NYC. The city that never sleeps. NYC. Manhatten, 5th Avenue, Wall Street, Broadway and restaurants with doormen in top hats. NYC. Glitzy. Expensive. Exciting. Luring. Sparkly words that describe a glittering city. NYC on the cheap. Not a term that crosses peoples lips that often is it?
You may be thinking that to visit this jaw-dropping city you are going to need stacks of cash, right? Wrong.
We had told the kids that we would take them to NYC, even though on a budget of 200 NZD a day which equates to approximately USD 130 a day it would send us over our travel allowance.
But, how could we travel the world with two theatre loving teenagers and not show them Broadway.
Two teenagers who, having been living in New Zealand on the West Coast of the North Island for the past eight years, regard the Len Lye wind wand sculpture in Taranaki as the tallest thing they had ever seen.
We had to show them real skyscrapers. Absolute, towering gigantic buildings that appear to be swaying as you crane your neck to peer to the tippy top.
How to stay in in NYC on the cheap
Lucky for you, we did the hard work so you don’t have to. We are kind like that. You’re welcome.
If you want to visit this wondrous city for a few days but are worried that you may have to remortgage your house, relax and read on.
You deserve this trip as much as we did. And because we don’t want a trivial thing like money to stand in your way we will give you the hotel, the restaurants and a list of exciting things to do that will make your trip unforgettable and affordable.
We stayed in the Hotel de Point in Flushing, Queens. We booked it through Booking.com We find they always come up with the cheapest deals. I tend to double and then triple check all the hotel sites to see if I’m really getting the best deal and every time Booking.com comes up trumps. Even if it’s only a few dollars or a free breakfast thrown in, it all counts.
Brian and I stayed in a Manhatten hotel when we visited NYC before kids, and it wasn’t a patch on this experience.
Here’s why the Hotel De Point is the best choice for you if you’re hoping to visit NYC on the cheap – like us.
- Location: On a quiet side road just outside Flushing in Queens.
- Parking: Free.
- Getting to Manhatten. The Q25 bus stops right outside the hotel. It takes about 10 minutes bus ride to get to the station in Flushing. (Get off the bus, and the subway is on the other side of the road, behind you on the left) Get the purple line 7 straight to Manhatten. You can’t get on the wrong train. Flushing is the end of the purple line. It will take you about 35 minutes. Take a book, or just people watch.
- Free breakfast. When I read the reviews on trip advisor about Hotel De Point lots of people were complaining about the quality of the breakfast. Granted, this is not the ritz, and yes, the cutlery and plates are plastic but come on. You’re on a budget. Order the waffles with maple syrup and bananas. My teenagers had three every morning, and it saw them through until lunchtime. There is toast and scrambled eggs. It’s excellent considering the price, and you are not going to be hungry. I’ve had worse breakfasts in nicer hotels.
- Free coffee and tea in the hotel lobby. My son thought hed died and gone to heaven. This freebie saves you $10 a time. Get hot drinks for the bus ride and feel like a real New Yorker.
- For a family of four. Two large beds in an airy room. $104 per night.
- Total cost for four nights: $416
I have no affiliation with this hotel (although I wouldn’t have said no to a freebie) All the information that I give you is my own opinion. There isn’t anything negative I can say about our stay. If you’d like to book the hotel we used Booking.com. Click here to find similar deals for your visit to NYC.
As I said, we visited New York City before the kids were on the scene. We had a café and had plenty of cash, so we didn’t really skimp. You can read about us and our story here. But then the kids came along. In a nutshell, we emigrated to New Zealand, homeschooled the children and then threw everything into the air and decided to travel the world for a year. Our trip to New York resembled nothing to our previous experience. But you know what? This time it was better. Doing New York on the cheap will give you and your family and more memorable experience, plus, you won’t be paying for it for the rest of the year.
How to Get Around NYC on The Cheap.
- If you plan on staying in one area for the entire duration of your stay in NYC, you could get taxis, and this would no doubt work out cheaper for you, especially if you are a family. But. Who wants to come to the most exciting city in the world and stay in one place for the whole time? Not you? Good. Glad to hear it. In that case then, other than walking, you are going to need to buy bus or metro tickets to get yourself from one place to the next.
- We got a seven-day unlimited pass, this was perfect for us as the card covers the whole of NYC, so it meant that it costs us nothing extra to get back to the hotel.
- The card is good for buses as well as trains. The tickets are easy to buy. Every Metro station has a bunch of machines that you can get them.
- Just a note, we tried to use our travel charge card to buy all four, but it would only let us buy two. Probably an error on our banks end but just be aware; you might have to pay by a different means.
- Total Cost: USD 128 (4 people).
How to Eat Good Food in NYC on The Cheap:
We were in NYC for three days. Here is how we ate on the cheap and loved it. I am a huge fan of Trip Advisor. I am a bit of an addict actually. I will only go to places with the top reviews and even then I have to check out the reviewers. You can normally tell by their previous reviews if they know what they’re talking about. Remember, the costs are for a family of 4.
- Leo’s Bagels in Wall Street. Amazing cream cheese (and loads more toppings) bagels and coffee. Busy place with locals.Fresh, big and cheap bagels. We shared two between us, and it was enough. (especially if you’ve filled up at breakfast as I told you to). Cost: $13 USD
- Afternoon Tea. Levain Bakery in Harlem. The walk to this bakery is an experience in this part of town, but this is why you are going to find not only the cheapest but also the BEST cookies you will ever taste. My daughter had chocolate brioche, and it was also delicious. Because of the price we pushed the boat out and didn’t share. Nice coffee and tea. Fresh, huge (this is important to us. We have a teenage boy who likes to eat and is always hungry) and delicious. Cost: $23 USD
- Dinner in Chinatown. We ate at Wo Hop. The reviews were excellent. But when we got down the little steps to a basement restaurant we found a restaurant that was indeed very busy but was full of tourists. There wasn’t one Chinese face which isn’t a good sign. However, we were late for the theatre so couldn’t be bothered to look elsewhere. I’m glad we didn’t. The food came quickly, and the portions were massive. It was the usual western Chinese food, lemon chicken, shrimp fried rice, ribs, beef in a black bean sauce with noodles etc. But. It was delicious. It comes with free tea; the dishes were fresh, huge and very, very cheap. At least the waiters were Chinese. Cost: $29 USD
- Sal’s Pizza from Queens. If you stay in the hotel that I mentioned there is an Italian restaurant downstairs. On our last night, we were pretty weary and decided to go back to the hotel to veg out in front of a movie. We ordered pizza, and they delivered it to our room. Perfect. There is also a liquor store two blocks from the hotel (next to BJs). We bought a bottle of red and drank it out of the paper cups that are in the hotel lobby next to the coffee machine. I sacrificed a lot of wine while trying to do NYC on the cheap. I love wine as you know, but even I know that $8 for a glass of wine is too much when you are on a budget like ours. There was enough leftover pizza for us to eat on our road trip to Rochester the next day, so that justified the higher cost. Cost: $59
- Peking Duck on the side of the street in Chinatown. Eating in China town in $10. Go to a busy Chinese supermarket and order one of the boxes of Peking duck and sauce from the deli section. They are warm, and the nice lady will give you takeaway forks and napkins. Go outside and find somewhere to perch. We sat on some pallets. Get in quick before your teenage son eats it all. Cost: $11 USD
- Noodles on Broadway at Xian Noodles. As you can see, we love Chinese food. The best we ate while trying to do NYC on the cheap were from Xi’an Famous Foods. I had the cumin Lamb, and it was delicious. Again, the portions are plentiful. You can eat inside this tiny little place, but we couldn’t get a seat. Go over the road, and after about a two-minute walk you will come to an outdoor plaza. There are tables and chairs. Eat your meal here. Cost: $46 USD
Ok, so you’ve found somewhere to sleep, your belly is full of delicious food, and your wallet is still looking relatively healthy. But what about activities? Things to do? Is it possible to visit this city with a family, with teenagers, and still say you managed it on the cheap?
Yes, my friend. It is.
The main reason for us bringing Sony and Tess to New York was to show them Broadway. Sonny has got his heart set on being an actor and so what better place to visit than the worlds most famous theatre district.
We always knew that we would try to see a Broadway show. We weren’t too concerned with which one, as long as we could get discount tickets. The tickets were our chief extravagance when we were in NYC, but it was worth every penny. Ice skating was on Tessa’s wish list.
If you are visiting NYC with a family and you are trying to do everything on the cheap BUT you don’t want to sound like a misery by constantly saying “No” to everything they suggest, try these activities.
Activities to do in NYC on The Cheap
- We saw Miss Saigon. You can buy tickets on the day of the performance from any one of the three TKTS ticket booths. We chose the South Street Southport booth in Manhatten rather than the time’s square booth. I’m glad we did. There was no line, and we got four fabulous seats – seven rows from the stage, for 50% off the original price. Remember, this was an extravagance for us. When you think of how the cost of the tickets was nearly as much as the hotel for four nights, it’s not exactly cheap, but as I said, this was on the bucket list. Cost: $378.00 USD
- How many times do we see movies with a little girl skating around the empty Rockefeller skating rink? Round and round on the sparkling white ice, under the giant glittering Christmas tree. The reality? A tiny rink that is packed to the gunnels with people, each clambering to get an inch of space. And the parents. Looking grey with worry at the thought of how much the whole experience is costing them. If you have your own skates which if you’re travelling, I highly doubt, go to the Bryant Park Rink in Winter Village. It’s free! If you need to hire skates, then go to the top end of Central Park just south of Harlem Meer. Here you will find the Lasker Rink. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the more popular rinks, but the upside to this is there are no crowds, and it is cheap. Plus, from here you can walk a few blocks and visit the Levian Bakery that I told you about. Cost: $28 USD
An ‘Off-Broadway Show”
- We are theatre fanatics, and I wanted to take Sonny and Tess to see actors who had to work for their money – without the beautiful sets, costumes and lighting. If you become a member of the TDF (Theatre Development Fund) for just USD 29, you will be able to buy heavily discounted theatre tickets. We bought tickets for a bargain USD 9 each, to see the opening night of the Alfred Hitchcock Radio and it was superb. Not a tourist in sight. The audience were all locals, and what a colourful crowd they were. You will not regret going the extra mile to support the lesser known theatre companies. If we hadn’t had the kids with us, I would have liked to have gone on to a jazz club. But, that’s not what this trip is about! Cost: $36 USD
See the Statue of Liberty from the water
- By taking the free ferry over to Staten Island. When we were here sixteen years ago, we paid to go on the Statue of Liberty Cruise. I dread to think how much it cost us. I didn’t even know about this free ferry service. Go to the top deck (wrap up if you go in December as we did!) on the right-hand side, and you will get a fabulous view of the lady herself. You have to disembark at Staten island and get back on the next ferry back to Manhatten. The transfer is easy, just follow the crowds. Cost: Free.
Ride the Metro.
- People watch and listen to the talented musicians. If you bought the unlimited metro card, you might as well use it. Sometimes we would just stay on the metro for a few stops just to listen to the goings on within the carriages. This in itself is entertainment, and the kids loved it!
- My teenagers couldn’t believe that the tuk-tuk style bikes that follow each other around the small designated perimeter of the park were charging $3 per minute to ride. The benefits of travelling on a budget as a family is that it highlights the things that people will waste their money on. I mean, really? By the time you get in, get yourself settled, told the kids to behave themselves and to get off their phones, that would be fifteen dollars down the drain. Anyway, this is not how we saw Central Park and not how I would recommend you see it. Cost: Free
- If you are looking to experience this lovely park, this haven of tranquillity amidst the blaring horns and the bustling crowds, then walk around Central Park on foot. Every corner that you turn will show you a different glimpse of the beautiful Manhatten skyline. Within the 843 acres of Central Park, there are musicians, dog walkers, wealthy New Yorkers taking their children to their private ice skating lesson. Just go there and walk. People watch. Relax and soak it all up. Cost: Free.
We visited NYC in December which was amazing as all of the holiday displays decorated the shop windows. Even though we had only just visited Charleston where the cobbled streets were lined with beautifully lit houses, it was still magical. This is yet another free activity you can do if you plan on visiting at this time of year. As you can see though, whatever time of year you visit New York City you need not spend a fortune.
The Total Cost For a Family of Four to Visit NYC on The Cheap:
Contrary to popular belief, visiting NYC on the cheap is possible. We were there for four nights and three days and the total cost for the four of us (and remember, my kids are 16, and 13 so eat. A lot.) Drum roll, please…
Total Cost for four people including two shows: USD 1167
Have you been to NYC? How did you save money? What was your most extravagant splurge? Drop me a comment below and let me know how you managed to do NYC on the cheap. We are on our way upstate now, to Rochester. Our first cold Christmas in nine years! Thank you for reading and I’ll see you when you get back from NYC.