How To: Visit NYC on a Budget

Theses tips come from two summers ago when I went to New York with my friend. It was the first trip without my parents, aka on my own budget. As I plan for another visit, I’ve been keeping the same things in mind, from getting there, to the hotel, to discounted Broadway tickets. Check out the tips below.

Photos from my last trip to NYC in 2013 – first solo trip without my parents and on my own dime.

1. Getting There

Flights: I normally fly with Porter for short flights – which offers major discounts on the regular. If you are coming from a city where Porter is not offered, I suggest looking at Google Flights. They compile all flight options and show the cheapest routes/airlines.

Drive: I was very fortunate that my parents were driving to Long Beach Island, NJ the same weekend, so we were able to hitch a ride with them to the Newark Airport, where I then caught the train. Coming from Ottawa, the ride was about 7 hours. We left around 6 am and got into the city in the early afternoon. The ride wasn’t bad at all. I would consider making it a road trip with friends next time if flights are pricey. Good company and music mixed with the excitement of arriving at the best city in the world make it all the more enjoyable.

+Train: We took the train from the Newark Airport, which cost about $15 each. It was a fairly quick ride into Penn Station, in central Manhattan (which also happened to be right by our hotel). I assume it’s much cheaper then a taxi ride and much faster than a bus. Definitely recommend this option, even if you are flying in.

Hello New York!

2. Hotel

Travelzoo: For my last trip (and my upcoming one) I looked to Travelzoo for discounts. I’ve been able to find boutique hotels in prime locations for 50% off. They normally throw in some extras like a free beverage per person, free wifi, etc. Last time, I even got upgraded to a studio suite. It was perfect.

Expedia: is another good option, with flights included. I’ve used this in the past.

Hotels that I’ve stayed at (in order of enjoyment): W New York, Affinia ManhattanNew York Hitlon Midtown, DoubleTree Metropolitan, Sheraton New York Times Square. For each of these, I’ve managed to find discounts. Keep your eyes peeled for deals and if you notice any of these are an option, know that it’s a safe bet!

Affinia Manhattan Affinia Manhattan

3. Free Activities

EXPLORE: Wandering the city aimlessly is one of my favourite things to do. On my last trip I had multiple blisters that were so bad, the skin on my toes was peeling off – gross I know – POINT IS I didn’t even care because I was in NY-freakin-C! For a change of scenery, wander Central Park, the Highline, Union Square Park … there are so many lovely spots to immerse yourself in nature when you get overwhelmed by the concrete jungle!

SNL and/or Jimmy Fallon Tapings: You can pre-book (but they sell out quickly) or wait in line the morning of, on stand-by. (I’ve been in the stand-by line). You have to go super early (like 7am) and wait for hours and they likely won’t call on you unless you are first in line. But it’s worth a shot!

Shakespeare in the Park: If you love Shakespeare and theatre, take part in this famous New York attraction. You may even be lucky and spot a show with one of your favourite actors (like Anne Hathaway or Amy Adams). Did I mention it is FREE??

I may need to write a whole separate post about free activities in New York, there are just so many!

Summer Streets NYC Times Square High Line

4. Cheap Activities

Top of the Rock: The view and overall experience are better than that of the Empire State Building – which you actually get to see with this view. I’m a big fan of views so I definitely think it’s worth the $30.

Museums: For most, you can just contribute what you wish! $5 for the MET? Don’t mind if I do! I also recommend the Cloisters; it’s a beautiful escape from the city.

To be honest, the only activity I found out of the budget was going to a Broadway show, but there’s a way around that too!

   Top of the Rock The Met

5. Broadway on a Budget

TKTS is key. The booth I normally line up for is the one in Times Square. Check out when the lines are open and go around a half-hour before. It may seem like a crazy long line to wait in, but being in Times Square, there’s no lack of things to look at for entertainment. The line actually goes by really quickly and when you end up with great tickets at a cheap price for a spectacular show, the line will be 100% worth it. Trust me, I’ve been stuck in this line during the pouring rain more than once … it’s worth it.

Peter and the Star Catcher - Broadway Broadway night out

6. Food

For an expensive city, there sure are a lot of cheap eats – even the healthy kind! With endless options for amazing and affordable food, I’m not even going to tell you where to go! Wander and discover something new, knowing you don’t need to break the budget!

Wild NYC Italian Restaurant

7. Transportation

MetroPass: For only $30 you can get an unlimited 7-day pass, which I highly recommend. I love taking the subway and I also love walking around the city (I have yet to tire of it); much cheaper than taxi rides. And, unlike other cities I’ve been too, the subway is still running at 4am (seen below).

 Subway at 4am NYC Metro Map

8. Shopping

Find the sales! Of course, you can indulge yourself in the massive Times Square Forever 21, but don’t be afraid to hit up Bloomingdales! Every time I’ve gone to Bloomies, there’s been racks and racks of great clothes on sale. Two other stores I love to go to are Nordstrom Rack and DSW in Union Square – though this may be more of a big deal for Canadians since we don’t have those stores. Honestly, just wander SoHo for interesting shops and you never know what you’ll find!

Forever 21 Times Square SoHo, New York

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