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How To Plan A Cheap Trip To New York City


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Kerianne Baty



Welcome to the bustling, vibrant streets of New York City – the city that never sleeps! A trip to the Big Apple is a dream for many, but concerns about the high cost of living can often deter budget-conscious travelers. However, fear not! With careful planning and a bit of insider knowledge, you can experience the magic of New York City without breaking the bank.


In this article, we will guide you through the process of planning a cheap trip to New York City. From finding affordable accommodation to sourcing budget-friendly flights, exploring transportation options, discovering inexpensive attractions and activities, and even tips for eating on a budget, we’ve got you covered.


Research and preparation are key to saving money on your trip. By putting in a little extra effort beforehand, you can maximize your savings and enjoy everything that the city has to offer. So, grab your notepad and get ready to dive into the world of budget travel in the concrete jungle.


But before we begin, it’s important to note that a cheap trip doesn’t mean compromising on quality. New York City offers plenty of affordable options without skimping on the experiences or attractions. So, let’s get started on planning the trip of a lifetime without draining your bank account!


Researching and Choosing Affordable Accommodation

When it comes to finding affordable accommodation in New York City, it’s all about being strategic and flexible. Follow these tips to secure a cozy and budget-friendly place to stay:

  1. Consider alternative accommodations: Look beyond traditional hotels and explore options like hostels, vacation rentals, and even couchsurfing. Websites like Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hostelworld offer a wide range of affordable options with varying amenities. Plus, staying in a hostel or shared accommodation can be a great way to meet fellow travelers.
  2. Location matters: Opt for accommodations outside of the city center or popular tourist areas. While it might take a bit longer to reach the main attractions, you can often find better rates in surrounding neighborhoods.
  3. Timing is everything: New York City experiences fluctuations in hotel prices throughout the year. Consider visiting during off-peak seasons, such as winter or early spring, to take advantage of lower rates.
  4. Book in advance: To snag the best deals, make your reservations well in advance. Booking early not only secures lower prices, but it also provides a wider range of options to choose from.
  5. Read reviews: Before finalizing your booking, read reviews from previous guests to get an idea of the accommodation’s cleanliness, services, and overall value for money. Websites like TripAdvisor and Google Reviews are excellent resources for authentic traveler feedback.
  6. Consider amenities and extras: To stretch your budget further, look for accommodations that offer complimentary breakfast, kitchenette facilities, or access to communal spaces where you can prepare your meals.
  7. Opt for longer stays: If your trip allows for it, consider booking accommodations for a week or more. Many properties offer discounted rates for extended stays.

Remember, finding affordable accommodation in New York City might require some compromises, but with careful research and planning, you can find a comfortable and budget-friendly place to stay, allowing you to save money for other aspects of your trip.


Finding Budget-Friendly Flights to New York City

Getting to New York City doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With these tips and tricks, you can find budget-friendly flights that will help you save money on your trip:

  1. Be flexible with your travel dates: Prices for flights can vary significantly depending on the day of the week and the time of year. Consider adjusting your travel dates to find the best deals. Mid-week flights and off-peak seasons tend to offer lower prices.
  2. Compare prices on multiple websites: Utilize flight comparison websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, or Google Flights to compare ticket prices across different airlines and travel platforms. This will help you find the best deals available.
  3. Sign up for fare alerts: Subscribe to email newsletters or set up fare alerts on travel websites. This way, you’ll receive notifications when prices drop or when there are special promotions for flights to New York City.
  4. Consider nearby airports: Instead of flying directly into JFK or LaGuardia airports, check for flights to nearby airports like Newark Liberty International Airport or Westchester County Airport. Sometimes, the savings on airfare can outweigh the inconvenience of a slightly longer journey to your final destination.
  5. Keep an eye out for airline sales and promotions: Airlines often have flash sales or promotional offers, especially during holidays or special events. Monitor their websites and social media channels for any upcoming deals.
  6. Consider layovers: If time is not a constraint, opting for flights with layovers can sometimes be significantly cheaper than non-stop flights. Just be sure to check the duration of the layover and allow ample time for your connection.
  7. Consider budget airlines: Look into budget airlines that operate flights to New York City, such as JetBlue, Southwest, or Spirit Airlines. These airlines often offer lower prices, but be mindful of additional fees for baggage or other services.
  8. Redeem or accrue loyalty points: If you have frequent flyer miles or credit card points, consider using them to offset the cost of your flight. Alternatively, you can accrue points by signing up for a travel rewards credit card and using it for your everyday expenses.

Remember to book your flight well in advance to secure the best deals and availability. Being flexible, comparing prices, and staying updated on promotions can go a long way in finding budget-friendly flights to New York City.


Transportation Options and Tips to Save Money

Getting around in New York City can be overwhelming, but there are plenty of transportation options that won’t break the bank. Follow these tips to navigate the city and save money:

  1. Utilize public transportation: The New York City subway and bus system is extensive and cost-effective. Purchase a MetroCard for unlimited rides or pay per ride using a pay-per-ride MetroCard. This is the most affordable way to get around the city, with fares significantly cheaper than taxis or rideshare services.
  2. Walk or bike when feasible: New York City is known for its walkability, so take advantage of it! Many major attractions are within walking distance of each other, especially in Manhattan. For a more eco-friendly approach, consider renting a bike from one of the many bike-sharing programs available throughout the city.
  3. Avoid rush hour: To save money on your subway rides, try to avoid traveling during peak hours when fares can be slightly higher. Plan your activities accordingly, and you’ll not only save money but also avoid crowded trains.
  4. Use ride-sharing services selectively: While ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are convenient, they can quickly add up in cost. Reserve these services for situations where public transportation is not feasible or when sharing a ride with a group can help split the cost.
  5. Consider shared airport transfers: If you’re arriving at or departing from the airport, explore shared shuttle services like SuperShuttle or GO Airlink NYC. These services offer affordable transportation between the airport and your accommodation, especially if you’re traveling with others.
  6. Take advantage of free transportation options: New York City provides several free transportation options, such as the Staten Island Ferry, which offers stunning views of the Statue of Liberty, and the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which provides a unique perspective of the city.
  7. Look for transportation discounts: Many attractions offer bundled tickets that include transportation. Check if any of the attractions you plan to visit offer discounted admission with a valid MetroCard or public transportation ticket.
  8. Download subway map apps: Install apps like “CityMapper” or “MTA Subway Time” for real-time information on subway routes, schedules, and any service disruptions. These apps can help you navigate the subway system efficiently and avoid any unnecessary expenses.

By utilizing public transportation, walking or biking, and being strategic with your transportation choices, you can save a significant amount of money while exploring the bustling streets of New York City.


Exploring Budget-Friendly Attractions and Activities

New York City is a treasure trove of iconic landmarks and incredible experiences, and with a little planning, you can explore the city’s attractions without draining your wallet. Here are some budget-friendly ways to make the most of your time in the Big Apple:

  1. Visit free attractions: New York City is home to several world-class attractions that offer free admission. Explore Central Park’s vast green spaces, take a stroll on the High Line, enjoy the views from the Brooklyn Bridge, or visit the 9/11 Memorial. These iconic sites provide amazing experiences without any cost.
  2. Take advantage of museum admission deals: Many museums in New York City offer discounted or pay-what-you-wish admission on certain days or during specific hours. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a suggested admission fee, allowing you to pay what you can afford. Additionally, some museums offer free admission on particular days of the week.
  3. Enjoy street performances and festivals: New York City is renowned for its vibrant street art scene and lively festivals. Catch a free street performance in Washington Square Park or visit during the summer months to enjoy outdoor concerts, street fairs, and cultural festivals.
  4. Explore neighborhood markets: Visit local markets like Chelsea Market, Smorgasburg, or the Union Square Greenmarket. These markets offer the opportunity to sample delicious food, explore unique shops, and soak in the local atmosphere without spending a fortune.
  5. Take advantage of discounted theater tickets: If you’re a theater enthusiast, consider purchasing discounted tickets at TKTS booths in Times Square or Downtown Brooklyn. You can score significant savings on same-day or next-day tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway shows.
  6. Experience the city’s iconic landmarks: While some landmarks may charge admission, you can still marvel at them from the outside without spending a dime. Take a walk through Times Square, admire the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park, or soak in the atmosphere of Grand Central Terminal.
  7. Discover free or low-cost walking tours: Join free or low-cost walking tours offered by local organizations or companies. These tours provide insightful information and allow you to explore various neighborhoods, historical sites, and cultural hotspots with knowledgeable guides.
  8. Embrace the city’s parks and public spaces: New York City has an extensive network of parks and public spaces that offer stunning views, recreational activities, and a chance to relax and soak in the city’s energy. Picnic in Bryant Park, relax in the shade of the High Line, or enjoy the waterfront views in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

By taking advantage of free attractions, discounted tickets, neighborhood markets, and other budget-friendly activities, you can experience the vibrant culture and beauty of New York City without breaking the bank.


Eating on a Budget in New York City

New York City is a food lover’s paradise, with a diverse range of culinary offerings. While dining out in the city can seem costly, there are plenty of ways to enjoy delicious meals without blowing your budget. Here are some tips for eating on a budget in the Big Apple:

  1. Explore affordable food options: New York City is packed with cheap eats, from food carts and food trucks to hole-in-the-wall eateries. Hunt for local favorites like pizza slices, hot dogs, falafel, dumplings, and bagels. These budget-friendly options can give you a taste of the city without hurting your wallet.
  2. Dine at ethnic neighborhoods: Visit neighborhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, or Jackson Heights, where you can find authentic and affordable cuisine from around the world. These areas offer a wide variety of delicious dishes at wallet-friendly prices.
  3. Consider lunch specials: Many restaurants and cafes in New York City offer lunch specials or prix-fixe menus that provide a more affordable option compared to their dinner counterpart. Take advantage of these offers to enjoy a well-priced meal.
  4. Visit local markets and food halls: Explore popular food markets like Chelsea Market, Gansevoort Market, or Smorgasburg. These bustling food halls offer an array of delectable food options at reasonable prices, allowing you to indulge without breaking the bank.
  5. Pack your own snacks and drinks: Reduce your food expenses by packing your own snacks, bottled water, and other beverages. This is especially handy for long days of exploring when you need a quick pick-me-up without spending extra money.
  6. Discover happy hours and drink specials: Many bars and restaurants in New York City offer happy hour specials, where you can enjoy discounted drinks and sometimes even discounted appetizers. Take advantage of these deals if you plan to have a drink or two during your visit.
  7. Utilize food delivery apps wisely: While it may be tempting to order food delivery, especially after a long day of exploring, keep in mind that delivery fees and tips can quickly add up. If you do choose to order in, look for deals or promotions on food delivery apps to help save some money.
  8. Share meals or opt for smaller portions: Portions in New York City are often generous, so consider sharing meals with travel companions or opting for smaller portion sizes. This way, you can sample a variety of dishes without overspending.
  9. Take advantage of free samples: Certain food markets and specialty stores offer free samples. Take the opportunity to try different flavors and specialties without committing to a full meal or purchase.

Remember, eating on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing taste or flavor in New York City. By exploring affordable food options, seeking out lunch specials, and taking advantage of local markets and ethnic neighborhoods, you can savor the diverse culinary scene without breaking the bank.


Saving Money on Souvenirs and Shopping

Bringing home souvenirs from your New York City trip is a great way to cherish the memories, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a little planning and savvy shopping, you can save money on souvenirs and other items. Here are some tips to help you shop smart:

  1. Avoid touristy areas: Steer clear of the heavily touristy areas like Times Square, where prices tend to be inflated. Instead, venture into neighborhoods like Lower East Side, Williamsburg, or Astoria, where you’ll find unique boutiques, thrift stores, and local artisans offering budget-friendly options.
  2. Haggle at flea markets: Flea markets like the Brooklyn Flea Market or the Chelsea Flea Market are excellent places to find unique souvenirs at reasonable prices. Don’t hesitate to negotiate the price with the vendors to get the best deal.
  3. Shop during sales and discounts: Keep an eye out for seasonal sales and discounts. Many stores in New York City offer special promotions during holidays or at the end of each season. Take advantage of these opportunities to score great deals on clothing, accessories, and souvenirs.
  4. Visit thrift stores and consignment shops: Thrift stores and consignment shops are treasure troves of unique items at bargain prices. Explore places like Beacon’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange, or Housing Works for secondhand clothing, vintage finds, and affordable souvenirs.
  5. Shop at local markets: Support local artisans and businesses by shopping at local markets like the Union Square Holiday Market or the Artists & Fleas market in Williamsburg. These markets offer a wide range of handmade and unique souvenirs directly from the creators.
  6. Consider practical and meaningful souvenirs: Instead of traditional trinkets, look for practical souvenirs that you can use in your daily life. Consider purchasing a coffee mug with a New York City design or a tote bag featuring the city’s skyline. These items will serve as a useful reminder of your trip.
  7. Utilize tax-free shopping: If you’re an international traveler, take advantage of tax-free shopping. Some stores provide tax-free options for non-residents, allowing you to save money on certain purchases. Just remember to keep your receipts and follow the guidelines for claiming your tax refund.
  8. Beware of counterfeit goods: Be cautious of street vendors selling counterfeit items, especially designer goods or branded merchandise. While the prices may be tempting, purchasing counterfeit goods is illegal and can result in fines or confiscation of the items.
  9. Avoid impulse buying: Take your time when shopping and avoid impulse buying. Set a budget for your souvenirs and stick to it. It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of shopping, but being mindful of your spending will help you save money.

By exploring local markets, taking advantage of discounts, and being selective with your purchases, you can find unique and affordable souvenirs to commemorate your New York City adventure without overspending.


Tips for Planning a Budget-Friendly Itinerary

Creating a budget-friendly itinerary for your trip to New York City is key to ensuring you make the most of your time and resources. Here are some tips to help you plan wisely and save money along the way:

  1. Prioritize your must-see attractions: Make a list of the top attractions and experiences you want to prioritize during your visit. By focusing on the must-see sights, you can allocate your time and budget more efficiently.
  2. Take advantage of free or low-cost activities: New York City offers a plethora of free or low-cost activities and events. Research and include these in your itinerary, such as free museum days, walking tours, street performances, and parks.
  3. Group attractions by proximity: Plan your itinerary to group attractions that are close to each other. This minimizes travel time and allows you to explore more within a shorter timeframe, saving you money on transportation expenses.
  4. Opt for walking or public transportation: New York City is best explored on foot or using public transportation. Rather than relying heavily on taxis or ride-sharing services, plan your itinerary to make use of the subway, buses, or even walking to save money on transportation costs.
  5. Research for discounts and deals: Look for discounted admission tickets, bundle deals, or special promotions for attractions and activities you plan to visit. Check websites, social media, or travel forums to find the latest offers and discounts.
  6. Plan your meals strategically: Research affordable dining options near the attractions or neighborhoods you’ll be visiting. Consider having a larger meal during lunchtime when many restaurants offer lunch specials or prix-fixe menus at reduced prices.
  7. Pack snacks and water: Carry some snacks and a refillable water bottle with you during your explorations to avoid impulse purchases and save money on food and drinks while out and about.
  8. Make use of free walking tours: Several organizations offer free walking tours of different neighborhoods in New York City. Joining these tours not only provides you with valuable insights but also helps you discover the city without spending extra money on guided tours.
  9. Plan for free or discounted events: Check the calendar for free concerts, festivals, or cultural events happening during your visit. Many neighborhoods have free outdoor movie screenings, live music performances, or art exhibitions, which can enhance your New York City experience without costing a dime.
  10. Take advantage of timing: Some attractions offer discounted entry during certain hours or days of the week. Plan your itinerary accordingly to take advantage of these offers and save money on entrance fees.

By following these budget-friendly planning tips, you can make the most of your time in New York City without overspending. Remember, a little research and strategic planning can go a long way in optimizing your itinerary and saving money along the way.



Planning a cheap trip to New York City is completely achievable with the right strategies and a budget-conscious mindset. By implementing the tips and suggestions provided in this article, you can experience the magic of the Big Apple without breaking the bank.


Start by researching and choosing affordable accommodation, considering alternative options beyond traditional hotels. Look for budget-friendly flights by being flexible with your travel dates, comparing prices, and taking advantage of airline sales and promotions. Once you arrive in the city, explore transportation options like the subway or walking to save on transportation costs.


When it comes to exploring the city’s attractions and activities, take advantage of free or low-cost options such as visiting free attractions, joining walking tours, and enjoying street performances and festivals. For dining, explore affordable food options, consider lunch specials, and visit local markets for tasty and budget-friendly meals.


When shopping for souvenirs, avoid touristy areas and instead visit thrift stores, local markets, and flea markets for unique and affordable finds. To plan a budget-friendly itinerary, prioritize your must-see attractions, take advantage of free or discounted activities, and plan your meals and transportation strategically.


Remember, a cheap trip to New York City doesn’t mean compromising on quality or experiences. With careful planning, research, and a willingness to discover the city beyond the well-trodden tourist paths, you can create unforgettable memories while keeping your wallet intact.


So, pack your bags, follow these tips, and get ready to take a bite out of the Big Apple on your budget-friendly adventure in New York City.