Life Travel

Visiting New York City on a shoestring budget

By Hannah Schadel, Camrose Canadian Travel Writer

There are many ways to make your trip to New York City an affordable one. Supplied

There are many ways to make your trip to New York City an affordable one. Supplied

Ahhh New York, New York — the city that never sleeps.

Just like many, New York City is probably one of my favourite cities. Blessed with the overly extravagant Central Park, which lies as a tranquil oasis inside the centre of the hustle and bustle. On the contrary, you’ve then got the high rise buildings, Wall Street, Times Square, the overcrowded subway and Brooklyn Bridge, all making you feel like you’re a helpless sardine squished into the aluminum walls of a Brunswick Sardine can.

With a population of nearly 8.5 million people, this major hub is home to many thriving industries like food, finance, fashion and art, whilst drawing people from every culture and ethnicity from all over the world. Regardless of all the crazy, chaotic and addictive hustle, NYC will always be one of the most expensive cities to visit.  

We all wish it wasn’t so, but scraping up the money to go on a well-deserved getaway is hard. Looking at photographs on your lunch break, quickly dissipates when you research flights, accommodation, food and the cost of day trip expenses. I have been lucky enough to visit NYC twice now. The first time, I was on a serious backpacking budget. The second time, I was on such a budget that many would fall off their chair if I told you how much I allowed myself to spend. Whether you like to travel frugally or extravagantly, we all like to save some money where we can.

These little budget-saving tips may just encourage you to visit the Big Apple, sooner rather than later.  

1. Flights  

It’s all about timing — Booking your flights seven weeks in advance gives you the highest chance of receiving a cheaper ticket. Booking last minute deals, have gone out the (plane) window, as many budget airlines don’t need to sell off empty seats, but instead bring down their costs approximately seven weeks before the date, before going back up again. Research also shows that booking a flight on Tuesday nights will save you around 11 per cent off the flight. Every penny counts! — I have endorsed this website before and I will continue to endorse it until I get tired of myself saying it. But this website should be the first website you check when visiting any destination. The website publishes and notifies you when airlines make mistakes. By mistakes, I mean placing the decimal point in the wrong position, allowing you to score a $500 flight for $50.  

2. Accommodation 

This is the hardest part about visiting NYC, as the accommodation alone will make you feel like you have to mortgage your house for a one night stay. If you’re on a real budget, there are always the hostels, or couch surfing options such as Otherwise, if you’re like the majority and you prefer to live the Moet champagne lifestyle on a beer budget, you’ve got a few alternative options.   

Airbnb/VRBO — I couldn’t recommend these websites enough, especially when travelling in a group. I once scored an apartment overlooking the entire city with water views in Williamsburg for $40 a night, because I was travelling in a group of five people. If people don’t mind sleeping on the couch, then you will certainly be able to live it up like the Queen in your penthouse on floor 41. — Just as I mentioned above, this website also has hotel deals, up to 80 per cent off.  

Trusted House sitters — I am assuming most of you have house sat your neighbours or friends house at one point in your life, so why not do it to get your accommodation completely paid for? is very simple. You create an account with references from past house sitting gigs, and start applying! Scoring a housesitting job whilst travelling to NYC will save you some serious money, while giving you the luxury of a home and a few furry friends.  

3. Food  

Eating out in NYC can be very very expensive, so keep an eye out for deals. If you’re really on a budget, just go to a supermarket and buy dinner. If you can afford to go up the chain, head to a pizza bar where you can get delicious and filling pizza for around $3 a slice. ‘Artichoke Pizza’ is one of the most famous pizza joints, and certainly won’t break the bank. Otherwise, if you feel like treating yourself with delicious food and a bottle of wine, then hit up or There are hundreds of deals for NYC on these sites, and you’ll probably find a two-course dinner and a bottle of wine for two people, for around $40.  

4. Parking — Don’t even think about rolling up to any parking station and paying as the hours go, it’ll max out your credit card. Forget hourly metres, unless you’re trying to increase your daily step count on your fitbit. You’ll want to book online prior to arrival to get the best deal. ParkWhiz allows you to punch in your arrival time and departure time and scroll the entire city until you find a steal. Last time I was visiting, I found a $15 daily parking ticket in amongst the $80 ones, thanks to this website. Score! 

Book your car in for an oil change/check up — If you’ve got a car and you’re in need of an oil change/check up, save it for the day you plan on exploring NYC. You need an oil change and you need parking, so it makes sense right? Drop your car off in the morning, walk around all day while they check out your car, and then pick it up in the afternoon. Killing two birds with one stone, while saving some serious coin — it’s the little things in life isn’t it? 

5. Day trips  

I could go through all the incredibly exciting sites there are to see in NYC, but chances are, you probably already know them. Instead, I will pinpoint a few sites that tourists would most likely visit, and how you can see them for FREE (or almost).  

Statue of Liberty — Seeing the Statue of Liberty comes with a hefty price tag. You can buy a day tour ticket or a return ticket to see the site. If you want to do that, say goodbye to $50 per person. The best way to see the Statue of Liberty is to get the Staten Island Ferry, which is absolutely FREE! The ferry rides to Staten Island and then back, and it goes straight past the Statue of Liberty. The view is a little further away, but with the size of Lady Liberty, you certainly won’t miss her.  

Top of the Rock Observation Deck – This deck is one of the best views in New York City, but there is certainly other ways to have this view, without the price of a $40 ticket. A couple of levels below the Observation Deck, is the Sixtyfive at the Rainbow Room Bar, where you can enjoy the view of the city in the luxury of a bar and restaurant. You can either pay the price of the ticket to stand up the top and view the city with every other tourist, or you can order a couple of drinks and an appetizer and take in the view from the relaxation of your table. I know which one I would choose. 


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