How to Vacation in NYC on a Shoestring Budget

Dying to take a vacation in New York City but don’t think you can afford it? The Big Apple is notorious for being an expensive place for pretty much everything. Fortunately, there is a way to check it out on a shoestring budget.

Follow these tips in order to visit NYC on the cheap:


Unless you live nearby, flying into the city will probably be the most economical means of getting there. With gas prices at unprecedented highs, a road trip often costs more than an airline ticket, especially when you also consider wear and tear and the time that it takes.

Be sure to compare flights into all of the area airports. There are a number in the metro area, including JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. If you live near an airport that is serviced by Jet Blue, the low-cost yet customer-friendly airline often offers the cheapest airfare into JFK airport.

You’ll find inexpensive, readily available public transportation into the city from any of the above airports. If you don’t want to haul your luggage on the bus or subway, don’t jump to hailing a cab once you get there. Look for shuttles to book ahead of time to get to your hotel in the easiest, most affordable manner.

Budget Accommodations

You’ll find a wide variety of accommodations available in the city and surrounding areas. If you don’t mind staying outside NYC, hotels offering comfortable, basic rooms with budget-friendly rates can be found in Newark, New Jersey.

The Howard Johnson’s at Newark starts as low as $65 per night. From there you can take the train into the city and be in the heart of Manhattan in just half an hour.

If you’re looking for a room on the cheap in the city, the best option is The Jane in Greenwich Village. It has clean, albeit tiny, rooms starting at $135.

For even more options for cheap hotels in New York, don’t look past the Marriott, which has over a dozen beautifully appointed hotels in the best spots that NYC has to offer, all at great rates. Check them out now:


A hotel room isn’t the only option when it comes to accommodations. If you’re willing to consider a hostel, you’ll find numerous choices throughout the city, starting as low as $30 per night.

Most hostels offer dorm-style rooms as well as private rooms. If you’re traveling alone or just want to meet up with other travelers, this can be an ideal option for those on a shoestring budget. is another option travelers should consider. Sign up for an account on the site, where you’ll find millions of friendly people around the world willing to offer their couch or spare room for the night just for the opportunity to meet a new friend. In New York City alone, you’ll find more than 6,000 residents willing to put up a traveler or two.

On the site, you’ll have the ability to read reviews of others’ experiences to determine if a host might be a good match.

The basic rules for couch surfing are easy. Be a respectful guest, clean up after yourself and bring a gift such as a bottle of wine or a meal in exchange for the stay. Consider allowing other surfers who may be coming to your hometown to stay with you in the same manner in order to get a good reputation in the community.

Your host may also be willing to give you a tour of the area, or at a minimum provide helpful insider advice.


Many first-time New York City travelers complain about the high cost of food. That’s often because said travelers are eating out exclusively in areas targeted at tourists.

For breakfast, skip the pricey hotel breakfast buffet and do as the locals do. Grab a tasty, filling bagel and a cup of coffee to experience one of the city’s most famed foods for less than $5. If you’d prefer an inexpensive bowl of hot oatmeal or a buffet-style meal, head to Whole Foods, which is located in areas like Chelsea, Union Square and Columbus Circle.

For lunch, try one of the many street vendors offering cheap, delicious meals. You’ll find carts all over the city featuring everything from barbecue and falafel to $1–2 hot dogs. There are many other spots where meals like pizza and deli sandwiches can be had for less than $5.

While you may not find an elegant atmosphere or top-notch service, you will find big portions and delicious fare at Dojo or The Corner Bistro in Greenwich Village or the Dumpling House in Chinatown.

What to Do

There are many sights and attractions in NYC that cost very little or even nothing at all.

Head to Central Park for great people watching or an afternoon stroll; celebrities are often spotted here as well. Rent a rowboat for $12 and paddle across the park’s 22-acre lake. Discover the woodlands by embarking on a free nature walk led by Central Park Conservancy volunteer tour guides.

A visit to the Empire State Building is a must. By purchasing a City Pass, you’ll receive discounts on admission for it and many other must-see landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and the Top of the Rock.

Avoid the long lines to the Empire State Building’s observation deck by visiting just after midnight. It’s open until 1:30 a.m., and you’ll also have the opportunity to see the city at its very best.

Walk the streets of Greenwich Village and enjoy free live entertainment from street performers, musicians and jugglers. This is also a great area to browse antique shops, bookstores and old record stores.

Cheap Shopping

New York City is known for its high-end stores like Barney’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany & Co., but you can find incredible bargain shopping here too.

The city’s flea markets are often filled with treasures. Even celebrities are spotted shopping for the unique and artistic items that can be found at the Brooklyn Flea and the Green Flea. Good deals can also be found at Michael’s Consignment Shop and the CancerCare Thrift Shop.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to make a few hundred dollars last several days. You don’t need to spend your life’s savings to enjoy the Big Apple!