How to Visit New York City on a Budget

May 30, 2019

For those with stars in their eyes but a tight budget, follow this guide for a Big Apple trip full of thrills and light on the bills.

With the shining lights of Broadway, towering skyscrapers, and five boroughs, a trip to NYC seems like it’d cost a pretty penny—on the surface. In reality, it’s super easy to explore New York City on a budget!

When to Visit New York City

As with any destination, certain times of the year increase the prices of flights and nightly hotel rates in NYC. To stick within your intended budget, you’ll have to do a bit of research and discover when the best time to visit New York City is for your travel preferences.

For instance, if saving money is your main goal, visit from mid-January through February. However, if you’re not accustomed to the cold, this season might be a bit tricky to navigate.

If you’d rather have pleasant weather, travel to the city in the spring and early summer. And, to save money, book off-peak flights during the week for added discounts.

Play around with different flight times and days to see when the best time to travel into NYC is for your budget.

New York City skyline with urban skyscrapers at sunset, USA.How to Save on Transportation in NYC

If you’re visiting New York City on a budget and you need a way to get around, the answer is wicked simple.

Take the subway.

Here, we’ll show you how. Seriously, it’s not hard to do.

The subway is cheap and the most versatile way to get around the city.

Of course, if a subway line doesn’t go near your destination, a taxi or Uber/Lyft are always affordable options. Whatever you do, do not rent a car. There is no need to drive in the city if you’re just visiting.

Oh, and did I mention walking is 100% free? Everyone walks everywhere in New York City!

guest room with view of

photo credit: Club Quarters Hotel World Trade Center, New York via Facebook


Booking Hotels in New York City on a Budget

On top of flights, nightly hotel rates have the ability to eat through a travel budget in a matter of mere seconds. And with most perceptions of NYC hotels being lavish skyscrapers with white glove service, it’s understandable why some believe a Big Apple trip is out of the question.

In reality, it’s easy to find hotels in New York City that suit your budget. But, you’ll have to do a bit of research.

First, search for hotels outside of Midtown Manhattan. While staying in Times Square is convenient, especially for first-time visitors, it’s also costly. Try searching around in area neighborhoods such as the Flatiron District, Gramercy, or Hell’s Kitchen. Each neighborhood will have its own share of budget hotels to choose from, along with the upscale options, too.

It’s also imperative that you research your hotel of choice thoroughly. While most budget hotels in NYC are perfectly fine, especially those with an established brand, others may not be suitable for your trip. Look at customer reviews and what others are saying online before booking your stay.

Budget Broadway Tickets

When visiting New York City, you have to take in a Broadway show. It’s a must!

However, with popular shows like Hamilton, Wicked, Waitress, Phantom of the Opera, and Lion King as options, ticket prices can be outrageous.

Fortunately, we know how to score the best Broadway ticket deals!

First and foremost, always purchase your show tickets through a legitimate and verified Broadway service such as Tripster. These services have access to the best ticket prices as well as last-minute seat discounts.

Remember, scalpers never ever have authentic reservations or tickets. You’ll be purchasing fraudulent tickets at a higher price than the box office, only to be sorely disappointed when you try to enter the theater.

Several Broadway shows also have a lottery system you can enter for a chance to win super cheap tickets in excellent sections such as the orchestra rows. Each show has its own particular requirements for the lottery, so read up on the guidelines before you enter.

Lastly, consider bundling your Broadway tickets with your NYC hotel room for extra savings! You’ll be able to create your ideal vacation package for visiting New York City on a budget and seeing a Broadway show.

Close up photo of Jasmine and Aladdin about to kiss with a blue moon behind them on Broadway in NYC, New York, USA

photo credit: Aladdin - The Musical via Facebook

Take Advantage of Free Things to Do in NYC

With areas like the Upper West Side and 5th Avenue, many travelers think NYC is full of expensive things to do.

Think again!

The city is bursting with free attractions, activities, shows, concerts, landmarks, and so much more. Some of our favorite free things to do in NYC include:

  • Exploring Central Park
  • Visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
  • Taking advantage of free museum days throughout the city
  • Scoring free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park
  • Watching movies at Bryant Park during the summer

Quick & Easy Tips for Discovering NYC on a Budget

To conquer a trip to New York City on a budget, keep these last few tips in mind:

Skip the Lavish Restaurants
Sure, it’s cool to dine at 5-star restaurants with extravagant rooftop bars. After all, who doesn’t want that prime Instagram shot of their cocktail and appetizers with the city skyline in the background? But, that martini and tiny appetizer will cost you at least $25, and that’s before the meal.

Instead of splurging on top food destinations, look for hole-in-the-wall or more affordable places to dine. Just remember to skip the chain restaurants in Times Square. I promise it’s just like the Olive Garden back home.

Close up view of a sourdough pizza with tomatoes, cheese and spinach from Ops in NYC, New York, USA

photo credit: @opsnyc via Instagram

Skip the cheesy I <3 NY products. Seriously… do you want to pay $30 for that mug to collect dust on your desk? Instead, find unique and handmade products at locally-owned stores around the city.

Also, don’t fall for the street carts selling authentic celebrity memorabilia. Fake, fake, fake. Don’t waste your money!

And, if you must go to 5th Avenue, you can always window shop until you drop!

Don’t Fall for Tourist Traps
The easiest way to waste money in NYC is by falling for tourist traps. From pictures with Superman to certain “tours,” it’s all too easy to lose your travel budget if you’re not careful.

Plan Your Budget NYC Trip Today

While all these tips will come in handy, planning a trip to New York City on a budget is super easy when you book with Tripster. From discounted tours to affordable vacation packages, you’ll experience the best of the Big Apple without breaking the bank.

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