So you want to visit New York, but would rather not blow all your money. We feel your pain! You should be able to shop in the retail capital of the world without needing to sell your first-born to make ends meet afterwords. Believe us, we’ve all been there.
Avoid that whole messy situation, by following these 8 simple discount travel guidelines. We’ll show you how to spend some time in the Big City without without burning a hole in your wallet — you might even have enough cash left for another future NYC getaway!
1. Use private browsing while searching for flights. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s been documented that erasing your cookies or turning on private browsing while searching for flights online can save you money. If you’re indecisive while booking flights and keep visiting your preferred site repeatedly, an algorithm will kick in and drive up the price, under the assumption that by now you’re committed to buying that ticket. Don’t allow yourself to be caught in that web — leave no trace of your flight booking activity! That way, they won’t know how desperate you are. After all, that money you save can be used to buy a one-of-a-kind New York bagel or an I <3 NY shirt (yes, stereotypically touristy, but who cares?).
2. Avoid fine dining — opt for hole-in-the-wall eateries. New York is a melting pot of foods, bringing together cuisine from nearly every ethnic background possible. There’s no need to drop $40 on a cocktail and pasta dish, when cheap and savory halal carts flood streets all hours of the day to tempt you with delicious aromas.
Tons of eateries in Koreatown will give you a delicious (and filling) lunch for $10 or less. In fact, plenty of New York food joints offer cheap lunch specials, which are fantastic as long as you don’t mind navigating herds of businessmen on their lunch breaks. Most of these delicious options aren’t particularly noticeable if you’re quickly walking by, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled. But once you find them, your tummy and your savings will be happy.
3. Thrift stores are your friends. Sure, it’s very tempting to roam 5th avenue and blow all of your hard-earned money on a measly pair of shoes. But it might be better to try a different tactic — think about all the wealthy and stylish New Yorkers who are constantly updating their wardrobes. Where do you think their old clothes go? Sure, some are given away to friends, some go into storage, and some just sit around in the closet gathering dust — but at least a portion of those top-notch, gently-used garments find their way to New York City’s lovely thrift shops! You can find real gems for as low as $1, plus higher-end products for a fraction of their original prices. Plus, thrifting has the thrill of the hunt — anyone can go to Prada or Barneys, walk right in, and immediately be smitten with a scarf or a pair of pants or whatever item catches their eye. But it takes some real sartorial skill to find the diamonds in the rough at a thrift shop…. and when you do find them, it feels so good. Plus, your credit card will thank you.
4. Public transportation isn’t mandatory. Unless you’re trekking from the Upper East Side to Battery Park, public transportation does not need to be your only option. Subway and bus fares add up over time and, depending on your destination, can be an avoidable cost. Most out-of-towners might not realize how walkable New York City really is.
If the weather is nice, put some pep in your step, and opt for a walk! It’s the best and most scenic way to enjoy the city. You’ll be able to see lots of attractions you’d otherwise miss, including some of the most famous buildings in the world. PLUS, the people watching — can it be beat!? Diapered toddlers running under sprinklers in public parks, construction workers on their breaks, stockbrokers screaming into their phones, everywhere you look there are beautiful people of all ethnicities. Plus, there’s street-carts, buskers, public works of art, and that hot air that rises up through the vents when the subway runs underneath. Walking through the city opens up a whole world of discovery that you miss out on when you speed by on public transportation.
5. Keep your eyes peeled for free or reduced admission. Public spaces such as Central Park are free and have endless locations to visit and enjoy — just pack up a picnic lunch and you’re set for the day. Many museums in Manhattan, like The Met, offer a “recommended” admission price that is essentially a donation to the museum, so you can give as much or as little as you’d like.
Other museums offer free or reduced admission during specific days or hours — such as Free Fridays at the Museum of Modern Art — so make sure you do some research before you head out to the Big Apple for some cultural enrichment. A little can go a long way! (Because, really, who doesn’t like “free”?)
6. Stay away from Times Square hotels. Or any hotel that’s near a major tourist attraction for that matter. Although it seems tempting to have your temporary home in such a convenient location, it will squeeze every dollar out of your budget. Try to opt for hotels in the Lower East Side or Chelsea, as they tend to be cheaper than most other places in the city. If desired, there are also plenty of inexpensive hostels to choose from. If you’re perfectly happy with a hotel outside of the Manhattan borough, Brooklyn and New Jersey are flooded with cheap and convenient hotels that are just a short drive or bus ride from your main jaunt.
7. Ignore the (many) Starbucks around you. Have you ever heard anyone drolly remark “That and a dollar-twenty-five will get you a cup of coffee”? It’s tempting to believe that expression is out of date, or at least needs to be updated for today’s inflationary times — BUT, if you look hard enough you really can still find some cheap and delicious Cups of Joe out there. There are plenty of options to feed your caffeine craving that are super delicious while being 30 or 40% cheaper than Starbucks. Whether it is an Italian/French/Spanish cafe or a simple deli, about every block has some sort of authentic, non-mega-chain coffee-serving location — and your liquid gold can be had for just a few coins.
8. Psssst… check out Vimbly’s options for free activities in NYC. Vimbly features many fun and free activities in New York City that range from acting classes to Zumba, stand-up comedy to burlesque, and much more. Make sure to check back with Vimbly close to the time of your vacation to see what kind of freebies the city has to offer! Trust us, this isn’t just a shameless pat on the back — Vimbly and a trip to New York go hand-in-hand!