How to Save Money on Vacation: New York City

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Need to save money on vacation in New York City?  NYC can seem impossible to visit since it’s so expensive but it doesn’t have to be. It takes planning  and preparation, but done right, even one of the most expensive cities in the world is possible to visit on a budget.

save money on vacation in NYC

Free views from the Brooklyn Bridge

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Here are the main ways I saved money on our New York City vacation. Start planning your own!

Save Money on Vacation Getting There

Since we live in Kansas and having your own car in NYC is not recommended, flying was a pretty obvious choice. I took advantage of credit card points I’d been saving to get one of the flights free, so I only paid for two tickets instead of three.

Save Money on Vacation Getting Around

Buy multi day Metro cards. We bought unlimited, week long Metro Cards for the subway as soon as we got there. At $31 each, $93 total for unlimited transportation for a whole week for all three of us, I knew this would be well worth it. The subway is quick, easy and less of a hassle than dealing with taxis and traffic. If you relied on taxis, you could easily spend $93 in just a day or two.

As a bonus, the subway is a form of entertainment in itself! We enjoyed hearing the musicians performing in the subway and riding it. It’s cheap entertainment and all part of the cultural experience.

save money on vacation in NYC

Subway musicians Too Many Zooz – These guys were awesome and have since been on TedX Talks. Be kind to performers and tip them for entertaining you.

Walk. Take good walking shoes and don’t worry about fashion. Your feet and legs will thank you. Hopping in a taxi every time you need to go a few blocks is a waste of money and you never know what you will see  walking. Stop and rest when needed and alternate intense walking days with easier days.

Save Money on Vacation for Accommodations

There are several ways you can save on accommodations, potentially the biggest expense in NYC.

Skip staying in Midtown or even Manhattan itself, where hotels are the priciest. Choose to stay in one of the outlying boroughs instead. We stayed in Brooklyn. The subway was only a block and a half away and a twenty minute ride into Manhattan. Nearly every day we enjoyed the the views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York skyline as we crossed over the Manhattan Bridge on the train.

Use AirBnB or New York Habitat, which is similar, instead of hotels and look for discount offers. I found a great apartment on New York Habitat. They were running a promo through Twitter at the time and I got an additional 20% off. I ended up only paying $95 a night, including all taxes and fees. This is super cheap by New York standards.

save money on vacation in New York

Our apartment building in Brooklyn

Our apartment had two beds, private bath, dining area and kitchenette. Staying in a Brooklyn neighborhood home also meant at the end of the day we escaped the noise of Manhattan and walked a block down a quiet residential street to our apartment. This is why we love staying in AirBnB‘s. Each place is unique, homey and you can save money! If you sign up on Air BnB I will give you a $20 credit off your first stay, even if you’re not ready to use it just yet.

save money on vacation in New York

Our pleasant one block walk from the subway to our apartment in Brooklyn.

Save Money on Vacation Eating

We view experiencing different food when we travel as an important part of the experience. We mixed eating breakfast before we left our room and cheap meals with a few splurges on some places that we really wanted to eat which were a little more expensive. We rarely ate at sit down restaurants. They cost more, require a tip and take more time.

For the cheap meals, we ate from food trucks and in less expensive neighborhoods. New York has some of the best food trucks anywhere. Yelp is really handy for finding budget friendly, yet highly recommended places to grab something to eat.

save money on vacation in NYC

Pizza by the slice makes a cheap meal in NYC. Perfect for kids.

You can get pizza for $1-3 a slice lots of places. We also bought things from grocery stores or markets and had “picnics” on a bench or in a park and drank and refilled water bottles.

Save Money on Vacation Sightseeing

There are so many things to see and do in New York that don’t cost a thing! From free museum days, the Staten Island Ferry, Central Park and just wandering around looking at the architecture, there is plenty to see for free. We did some unconventional things as well as visit the “must sees”. I’ll share how we kept our sightseeing within budget in my next post.

save money on vacation New York

Times Square NYC

How to Afford Travel as a Single Mom

Going to NYC as a smart and frugal single mom with two teens means everything was either paid ahead of time, paid with cash, or put on a credit card and paid off immediately. I refuse to pay interest on credit cards so unless I know I can pay it in full that month, I don’t put it on a card.

I save money monthly in our “vacation fund”. Thinking about coming up with a thousand or so dollars for a vacation makes most people assume they can’t afford it. However, by setting aside money every single month and earmarking it specifically for travel, you don’t have to come up with all the money at once. I shared how I do this in Manage Your Money with Envelopes & Freedom Accounts”.

My kids and I are okay going without certain things, like cable and new clothes all the time, in order to save $100 or so every month for vacations instead. This way, I have the cash available before we leave so I’m not paying for things after we return and paying interest.

I hope you see that with some planning, preparation and flexibility you can save money on vacation, even to New York!

How about you? What do you do to save money on vacations to expensive cities?  Share in the comments.

2 Comments

  1. These are good tips. I took my Son to NYC in late May, it was perfect, not too hot yet. And by your standards I, a single mom, did great…this is how I planned most of my trip. Thanks for the info!

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