How to Travel New York Without Breaking the Bank

New York is an amazing state that’s full of places to see and things to do. While it can get expensive when traveling or planning a trip there, it definitely doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg! Here’s how make the most of your time in New York on a budget.

If you’re planning a getaway to New York, bee sure to also check out How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Manhattan and The Top Spots to Check Out in Brooklyn.

Plan Your Trip to Avoid Tourism Inflation

It’s called the city that never sleeps for a reason.  The center of the world, according to locals, is buzzing at all hours of the day.  However, you can save yourself a few dollars by visiting when tourist groups aren’t grouping along every square inch.  Vendors will frequently raise prices during peak tourist times so avoid visiting during the summer and during the holidays.  June-August and November-New Year’s are the most expensive times to be in New York City.

Make Like a Local and Travel Cheap

New Yorkers are walkers and subway-takers.  Save yourself potentially thousands of dollars by springing for a metro card.  You can purchase daily passes but the 7-day pass will likely be your best bet for traversing the city on vacay.  Once you have this, Google Maps has your back and will get you where you need to go if you click the “Public Transit” option.

Free Stuff (With A Couple of Inexpensive Options)

It is not difficult to spend five paychecks worth of money on a New York trip but there are so many free and wonderful activities to do in New York City proper.  Here is a list of some of my favorites and it is by no means comprehensive:

  • Take a Walk Along Central Park.  
    • Central Park is beautiful and massive.  You could spend a whole day strolling, listening to buskers (street musicians), watching caricature artists, and even paying a small fee to row across the pond.
  • Free Walking Tours
    • There are probably hundreds of these tours across New York City and they’re free.  You can check out a comprehensive list at  Here are a few of my favorite must-hits:
      • SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown (And the food is fantastic.)
      • Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO
      • Midtown Manhattan Holiday Lights (if you happen to be there during the crazy times)
      • Graffiti and Street Art 
      • Lower East Side Food Tour


Okay, so this is not an “inexpensive” pass, per se.  However, if you are dead set on checking out some of the literal thousands of historical or just cool tourist attractions in New York City (and let’s be real, you have to hit a few), then this pass could end up saving you a lot of money.  The adult pass costs $136 and $112 for kiddos up to 12.  This pass offers entrance into six major attractions.  Those include:

  • Empire State Building
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Top of the Observation Deck OR the Guggenheim Museum
  • Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum

And more.  Visit here for the full list of options.

Staten Island Ferry

Here’s a surprise to many newcomers…this ferry is free to access and you can pass right by the Statue of Liberty on it.  Pro Tip:  The upper deck on the west side has the best view.

Eat Inexpensively

Okay, so you can find your fair share of overpriced restaurants in New York.  But if you eat like a local, you can eat for less than $10 per person per day.  Honestly.  $1 Slices of pizza can be found…literally everywhere and they are a staple for New Yorkers.  You just have to step into the “underground” pizza joints.  In addition, food trucks are not expensive and I promise you’ll find some of the best food you’ve ever tasted in Little Italy and Chinatown.  Also, it wouldn’t be a true trip to New York if you and your whole party didn’t dive into a famous NYC hot dog and you can stock up on some tasty NYC bagels and coffee at little carts and shops almost everywhere you turn.  Avoid Midtown.  That is a tourist’s haven and therefore very pricey.

Free Events

  • I can’t tell you how many “Free Yoga in the Park” or “Free Shakespeare in the Park” or farmer’s markets with live music I have seen while strolling down the streets.  Clearly, the park is one of my favorite places to hang out in New York.  It’s also a wonderful place for a jog, for the record.  If you are low on funds or just want to go explore without spending an arm and a leg, check out the city’s free events calendar.  Google search “Free event in NYC” and you should find a plethora of options all over the city.
  • You can head to the museums during “Pay As You Wish” Museum Entry!  That’s right.  Some of the most renowned museums in the world can be accessed for free during certain hours on certain days.  If you search “Pay As You Wish”, you should get a long list of participating museums including MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and the New York Botanical Gardens….which are absolutely stunning.

Happy Hour

Get your drink on during the small bites and cheap drinks hours.  As another pro-tip: pre-game in the hotel room before heading out so you don’t break the bank.  Here is a list I found of some great Happy Hour menus from some coveted watering holes in NYC.

New York City should be on everyone’s must-visit list.  It’s full of life and history and has some of the best food a melting pot of culture could ask for.  You are guaranteed to enjoy your time no matter what you’re looking for.  Art, history, entertainment, social gatherings, and general energy of the place is sure to get your moving.  And you can experience it all without breaking the bank.  With these tips, you can totally see New York on a budget. Enjoy the hell out of The Big Apple!

Ready to plan the trip of a lifetime? Be sure to check out all of the amazing, one of kind New York travel guides that Wild Bum has to offer!

About the Author

Dallas Thornley is a lifelong writer and traveler.  Born in El Paso, TX as an army brat, she had the opportunity to visit cities all over the country. She has continued to wanderlust as an international traveler. She now lives in Utah with her daughter and her cat.

Dallas Thornley

Dallas Thornley