New York City is one of the most popular tourist destinations in America. It has great parks, exciting museums, interesting history, and delicious food, so everyone can find something they enjoy in the city. Unfortunately, New York can also be incredibly expensive to visit if you don’t do your research beforehand. Hotels can cost hundreds of dollars per night; plus, visiting expensive attractions and traveling by taxi can hurt your wallet.
You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a trip to New York, though. With some careful planning and preparation, you can enjoy everything the city has to offer for a surprisingly low price. As such, here are seven tips on how to travel to New York for cheap.
1. Visit at the right time
Hotel prices vary dramatically depending on the time of year. November and December are two of the most popular months to visit New York City, so you should expect an increase in hotel rates. January through March is usually the quietest season in New York, so this may be the best time to visit if you’re traveling on a budget. However, winters in New York can be harsh, so you may have to avoid outdoor activities.
2. Stay outside of Manhattan
If all the attractions you’re planning to visit are in Manhattan, it may be best to stay in the area for the convenience. You can stay outside of Manhattan for much cheaper, though, and it’s usually fairly easy to get into the heart of the city with public transportation. There are plenty of hotels in Brooklyn, Queens, and the other boroughs that will be a fraction of the cost of a Manhattan hotel.
If you do decide to stay in Manhattan, you should avoid Midtown hotels. Unless you find a great deal, the prices will be outrageous. Downtown and uptown hotels will be much more affordable, and you won’t have to constantly fight the crowds.
3. Visit over the weekend
There might be larger crowds of tourists on the weekend, but you may actually find cheaper hotels if you visit New York on a Saturday or Sunday. Many people travel to New York during the week for work, so business hotels usually clear out by Friday night. As such, they may offer much lower rates on the weekends, which you can take advantage of.
4. Buy the New York Pass
New York has plenty of free attractions and pay-what-you-wish museums. However, if you’re planning on visiting the popular museums and attractions that charge admission, the New York Pass will save you money and time. A one-day pass typically costs $127, a two-day pass costs $189, and a three-day pass costs $273.
The following are some of the most popular attractions that are covered by the New York Pass:
- Empire State Building
- Top of the Rock Observatory
- Statue of Liberty Ferry
- Museum of Modern Art
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- Madame Tussauds
In total, the New York Pass allows free admission to more than 100 attractions. The pass also allows you to skip long ticket lines, so you can spend more time enjoying the city’s attractions.
5. Use public transportation
New York’s public transportation system may seem overwhelming at first glance, but it’s by far the cheapest way to get around the city. Take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the map or look up the best way to get to your destination online. Google Maps and other smartphone navigation apps can also tell you exactly which subways, buses, or trains to take to get to your destination.
One ride on a bus or subway currently costs $2.75. You can buy a pay-per-ride MetroCard and load it with as much money as you want, or you can buy an unlimited ride MetroCard. A seven-day card costs $32 and is good for unlimited subway and bus rides.
6. Stay in a hostel or Airbnb
A hostel may not be as nice as a hotel room, but most New York City hostels are cheap, clean, and convenient. Many highly-reviewed hostels cost less than $40 per night. Most offer a choice between dorm-style accommodations, double rooms, and private rooms. Staying in a hostel also gives you the opportunity to meet other travelers who may have valuable advice for traveling on a budget.
Services like Airbnb allow residents to offer spare rooms in their homes to travelers. You can find a wide range of accommodations on Airbnb, from single rooms to fully-furnished apartments. Prices vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation, but you can easily find a private room on Airbnb for less than $100 per night.
7. Look for deals on hotels
Finding the best deal on a hotel in New York City takes some time and effort, but the savings are worth it. Before reserving a hotel room, you should check several different booking websites to compare prices. Sites like Groupon often have special discounts on hotels in Manhattan, too. For example, the DoubleTree by Hilton in the Financial District currently has a Groupon deal for rooms starting at $84 per night.
You can almost always find at least one hotel with discounted rates. Price comparison websites like Kayak and Hotels.com offer price drop alerts, so you can be notified when a hotel you’re interested in offers a discount. You can also try calling hotels directly. Their employees may be able to offer a discount or an upgrade that you won’t find on a reservation site. In most cases, booking far in advance or booking at the last minute will get you the best deals. Last-minute booking can be risky, though, especially if you’re traveling during the peak tourism season.
Taking the time to do some research and price comparison before you book your trip could possibly save you hundreds of dollars. By saving money on your lodging, transportation, and sightseeing, you can enjoy New York City without stressing about the cost.