Is New York City expensive? It can be very expensive if you do not do your research and plan your trip, but if you do your research and plan well, you can visit The Big Apple, even if you’re on a budget, and NO, you do not have to stay in the Motel 6 in the Bronx nor do you have to pull a Supersize Me and eat McDonalds every meal.
My wife and I visited New York on a budget and we had the time of our lives to the point where we still talk about it even two years later. We stayed in a nice Hotel in Manhattan, we ate at nice restaurants, we toured the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and we spent less than $1000 for the whole trip (we flew for free).
Here are 5 ways to travel to New York City on a budget:
The first part of your trip you need to plan is how to get to New York. Round trip tickets to New York can cost anywhere between $200 and $500 depending on where you are flying from, the time of year, the airline, etc. etc. etc. Shop around the different sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, kayak.com, and don’t hesitate to check the actual airline websites for possible deals not listed on 3rd Party booking sights. Be sure to check jetblue.com as Jet Blue Airlines’ main hub is New York JFK Airport and they often have very good deals from many locations in the USA.
Second, you need to found housing. You can often find great deals on hotels through priceline.com, booking.com, and if you’re open to staying at someone’s privately owned residence, you can check out airbnb.com and save a ton of money. If you want to stay on Manhattan and be closer to all the action, but without breaking the bank, stay around Wall Street/Battery Park area (Lower Manhattan). Avoid hotels at Times Square or around Central Park or you will pay a lot more. Lower Manhattan not only has lower prices on Hotels, the restaurants and cafes are a lot cheaper than around Times Square.
Third, you need to figure out transportation from the Airport to your Hotel, and around the city as you visit the different sites. You can travel by taxi, but I hope you’re a millionaire. You can walk everywhere, but I hope you have lots of time on your hands and very good legs. The best way to travel around New York is via the subway. New York boasts the best subway system in the United States. The trains come very often, and you can get almost anywhere quickly. If you’re going to be in New York for at least 3 days, purchase the 7 day MTA unlimited pass, which will allow you to travel on subway trains and MTA buses without limit. Last time I checked, it cost $30 per pass, and it is totally worth it. You will save after only 8 or 9 subway trips. My wife and I completed that within one day. What else is nice, if you pull up Google Maps on your phone while walking around the city, you can see the subway lines by color and know which track to take to get to the site you want to see. You can purchase your subway pass at the Howard Beach AirTrain Station at JFK airport, or MTA vending machines at LaGuardia. If you fly into Newark, you have to take the air train to New York Penn Station as the MTA subway does not cross state lines.
Fourth, complete the trip in 4 days and 4 nights. You’d be surprised how much you can see in such a short time, and the less nights you stay, the more money you save. My wife and I took a Friday and a Monday off from work and visited New York on a 4 day weekend.
Fifth, plan out your activities and restaurants ahead of time, especially do your research on famous restaurants such as Katz Delicatessen, where a combo meal can cost you $25. That way you know ahead of time what you will be spending and there will not be unpleasant surprises.