Keeping A New York Vacation On Budget


Image via MEJones

Are you planning to be one of over ten million international tourists who make a trek to New York each year, but you don’t want to spend your life savings to do so? While it’s true that there are expensive hotels and attractions in New York, there are simple ways to visit and enjoy the city on a budget. Locate inexpensive hotels, plan on affordable entertainment and take a trip to America’s largest city on even a meager budget.

Stay In New York Cheaply

If you intend to secure rooms at cheap New York hotels, stay away from the most famous and tourist-friendly sites, such as those in Times Square. While you don’t necessarily want to opt for hotels in unsavory locations, you can certainly find more affordable quality hotels in and around Manhattan, such as these:

  • Bed and Breakfasts: Expect a cozy atmosphere and personalized service at the top-rated Manhattan bed and breakfasts at a fraction of the luxury hotel prices. Some of the best in the area include Colonial House Inn, Margot Guest House and East Village Bed and Coffee.
  • Vacation rentals: You may be able to house-swap with someone who lives in Manhattan or otherwise book a stay at someone’s Manhattan home when they’re out of town at a fraction of the price of hotels. Investigate online or through a travel agent.
  • Cheap New York hotels: If hotels are more your style, look for smaller “dorm style” accommodations that you may or may not share with strangers, depending on the size of your group, such as that offered at The Gershwin Hotel and Chelsea Star Hotel & Hostel.

Take The Train

If you’re confident that you can handle the train schedule, look into hotels in New Jersey or on Long Island. Both of these locations have affordable, reliable trains that go to Manhattan and back in an hour or less 24 hours a day. Just as it’s cheaper to live in the areas around Manhattan and commute, it can be cheaper to stay in the hotels around Manhattan and commute each day.

Free Or Inexpensive Activities

You can take in the New York sights on a budget and there’s nothing more affordable than free! New York has a spate of free and affordable activities for you to take in during your stay in New York, including:

  • Central Park: Walk along the beautiful landscape of Manhattan’s largest park, which stretches on for acres. It’s an excellent spot to have a picnic, go for a walk or jog, or just take in the sights of the city.
  • Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art: The museum admission is a “suggested” $25, but they understand that those on a budget can’t always afford the admission fee, so payment options are available on a case-by-case basis. Pay as little as $1 per person to see some of the world’s most famous art.
  • American Museum of Natural History: This is another New York museum with a “suggested” donation of $19, but you can pay as little as you wish to see exhibits on world cultures, space, dinosaurs and animals, among others.
  • Festivals: Watch out for festivals in different areas of Manhattan, particularly SoHo. You can often partake in free music and shows, and browse different shops.

Other Tips To Make NY Affordable

There are a few more things you can try to keep your expenditures down during your vacation:

  • Public transportation: Skip the taxis; subways and buses are your new best friends. For as little as $2.25 a ride, you can get from one side of Manhattan to the other, so buy a MetroCard at a subway station and get familiar with the train and bus routes.
  • Read Time Out NYC: This free periodical, available at many storefronts, frequently lists free activities going on in New York that week.
  • Eat cheaply: Skip the fancy, sit-down restaurants and order from the delis, food carts and small cafes that dot the city. Be prepared to eat while standing up, or take your food to a park, and you’ll be able to save a lot on dining.

Karen Gaines is a contributing writer and NYC enthusiast. She relocated to Manhattan from her native London over 20 years ago. She currently writes a cultural blog about free events and happenings in New York City.


  1. Central Park is the perfect, free activity in NYC. There is always so much going on there from events to people-watching! I love New York!

  2. Everyone says New York is so expensive, and I know it is from firsthand experience, but it doesn’t have to be if you can plan ahead the right away. Take in the food carts, for sure!

  3. I like eating at all the great restaurants in Chinatown to save money. You can have a feast there for almost no $$. Also I haven’t tried these but the new POD Hotels, POD39 and POD51 are both near Grand Central and seem to be a somewhat more affordable option for lodging. If anyone has tried them, please post a review.

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