New York City Under $600
Great Tips on Flights, Accommodation and Even How to Get a Free Beer.
By Angela Strohbeck, San Diego State University
College Tourist West Coast Regional Ambassador
Like most adventure-seekers, traveling the world has always been a dream of mine. Travel can provide enriching experiences, adventure, and a lifetime of great stories. The only real downside to traveling is how quickly expenses can add up. The good news is that you can do some heavy duty travel on a budget if you are determined enough.
Last weekend, I packed up my bags (and my budget) and headed to New York City. A friend of mine had suggested that I come for a visit and two weeks later I appeared. Considering the distance and my upcoming midterm schedule, this was a relatively spontaneous trip. Before I even booked the tickets, I gave myself a goal of keeping all expenses under $600, including the plane ticket.
While this may be rather obvious, you can expect the plane ticket to be your biggest expense when planning most trips – particularly coast-to-coast or international flights. The more you can save in this area of your budget the better off you will be. In all honesty, if I was not able to find a deal on the ticket the trip probably would not have happened. I was lucky enough to find a ticket from San Diego to Newark and then LaGuardia to San Diego for a total of $307. Considering the fact that I was able to crash on my friend’s couch, I was left with a budget of $293 for four and a half days. This was a very cushiony budget considering the only expenses left over were food, drinks, and inner city transportation.
Some things to think about when booking a plane ticket to New York…
1. Dates of your trip
The time of year when you book your trip can heavily impact the price you pay. Tickets can range anywhere from $300-$900 depending on the dates. It’s generally best for your pocketbook to schedule your trip in the offseason. I found a redeye flight to Newark on February 27th and a morning flight back to San Diego on March 4th. This was nice because I took my trip just before prices went up for spring break travelers.
2. Where and when you actually book your flight
I absolutely love to use Kayak.com. It is one of my favorite sites to check for fare prices and generally keeps up pace with real-time prices. There are certain features that predict whether prices will go up or down and help you decide when to buy your ticket. When I had booked my flight, I didn’t pay as much attention to that particular feature and I wish I had. I originally found the flight that I wanted for $270 but waited until the next morning to purchase the ticket so I could run to the bank first. Unfortunately, the price shot up to $440. Evidence that prices could change dramatically at any moment – so be vigilant.
(Note: Another great site to subscribe to for great airfare deals is Airfarewatchdog.com. You can sign up for updates on specific destinations, or just generally cheap flights out of your local airport)
3. Airport location
My original plan (and most ideal flight situation) would have been to fly into and out of Newark airport, but because of the dramatic increase in cost I had to find a cheaper flight. Luckily, I was still able to fly in to Newark and found a flight out of LaGuardia. While this was slightly more of an inconvenience, it shaved $133 off of the plane ticket.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have a friend that lives in the area and would love to host you for all or most of your stay. In my case, one of my favorite people in the world lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, which happens to be about a 10 minute commute from Manhattan, by way of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) train. She let me stay at her place for the entirety of my trip and it helped me save a significant amount of money.
If you can’t find a friend to stay with, another budget-friendly option is to use Couchsurfing.org. It is internationally known for helping people find cheap or free accommodations. It is, essentially, a community for travelers who are either looking for a place to stay or have space in either homes for people to stay. Be aware, the experience can vary greatly from person to person and may not be the most ideal set of accommodations for every traveler.
Food & Drinks
Rose Pizza in Penn Station was the very first place I was introduced to on my first trip to New York. You can get two huge slices and a coke for $7.50. So if you’re not so hungry you can split that with a travel partner and come out on top with a $3.75 meal. Being a native San Diegan, I can’t tell you that it is the most authentic New York pizza, but from what I hear it comes pretty darn close.
JP’s Bagel Express. This gem is actually on Newark St. in Hoboken, NJ – but it is well worth the mention. You can grab a delicious bagel sandwich with eggs, cheese, and bacon for about $3-$4. If you happen to be in the area paying homage to the legendary Frank Sinatra, you should make a trip to JP’s. They are quick and the sandwiches are incredibly filling.
Bierhaus NYC in Midtown. If you are familiar at all with the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany – this place is the New York version of the famous German beer hall. It replicates the atmosphere with a band playing traditional German music, great decor, and an entertaining host. The food is a little bit more on the expensive side, but it is authentic German food. I particularly enjoyed the beer cheese they serve with warm pretzels. *HINT* How to get a free beer: There is usually a contest among willing patrons to see who can hold a stein full of beer the longest. Regardless of how long you can hold the stein, you will be the recipient of a free (rather large) beer.
For more cheap eats, you can take a stroll down to MacDougal street in the West Village. The area surrounding MacDougal street and Bleecker street have a lot of establishments that have student discounts. Some of these only apply to NYU students, but many apply to any person with a student ID. Stay tuned on upcoming blog posts for more information on cheap eats on MacDougal street.
*Money saving tip!* If you plan to consume alcohol during any of your meals, keep in mind that many places in New York and New Jersey are considered “BYO” establishments – which means you can bring your own alcohol to lunch or dinner. This can bring down costs significantly. There are certain regulations and not all establishments allow this, so be sure to double check the rules before you bring your bottles along.
Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan