I wanted to share some tips and tricks we discovered (and some we wish we had known beforehand!) about New York so you could get the most bang for you buck if you are traveling on a budget!
1- Airbnb baby!
I said this in one of my posts about our Paris trip, but we just love Airbnb. People who don't know much about it often think it means you're sharing an apartment with random people but that's not the case (unless you choose it to be.) If you set your search settings to "entire house," it will only show you options of homes/apartments that are completely private with no other humans. We haven't had anyone bug us or be there for 99% of the Airbnbs we stayed at. (When we stayed in Paris, our "host" (as they call them at Airbnb) met us to help us find the apartment but that was mainly because we were new to the country. We could have turned him down and found it on our own.)
Also, Airbnb doesn't mean you are staying in someone's actual home that they currently live in. Almost all of the Airbnbs we have stayed in are furnished apartments that are used specifically for Airbnb purposes and are not where the host lives. You can usually tell if it's their live-in home or an extra residence they own in their reviews/apartment description, so if it weirds you out to stay where someone actively lives (even though they won't be there,) you can easily avoid a place like that.
✳️Always always always read the reviews and the apartment description in its entirety before you book a place. Anytime I've been bugged by something, I'll realize afterward that people totally pointed it out in the reviews and it was my fault for missing it. So pay attention, do your research and you should be just fine!
We love the Airbnb option because you have more space, a kitchen, and as many bedrooms as you need for your purpose. (Which with children is AWESOME.) You are not expected to clean up after yourself, but it is nice to take off the bedsheets and put dirty linens all in one place, do dishes and take out the trash. Not a big deal and all of those things only take like 5 minutes to do but are super appreciated by the hosts. (Which, PS, you rate the hosts and the apartment afterwards but the host also rates how you were as a guest. If you are a considerate human being, you don't even have to sweat this. Just be aware that it happens so that future hosts can make sure they aren't renting a room to a total messy jerk. Honest and fair reviews help everyone out on Airbnb.) Anyway, everything about Airbnb has been totally worth it to us for the cheaper price and added space!
⚠️ Here's a warning though- with airbnb generally being cheaper than nicer hotels, don't assume that just because you book with them you are automatically saving money. Pay attention to the location of the apartment and where you'll mainly be wanting to spend your time while on vacation. Just because the Airbnb price is lower outside of the city doesn't mean you'll save money overall. We wish we had stopped and thought about that a little better because we got a cheaper Airbnb outside of the city yes, but with the traveling fees of getting in and out the city, it definitely added up! We would have been better off paying $30-40 more a night and staying in Manhattan (instead of Jersey City) and saved a little more in that regard. Lesson learned!
2- Subway and Lyft
Whenever we are in big cities, we love traveling by subway! It's cheaper, fast, and everywhere which is awesome. We always pay for a 5 day pass. Whenever there were times where we were in a time crunch or had a long distance to go that wasn't as close to the subway, we used the Lyft app (as opposed to Uber) to get us there. (Drivers come and pick you up. Basically a cheaper version of a taxi that tells you upfront how much things will cost.) We found their prices to always be a little cheaper than Uber and were perfectly happy with how their app and system worked and how polite their drivers were.
3- Discounted Broadway tickets
I am a huge musician lover so Broadway was something I definitely wanted to try and see, but I didn't want to get my hopes up that we'd for sure see a show because those ticket prices are so high! Thankfully, there are some great options out there for lower ticket prices so cheap skates like me can still enjoy the arts. :)
The best discount ticket option I found was the app Broadway Lottery, but it's also the most risky. And by saying that I just mean it's not promised that you'll win. Essentially you go into the app every day (the lottery tickets are for the day of or the following day so you can't do this months or weeks in advance) and enter the lottery for each show you are interested in seeing. You'll get an email confirmation letting you know you entered correctly. Then each Lottery closes at a certain time (that is listed within the app.) When it closes, you'll receive an email telling you if you won discount tickets or not. Kyler and I both had the app and tried it for a bunch of shows every day but didn't have any luck until our very last day. I woke up, checked my email and yay! I won tickets to Lion King for only $30 each which is pretty darn amazing for Broadway! You only have one hour to pay after the lottery closes so you'll want to pay attention to that if you've entered. It'd be a bummer to win but then be too late to actually get the tickets!
Another way to get discounted tickets is to use the TKTS booths in several locations throughout Manhattan. (One main place is under the Red Stairs in Times Square.) Every day the TKTS booths open for certain hours and if you get there early enough, it's pretty likely you'll be able to get tickets to the show you want. They have an app that will tell you on the day of what shows they have tickets for and how much the discount will be. These prices aren't always super low but it's still a great option to see Broadway without footing the whole bill!
4- 911 memorial museum Free Day
On Tuesdays from 5pm to close you can get FREE museum tickets (which are normally $24 each for adults) but they are first come first serve starting at 4pm. (You'll definitely want to get in line before then.) Kyler and I got there about 4:15 and all of the free tickets were completely gone, so definitely plan ahead if that's what you're shooting for! Also, just as an FYI if you've missed out on the free tickets, you will likely have to come back another day because all other tickets for purchase will be sold out by that time. (At least that's what one of the employees there told us.) I didn't realize I needed to buy them online beforehand, so just so you know- you'll need to do that! (✳️Also, I found out after our trip that quite a few museums have a free day and time so you may want to look into that before you head to each one!)
5- The Met Museum
The tickets for this amazing museum are only a donation, so you get to choose how much you pay! They suggest a donation of $20 per person but it is completely up to you. We heard people paying as low as $5 so it just depends on what you're comfortable with, but it is nice to have an option to pay a little less if you are trying to stick to a budget!
6- List of FREE NYC attractions
Many of the big main attractions cost money (the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, the 911 museum, the Empire State Building, Broadway, eating out, The American Museum of Natural History etc) but there are many fun and exciting places to see that are for free! (Some have options to purchase food or activities, but you otherwise can get in for 0 dollah, woohoo!) I recieved many of these recommendations from friends and from FB groups so I'm just gonna list em all out!
The Manhattan Temple
Conservatory Garden (within Central Park)
The Rockefeller Center
Little Italy (a yummy place to get food but it's a fun atmosphere to walk around in)
South Street Seaport (activities/restaurants within but fun place to walk around)
Bryant Park (fun place to walk around, activists/food within)
Chelsea Market (shopping mall)
New York Public Library
(and many others you can find with some help from google! I just listed ones we saw or heard a lot about from friends!)
Yay for so many options to save while exploring such a magical and fun place! If you have any other free or cheap attraction additions or money saving tips, please add them in the comments! :)