New York On A Budget: It's Not as Difficult as You Think
The Big Apple
Looking at pictures of New York City, you expect to explore a metropolis bustling with millions of people from all around the globe, a world-class stage for arts, fashion, and culture, and a never-ending selection of unique experiences for the most discerning foodie.
NYC saw a record-breaking year for tourism in 2017 , welcoming more than 13 million international visitors (an all-time high) and 62.8 million visitors in total who come to the city year-round. With numbers like that, you might think this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip that’s likely to empty your wallet. But we’ve found that even if you’re traveling on a budget, it’s possible to enjoy much of what the city has to offer – if you plan ahead and know where to look for deals. We’ve compiled our best tips based on our personal experiences visiting the city that never sleeps.
Take public transit
In New York, you can always find something to entertain and delight you whether you’re browsing the street markets in Times Square, taking in an unforgettable Broadway Show, touring the city’s iconic infrastructure, or just satisfying your appetite with a heavenly slice of pizza.
Since the transit system is phenomenal, there’s no need to drive. In fact, Mark strongly discourages the idea. “We drove to New York City and found that once we got there, our car was practically useless unless we were headed out of the city,” he remembers.
“The transit system is amazing and while it can be confusing taking the subway and walking when we could (or taking a cab when we couldn’t), it was much easier and less stressful. The time wasted getting lost and the cost of parking simply aren’t worth it.”
Save time and money
Travel blog Contented Traveller suggests taking a flat rate taxi from JFK airport, which will come to $59 US, including the Manhattan Bridge toll and the shuttle for $50 or the Super Shuttle if you’re coming from Newark. Depending on traffic, you can walk or grab a taxi from Penn Station or the Port Authority.
Taking the subway to get around the city is also a great money saver, or if you want to fit in a lot of activities, grab an hop-on, hop-off bus tour ticket, which gives you the flexibility to see the city’s famous attractions at your own pace.
Getting yourself a seven-day MetroCard for $29 and taking the subway is also a great money saver.
Find affordable rooms
With so much to see and do in New York, you probably won’t be in your room very much during your trip. Why pay full price? Accommodations may go for a premium in the Big Apple, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your cash here. Check into Airbnb. Prefer hotels? You can find reasonable rooms in Manhattan and near Times Square.
Once you’ve dropped your luggage off, one of the first things you’ll want to do is discover a few of the iconic sites you’ve probably only seen in the movies or on your laptop screen, up close.
Some of the best shopping opportunities in the world await! First, go browse Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, a “must-visit for shoppers!” says Mick.
If you’re in the city close to the holiday season, stop to appreciate the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center – “a picture of holiday cheer.”
Of course, we can’t forget Times Square, one of the most iconic urban hubs in the world. Sometimes referred to as “The Crossroads of the World”, it’s home to a tourist destination, arts and entertainment district, shopping and of course, stunning digital billboards and ads. About 50 million visitors pass through here annually. You simply can’t visit New York without taking a visit to this mecca in Midtown Manhattan.
Other big draws in the city that are free to visit include the Guggenheim Museum, Central Park and the Bronx Zoo. You can also catch a live taping of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or Saturday Night Live.
Grab some pub food
By the end of the day, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite, so stop by Long Hall Pub & Grocery for a glimpse of what a true traditional Irish pub looks like. “What is rarely exported is the fact that many Irish pubs traditionally served as both the grocer and the publican,” Mick explains. “The Long Hall maintains this tradition in NYC, and you can purchase all sorts of goodies.”
With more than 40,000 restaurants in the city and 12,000 street food vendors, there’s something for your taste buds around every corner, whether you’re looking for a tried-and-true hot dog vendor, comfort food (think mac and cheese) or something more adventurous, like falafel and shawarma, or even a delicious Mexican taco.
Take in a Broadway show
Have a theatre aficionado in the family? They’ll be in heaven on Broadway, which puts spectacular performers on stage in the heart of the city. Take them to see any one of the breathtaking plays or musicals and you’ll both be happy, as Mark discovered.
“The production value was quite impressive, and it was quite an experience overall,” he said, cautioning hopeful theatre goers to book a visit in advance as shows sell out quickly. “If there is something you had in mind or you are picky, definitely plan ahead.”
“If there is something you had in mind or you are picky, definitely plan ahead.”
In the mood for a summertime escape? Take a trip up the coast to Rhode Island.
“Depending on the season, this is a beautiful drive with many stops along the way. It is a great way to spend a day or two outside of the hustle and bustle of the city.”
Three hours away, Providence boasts some amazing food and scenery. Tour its distinctive neighbourhoods or take the kids to the Roger Williams Park Zoo. In the winter, you can even ice skate downtown. If you’re up for it, take a scenic, comfortable ride on the Long Island Ferry back to the city.
There’s a dizzying array of things to do, places to see and experiences to try during your visit to New York City. Whether you stay in Manhattan or venture out to Providence and Rhode Island, traveling affordably is doable if you stick to public transit and take advantage of the many free-to-see attractions.
Travelling to New York
Are you travelling to New York for the first time? Returning to a favourite destination? What are your best tips when it comes to saving for vacations? We’d love to hear what you’ve planned, or any tips we missed! Share your story in the comments!