How to make the most of an NYC trip!

We had just a few short days in NYC in 2015. It looked like it would be impossible to see everything we wanted to see, but we were determined!  We packed our bags and hit the road for O’Hare International Airport. Our arrival in New York was late on Saturday night and we had to leave early on Wednesday.  Knowing that NYC is not only a big city, but also a big hub for tourism, we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to control our spending.  It turns out that NYC can be great, even on a budget! 

The Osegards with Christina!

NYC on a budget!

For starters, we saved a little bit each month in a fund for travel, so that we could do this trip debt free.  By doing this, we essentially prepaid for our vacation. The best part about a vacation paid for in cash is that the vacation doesn’t follow you home! It only took us around $450 to enjoy a few days in NYC, so we wanted to share our secrets. 

Look for flight deals

This was our biggest way to save money, plain and simple. One trade-off we made was flying out of a different airport. Instead of flying out of our Twin Cities airport, we drove to Chicago (for about $60 in gas), but it saved us $150 in flight costs! 

Make friends

One of our dearest friends lived in New York at the time, and she was gracious enough to let us stay in her apartment. This saved us lodging costs AND allowed us to spend precious time with a friend we don’t get nearly enough time with. And maybe it’s just me, but it felt more like the “authentic” experience bunking in a tiny Manhattan apartment!

Look for the Free things to do

There are plenty of things to waste your money on in NYC, but there are a million free and amazing things to see and do as well. Some of our favorites were walking around Central Park, visiting the Macy’s in Herald square, and seeing other popular sites. Highlights were Grand Central Terminal, the Flat Iron building, walking Times Square, viewing the 9/11 memorial, the Staten Island Ferry, walking to the Rockefeller Center, seeing the Empire State building and more.

Grand Central Station
Walking in NYC

Another thing that saved us a lot of money was doing thing that were close to each other at the same time. This allowed us to walk instead of paying for public transportation. We actually walked a LOT more than I would recommend on a typical trip, but it saved us a lot of money!


September 11 Memorial

It would seem that there are approximately 4523452 museums in New York.  We asked around and decided that the one we most wanted to see was The 9/11 Memorial Museum.  It was a bit pricey – but absolutely worth it. Neither of us are typically museum fans, which made it easy to just pick one, and we picked right. We spent 3 hours learning and exploring and the time flew by.  It is a somber place (and I wouldn’t recommend taking kiddos there) but it is incredible.

Eat in or share meals

We tried to eat in at our friend’s apartment for meals when we could.  Because our days were filled to the brim with fun activities, it wasn’t always easy to do that, so we purchased snacks from a grocery store that we could bring with us. 

We don’t cut eating out when we travel, because we LOVE to try restaurants in new places, but when we eat out we try to split meals to cut the costs (and sometimes allow us a few smaller meals in more restaurants!).

NY Style Pizza

Things we could have done to cut costs more

Maybe you have more than two people going on this trip or $450 is still more than you can swing for a trip. That’s totally fine! We had more ways we could have cut costs!

  1. Theoretically, we COULD have walked everywhere.  We probably spent $20-30 on the Subway and bus. We needed to for transport to the airport but we technically could have walked everywhere else.  There were a few long walks that we decided weren’t worth it for us.
  2. We could have only eaten in.  We chose to eat out a few times, because they were places we really wanted to go.  However, had we eaten at our friends or eaten from street vendors and such, we could have saved even more.
  3. We could have skipped the museum. But boy, I’m glad we didn’t.

Though we are strict budgeters, we do try to find a line between trying new things versus not overspending.  For us we found a great balance where we could try everything we wanted to do AND not let our vacation follow us home!