Best Tips For Travelling To New York On A Budget

New York City is one of the greatest places in the world to visit, but it also has a reputation for being expensive. The good news is it's totally possible to visit the Big Apple without breaking the bank. 

In this article, we will share some of the best tips for travelling to New York on a budget. With a few smart strategies like dining like a local instead of in tourist areas, you can enjoy everything this iconic city has to offer without blowing your travel budget. 

Is It Possible To Plan A NYC Trip On Budget?

Absolutely, you can plan a trip to New York City on a budget. Normally, a day in New York can cost you more than $1,000. But, if you find a nice but cheap place to stay, eat good food that doesn’t cost a lot, and pick fun places to go with low-cost entertainment options, you can stretch $1,000 to 4 days. The trick is to decide what you really want to see and do, then look around for the best deals.

Flying to New York On a Budget

Seeing the iconic sights and soaking up the electric atmosphere of NYC doesn't have to cost a fortune, especially when it comes to your flight. Here are some top tips to snag a bargain flight from/to the Big Apple.

1. Budget Airlines Are Your Best Friends

It’s no secret that airfares are climbing. A £300 London-NYC ticket is now harder to find, and the £500+ fare without checked bags is now the norm. Keep an eye out for budget airlines like JetBlue, Spirit, and Frontier. These airlines offer competitive prices and convenient routes to New York City, making dream trips more affordable than ever. 

2. Timing is Everything

Weekends and peak seasons (think summer and Christmas) are prime times for airlines to inflate prices. Consider flying on weekdays or during the shoulder seasons (spring or autumn) for potentially significant savings.

The general rule is, the earlier you book, the better the deal. However, airlines can be unpredictable. Use flight comparison tools like Skyscanner or Google Flights to track price fluctuations and set alerts for your desired route. There can be last-minute sales, so keep an eye out for those golden opportunities.

3. Think Outside The Box

JFK and LaGuardia might be iconic, but they're not always the cheapest. Explore flying into smaller airports outside Manhattan, like Newark, New Jersey (EWR) or Stewart International Airport (SWF). Often, these airports have lower fares and decent public transport links into the city.

Another way to fly cheaply is to consider flying into a different East Coast city, like Boston or Washington D.C., and then taking a cheap bus or train to New York. Sometimes, this route splitting can significantly save your overall flight cost.

4. Travel Light To Avoid Baggage Fees

 

Shop Now

Being flexible with travel dates and airports allows you to find a return flight with a budget airline for around £350-£450 (flying from London in October - the shoulder season). This is a significant saving compared to a peak-season flight into a major airport, which could easily cost double that amount.

But you can save even more by packing light and smart to avoid those pesky baggage fees. Airlines typically have a size limit for carry-on luggage, so ensure your backpack adheres to these restrictions. If you are a budget-conscious traveller, check out our range of CabinZero Backpacks.

Our packs offer exceptional value for money, boasting a comfortable design, multiple compartments, and up to 25-year warranty. With a lightweight carry-on backpack and clever packing strategies, you can conquer New York City in comfort and style, all while sticking to your budget.

Money-Saving Tips On Accommodation In New York

The cost of accommodation is one of the most expensive parts of the trip that you need to consider. Read on to take note of all of the strategies to help you save money while staying in New York.

1. Consider Alternative Neighbourhoods

New York on a Budget - CabinZero

Do you recognise this favourite sense of Brooklyn from Gossip Girls? Photo by goodluz on stock.adobe.com

When we think about visiting New York City, the glittering lights of Times Square and the bustling streets of Midtown Manhattan often come to mind. However, staying in these prime locations can seriously stretch your budget. 

We recommend exploring neighbourhoods in Queens, Brooklyn, or even Jersey City. These areas offer a more authentic glimpse into local life and boast a variety of affordable lodging options.

Places like Astoria in Queens or Williamsburg in Brooklyn are trendy, safe, and just a subway ride away from Manhattan's main attractions. The chance to explore diverse local eateries and shops is a bonus that enhances your travel experience without the hefty price tag of central Manhattan.

2. Hostels and Budget Hotels

Hostels are a fantastic way to save money for solo travellers or those willing to make new friends. New York City’s hostels often feature amenities like free Wi-Fi, communal kitchens, and even private rooms for those who prefer privacy. The New York Loft Hostel and HI New York City Hostel are great examples of clean, affordable accommodations with a social atmosphere. 

Budget hotels are another option, providing basic amenities without the luxury hotel price. You can choose hotels that offer free breakfast or other perks, as these can add value to your stay. Early booking can also secure better rates, so plan ahead!

3. Vacation Rentals

If you're travelling with family or a group, vacation rentals can offer significant savings over traditional hotels. Platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo allow you to rent entire apartments or homes, giving you space and comfort at a lower cost per person. This option also gives you access to a kitchen, saving you money on dining out. 

Consider rentals in the aforementioned alternative neighbourhoods for even better deals when searching. We’ve found that staying in a vacation rental can provide a more immersive experience where you can live like a local and discover hidden gems in New York’s diverse boroughs.

4. Travel Off-Peak

New York on a Budget - CabinZero

Do you know when is the best time to fly to New York on a budget? Photo by Tomasz Zajda - stock.adobe.com

Visiting New York City during its less busy seasons can lead to substantial savings on accommodation. Winter (January and February, excluding New Year’s Day) and late summer (late August to early September) are considered off-peak times. 

Hotels lower their rates to attract visitors during these slower months. Not only can you save on your stay, but you’ll also benefit from shorter lines at attractions and a more relaxed pace of exploration. 

You can also bundle up for a winter visit, as the cold can be biting, but the city’s winter charm is undeniable (remember to pack to stay cosy). Likewise, late summer offers warm weather and a host of cultural events.

Affordable Transportation Options Within The City

Navigating New York City affordably is much easier than you might think, thanks to a plethora of transportation options that cater to every budget. Let's dive into some savvy ways to get around the city without overspending.

1. Subway and Buses

First up, the New York City subway and bus system is your best friend for getting around affordably. With a single swipe of a MetroCard or a tap of a contactless payment card, you can traverse the entire city for just around $2 per ride.

The subway runs 24/7, making it a reliable option no matter the hour. The bus’s fare is the same as the subway, $2.75 per ride, and you can pay with a MetroCard or exact change.

We recommend getting an unlimited MetroCard ride if you stay more than a few days or plan to use the subways at least 10 times. That said, they are expected to be completely replaced by OMNY cards by 2025.

The newer system is now available at all NYC stations, and you can swipe your credit card to pay. In case you have no contactless payment, you can buy a hard OMNY card.

2. Citi Bike

For those who prefer pedal power, Citi Bike is a fantastic option. It's the city’s bike-share program with thousands of bikes at hundreds of stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Jersey City.

You can pay per ride, or if you find yourself frequently biking, consider a day pass or even a membership for longer stays. We recommend Hudson river

3. Walking

Never underestimate the power of walking in New York City. It's free, and often, it’s the fastest way to get around, especially in congested areas like Midtown Manhattan. 

Walking gives you a unique opportunity to discover the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, stunning architecture, and hidden gems that you’d miss using other modes of transport. Plus, you’ll stumble upon quaint cafes, fascinating shops, and picturesque streetscapes that embody the true spirit of NYC.

4. Ferry Services

New York on a Budget - CabinZero

Opting for a ferry is a wise choice as it costs less than three rides on buses. Photo by Andriy Blokhin on stock.adobe.com

The NYC Ferry is a scenic and affordable way to travel. Tickets cost about the same as a subway ride. It connects various boroughs, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. Fares are $4 per ride, and you can use a MetroCard or contactless payment.

Make sure not to miss the Staten Island Ferry, a free 25-minute ride that offers stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor. It's a popular option for tourists who want to get close views of the Statue of Liberty (the ferry doesn't actually stop at Liberty Island).

5. Ridesharing and Taxis

While taxis and ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are more expensive than public transportation, they can be cost-effective when travelling in a group, as you can split the fare. They offer convenience and comfort, especially late at night when you might prefer a direct route to your accommodation. 

For shorter distances, consider sharing a ride for a reduced fare. The best tip is to compare prices across apps to find the best rate and keep an eye out for shared ride options that can cut costs significantly.

Budget-Friendly Eating Options For Your NYC Trip

New York City’s food scene is as diverse and vibrant as its residents. Eating on a budget doesn't mean compromising on taste or variety.

1. Street Food and Food Trucks

One of the quintessential New York experiences is grabbing a bite from a street vendor or food truck. You'll find everything from hot dogs and pretzels to more gourmet options like tacos, falafel, and even artisanal sandwiches. 

Prices are often under $10, making it a steal for the quality and flavours you get. Food trucks park in various locations throughout the city, offering a delicious exploration of global cuisines. Keep an eye out for food truck gatherings or festivals for a chance to sample a little bit of everything.

New York on a Budget - CabinZero

Street food in New York is so yummy! Photo by klausbalzano - stock.adobe.com

2. Ethnic Eateries

New York City is a melting pot of cultures, and this diversity shines through in its food. Head to neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, Jackson Heights (for Indian and Nepali cuisine), or Brighton Beach (for Eastern European fare) to enjoy authentic meals at a fraction of restaurant prices. 

These areas boast family-run eateries where you can indulge in a hearty meal without breaking the bank. Whether it’s a plate of dumplings, a slice of pizza, or a savoury curry, the options are endless and affordable.

3. Happy Hours and Special Deals

Many restaurants and bars in the city offer happy hour specials, not just on drinks but on food as well. This is a great way to enjoy dining out at a reduced price.

Happy hours typically run in the late afternoon to early evening, making them perfect for an early dinner or a pre-theatre meal. Also, keep an eye out for lunch specials during weekdays, when many places offer deals to attract the local work crowd.

4. Local Markets

Visiting local markets is another excellent way to eat on a budget. These spots offer a range of fresh, ready-to-eat meals, sandwiches, salads, and snacks at reasonable prices. 

They're ideal for picking up something quick and delicious without the sit-down restaurant price tag. Plus, shopping at local markets supports small businesses and gives you a taste of New York’s local produce and culinary creativity.

5. Bring Your Own Water And Snacks

If you want to save on food and focus more on exploration, bring a reusable water bottle and snacks in your bag. All that street food and grab-and-go options can put a dent in your wallet. Most restaurants and cafes allow you to refill your water bottle for free, so don't be shy about asking.

If you're staying in an Airbnb with a kitchen, consider packing some simple breakfast or lunch items like oatmeal, bread, or tuna packets to save even more money.

Sightseeing In New York City On A Budget

Taking advantage of these low-cost attractions and entertainment options, you'll find that New York City offers an endless array of experiences.

1. Public Parks and Green Spaces

New York on a Budget - CabinZero

It is like a heaven for nature lovers. Photo by Alessandro Persiani on stock.adobe.com

Central Park is the most famous, but NYC is filled with beautiful parks that offer a plethora of free activities, from scenic walks and bird-watching to free concerts and art installations. Bryant Park, for instance, offers free movie nights during the summer and ice skating in the winter (skate rental fees apply). The High Line, an elevated park built on a historic freight rail line, provides unique views of the city and the Hudson River, along with art exhibits and gardens.

2. Museums and Cultural Institutions

Many of New York City's museums offer "pay-what-you-wish" admission or specific free entry days. The Metropolitan Museum of Art suggests a donation for New York State residents and students from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, while visitors from outside these areas can pay what they wish. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) offers free admission on Friday evenings. Other cultural institutions, like the American Museum of Natural History, also have suggested admission fees, allowing you to pay what you can.

3. Iconic Sites and Landmarks

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and is completely free. You can choose to explore neighbourhoods like Greenwich Village, SoHo, and DUMBO is a great way to soak in the city's atmosphere without spending a cent. Don't forget to visit landmarks such as Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and the New York Public Library, which are all free to enjoy.

4. Free Entertainment

New York City is known for its vibrant arts scene, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it on a budget. Many bars and cafes host free live music nights. 

The SummerStage festival presents free concerts and performances in Central Park and other parks across the city during the summer months. The New York Philharmonic also offers free concerts in the parks in June and July.

5. TV Show Tapings

If you're a fan of television, you can attend live tapings of various TV shows filmed in NYC for free. Shows like "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" offer tickets to their tapings at no cost, though it's essential to book in advance.

How To Plan A Family Trip To NYC On A Budget?

New York on a Budget - CabinZero

Photo by Justin - stock.adobe.com

This itinerary and tips allow your family to enjoy a rich and full New York City experience on a budget. Let’s scroll down for more details!

Day 1: Exploring Iconic Sights and Parks

  • Morning: Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and Explore Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Start your adventure early by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to enjoy breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline. Once you reach Brooklyn, spend some time at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which offers fantastic views back towards Manhattan and plenty of space for kids to play.

  • Lunch: Picnic in the Park
  • Grab some sandwiches from a local deli in Brooklyn and have a picnic in the park. This is not only budget-friendly but also gives you a chance to relax and enjoy the scenery.

  • Afternoon: Visit Central Park
  • Take the subway back to Manhattan and head to Central Park. You can visit iconic spots like Bethesda Terrace, the Central Park Zoo (small admission fee), and the Alice in Wonderland statue. Central Park is vast and offers numerous free activities and sights that can easily fill your afternoon.

  • Evening: Times Square and Free Entertainment
  • As the evening sets in, make your way to Times Square to soak in the vibrant lights and bustling atmosphere. Depending on the day, you might find free entertainment options like street performers. For dinner, opt for one of the many affordable eateries in the area. Consider trying one of New York City's famous pizza places, where you can often find great deals on slices.

    Day 2: Museums and Cultural Exploration

  • Morning: Museum Visit
  • Many of New York City’s museums offer pay-what-you-wish or free entry times. Plan your visit to coincide with these times. For example, the American Museum of Natural History has a suggested admission for non-residents. It is a great educational and affordable option for families.

  • Lunch: Eat in a Neighborhood Eatery
  • For lunch, choose a family-friendly restaurant in the Upper West Side or another neighbourhood near your museum of choice. Look for places offering lunch specials, which are common in the city.

  • Afternoon: Explore a Neighbourhood
  • Spend your afternoon exploring a family-friendly neighbourhood like Greenwich Village or the Lower East Side. You can visit Washington Square Park, where kids can play, and you can often enjoy free live music. Alternatively, consider a visit to the High Line for a unique urban park experience.

  • Dinner: Food Markets or Ethnic Eateries
  • For an affordable and memorable dinner experience, check out one of NYC's food markets, like Chelsea Market, where you can find a variety of food options to satisfy everyone's tastes at reasonable prices. Alternatively, dining in an ethnic eatery in neighbourhoods like Chinatown or Little Italy can offer delicious meals without a hefty price tag.

    Day 3: Staten Island & Lower Manhattan

  • Morning: Take A Free Ferry
  • Take a free Staten Island Ferry for stunning views of the Statue of Liberty. While you won't actually land on Liberty Island, the ferry ride offers fantastic photo opportunities.

  • Lunch: Visit FIDI And Munch On The Street Food
  • Afterwards, head back to Manhattan and explore the Financial District to see the iconic Wall Street Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl statue. FIDI has a good selection of street food vendors: hot dog carts, halal carts, or pretzel stands. Sam's Falafel cart on Cedar St side of Zuccotti Park is highly recommended - a falafel platter costs around $10.

  • Afternoon: Visit 9/11 Memorial Museum
  • In the afternoon, visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. There is a suggested donation for admission, and children under 7 are free. This sombre and important museum teaches about the events of 9/11 in a respectful way. If you're looking for an engaging activity for the little ones, head to the Children's Museum of the Arts, which is not far from the 9/11 Memorial.

  • Evening: Explore Chinatown
  • Enjoy a casual dinner in Chinatown. Chinatown offers a wide variety of delicious and affordable Chinese restaurants. After dinner, walk through the lively streets and soak up the unique atmosphere.

    Wrapping Up

    This article has listed the best money-saving tips to travel to New York on budget, covering everything from accommodations and transportation to dining and entertainment. With these tips and tricks, you'll discover the city's endless offerings, making your New York adventure both memorable and budget-friendly. 

    Have you travelled to this vibrant city before? Do you have any recommendations for travellers? Please leave a comment to share your thoughts! After all, don’t forget to share this article with your friends too. 

    Ha Ngan


    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.