I just recently returned from a trip to New York and had a great time. Everything was generally more expensive there, but that didn’t stop me from having a great time checking out the sights and sounds of the big city.
While visiting NYC for the week I had a few ways I was able to save money to keep the costs of the trip down.
This is the first part of a 2 part series. The second part will cover hotels and transportation.
If you like food, New York is a must visit – there are over 25,000 different restaurants just within NYC. Virtually all types of food are available and the variety of restaurants, bakeries, and delis can accommodate any budget.
New York restaurants receive a letter grade which is based on their cleanliness. If you ever want to check out the rating of a specific restaurant, click here to do a search of a specific restaurant. I noticed any restaurant that receives an “A” grade shows their grade on their front window, while there were fewer “B” grades displayed and I didn’t come across one restaurant with a “C” grade.
In my experience the restaurants closest to areas with lots of tourists like Times Square and Central Park had the highest prices. There were plenty of cheaper options available if you walk 2-3 blocks away from the busy tourist areas.
I also searched online for restaurant coupons before leaving for New York but wasn’t able to find many. Some of the bigger restaurants like Panera Bread have a loyalty program that allows you to collect rewards, discounts and free stuff if you eat there often. This came in handy as the hotel was located about 2 blocks from Panera Bread so I saved a few dollars there.
Street vendors also sell breakfast items, hot dogs and roasted nuts and are on almost every street block. Their prices were the cheapest in the city and if you’re looking for a quick bite on the go, this is the best option. I noticed they didn’t have any vegetarian options so I didn’t try their food but I noticed they were quite busy.
Related: Eating Vegan on a Budget
Perhaps the biggest cost while visiting New York is the cost of sightseeing. There are tons of museums, tours, displays and historical learning opportunities available for tourists – and most of them are expensive.
We visited the Museum of Modern Art which cost $24 per person, but luckily we got a student discount for my wife which saved $10.
You can also buy city passes that allow you to visit certain places using a card that you show to get into the venue. Costco sells a NYC Explorer Pass which allows you to choose 4 attractions for a set price – lower than the cost of visiting each one individually. The nice feature about this card is that it doesn’t have a time limit.
Most cards like this one allow you to get cheaper prices for certain venues, but they expire after a certain number of days – they sell cards that expire in 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days. This may seem like a great deal as the prices are cheaper if you buy the card, but you’ll want to make sure what you want to see is included in the card. Also, I was blown away by how long the lineups were for each venue. If you’re planning to see 2-3 venues per day, you’ll want to account for the time it takes to get to/from each one and give extra time for lineups.
For Broadway plays, if you’re unsure about which one to see and just want to see one for the experience – I’d highly recommend checking out TKTS in Times Square. They offer discount theatre tickets and we were able to get tickets to Broadway shows at 50% off. Just make sure you download their app so you can get updated information on what shows are playing. I’d also recommend lining up at least an hour early. The tickets for each night’s shows are sold at 3pm, but the lineups started before 2pm. We waited in line for about an hour and the savings made it worth it.
Conclusion: some tips to save money in NYC are to use food coupons whenever possible (you can find some on eBay), check out the local street vendors and be sure to buy discount theatre tickets.
How do you save money in NYC?