Want to experience New York on a budget? My friend Jonathan and I just got back. It was his first time in the city and I wanted to make sure he had a great time without blowing our budgets. My first airplane trip ever was a solo trip to New York (where did I ever get the courage?), so this city holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been five times in the last year, including a trip with my niece Emmi last summer, and it never gets old.
Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about traveling on the cheap. The Internet makes it a cinch to choose your own adventure without breaking the bank. Thanks, Internet!
Here are my favorite tips and sites for experiencing New York like Blair Waldorf …
… even if you’re on Ilana Wexler’s budget.
There are some great apps (Hopper) and sites (Cheapo Air; Google Flights) for scoring cheap plane tickets. There are also some best practices, like searching for tickets on Tuesdays starting about 3 p.m. EST. Also don’t forget to toss your cookies. And I don’t mean into a barf bag. Clearing your browser’s cache of cookies will keep airlines and travel sites from quoting higher prices because they know you’re ready to travel. Some believe this is a myth, but I’ve tried searching on different browsers (another good option) and have gotten lower prices more than once. Never hurts to check, right? Also, the earlier you can search for tickets (at least two months in advance) the better your chances of scoring a deal.
My new favorite site is Booking.com. You can reserve a room without having your card charged, as long as you cancel 48 hours before the arrival date. Here’s the best part: Reserve and keep looking. I booked Hudson New York two months in advance. Two weeks before our trip, I got cheaper rate on the same room, also on Booking.com. I canceled my original reservation and rebooked at the lower rate. Savings: $150. Be aware that many hotels also charge room tax, facilities or resort fees, service charges etc, so know what’s included (and what’s not) before you book.
Also: be sure to evaluate hotel costs based on location. Yes, a hotel like The Hudson is pretty pricey, but its proximity to Central Park, Broadway and Times Square saved us a small fortune on taxis. Jonathan’s fitness tracker said we logged 21k steps a day, and for good reason: hands down, the best way to experience the city is on foot. No matter where you stay, pack comfy shoes.
There are so many incredible museums in New York, you might be tempted to see them all. On our trip, we only managed to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. These two, as well as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and The Cloisters, are technically free but ask for a suggested donation, usually $12.00 for students to $25.00 for adults. I always try to pay something, but when you’re on a budget, pay as much or as little as you’re comfortable with. Advance tickets and tickets purchase at the self-serve kiosk charge the full amount. Private museums like the Guggenheim and The Whitney charge $25.00, well within New York on a budget range.
As I said, walking is the way to go if you’re visiting New York on a budget, but Uber and taxis are good in a pinch. Download the Uber app before you go or if you prefer a classic yellow taxi, there’s now an app for that too. Arro, has all the convenience of Uber without the surge pricing. But you can’t do New York on a budget without trying the subway at least once.We took it to Brooklyn and lived to tell the tale. It’s intimidating but when you get where you’re going you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do.
Jonathan and I didn’t get advanced tickets to our shows, which caused a bit of a scramble. On Thursday, we stood in the line at the TKTS booth in Times Square.
My first reaction when I saw the line was, no way. No freakin way. I freelance , so I know exactly how much an hour of my time costs, and thought there was no way this could be worth it. But it actually was. The line moved very quickly and we were able to score great seats for “American Psycho: The Musical” at half price. Definitely recommend this show. There’s a plastic screen at the front of the stage to catch the blood splatter and the 80’s music was right up my alley. The next day, we bought tickets online for BlackBird starring Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels. Incredible show about a very different but more common American psycho. Disturbing long after it was over. We had nosebleed seats for this show but most Broadway theatres are so intimate you’re never too far from the action.
Want to know before you go? Check out A View From My Seat, an awesome site where people upload pics showing the view from their seats at venues all across the country. God, I love the Internet sometimes.
So those are my favorite tips for experiencing New York on a budget. What are yours?