New York City is the largest city in the United States and the 14th biggest city in the world. It is also a popular tourist destination, drawing visitors from across the globe to view the city’s iconic sights.
Like in most large urban areas, spending time in New York City can be an expensive affair. However, it doesn’t have to be pricey to vacation in NYC. These tips and tricks will help you get the most out of your visit to New York City while sticking to a small budget.
I know the first thing I do when prepping for a trip to NYC is start looking for deals. That’s what I did as soon as I realized I was going to NYC with my mom and sister, I started looking for deals. I’ve been to New York City before and it is expensive! Here is a list of every deal for NYC I could find and tricks and tips for saving money in other ways.
Table of Contents
13 Ways to Save Money in New York City
1. Find Free Things to do
Here is a list of 15 free things to do in NYC! Doing one free activity a day will save you a lot of money.
Rakuten is a website that will give you a percentage of what you spend back. For example, if you use their site and book a hotel through Expedia you get 6 – 14% back. They send it back to you through PayPal. I often get back $10 – $30 on a one-night hotel stay.
Use area code 10001 on restaurant.com to find restaurants in the Manhattan area. I recommend L’Ybane (Mediterranean cuisine) and AJ Maxwell’s. Once you sign up with them, they will email you coupon codes to use. I usually only pay $1, $2 or $3 for a $25 gift certificate.
For just $89.00, CityPASS offers a savings of 46% on 6 must-see New York attractions! These activities include: The Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Plus you have a choice of one of these three activities: Top of the Rock Observation Deck, Guggenheim Museum, Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Goldstar also offers discounted tickets in NYC. GoldStar has heavily discounted tickets to shows and other things to do in New York City. They even offer free admission to some shows and events.
Choose NYC Midtown and they’ll have all kids of deals: food, shows, spas, tours, and more. There is a new one available everyday.
8. Use Cheap Transportation
Buy a MetroCard – New York City is a big place, and you will have a lot of ground to cover during your visit. The most efficient way to travel around New York City is via the public transit system, which consists of a bus system and a subway system.
While paying for individual rides on the bus or subway is cheaper than taking a taxi cab, at $2.50 per ride, fares add up quickly. For the most economical transportation during your visit, you can purchase a transit pass, called a MetroCard, that allows you unlimited rides on either the bus or the subway. At $29 for a seven-day MetroCard, you can get anywhere in New York City for about $4.14 total per day.
However, when the kids are with me the subway system is not necessarily the cheapest option. Usually it’s a taxi type situation that is cheapest. Uber, Via and Lyft are all available in NYC. Use my Uber invite code, meagans343ue, and get a free ride up to $15. Or use my Lyft invite for a $15 credit!
9 Make Your Own Meals
If you are staying somewhere that has a kitchen you can make meals instead of spending money eating out. Amazon Fresh will deliver groceries anywhere in NYC.
Search for a NYC hotel deals or an activity deal on Travelocity and you will start getting deals to NYC. Use the coupon they send you to save quite a bit.
11. Do Cheap Activities
Staten Island Ferry and Viewing the Statue of Liberty – The Statue of Liberty is one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks. While the statue can be seen at a distance from Battery Park at the tip of Lower Manhattan, the best views of Lady Liberty are from the water.
In the area of Battery Park you will find ferry service running to both Ellis Island (home of the Statue of Liberty) and the borough of Staten Island. Ticket prices for the Ellis Island Ferry start at around $13 for adults, plus an additional fee for museum access on the island.
If you don’t mind skipping the museum and are more concerned with snapping some good photos of the Statue of Liberty, consider taking the Staten Island Ferry instead. The Staten Island Ferry is a free service that offers some of the best views of the Statue of Liberty that you will find. You can also enjoy a different perspective on Manhattan and see the Brooklyn Bridge from a new angle, all without spending a cent.
New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (often referred to as “The Met”) boasts one of the most impressive art collections in the world. Unlike other major art museums in New York City, which can cost as much as $20 or more to enter, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a philosophy that art should be accessible for everyone. Because of this, they do not have a set admission charge for the museum. Guests are asked to give a donation of whatever amount they can afford, even if it’s only a dollar.
Be aware that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has strict rules as to what items are allowed into the museum. Be prepared for extensive searches of your personal possessions. Some items are allowed into the museum, but must be registered with security, such as laptop computers. To avoid any delays or hassles when visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, bring with you only items you absolutely need.
12. Budget Dining in New York City
Dining out is traditionally one of the most expensive parts of taking a vacation. Save money on your food budget by looking for deals during your stay in the city.
There are two food items you can always find for cheap in the New York City: pizza and hot dogs. If you purchase any food from street vendors, it is best to keep your money in your pocket until the vendor tells you your total. Some sly vendors will take advantage of naive traveler by marking up their wares. For example, you may actually owe $3 for your spicy sausage, but if you are holding a $5 bill in your hand, the vendor might tell you that you owe $5. Always be on your toes!
- Hot Dog Stands – Have lunch at a hot dog stand. This will be the cheapest meal you have in NYC!
Many places advertise specials for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering special pricing on certain meal options. Pay attention to these specials posted in windows and on sandwich boards as you explore the city. If you see a good deal that you want to try, make a note of the special and the location of the restaurant. If you have an Android phone or iPhone, there are free apps available that you can use to record this kind of information that will also help you find your way back.
13. Use a Vacation Planner – Now this may sound crazy, but travel agents often have access to deals that no one else can access. This means it’s more than worth it to get a free quote.
Get Travel Insurance
I use Skyscanner to find flights. I use it so much, I wrote an entire guide to finding cheap flights with Skyscanner! My second favorite site to find flights is Momondo, another great site for finding cheap flights.
Book a Place to Stay
If you prefer staying in a vacation rental instead, I recommend VRBO.
Rent clothes for your trip with Travel Style Expert for only $50 a month!
Choose Activities and Tours
To find great activities in any area I use Get Your Guide and Viator. If we are visiting a city with lots of popular attractions I always check CityPass and GoCard to see if they have discount cards available.
When I want to book a full-on multi-day tour I use TourRadar. They’ve got fantastic weekly deals.