Exploring New York

New York City On A Budget

New York was a City we dreamed about. We would watch Harry met Sally while fantasising about walking the same streets or drinking in the same bars at parties the girls in ‘Gossip Girl’ would experience. We always talked about going and then it became a reality.

I had decided after moving home, a failed attempt at a further university course and an unhappy job that I was going to go travelling. Swiftly after telling Lynne about my intended plans, we immediately talked non stop about our dream to New York and how we would make this a reality if I was going to be forever travelling.

We decided to go before my travels.

Neither of us work in high paid jobs – although we really should have earned more for the work we did – so how on earth were we going to afford this?
As it turned out, our trip to New York City was not as expensive as we thought it would be. Thanks to having knowledge of the travel industry (and also friends within it), real budgeting cunning, and severe motivation we made it a reality – with money to spare.

How you ask? Well let me detail how we got a week in New York City for less than £800 per person.

The Planning Stages:

We booked our hotel before our flights to New York City.

Why? We planned to go to NYC in December 2015 and began planning the trip December 2014 – hello January Sales – after scrolling through page after page of hotels we finalised two options.

Eventually we booked our hotel of choice, The Yotel off Times Square through Travel Republic. Why? We got the hotel half the price – due to January Sales – and we secured it for a £1 deposit (around, $2 USD) AND didn’t have to pay the balance until November 2015. Plenty of time to save for the final payment!

We booked our flights in March 2015.

But why wait so long? Well flights are typically released for Sale 11 months in advance. Any flight offers are released slightly later, so although booking in advance was beneficial for our hotel it was important to hang fire on the flights.

We flew with Iceland Air to New York City. An indirect service and also we could put it on deposit.

Don’t go direct to the Airlines Website. The direct website was actually more expensive and it didn’t give us the option to put the flight on deposit, we would have had to pay it in full which wasn’t an option at the time.

So who did we book with? We booked our flights through STA Travel. Why? STA travel are a specialised travel agent who offer special prices on selected airlines (including Iceland Air) for those under 25yrs old or a Student (part-time or full-time). These special priced flight tickets are secured for a £50 deposit only, the rest has to be paid 10 weeks before departure – Again, plenty of time to save the pennies!

So look at that, we secured our trip to New York with an initial payment of £50.50 each. 

Now we had 10 – 11 months to put money aside for the due dates and spending money.

In New York City:

We had saved all year for this trip, of course we were going to make it a trip of a lifetime. But despite saving neither of us had unlimited money to waste in NYC, we wanted to see as much as possible, do everything we dreamed of, but didn’t want to blow all our money by the second day.

Despite what you hear about New York City (even Manhattan) you really have to seek out expensive places. New York is a lot cheaper than you think my friends – rejoice!

Here are just some of the ways to enjoy New York City while sticking to your budget:

Don’t step foot in a Yellow Cab (taxi) unless absolutely necessary, but even then, the Subway is still probably faster. While the thrill and hype of the famous Yellow Cabs of New York City are hard to ignore, they come with a high price.
The price of a Cab from JFK International to Manhattan is $45 dollars plus tolls and then add another 15% tip on top of that.
The price of the Air-train and the Subway to Manhattan; $5 dollars for the Air-train and $2.75 for a Subway ride from Jamaica Station to Manhattan. – absolute no brainer which option we were taking.

Top Tip: If you are planning to explore NYC buy an unlimited subway pass. They have them available for selected day lengths and weekly passes. We bought a week of unlimited Subway travel for $31.

Otherwise, WALK everywhere you will see more of the city, more of its people and find new places to go that weren’t mentioned on the tourist map.

Don’t use your hotel Concierge for Broadway Tickets While I’m sure this isn’t applicable in all hotels, however, when myself and Lynne decided we wanted to see Matilda on Broadway we went to the concierge. We had read online how they often help you find cheap tickets. WRONG. She tried to charge us more than triple the amount of a face value ticket!
If you are using your Concierge, slyly check online during or before so you know how much you can get them for, take time to think about it.
We went to ‘Matilda Box Office’ Direct and got pretty good stage view tickets for $42 per personour concierge tried to charge us $140 per person for the same seats….

Head over to Brooklyn/Williamsburg for night-time drinking. The drinks AND bar food are half the price you will find in Manhattan. There are a wide range of funky bars all around the same area. Head to Bedford Street for some of the best places to eat and drink on a budget – trust me, it’s totally safe to get home on the subway even when drunk. We were fine! 

Take the Staten Island Ferry instead of a tourist boat/helicopter. Obviously, if you are wanting a beautiful aerial view of the city a ferry isn’t going to do it.
You can get the Staten Island Ferry for free from the port at Battery Park. While you are walking toward the ferry terminal you will be approached by those trying to sell you onto a tourist boat (a lot of money, similar view) say no, always. They will then try to push the helicopter on you and that decision is up to you. But you get beautiful views from the Staten Island Ferry.

Good food doesn’t always mean fancy restaurants Get off the major tourist streets and wander around and you will find amazing food at fantastic prices. If you are going to a restaurant make sure you go before 7pm if you don’t have a reservation, before it gets to busy.
Want good food on the go? Head to Papaya. Hands down, the BEST hotdog I have ever had and it was only $2!

This is an insight into what we did to keep to a relatively small budget.

You want more numbers? I took $1000 dollars with me to New York and on the 4th day I still had $700 left to spend – which inevitably got spent on I love NY merchandise, and sweets.


How do you travel on a small budget when you’re in what is meant to be an expensive city?

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