Travel Q&A: Shopping With Teens in New York City; Passport Name Change

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Q. Our daughter, a senior in high school, will be 18 in December and would like to travel to New York City with a friend or two (plus us, her parents) to have a mini-shopping spree, see some shows and maybe wander around at times by themselves. I am okay with the general idea but am concerned about the wandering around by themselves part. Any suggestions as to where to shop and whether it's safe for 17- and 18-year-olds to be on their own for a few hours?

Debbie Milder, Gaithersburg

A. "Law and Order" episodes notwithstanding, you can put your mind to rest. New York consistently ranks among the country's safest large cities -- much safer than Washington, as a matter of fact, according to FBI statistics (the violent crime rate for 2008 was 580 per 100,000 people, vs. the District's 1,370).

So let the kids explore on their own. They should be fine as long as they follow basic big-city precautions: Don't flaunt jewelry or cash; be alert in crowds and on subways; and have a basic sense of where they're going (check the map before leaving the hotel). Your hotel concierge can help with subway and walking routes.

But on to the really important question: where to shop. For the best indie boutiques, the girls should start in the SoHo and NoLita neighborhoods; for edgier options, try the East Village or the Lower East Side. Lots of good shopping in Brooklyn's Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods, too. For more traditional fare: Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side. New York magazine ( and Time Out New York ( have good online guides to what's hot.

To remove some of the guesswork and maximize your time, consider signing the girls up for a shopping tour with a local expert. Shop Gotham (917-599-6650,, for example, offers regularly scheduled two-hour walking/shopping tours for $37 a person that focus on specific neighborhoods or interests. Or you can arrange a custom outing for groups of up to four for $490. Private tours run four hours and include hotel pick-up, special discounts and a guide. A typical tour for 18-year-olds, said owner Marla J. Hander, might start out in SoHo or NoLita, then head to the East Village -- "It's very cool, nothing but indies, and not well-known to most visitors" -- and end up on the Upper East Side, depending on the group's interests. Participants fill out questionnaires and get a telephone consult beforehand to determine what best suits them.

For more on visiting New York, including tips on neighborhoods and lodging: NYC & Company,

My husband and I want to travel abroad in March for our five-year wedding anniversary. My passport is still in my maiden name. Do I need to obtain a new one or will this one still be accepted?

Jennifer Anderson, Arlington

You need a new passport. Per the State Department, all U.S. citizens must travel under their current legal names. Plus, your passport has to match the name on your ticket. The fee for a new passport is $75 (no charge if your old passport was issued less than a year before the name change), and you can apply by mail; you'll have to include a certified copy of your marriage certificate, documenting the name change, as well as your current passport and new photos. Details: National Passport Information Center, 877-487-2778,

Your Turn

For the reader looking for hotels with water parks (Travel Q&A, Sept. 27), Valerie Silensky-Lowe recommends Montego Bay Resort in North Wildwood, N.J. (609-523-1000,, about a 3 1/2 -hour drive from Washington. "It's enclosed, year-round, and right on the beach/boardwalk." . . . Regarding the item on Shanghai street markets (Travel Q&A, Sept. 20), Timothy P. Trainer of Washington said we should have emphasized that making and distributing counterfeit goods is illegal and that such goods are subject to confiscation by U.S. officials. . . . Kathy Masters of Arlington has restaurant recommendations for women dining alone in Paris (Sept. 20): La Maison (10 Rue des Grands-Degres) and Le Cosi (9 Rue Cujas), both small neighborhood spots on the Left Bank. And Lynda Meyers of Arlington offers additional tips for solo women diners: Dress a bit conservatively, make reservations when possible and arrive on time. In luxe, chic or very popular restaurants, she said, it's best to dine early in the evening.

Send queries by e-mail ( or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.

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