New York is one of the most popular cities to visit in the world. There’s so much to see and do, from visiting the top tourist attractions, enjoy a relaxing day in the park, to hitting the streets on a big shopping spree. But it is also one of the most expensive cities to visit. Visiting New York doesn’t have to break the bank, with these simple tips on visiting New York on a budget.
When you add up the cost of flights, accommodation, food, transport and sightseeing, you could easily spend more than you bargained for.
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New York on a budget: Simple tips to save some money
Although New York is expensive, you can still have an adventure at a fraction of the price. Just a little planning and you could be saving.
To help you stay on track, we share a few simple tips on how to visit New York on a budget.
When to travel to New York
One of our biggest tips on saving some money, will depend on when you visit New York City.
So, the cheapest time to visit New York on a budget is during the winter of December to February.
By travelling during the winter, you could save a few pennies. BUT the weather conditions are cold and it’s not uncommon for snow storms.
What about travelling during the spring or autumn of March to May and September to November?
You’ll still save money by travelling during the shoulder months and the weather will be warmer.
The most expensive time to travel and a period we would recommend avoiding is summer and school holidays.
Prices during the period will be the most expensive and you won’t make any saving.
To really save money, be flexible with your dates and travel during off season or the shoulder months.
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How to book cheap flights
We touched on this in the last point. But depending on when you travel will impact the cost of flights.
Flying mid-week is often cheaper compared to weekend flights.
Another thing to remember is, do you want to take a direct flight, or do you intent to have a stop off for a couple of hours or longer?
We have found that direct flights are more expensive, yet quicker. Having a stop or two before reaching New York is far cheaper.
If you do decide to take a stop or two, then always check the connecting times, as these could range from a couple of hours, to 5+ hours.
Flight costs will also depend on where you are travelling from. If you are in America and taking a domestic flight between one city to New York, then budget airlines such as Spirit Airlines is the way to go.
Unlike us who travel from the UK to New York, it will be more expensive.
There are three airports in New York, the most expensive arrival and departure airport is normally John F Kennedy International airport. Newark Liberty International Airport or LaGuardia Airport are generally cheaper to book flights to and from.
When researching flights, always check the price for the three different airports and book the best flights for you.
So, for you to really save money, research the cheapest time to travel, be flexible with your dates, check if a stopover will be cheaper than a direct flight and compare prices between airlines.
How to book cheap accommodation in New York
The next thing that will eat into that budget is the accommodation prices in New York.
We have mentioned this already, but choosing to travel during the winter months and shoulder months will be cheaper, even on accommodation prices.
Be flexible with your dates to get the best deal.
As you research where to stay in New York, what about the type of place to stay in? As this will affect the cost of accommodation.
New York has a variety of places such as hostels, B&B, guest houses, mid-range hotels and luxury hotels.
It will also depend on where you stay, as to the costs of the accommodation.
If you stay in a hotel in Manhattan, or somewhere central, then accommodation prices are expensive, the further you stay away from the centre, the cheaper accommodation becomes.
If you are tight on your budget, then we would recommend staying in a hostel.
Hostels are normally very basic, with shared rooms and amenities, but definitely more affordable. Yet hostels are not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially if you are not use to sharing a room and bathroom, or the hostel has a party atmosphere.
Most hostels will have single rooms with either shared bathroom or en-suite, but these are a little more expensive, than a dorm room.
In our experience, this is a great way to meet new likeminded travellers.
If hostels are not your preferred place to stay, then look into the mid-range hotels, cheap B&B or guest house.
Always check the reviews, before booking your stay.
Looking for some ideas on where to stay on a budget in New York City, then check rates and book your accommodation through Booking.com.
Places to eat in New York
Oh, delicious food and you won’t be disappointed with some of the yummy restaurants, cafes and street food that serve different cuisine from around the world.
If you haven’t been to the USA before, then you will be surprised with the portion sizes. They are massive. Well, when you compare it to the portions we get back home in the UK.
With the portion sizes, you definitely get you monies worth, although that doesn’t mean to say that it’s any cheaper. It just means you can get served a large portion.
So, with that being said, how do you save money on food and drinks in New York?
Our biggest tip on saving money, would be to share a meal.
We do this all the time! Well, when we both have a small apatite, there isn’t much point spending money on two meals and waste food, when we can order one and both be full after sharing a dish.
Not only will this save us money, but we don’t waste food.
Of course, we don’t expect you to go hungry, if sharing really isn’t an option, or that you can’t as you are travelling solo, then there are other ways you could save money on food and drinks.
Another hack we use all the time, is to make our own food.
Going grocery shopping and making our food to pack for the following day is far cheaper.
As an example, if we buy a sandwich from a shop, restaurant or café, we could be looking at $5.00+. If we are to buy a loaf of bread and a filling, we could make a sandwich each day for a couple of days and this would cost us far less.
We must add though, if you do buy your own groceries, make sure you don’t purchase any perishable items, unless you have a fridge. You really don’t want to buy food and it goes off, which is just wasting it.
If you are staying in a hotel, many will not have a kitchen, so think of practical lunch or evening meals you can prepare.
Buy snacks to have between meals, this will stop the temptation to buy food when you get hungry.
We have saved so much money by making our own lunch or evening meal. We do have a couple of days that we have meals in restaurants or cafes, we have to taste the local cuisine after all. But we will always do our research before we travel. That way we have an idea of what our budget will look like and we can choose the budget friendly places to eat.
Most restaurant and cafes will have a menu online, which includes price lists, giving you an idea of what the expected costs will look like.
Here are just some of our recommendations on places to eat in New York:
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A fast-food restaurant serving burgers and fries. While the food tastes good, it’s not good for you to eat fast food on a regular basis.
But while on holiday in New York, there’s no harm enjoying a meal or two here.
Wendy’s is definitely a convenient place to eat, yum yum.
Dunkin Doughnuts are all over New York and it’s often a case of walking a few blocks before the next one.
We all have to indulge ourselves now and again, especially when we are on holiday, but best enjoyed with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
The sweet treats here are definitely tempting, but don’t over indulge yourself.
Kothu is a Sri Lankan street food, and not one that’s found out of Sri Lanka very often.
If you want to try something completely different, then try Kothu House.
Kothu is made from chopped roti, with a meat curry e.g. chicken curry, or lamb curry, cooked and then mixed together to make this delicious dish.
There is a theme developing here with the fast-food restaurants, we must admit we didn’t visit these places on a regular basis, but this didn’t stop us from ordering one meal.
Shake Shack serves burgers and fries, this is much better than Wendy’s, but again you don’t want to be eating here regularly.
Applebee is an American bar and grill, serving a variety of different dishes, from pizza and burgers, to steak with fries and vegetables.
What was a real surprise here, is the option for at least one vegetable side such as runner beans, or corn on the cob.
This is a little bit more expensive, than other such places, but the food is good, the portion sizes are very big, and one meal was enough for the both of us to share.
This Italian marketplace and food hall, located in the Oculus, and other selected spots in New York.
There are different selections of dishes to order, either from their sit-down restaurant, or from their take away counter. The food is good, but the price is a little more expensive!
How to get around New York on a budget
Getting around New York is easy, simple and relatively cheap. There’s plenty of public transport links.
Our favoured method of getting around New York, is to simply walk everywhere. It’s the cheapest method of transport. Well walking is FREE, so you don’t have to pay for the privilege, plus it has other great benefits such as, how environmentally friendly, with little effort and it keeps you fit and healthy. Bonus.
In some cases, it might not be practical to walk, although it will save you money. If walking isn’t ideal, then here’s a few other options to consider.
There are three airports within New York or surrounding area.
The most well-known is John F Kennedy International Airport, which is about 25 miles from Manhattan, followed by Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, about 12 miles from Manhattan and LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, about 14 miles from Manhattan.
After landing from a long and exhausting flight, you will want to get to your accommodation with ease.
Airport transfers are the most convenient way to go from the airport to your accommodation.
Keep in mind, that not all hotels or accommodation providers, offer airport transfer or free services. Check this before making that booking.
Alternatively, you could take a more expensive taxi ride.
Public transport is the other option, to get you from the airport to New York City.
As you plan your holiday, include how you will get from the airport to your accommodation.
This is the most expensive way to get around New York. There is so many better ways to get around New York, than in a taxi.
Take a ride in the famous yellow cabs in New York is an experience, but only if you are happy to pay the price. You just won’t be saving on your trip.
On some days, it could be the slowest way to get around. Especially if you get stuck in traffic in the city, which can slow you down.
In our opinion, we would avoid taking a taxi, unless in an emergency.
With plenty of bus route around the city, taking a bus will be a great way to get around.
You can purchase tickets on board the bus, with cash, a Metro card, or contactless payment.
Cost of travelling on a bus starts are $2.50 and run frequently, more during peak hours (rush hour).
We have never used the bus, we will either walk or take the Subway.
The subway is a great way to get around New York city. Covering four out of the five boroughs and running 24 hours a day.
The great thing about the subway, is that you pay a flat rate of $3.00 for a single ticket. No matter the distance. Unlike the London Underground, that is split up into zones and depending on the zone, will depend on the cost of the journey. This is a great way to save some money.
You purchase the ticket from a ticket machine in the station, with a debit/credit card or cash.
Staying in the suburbs of New York, or taking a day trip from the city? Then you might want to catch the train.
Ticket prices will vary, depending on the distance and can be purchased at the departure station.
We touched on this above, but as it is FREE, it has to be mentioned again.
Walk as much as you can, so you can keep to that tight budget and save money at the same time.
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Things to do in New York
Sightseeing can be extremely expensive.
A Broadway show could set you back over $70.00+ per person, depending on what you go to see and the seating.
Our experience, most places require purchase of a ticket before entry, especially for museums and art galleries. If we compare this to London, where most museums and art galleries are free.
But while some places have an entrance fee, there are some places you can explore for free.
We have a detailed guide on all the things to do in New York, including free and paid for, to help you plan your holiday on a budget.
Day trips from New York
Exploring New York city is amazing, but getting to explore other regions close by is just as great.
On our first trip to New York, we took a few days out and took a bus tour from New York to Washington DC, Niagara Falls, before returning to New York.
What we love about tours like this, is that you pay a fee and everything is covered, from transport, accommodation and lunch or evening meal, plus any excursions.
If you only want to take a day trip that is good too, as many companies can offer day trips or a few days away.
Not all bus tours are cheap, but by shopping around and choosing the one that is affordable to you, not only will you get to see the Big Apple, but you can visit the capital and Niagara Falls too.
Want to check out some great day trips from New York, then check out Get Your Guides.
This is our go to place for day trips, tours and you can even get tickets for attractions in New York.
Which tour will you choose? Let us know which tour you booked.
Although New York is expensive city to visit, by doing some research and planning your holiday, it really is possible to travel to New York on the cheap and save some money at the same time.
If you set a realistic budget and plan your holiday well, you will be able to keep to that budget.
The below should also help you with setting a budget that you can keep to.
Have you visited New York? Did you set a budget and keep to it? Did you over spend on your trip, or did you manage to save some money? Have you always wanted to visit New York but thought it was too expensive? Tell us your story.