Yay! You’re going to NYC! A dazzling city like the Big Apple is bound to be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it on a budget.
New York City is one of the most visited places in the world, and with that comes $$$!
Let’s face it, hotels, transportation, meals… it all adds up. Quickly. It’s not uncommon for people to think an NYC vacay is unattainable, especially on a budget.
Many people think that in order to go to NYC, you have to hand over loads of money. However, with these tips, you’ll be sure to save major cash and a few headaches!
Here are my top budget friendly tips for traveling to New York City!
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1. Plan, plan, and PLAN!
Planning is so important with any trip, but especially in a city like NYC. It really isn’t a place you can just pop on over to the day of and expect to secure a hotel room for a reasonable price.
Booking beforehand and deciding on your schedule prior to arriving in the big city is a must.
With that being said, don’t be an over-planner. If you have a tight schedule, you’ll likely be stressed keeping an eye on the clock and making sure you’ll arrive at your destination on time.
I recommend writing everything you want to see down on paper and choosing 2-3 main events per day. This is the best way to make sure you see everything while also allowing yourself enough time to experience it.
Related: Top Carry on Essentials
2. Lyft and Uber over Taxis
All we used in NYC was Lyft. It was so much more convenient than a taxi, not to mention cheaper.
You can easily type in your destination and Lyft or Uber will pre-calculate the fee. This is awesome for planning your route to different sights or activities.
I tend to prefer Lyft because it’s more user-friendly and great for beginners.
Another bonus of using a ride-sharing app over the taxi cabs is that you don’t have to handle any physical money with the driver. It’s all through the app– even the tip.
3. Find cheap Broadway tickets at the “TKTS” Booth
The TKTS booth is located in Time Square and is where you can find discounted tickets for Broadway shows playing that day. You can arrive at the booth in the morning or a couple of hours before the show. We were able to score two Rockette’s tickets for $89! A steal!
And don’t be afraid of getting seats away from the stage at Radio City Music Hall. Our tickets were in the very last row of the whole theater, and they were still amazing. There’s really not a bad seat in that theater.
Note that this is the only reputable discounted ticket booth that I recommend. It’s not a good idea to buy tickets off of people selling them on the sidewalks because a lot of them are scams. Better be safe than sorry.
4. Go to Time Square, but don’t buy anything!
This is a BIG trap. The lights and hustle and bustle will distract you from the fact that Time Square is basically just a big outdoor mall.
Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely think you should go to Time Square just to take in the environment and get a feel for the city. The lights at night are amaaazing. However, DON’T BUY ANYTHING. It’s all overpriced generic stuff you could buy back home.
And stay away from the “I Heart NYC” T-shirts too. Not only are they overpriced, but you’ll also be labeled as an easy target, screaming “Tourist!”.
5. Take the Subway
Aside from it being a really cheap transportation option, it’s actually pretty quick. There were times when taking the subway was faster than taking a Lyft or Uber.
One of the biggest tips I have is to download the NYC Subway system app. It was seriously a lifesaver! All you have to do is type in your destination and the app configures a route using your location. It made figuring out when to get off stops a whole lot easier than using a traditional map.
Furthermore, I don’t think we could’ve navigated the subway without that app.
And no, the subway isn’t a creepy hole decorated with people ready to rob you. It’s actually really safe! I just recommend not taking the subway after 11 PM as a precaution.
6. Skip the Hotels, Book an Airbnb
The first night we arrived in NYC we stayed at a hotel in Manhattan. It was a nice hotel, but expensive.
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to hotels, Airbnb is a great option. We stayed in an Airbnb just 20 minutes away from Manhattan the last two nights of our trip, and it saved us a ton of money.
If you look around on Airbnb, you can find some amazing deals for being close to the city. Use this link for $55 off your first stay at an Airbnb!
If you do decide to go the hotel route, make sure you’re booking in advance. The availability is usually sparse, and by booking last minute, you end up paying a premium.
7. Take advantage of free activities
There are tons of free things to do in NYC. Walking tours are a great option because it allows you to take control of your schedule. There are plenty of audio tour apps you can download that will “walk” with you in certain areas. This is fantastic for groups or families to be immersed in the information.
Some of my favorite walking tour apps are:
Additionally, there are free museums, parks, or just plain ole’ sightseeing that you can do for totally free or on a budget.
8. Steer clear of chain restaurants
Eating in NYC can be so expensive. For breakfast, you’re better off getting a bagel from a coffee shop. Lunch should be minimal too, something from a street vendor or even just packing a bunch of PB&J sandwiches for your trip does wonders for the wallet.
Dinner, on the other hand, I say go for it. Just make sure to read the menu and prices online before sitting down to eat. Expect to pay a lot for food and then times 2.
Try new foods and restaurants when you’re in the Big Apple! After all, you could always eat McDonald’s or Subway back home.
You really don’t have to spend a lot when it comes to traveling to New York City! If you plan properly, you can easily have a good time on a budget-friendly vacation. It’s only expensive if you make it expensive! 🙂
Check out my other travel tips and trick here!