A budget trip to New York City

Central Park, New York City

Budget Trip to New York City
A Budget Trip to New York City

New York is an expensive city to live and visit – with higher tax rates, limited space, and millions of tourists converging to the Big City, there’s only so much resources and space to share. However,  in this article, we try to give you tips on how to survive New York City on a budget by breaking down our costs so you may replicate our travels as well!

A Budget Trip to New York City

The back story: One of my friends (and old roommate) moved to the Big Apple last year, so we find ourselves going there to visit for a couple of days just to see her & her husband. She’s having a baby so we went back to NYC in the middle of winter to attend her baby shower. It actually snowed when we were there (the first snow of their 2015 winter), and we arrived (and left) the week before Snowstorm Jonas swooped in.

How We Did It: Granted, our accommodation is free – our friends lived in Manhattan so we stayed in their gorgeous apartment in Morningside Heights. Our table below shows how much we’ve spent, including food – because NYC has an amazing plethora of food choices that’s not readily available in Jacksonville! We opted to eat out more, and well, used what little cash back rewards we have to at least offset some costs. Here’s the breakdown for two people:

Date Activity Points Used Cash Paid Comments
Jan 15, Friday Jetblue flight - JAX-JFK $158 We feel it's better to pay in cash than use our points for the flight
Jan 15, Friday Transportation $40 - Metrocard reload Metro card reload includes Skytrain to Jamaica Station from JFK
Jan 15, Friday Transportation $14.50 - LIRR
Jan 16, Saturday Lunch $28 - Thai Market
Jan 16, Saturday Breakfast for next day/snack $2.50 - Absolute Bagels
Jan 17, Sunday Liberty Crown Tickets $42
Jan 17, Sunday Lunch at Statue of Liberty $10.84
Jan 17, Sunday Locker Rental - Statue of Liberty $2
Jan 17, Sunday Coin Souvenir - Statue of Liberty $3
Jan 17, Sunday Ellis Island Souvenir $9.76
Jan 17, Sunday Dinner at Xian Famous Foods $12
Jan 18, Monday Transportation $8 - Metrocard reload
Jan 18, Monday Lunch $13 - Gray's Papaya
Jan 18, Monday Dinner/Snack $4.24 - Au Bon Pain
$3.26 - Popcorn
Our flight was delayed so we needed some snacks to tide us by
Jan 18, Monday Flight Home LGA-JAX $153 - Used Barclaycard Arrival Plus Cash Back $53
Total $153 - Barclaycard Arrival $404.10


  • We saved a lot on accommodation because of our friends (yay for friends!)
  • We chose to fly from La Guardia (even though it’s a terrible airport) because it’s close to Manhattan – we used $150 worth of points from our Arrival+ to at least offset some of our airfare costs.
  • If you want to go up the Crown of the Statue of Liberty, be prepared to book your tickets early… like, a few months early (we booked at least 3 months in advance) – they only allow between 400-500 people to climb up. Click here to book your ticket & get more information.
  • Be prepared with $2 cash as locker payment if you’re climbing up the crown, no backpacks or bags are allowed as the stairs are very steep. The NPS don’t want you to bring anything that may hinder your ascent and descent.
  • There are so many places in NYC that you can visit for free! Check out an article I wrote for another website that has tips.
  • We spent one day hiking around Riverside Park & went immediately to the baby shower so only spent money on food and gifts (we didn’t include the gift budget here, as it’s separate from our travel fund)
  • We could have saved more in the snacks/food department by choosing to cook & bringing our own snacks, but hey, we want the gastronomic experience of New York!
  • We also didn’t think it’s feasible to use Jetblue points considering they are quite cheap for a one-way fare. We used our (old) AMEX Jetblue credit card to get more points from our trip instead of reimbursing it using Arrival+.

Shameless plug: if you want to visit and enjoy NYC for yourself, feel free to use booking.com.  You get a great deal on accommodations, and we get a small commission.  Win-win!

All this is part of our 2016 Travels & Experiences on a budget. Check out the post here to see more of our trips & cost breakdown for 2016!

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