I’m a diehard thrifter. Most of my wardrobe, furniture and decor are secondhand. Thrifting is cheap. The used finds have more character, and did I mention it’s cheap?
My penny-pinching doesn’t stop at clothes and home goods, either. When I travel, I’m constantly looking for ways to save money.
So, when I recently traveled to New York City, a notoriously expensive tourist destination, I had my thrifting work cut out for me. Saving money in NYC can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.
Here’s how to visit the Big Apple without spending a big fortune.
Park Your Car Outside Of The City
My biggest piece of NYC travel advice is to leave your car somewhere else. Affordable parking rates do exist, but they’re rare. And if you happen to find an open meter on the street, then go ahead and buy a lottery ticket too, lucky duck.
In reality, you’ll likely have to use a parking garage. Nightly fees can cost anywhere from $40 to over $100. Assuming you’re not driving to NYC for a one-day visit, those parking costs will quickly add up.
Instead, I recommend parking your car in New Jersey and catching a train into the city via New Jersey Transit. Three days in an NJ parking garage will cost around $80, and a train ticket into the city costs around $15.
Not only are you saving a ton of money, but you’re also avoiding the hassle of driving in NYC traffic. You don’t want to have to deal with that, and the locals don’t want you to, either.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Subway
If you’re used to getting places by car, you might be inclined to rely on taxis, Ubers and Lyfts. However, these rates can skyrocket depending on surge pricing and the length of your trip.
Citymapper offers multiple route options and step-by-step instructions to get you to the station, on the right train and to your destination stress-free.
Currently, all NYC public transit requires you to wear a mask while riding. If you’re still concerned about COVID-19, double-mask, socially distance and bring a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer with you.
Get Savvy With Your Food (And Drink) Selections
One of my favorite parts about traveling is trying new food. And with all the types of cuisine, restaurants and bars NYC has to offer, you’re never going to be lacking in food or drink options.
However, buying three meals a day (plus drinks and snacks) add up. For this reason, I like to pack a reusable water bottle and on-the-go snacks.
I simply drop a few snacks and a water bottle into my purse before heading out for the day. Then, when the “it’s 2 p.m. and I’ve walked 5,000 miles today” hangriness sets in, I don’t have to splurge on whatever food happens to be closest to me.
Additionally, look up restaurants before you’re hangry in the middle of the city. Check menu prices, food options and locales beforehand so you’re not stuck settling on what’s easiest (and potentially the most expensive).
And if you’re in the city to have a cocktail or two, I have two words: happy hour.
If You Want To Shop, Shop Smart
I have plenty of friends who feel no trip is complete without a shopping spree. They come home loaded with trinkets and souvenirs (and a much lighter wallet).
I encourage you to go to the city and enjoy it without excess spending. Take photos for memories, window shop down 5th Avenue, but don’t feel obliged to buy a $40 Statue of Liberty bobblehead just because it happens to be in front of you.
If you intend to shop, try out some of these thrifty discount stores instead of national retailers. (You have an H&M at home.) For souvenirs, head to Chinatown.
Walking through Chinatown is an NYC must-do in and of itself. But you can also haggle your way to a much more affordable price for that bobblehead than in, say, Times Square.
Avoid Certain Neighborhoods (There Are Lots Of Others)
Speaking of Times Square, you can also save money by avoiding certain neighborhoods. Times Square, Midtown and other tourist-heavy NYC locales will gouge prices because they know they aren’t catering to locals.
You’ll get just as much of a New York experience in the Lower East Side or Greenwich Village than you would in Times Square.
It’s also not a bad idea to find university neighborhoods. Restaurants and stores in these areas cater to college students (read: broke), so you’re more likely to find things to do on a budget.
Hunt Down Freebies And Discounts
Contrary to popular belief, spending $300 a day is not required to have fun in NYC.
If you’re a Broadway baby looking to see a show, try waiting in line at a TKTS booth. TKTS booths sell same-day tickets for up to 50% off. The lines are intense, but so is your love of Broadway, so it evens out.
Ultimately, everyone’s travel style is different. If shelling out big bucks is your thing, then go for it! But don’t let money deter you from a vacay—if my penny-pinching self could find ways to have a good time in NYC, you can, too.