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How to Take a Budget-Friendly (Cheap!) Vacation to New York


I absolutely love the Big Apple, but let’s face it: New York doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a frugal city. Is it possible to take a budget-friendly New York City vacation? Are the words “NYC” and “cheap” even compatible? I’m going out on a limb to say — yes, you can. Here are 8 tips that can help you visit New York without breaking the bank.

1. Check out free landmarks. New York City is full of history and landmarks, many of which are free or very low budget. If you want to make your dollar stretch during your trip and have a blast at the same time, take advantage of places like Central Park and the World Trade Center memorial area. You can also ride the Staten Island Ferry for a couple of bucks (take the commuter ferry, not the tourist one).

2. Walk on the historic Brooklyn Bridge. This is an awesome way to spend an afternoon: it’s free, it’s great exercise, and it gives you a great view of the Manhattan skyline.

3. Take a tour. One of the most amazing libraries in the entire country is New York’s Public Library. The building is constructed of breathtaking marble and is a feast for the eyes. The library also holds fascinating exhibits for the whole family to enjoy and offers extensive tours describing its history. Another must see tour is of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, tours take you through the gold vault and trading desk. If it sounds like something you might want to do be sure and book a reservation in advance otherwise you won’t be able to get in.

4. Go thrift store shopping. Because New York has an incredibly diverse population you can score some fantastic clothing at a bargain price, and have a fun time doing it. The New York atmosphere will make your thrift store shopping experience truly unique.

5. Save money on food. This may sound impossible in city like New York, but locals will tell you some of the best food in the city is cheapest! There are tons of amazing pizza parlors that offer massive slices for a budget friendly price. Don’t think just because you are in New York you have to spend a fortune on five star restaurants. Instead, eat where the local students and starving artists do.

6. Look for reasonable lodging. Once again, there are quite a few places in New York that offer excellent service and quality for a low price. Check out reviews of the bed and breakfasts in and around the city, which can sometimes be cheaper than standard hotels. Websites like also help you find cheap accommodation — those sites connect residents who want to rent out their homes for a few nights to tourists like yourself.

7. Head to the museum. One of the most famous museums in the states is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Admission is $12 for students and $25 for adults, but you could easily spend a full day inside this museum.

8. Don’t be afraid to negotiate! New York is a city full of street vendors, so if you want to buy something you see on the street, don’t be afraid to haggle. This is the norm in the city, so don’t be shy about asking for a discount!

Kennedi writes for Face & Fitness about beauty on a budget, frugal exercise and other health-and-beauty topics.

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My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. I had a test website all about family weekend vacations. Number 4 years ago I would agree with. However, you can get amazing deals in big dept stores. Sometimes cheaper than other areas in Manhattan. NYC is a tricky beast now.

    Also, number 8 depends on where you haggle. Orchard street is a great place to do it and they welcome the haggle.

    • One of my favorite NYC stores is Century 21, which is a big department store where you can get “outlet” prices on high-end clothes. The prices are expensive relative to, say, TJ Maxx or Marshalls, but it’s ideal if you need to buy a suit or something a little higher-end.

  2. Long gone are what I consider budget vacations. We now have a family of five and nothing ever really seems cheap. These are some great tips though. 4 and 5 would be where we would cut the most out of cuts in our home.

    • It’s tougher when you have a family!! I’d say eating from grocery stores is one of the biggest cost-cutting measures when traveling with kids.

  3. I was born and raised in NYC so I know that its expensive here, but you can definitely have fun for less. The Staten Island is FREE…I’ve gone so many times when people visit. The 9/11 memorial is also free, but might have to pay $2.00 for tickets if you get them online.
    As for thrift shops, I’ve heard there’s a great one on the upper east side (there might be some great finds as thats a wealthy area). Also, if you look for lodging outside of Manhattan, you might find more reasonable rates. Just make sure its near a subway stop and in a decent area (the transit system is very convenient).

    • The subway system is one of my favorite jewels of NYC. You can get anywhere along the subway lines quickly and reliably. I’d love it if every city in the US had something like that!

  4. I would consider staying just outside Manhattan to get the better prices. You can take a subway into the city in 20 minutes or less.

    • That’s a great option! People who WORK in Manhattan often commute in, so there’s no reason a visitor can’t do the same!

  5. One of my best experiences was taking the family to stay at NYC, right near Times Square.
    The primary driver was work related, so they covered 2 days of our expenses there. The other 2 days (including a Broadway show of Beauty and the Beast) were out of our own pocket. It had been literally 2 decades since I had seen a Broadway play and it was soooo worth it, for my whole family – at the time we only had two 3 year olds.
    Will we go again, most likely.

    And thanks Kennedi for the thought on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, since our son is a budding artist according to his teachers, friends, and family. I think we could easily spend a day in there and enjoy it!

    • I bet your son would love it!! There are also lots of art gallery (with paintings for sale) in NYC … you can enter for free (because the owner is trying to sell the paintings) and spend all day looking at the great art.

      For the record, New Orleans also has great art gallery (purchasing) shops, which you could spend an afternoon looking in.

  6. The Met admission is also by donation, so you can donate as little as 1 cent to enter.

  7. These are some great tips! I’ve been to NYC once, but that was years ago. We do want to go back and would likely stay outside the city and commute in via the subway. That is half the fun of going to NYC, isn’t? 😉

  8. I’ve been to New York a few times and lodging and food is what really gets you! Some people even recommend staying outside of the main city, where the prices are MUCH cheaper and taking the train to Manhattan for sight seeing and what not.

  9. When my gf lived in NYC she took me all around to all the tourist stuff. Some cool things were the Staten Island Ferry like you mentioned, The Ghost Buster firehouse, cheap comedy shows, The New Museum, and a basically walking around all over the city seeing the sights.

  10. Great list! NYC really is the place that has something for everyone!

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