New York City is known the world over for being incredibly expensive and somewhat inaccessible to budget travelers. However, as a college student, I have been researching how to take a trip to New York City that fits within my tiny budget. Believe it or not, New York City is actually within reach of even the smallest budgets with a little bit of discipline and compromise. The accommodations will not be as fabulous as the Plaza Hotel and the meals may revolve around food stands, but seeing New York City is still worth it. With a little research, anyone can plan a trip to New York City on a budget.
Depending on your location in North America, getting to New York can cost under $10 or up to $400. If in Boston or Washington D.C., the infamous New York Chinatown buses have brought people across the East Coast for incredibly low prices. For a slightly more reputable cheap bus experience, the Megabus Company links the middle of Manhattan with cities as far away as Little Rock, Arkansas. The bus stops in a substantial number of cities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. Trains link Philadelphia and the New Jersey suburbs with Penn Station, and the Long Island Railway connects the Eastern region of suburbs with the city. This being said, it may be cheaper to fly into Philadelphia, Atlantic City, or Islip-Long Island airports and then take the train into the city. Southwest Airlines has finally set up a hub in La Guardia and Newark airports, making flights to the city cheaper than ever.
As far as accommodations, the best option for a budget traveler is to either find a friend to stay with in the New York region, or simply couch surf. The days of couch surfing being sketchy and dangerous are over thanks to couchsurfing.org. This website provides a network of previously reviewed couch surfers around the world, and even in the best neighborhoods of New York City. Although this service is not open to families traveling, for those traveling to New York City as a single or two people, couch surfing is the ultimate way to stay in the city without paying $200 for a hotel.
As far as attractions go, one of the biggest draws of New York City is simply walking through the streets and absorbing the atmosphere. Skip the long and expensive lines at the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, and take a walk through the Lower East Side instead. Avoid F.A.O. Schwartz and their giant piano at all costs, and take the inexpensive subway ride to the Financial District to get a feel for the real New York. To experience New York City on a budget may actually give travelers the real New Yorker’s experiences, as opposed to spending the entire trip in tourist traps. With a little bit of research and imagination, a trip to New York City on a budget can be the time of your life.