How to Do New York on a Budget
You don't have to be a millionaire to visit New York City, you just have to know how to do New York on a budget. Here are some tips for cheap New York travel that will help you spend less money -- that way, you've got more for the fabulous dining and shopping!
How to get airfare to New York on a budget
Set yourself an airfare alert with a website like airfarewatchdog.com. They'll email you whenever there's a great deal from where you live to New York. As long as your dates and times are flexible, you should have no trouble getting to NYC for a reasonable price. Still strapped? Look into Amtrak or a Greyhound bus for a cheaper alternative.
How to get a hotel in New York on a budget
You can often get a deal by combining your airfare search with a hotel search on sites like Travelocity. If you don't find what you want there, the best way to stay in New York on a budget is to have a look at hotels that are a little outside of midtown like the Marrakech on the upper wise side -- you're likely to get a better deal. Both the Chelsea Savoy Hotel and the Colonial House Inn have rooms starting at $99 per night, and if you don't mind sleeping in a boat cabin-like crashpad, try The Jane for a trendier experience right in the heart of NYC's infamous nightlife. If you're looking for a place with its own kitchen and a community of fellow budget-travelers, definitely investigate hostels, such as the Broadway Hotel & Hostel. Just be aware that for the best hostel prices, you'll have to book way in advance.
Inexpensive and free New York attractions
Once you're there, it's easy to see New York on a budget. There is so much to do in NYC for free -- how else could any of us survive here? Some joke that the rents are high because they include amenities like free live music in the parks and subways, Central Park, the Staten Island Ferry and more. It doesn't cost anything to shop on 5th Avenue (only to buy), or to wander through Times Square and Grand Central Station. To keep your admission price budget at a minimum, keep in mind that many of the major museums, including the American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, have a "suggested admission." That means you don't have to pay full price if you can't afford it. Here's a great list of free museums in New York City, too. And, if you're going to see a Broadway play, be sure and get your tickets at the TKTS Booth in Times Square during the day -- you'll save up to 50% on unsold seats even for the hottest shows.
Eating in New York on a budget
I hope you like hot dogs. Only kidding -- well, half kidding. If you enjoy street food, you'll never have trouble eating on a budget in NYC. You can get a lot of great stuff on the street; not just ice cream, hot dogs and pretzels, but knish, falafel, pizza, kebabs, bowls of noodles... all manner of things. Half-off the street, in a corner bodega, you can get great prices on sandwiches and bagels and the like. Just walk up to the deli counter and order -- it's a good idea to decide exactly what you want before you get to the front of the line to avoid eye rolls. If you'd prefer to sit down, head to a local coffee shop for a sandwich or salad. You almost always pay less if you go to a place where you order at the counter. If you really want table service (and after a long day of sightseeing, who wouldn't?) try out an NYC diner for a truly authentic budget New York experience. Pretty soon, the city will have letter grades for cleanliness in all restaurant windows, so you won't have to take a gamble on which diner looks cleanest. Lastly, if you picked a hotel with a kitchenette, you can just stop into a bodega and pick up some basics like a New Yorker would.
See? It's not so hard to have a great time in New York on a budget!
Photo by Annie Scott.