Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New York City on a Budget

New York City is probably one of the most expensive cites in the world. There is a way however to visit with minimal expenses. I can imagine for a family it can be a daunting task to make a vacation, or even a day in the city an affordable option. I decided to come up with a guide to try to help folks who wish to enjoy the Big Apple on a frugal path.
I am going to start off with where I think you should spend the most money if you are planning a frugal trip. I feel the area where you do not want to skimp is your hotel. I personally do not want to spend a week in a place where I do not feel safe, or that is so out of the way, it is an inconvenience. I spoke to a lady who was visiting from Toronto (one of my favorite cities) who had a really cheap nightly room. She came due to the airfare rates being very low at that time. She stated however, that her hotel was not near many attractions, and it was a job to get back there after sightseeing all day. It seemed to me, for a few more dollars, she would have been better with a hotel in a better location.

The season has a lot to do with your hotel cost, Winter, from January through March, is best for bargains, with Summer period, July through August, second best. Fall is the most expensive, November can be calm and affordable (except Thanksgiving weekend) and Christmas is top dollar prices. You can obtain special rates if you have AAA, AARP or frequent flyer miles. There are also “internet only” specials, so always check out the hotel’s direct website. I use Trip Advisor for hotel ratings to make my hotel choice. You can also be open to the area where you will stay, Uptown or Downtown, Brooklyn has also been recently opening hotels due to the borough’s extreme popularity. Staying on a weekend can also give you a nice special rate, Sunday nights are the least expensive.

Some sites online to check for hotel rates are:

A great site to help you navigate the Priceline and Hotwire sites is  as you can see what winning prices travelers are obtaining at that time.


There are many attractions in New York City that are free to enjoy. The world-class museums also give wonderful days of discount or free entrance such as:

Metropolitan Museum of Art and TheCloisters “suggested” admission of $25.00
Museum of the City of New York  “suggested: admission of $10.00
Queens Museum of Art “suggested” admission of $5.00

Some of the Free Tuesday Admissions: Brooklyn Botancial GardenChina InstituteStaten Island Museum. You should check the website of a particular museum you wish to visit to see when/if times/days free admission is offered as they all vary.

Another great choice with a reasonable fee is the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden. Admission for adults is $8, $7 seniors, children under 12 FREE. They also have many wonderful programs for adults and children with fees ranging from $10.00-$15.00.

Tickets are FREE to attend tapings of television shows such as The View, The Chew, Saturday Night Live, The Rachael Ray Show, Live with Kelly and Michael. You need to request the tickets in advance, but if you can coordinate them with a planned trip, it makes for added fun to your stay.

Free Attractions  
Bronx Zoo (Suggested Donation on Wednesdays)
Queens Botanical Garden is FREE from November 1 to March 31 daily

Free Walking Tours

I always have said walking tours are the best way to see the city. There are quite a few that are available free of charge and I would highly recommend them.

Greenwich Village Walking Tour sponsored by Village Alliance BID – Saturdays June-September at 11:30am
Times Square Walking Tour
The NYC Big Adventure
Federal Reserve Bank Tour

Download FREE audio self-guided walking tours to any tech device: 
  • NY Times podcasts - primarily focused on notable architecture and institutions.
  • Bowery Boys - Over 50 tours of various neighborhoods, landmarks, historical sites.
  • Lower East Side - shops, landmarks, food, history of the neighborhood
  • Made In NY - Film and TV locations in Soho and Lower Manhattan
  • Central Park - a monument and architecture tour and a family tour
  • New-York Historical Society - Various historical topics. (The museum is closed for renovations until November 2011.)
  • AudioSnacks - a "wiki" site where anyone can post an audio tour. Random assortmen

Inexpensive Gourmet Dining

We all know the famous expensive restaurants that are in New York City. There is also an opportunity however to eat well inexpensively, at all different price ranges. Menupages is one of my favorite websites to search various eateries in all areas of Manhattan, including Brooklyn and Queens. You can always do lunch at a great restaurant as that is always a better price option than dinner if trying to watch your budget.

NYC Restaurant Week takes place twice a year, in summer and winter, which allows three-course dining deals for lunch $25 and dinner $38. The restaurant choices are always top notch, and you have the ability to try gourmet food at a very nice price. The summer session spans July 20, 2015 through August 14, 2015. The winter session spanned February 16, 2015 through March 6, 2015.

I am not sure if many of your are aware, but the Food Trucks actually have a yearly awards called The Vendy Awards which has been around about 9 years. Many of these trucks have opened brick and mortar shops once they see if their cuisine is popular with the tourists and the hometown folk. Food Trucks are a fabulous way to eat great food and not spend a ton of money. You can follow the trucks that interest you on twitter to see where they are located each day. Another reason to love twitter !!

The Vendy Awards website is a great tool to see the top trucks, here are some of my favorites:

Uncle Gussy's Greek Cuisine
Coolhaus Ice Cream
LaBella Torte Italian Truck (cannoli!!)
Fun Buns NYC
Schnitzel and Things
Wafels and Dinges
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
Milk Truck NYC
Eddie's Pizza NY
Red Hook Lobster
The Treats Truck

Another great website is Real Cheap Eats NYC which showcases a great selection from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx.

NYC Insider Guide to Discount Shopping is quite informative and the great vintage shops are another fabulous way to shop inexpensively.

As you can see, there are many options when visiting the city, you do not need to have a large budget to have a fun time. There are also the wonderful flea markets to stroll around during nice weather months and many of them have food vendors as well. The internet is an amazing online tool of information for travel. Research where you would like to go and what interests you and your family would enjoy. I hope this information has been helpful to you and if you wish to contact me with any questions about a future visit, please feel free to do so.


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