook? Like trying new restaurants? Prefer saving money?
I’ll admit, cooking in NYC sucks. Groceries are expensive. Our kitchen is small. We have zero counter space. Cleanup is tedious with no dishwasher. And after a long day of writing articles and emails to you, I’m super lazy to cook a meal.
Which is why MealPal is first on my list of city living essentials. Here’s how it works.
MealPal is a service that partners with hundreds of restaurants around the city to offer daily lunch and dinner specials starting at $5.99. These are FULL-SIZED meals — which is crazy, because the bacon egg, and cheese bagel I order on a lazy Saturday morning costs more than that.
Each restaurant offers one daily special — which changes regularly. You select a meal and a time to pick it up. And boom, lunch (or dinner) is served!
I assume it’s so affordable because the restaurant only offers one choice per day. You can’t add or make substitutions. And you have to go pick it up.
But if you can get over those things, it’s a crazy good deal.
I thought it would be annoying to have to go pick up my meal (NYC is all about seamless delivery), but there are something like 50 restaurants participating within a 5 block radius of my apartment.
Most likely, if you’re in one of the cities where they operate, plenty of restaurants around you are participating in the service… and MealPal is in many cities (see if they offer it in yours).
I’ve been using it the last two months and it’s saved me and Kate from a lot of wasted time staring into the fridge, looking for something tasty that requires little to no cooking time.
TL; DR — MealPal offers:
- Lunch or dinner starting at $5.99 per meal
- Thousands of restaurants participating in your city
- Easy to reserve meals
- Availability in many cities
The Best Luggage for Lean, Minimalist Wardrobes (Available Worldwide, stores in NYC, SF, LA)
Kate and I love to travel, and we’re pretty good at packing light. Last time we visited friends and family in Chicago and Indiana for 10 days we each brought one carry-on. And they were only 2/3 full with room to spare.
Oftentimes, I’m good with just a weekender — even if I know I’ll be gone a week (Lean Wardrobe FTW).
What sucks is that my carry-on luggage is cheap and old. I bought it 7+ years ago from TJ Maxx. The fabric is frayed, the telescopic handle is wobbly, and the side handle snapped off, so it’s currently held together by a few well-placed zip ties.
Super sketchy, I know. And slightly embarrassing when I’m walking around the terminal.
So I’ve been browsing for new carry-ons. But no matter what I find, I’m always drawn to the sleek luggage sets from Away.
Aesthetically, it’s simple and beautiful. There’s a wide array of colors and sizes to choose from, and you can customize them with cool leather stickers and even a hand-painted monogram.
Functionally, everything is organized and compartmentalized. There’s space for your clean clothes, your dirty clothes (in a separate pouch, of course), your shoes, and your toiletries.
Inside, a compression pad positioned between both main sections helps push out air and free up extra space. Outside, its tough hard shell is designed to bend against pressure without cracking.
It also comes with a TSA-approved lock. So you can secure your stuff from civilians while still granting access to those pesky agents who will probably rifle through your bag, then hand it back to you with everything out of place even though you spent an hour meticulously packing it to organized perfection. UGH!
There’s also a built-in battery so you can charge your USB devices on the go. Never run out of charge while you’re in transit again!
If you’re in NYC, LA, or SF, you can visit one of Away’s stores and see the luggage up close. But even if you’re not in one of these cities, you can take comfort in Away’s 100-day trial. Take 100 days to test it out. If you decide it’s not for you, you get a full refund, no questions asked.
Finally, to sweeten the deal, Away is offering $20 off your order (I’ll also receive $20 credit).
TL; DR — Away:
- Offers a variety of well-designed luggage, from small carry-ons to large check-in suitcases
- Looks great, comes in many colors, and offers occasional special editions
- Is customizable with high-quality leather stickers and hand-painted monograms
- Is compartmentalized so all your stuff stays in place, as it should
- Has TSA-approved locks and a built-in USB charger
The Best Co-Working Spaces You Wouldn’t Expect (NYC, Brooklyn, SF)
If you’re in New York or SF and you work from home, you might feel a bit… lonely. That’s where the next of my city living essentials comes into play.
I was feeling that way for a while. It can get boring working from home with no human interaction during the day.
Coffee shops are fine, but oftentimes they’re too noisy, they’re over-crowded, and there aren’t any outlets available where you sit. Hate that.
I also didn’t want to shell out $400/month for a floater desk at WeWork or any of the other co-working spaces.
But a few months ago, I discovered Spacious.
Spacious partners with “dinner only” restaurants and makes their gorgeous dining rooms available as co-working spaces. It’s an amazing alternative to crowded coffee shops — and definitely better than working at home. They’ve got locations in NYC and Brooklyn but have plans to expand to San Francisco this year.
(I didn’t even have to write that description; Spacious did, haha)
They offer a free trial week if you want to get your feet wet before committing. But if you’re a WFH person, you’ll love the flexibility of having a place to work when you want to get out. Plus, it’s more affordable than most co-working options (only $95/month). And you can change up your scenery at any time by visiting different Spacious locations.
When you sign up for your free week, make sure to enter code BCUADRO. If you do end up becoming a member, you get $30 off your first month (I’ll also get a $30 credit — this is that win-win I was talking about)
TL; DR — Spacious:
- Is an alternative to working from home and more expensive co-working options
- Has many locations available in NYC (SF is coming in November)
- Lets you sign up with code BCUADRO, get a free week, and $30 off your first month if you decide to become a member
The Best Ride-Sharing Service (NYC, Chicago, Washington DC)
Like I mentioned earlier, accessibility is everything in NYC. It’s easy to get anywhere with public transportation. And even when it’s not, you can easily hail a cab.
Except for one little thing: cabbing it everywhere can get pricey!
Uber, Lyft, Gett, Juno… depending on the car service you try, you might save a few bucks here and there. But they’re all still expensive.
Just to give you an idea: when I visit friends in Gowanus, Brooklyn, it’s about 8 miles from my place, and a $35 UberX ride.
$35!!! And that’s one way.
Headed to JFK to catch a flight? $70. ONE. WAY. Seventy Doll Hairz!
That’s why I’m all about Via. It’s on the list of city living essentials for the budget minded traveler.
Via is a ride sharing service, emphasis on sharing. It works similar to Uber and all the other ride-hailing apps, but I prefer this one because it’s only ~$5 flat rate to go most places in Manhattan (anywhere below 125th St.)
They’ve also rolled out service in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The only difference is — instead of being picked up right at your location — you meet the driver at a nearby corner. The app does a great job of telling you exactly where to meet.
Also, your driver may pick up other folks headed the same direction as you. So while it’s not a private ride, it’s much more affordable than the other options. And to be honest, I’ve ridden in Via many times by myself without picking up anyone.
If I’m not walking or taking the subway, Via is my default choice when I’m heading from place to place around the city.
Try Via in NYC, Chicago, or Washington, D.C. with a free $10 credit (I’ll also receive a $10 credit) by clicking the button below. You could also use code barron4s2, but clicking the link is easier 😉
Are you a city dweller? What would you add to this list of city living essentials?
Let me know in the comments. If they’re widely available (at least in a few cities), I’ll update this article and add the services I get to try.
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