So you want to visit the Big Apple but you’re worried about blowing your budget? With a little planning and savvy you can save money while you’re in New York City and still have an unforgettable trip. How much does it take to have an amazing experience in the city that never sleeps? It really depends on your taste, but there are some tried-and-true tips we can share.
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1. Go for Non-Traditional Lodging
A traditional hotel in NYC is going to cost you. A lot. Between the high rates and the hotel taxes, your bank account will feel it. For a more budget-friendly option, you can crash with a friend, stay in a hostel, or look for an affordable option on Airbnb.
Staying outside of Manhattan can save you money. Just make sure you consult Google Maps to figure out the time via public transit between the Airbnb listing you’re considering and the NYC destinations you want to visit. Staying out in Canarsie, Brooklyn when you want to spend your time at the Metropolitan Museum? Not smart.
2. Eat the World
Real talk: New York City has a high cost of living. You’ll spend less on food if you broaden your culinary horizons. Tacos from a food truck, hand-pulled noodles in Chinatown (or Flushing, Queens) and curries in Jackson Heights or Murray Hill will likely cost you less than a meal at a New American bistro or a hipster cafe. Exceptions to the Western-food-is-more-expensive rule include New York City’s famous pizza slices, bagels and egg-and-cheese sandwiches.
These days, there are so many sites covering the NYC food scene that a little advanced planning will be easy and will pay off in the form of cheap and delicious meals. It may seem like it’s killing your spontaneity, but planning your meals can help you save.
Leaving a museum or walking tour starving and opting for an expensive restaurant just because it’s close? Not budget-friendly. If you know you want to visit certain sites or neighborhoods, why not research affordable options near those sites so you won’t panic-buy an expensive meal?
Related Article: What is the True Cost of Living in New York City?
3. Plan Ahead
Saving money in NYC is a lot easier when you take the time to research and plan before your trip. Doing research in advance won’t just help you get good, cheap eats. It will also help you save on museum admission, transportation and tickets.
Many museums have a day or an evening each month when admission is free. Why not time your visits around those free hours? You can even plan your trip around times when there are deals, like Restaurant Week, when there are affordable fixed-price menus at fine NYC restaurants, and Broadway Week, when many Broadway shows have 2-for-1 ticket deals.
How many subway journeys will you be taking, and would it be cheaper to get a multi-day pass or buy individual rides on your MetroCard? Each ride costs $2.75, but there’s a $1 charge for a new MetroCard and a 11% bonus depending on how much you spend.
One easy way to save money is to limit the leftover change on your MetroCard. You don’t want to leave the city with $10 in rides you never used, or $2.70 when each ride is $2.75. The MetroCard calculator can help you put only as much money on the card as you need and it takes the bonus into account.
4. Do What’s Free
As any of the top 10 financial advisor firms in New York would tell you, taking advantage of what’s free is kind of a no-brainer if you’re trying to save money in the city. But it’s worth noting that New York has more free options than a lot of people think.
Instead of paying for an expensive museum, check out all the free galleries in Chelsea. Instead of paying for a ferry trip, take the free ferry from the Financial District to Staten Island. It takes you right by the Statue of Liberty. Instead of paying for concerts, check out free listings in a publication like Time Out New York. And don’t forget about the High Line.
Related Article: 5 Easy Ways to Save on Entertainment
If someone asks “How much spending money should I need for a trip to NYC?” it’s tough to answer without knowing that person really well. One person might want to come to New York and explore the outer boroughs, eating at hole-in-the-wall places for a taste of the “real” city. Others might want to hit up expensive clubs, dine in Michelin-starred restaurants and shop in SoHo or on Madison Avenue.
Either option – or anything in between – is great, as long as you can afford it. We’d be remiss if we didn’t say that putting a trip on a credit card and racking up interest isn’t as financially sound as saving up for the trip in advance and padding your checking account before you go.
You’ll enjoy your trip more if you know it’s already paid for. And if you save a little more than you think you’ll need, you won’t obsess over every purchase while you’re in the Big Apple. If you have to grab a cab because it’s pouring down rain and the subway is three avenues away, or grab a coffee in a nice cafe to warm up, you can do so knowing your NYC travel budget has a little room for those extras.
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