Is it possible to spend a weekend for four people in New York City and spend less than $650? The simple answer is – YES!
The two biggest expenses you face are accommodations and transportation. If you’re driving, locate a parking lot near your accommodations ahead of time and reserve a parking spot. Even better if it comes with free parking! AirBnB is a great and safe way to find apartment rentals all over the world. With hotels in the city costing a fortune, apartment rentals can save a lot of money and give you many more options. For example I found an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for $106 a night, hotels in the area average $150+ a night.
Next, straighten out transportation. Using the subway and buses is really the best and fastest way to get around. The system is easy to navigate and takes you almost everywhere in the city (and it’s much safer than you think). A 7 day unlimited pass costs, $30 – you can also pay on a ride by ride basis ($2.75 per ride) but if you plan to use it a lot then the unlimited option is easier and less hassle – even if you won’t be staying the full seven days.
What to Do
NYC Big Apple Greeter
New York is notorious for its high prices, but that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to this myth. There are plenty of free and cheap activities to fill up your schedule. If you’re unsure about your surroundings and want to get grounded before exploring, The Big Apple Greeter program might be a perfect visit. The program pairs visitors with locals who want to show off their city – and it’s completely free! Submit your request at least one month in advance, listing the top three neighborhoods you’d like to visit, and what your interests are. Greeters pick you up at your accommodations and take you on a four hour tour. Donations in any amount are welcome to keep the program running.
Next, begin your solo explorations at the southern tip of Manhattan and hop a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free and offers the same great views of the Statue of Liberty that the paid tours to Liberty Island offer. You’ll save $60 (for 2 adults and 2 children) by doing this. If you really want to visit Ellis Island, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for Statue Cruises. The ticket includes access to Liberty Island but you’re not required to get off the boat. There’s really little to do on Liberty Island besides walk around the statue and purchase kitschy souvenirs.
Free Museum Days
There are some amazing museums in the city, and many are quite expensive when factoring in admission for a full family, however many museums are pay what you wish (with a suggested donation price) The American Museum of Natural History and Metropolitan Museum of Art are two such museums. Many others have free museum days. Check out this list to find out if and when your desired museum offers free admission.
Take a Tram Ride
Between Manhattan and Queens is Roosevelt Island. It’s connected via an aerial tram lime. It’s a unique experience to be had! Grab some sandwiches or other snacks, take a tram ride and enjoy a picnic on the island. The price for the tram is $2.25.
New York isn’t all high rises and concrete. There is loads of green space! Exploring the most famous park, Central Park could fill up your entire weekend. Other parks such as Astoria Park, The Highline, and South Street Seaport Park are also wonderful parks to explore with or without children.
What to Eat
For every haute cuisine dining restaurant there are double as many casual restaurants. To keep your costs lower, plan to pick up some groceries to at least cover breakfast. This will save quite a bit. Then instead of opting for a large dinner, make lunch your big meal of the day. Prices are lower mid-day so you’ll get more for less. New York has some amazing street food; from the humble hot dog, knishes, and gyros, to food trucks hawking every type of food imaginable.
2 nights AirBNB – $212
4 Metro Passes – $120
Food – $250 (Based on average of $25 per meal for 4 people x 3 meals a day for 7 meals plus a little cushion)
Attractions – $60 (if you opt to visit Ellis Island)
Do you have any other tips for visiting New York City on a budget?