New York City is proclaimed as one of the greatest cities in the world, but it’s also one of the most expensive cities. With the high cost of living continuing to grow for New York residents, visiting the city can be just as daunting.
But don’t let the fear of sky-high prices dissuade you from taking a bite out of the Big Apple, because it is possible to have the time of your life on an affordable budget.
What are the secrets to experiencing New York travel on the cheap?
1. Map out your itinerary strategically
New York City is composed of five boroughs and several neighbourhoods within them. By mapping out your itinerary ahead of time with a geographical strategy in mind, you can maximize your time and see as much of NYC as humanly possible. When taking into account all the places you want to visit, organize your stops by neighbourhood, so you can spend your precious New York minutes sightseeing rather than commuting all over the city. One effective rule of thumb is to commit to visiting one to three neighbourhoods a day within close proximity to each other so you’re not running around from borough to borough.
2. Take advantage of New York public transit
It’s cool to hail a yellow taxi, but racking up cab fares every time you need to get from point A to point B will end up costing you big time. If you need to get somewhere and need a break from all that walking, use public transportation. New York’s MTA sprawling transit system is both convenient AND budget-friendly at approximately $3.50 Canadian dollars for a single trip ticket. If you plan on using the Metro system frequently, take advantage of MetroCard; for $45, you can purchase a 7 day pass for unlimited travel on the bus and the subway. To help you out with navigation, save the MTA line maps to your phone or download my personal favourite transit mapping app, Citymapper. You can even track and save routes for offline access.
3. See Broadway shows for less than rent money
What’s the trick to seeing popular shows like Hamilton and Harry Potter & The Cursed Child? If you’re feeling lucky, take a chance at signing up for ticket lotteries for seats as cheap as $10 through the show’s website. Or, if you’re willing and able to, wake up bright and early and join the rush line at the theatre box office! Theatres will sell unsold seats for that week’s and that night’s performance for as little as $50. You might even secure a seat in the first few rows, if not the first row! Other avenues for getting discounted Broadway tickets include the TodayTix app and the TKTS Booth in Times Square.
4. Be part of a live studio audience
If you have the time and patience for it, try your luck at being part of the live television experience. 1iota.com offers free passes to join the studio audience of live tapings for morning talk shows and late night shows hosted in New York, including The View and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the TV magic happens while getting your celebrity sighting fix. For the brave and strong-willed, the legendary standby line for Saturday Night Live tickets is worth camping out for in the wee hours of the early morning.
5. Indulge in cheap eats around NYC
From hot dog papaya stands to 99 cent pizza joints, hitting the streets for cheap eats is a quintessential part of the New York experience, especially when you’re constantly on-the-go from place to place. For more diverse food options that won’t make a dent in your wallet, venture over to less-touristy NYC neighbourhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, and Greenwich Village to seek out hidden gem restaurants.
6. Buy tickets to popular attractions in advance
If you’re interested in checking out popular attractions like Rockefeller Center or the One World Trade Center Observatory, purchase your tickets in advance to reserve an assigned entry time and get priority access to skip the long queues. If you’re planning on seeing a lot of attractions during your visit, take advantage of tourist pass packages like the New York Pass, New York CityPASS, and New York Sightseeing Pass to capitalize on significant savings.
7. Take advantage of free or reduced-price admission days
If you’re not bothered by handling swarms of people crowding around for selfies in front of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, plan to visit museums and galleries on days when free admission or entry-by-donation admission are offered. Here are a few nights to take note of:
- Tuesday nights: Admission to 9/11 Memorial is pay-by-donation
- Thursday nights: Free admission to the Museum of Modern Art
- Saturday nights: Admission to the Guggenheim Museum is pay-by-suggested-donation
- Everyday: Admission to the American Museum of Natural History is pay-as-you-wish
8. Enjoy the New York City views for free
You don’t need to spring for tickets to the top of the Empire State Building to get great views of the city. The High Line, an elevated urban park along on the West Side of Manhattan, offers unique views of the city. For spectacular skyline views, take a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge or take the free commuter ferry to Staten Island for a view from the Hudson River. As a bonus, you’ll get to pass by the Statue of Liberty for a perfect photo op!
10. Take care of things before you depart
If you haven’t done so already, get into the habit of making sure you’re covered for emergency situations before you jump on that plane to NYC. Notify your bank before you travel so you’re not caught paying fees when using ATM machines or getting fraud alerts when using your credit card. Be prepared for the unexpected by investing in travel insurance in case the worst-case scenarios come true.
With a little advance foresight and planning, you’re in for a stress-free and fun-filled travel adventure in New York City!