New York on a budget

by Laura.Dixon

Pricey hotels and a plummeting pound make a holiday in New York more expensive than it’s been for years. So try these tips to make your money go further

Forgive me if I go a bit misty-eyed about the days when there were two dollars to the pound and America really felt like the land of the free. It all feels like a wonderful dream now that the pound and dollar are almost at parity. But just because my credit card bill has taken the sheen off my glamorous weekend in New York, it doesn’t have to be the same for you. Here are some ideas for having a flash time without splashing out in the city that never sleeps.

Swap hotels for apartments
New York’s top hotels are eye-wateringly expensive. And its budget hotels have rooms that are about the size of a cupboard. What to do? Book an apartment instead. If you’re there for over three nights, it’s the only way to holiday. Lodgis, FeelNYC and Newyorkstay all offer apartment rentals in the city. Prices are as low as $92 per night with the latter.
 
Forget taxis and hit the subway
It’s not glamorous, but it is safe, friendly, easy to use and speedier, especially in rush hour. Buy a seven-day subway pass for $24 to give you unlimited trips around the city. And if you really get the bug, check out Time Out (www.timeout.com/newyork), which has a list of subway tours of the city you can follow.
 
Do your homework
Before you travel, buy a decent guidebook. It might sound counter-intuitive, but a bit of money spent in advance will help you unlock the secrets of the city without spending so much money. You do need to read it properly too. AA’s newly revamped spiral guide to New York is a good one (www.theaa.com/bookshop). Time Out New York (www.timeout.com/newyork) has the very best up-to-the-minute ideas on how to spend your time there. Its Discount Diva section is great, and they also advertise free tickets to events and upcoming films.
 
Take to the water
Water taxis give a great view of the city. One of the best routes is a hop-on, hop-off trip from Midtown down to the World Financial Center, Battery Park and stopping at Greenwich Village and Chelsea on the way back to Midtown. They start at $35, and you can purchase a single trip from $7. Check out the routes on www.nywatertaxi.com (001 212 742 1969). If you’ve never done it, the Staten Island ferry around the Statue of Liberty is a free must-do too; visit www.siferry.com for more info.
 
Plan your night out in advance
Going to see a play on Broadway isn’t cheap. But by taking your place in line at the TKTS booth in Times Square you can get 25-50 per cent off typical ticket prices for the same day’s shows, making them $50-$75 per seat instead of $100. You’ll need to get there between 3 and 8pm for evening tickets, or on Wednesday and Saturdays from 10am to 2pm for matinee showings. Visit the TDF site (www.tdf.org/TKTS; 001 212 912 9770) for more information. If you’re more into TV, NYTix (www.nytix.com; 001 212 561 9000) offers a chance to get free tickets to see The Daily Show, David Letterman and the like.
 
Hit Central Park instead of the shops
It’s free, it’s an iconic New York sight and there’s plenty to do. In the summer, you can catch the New York Philharmonic filling the air with music, performances of Shakespeare in the park and opera shows for nada too. Visit www.publictheatre.org (001 212 539 8500) to grab free tickets in advance. And if you’ve got pennies to spare, hire a bike and go on a tour. Escorted tours cost around $49, but you can head off on your own from $20 per hour. Visit www.centralparkbiketour.com to find out more or call 01 212 541-8759. You also save 10 per cent by booking online.
 
Art for art's sake
There’s no reason why you need to spend anything if you’re an art-lover in the city. Turn up at MoMA (001 212 708 9400; www.moma.org) between 4pm and 8pm on a Friday and you’ll get in free, saving the $20 entry fee. Be prepared to queue round the block though. PS1, MoMA’s edgy offshoot in Queens (22-25 Jackson Avenue; 001 718 784 2084; www.ps1.org) is free and definitely worth a visit for its wholefoods café alone. You could also wander round Chelsea’s art galleries on a Friday night and find plenty of new openings, viewings and free nibbles.

 

Laura.Dixon

I've been writing about travel for nearly ten years, and currently work as a freelance travel writer for glossy women's magazines, Sunday supplements and national newspapers. My specialist subjects are city breaks, design, culture, modern art and architecture, quirky travel, and anything involving seeing animals in the wild. I've also got a thing about 'living cities' - I'm interested in what makes a city feel alive and what's going on right now, rather than dusty museums and ancient monuments. And I've written and edited over twenty travel guides. Favourite places - My best ever holiday was in Tokyo - that's everything I love about travel in one city: weird experiences, strange food, lovely people and ultra modern everything. I also love Reykjavik, India, Sri Lanka, Melbourne, Hong Kong and my home town, Manchester.