How To Visit New York On A Budget

I absolutely love America! I love everything about it, and try and visit as much as I can. A trip to America is often seen as an expensive one, but it doesn’t have to be.

In January 2015 Helen and I visited New York on a budget less than £525 each for 5 nights!

That included everything from food through to airport parking. I know so many of you have been asking for a full breakdown of this trip – and it’s finally here! I’ve started from the beginning and worked my way through the entire list of things you need to consider when booking a city getaway to New York on a budget.

Travel Insurance – £10

Before you go anywhere you’re going to need travel insurance. Travel insurance covers you for small things such as loss of baggage or larger things such as illness of death abroad. Whilst it isn’t compulsory I personally wouldn’t go anywhere outside of the UK without it.

Helen and I both have travel insurance as part of a service with our bank. If you don’t have travel insurance already then I recommend using a comparison service such as Go Compare to find the cheapest / most suitable insurance policy for your needs.

For the purposes of this study let’s say that you don’t have travel insurance but you manage to pick up an annual travel insurance policy including the USA for £10.00.

Airport Parking – £12

The cost of parking your car at an airport is always one that hits me hard!

We’ve previously travelled by train to the airport and by bus, to save ourselves a couple of pounds, the hassle has never been worth it. Especially after a long haul flight – you just want to get home.

The cost of parking at an airport varies drastically based on airport and time of year but with a couple of simple tricks you should be able to get four or five nights for around £25 for the entire car. Depending on how many people you travel with this could significantly reduce the cost per person.

I’d always recommend seeing how much you can save parking with Just Park. Either at someone’s home or at various retail or commercial points. I use it a lot myself to pre-book parking spaces at a reduced rate especially in big cities such as London.

Airport Food – £6

I have an American Express Card that entitles me to free access to many airport lounges worldwide. Even if I didn’t have access to the airport lounges in many cases (especially when flying long haul) it’s something I’d consider.

Unlimited food and drinks (including alcohol) for around £15 – £20 per person isn’t bad going for an airport.

Alternatively, if you’re going short haul or happy to REALLY do New York on a budget then you should be able to get a traditional ‘meal deal’ for circa £5 / £6 each.

Flight – £175

Three things matter when booking a flight to New York;


The Airport: Flights into JFK often cost more than Newark despite being just 35 miles from one and other and both around 17 miles from central Manhattan. That’s because the airport taxes and fee’s are higher at JFK. 


The Time: Both the time of year you travel and the amount of time between you booking and travel both matters when travelling on any long haul flight. We booked our trip to New York in October and travelled in January (4 months between booking and travelling) We also chose to visit in Winter – This had the largest impact on our reduced flight costs.


The Booking Operator: The booking operator has more of an impact than the airline. That’s because 90% of us now use comparison websites such as Momondo to compare the prices of flights. We tend not to look at the airline we’re travelling with and focus more on how much it’s going to cost us.  

Below is a screenshot of our booking confirmation you can see the total price return for the two of us was a little over £344. This price was on the basis that we had to go via Atlanta and saved us around 50% when compared to other flights during the same time period.

ESTA – $14 / £10.70

You must obtain an ESTA before travelling to the USA from the UK. It costs £10.70 to apply for an ESTA and you can do it from home using your computer.

The process is simple and straightforward and more often than not you’ll get an automatic response. Once you’ve been approved the ESTA will last for two years.

Transfers – £8

Regardless of which airport you travel to, once you arrive you’re going to need to get to your hotel. Below is an overview on how to get from each New York airport into central Manhattan via public transport.

JFK: Catch an AirTrain from T4 to Jamaica Station. You can then get the subway into places within central Manhattan such as Grand Central Terminal. Time: 1 hour. Cost: $10 each way.

La Guardia: Head to the Q70 Limited bus stop. Get off the bus near Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave Subway station. Catch E, M, F, R and 7 trains from the subway station into the city. Time: 1 hour. Cost: $3.75 inc Metro Card.

Newark: Leave terminal A on the Newark Airport Express. Get off at the Port Authority bus terminal (between 41st street and 8th and 9th avenues). Catch C or B trains from the subway station into the city. Time: 1 hour. Cost: $7

Details, prices and times correct at the time of publishing.

Hotel – £120

Depending on where you want to stay in New York will affect your price so think carefully and find the right balance between cost and convenience.

It’s not always worth saving £10 for two people over a four-night stay if it’s going to take you 10 minutes more to walk to the nearest Metro for example. Again the time of year you visit the city is going to massively impact the cost of hotels.

Pre-Christmas hotels tend to fill up quickly with people visiting the city for Christmas shopping. You could also think about travelling with friends and family, booking a family room or a shared room, even just multiple rooms under one booking all helps you to get a better rate.


SightSeeing – £88

There are tonnes of amazing free things to when you’re in New York on a budget, don’t get me wrong. However, the major landmarks and attractions of New York such as; The Statue of Liberty, Rockafella Centre and Empire State building all cost money.

On their own, each attraction costs between £18 and £25 for a basic visit. However, we used a service called City Pass and managed to create a tailor-made visit to New Yorks best attractions for just $116 each / £88. This works out at just £14.60 per attraction.  

Food – £100

Food is everywhere in New York. From your high-end restaurants to your food carts, New York has it all and thanks to that food here doesn’t cost the earth!

Most hotels feature a buffet breakfast included with the price meaning all you need to worry about is lunch and dinner.

Lunch is simple a sandwich or burger from an independent or mainstream chain should cost you around £6 per day.

Dinner comes in at slightly more at £12 per day, again this will depend where and what you eat.

Americans love discounts and coupons so plan ahead as to where you might like to eat whilst you’re in New York and look online for discount days and times.  

Souvenirs – £0.00

This one is simple, we didn’t buy any. There were loads of things we loved, but most of all we loved the memories we made and the photos we took. By choosing not to bring souvenirs back for ourselves and others we saved around £50 each – which is going towards our next holiday!

New York City can be a budget friendly holiday destination. We visited New York for less than £525 each. This included us staying in a 3* hotel in central manhattan, and all our extras such as travel insurance and ESTA. Thrifty travel is budget friendly travel - that's the future!


  1. theFIREstarter October 18, 2016 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    We stayed in the Pod 51 when we went in 2008. It was awesome!
    Right in the thick of things and a cheap and cheerful room to rest your sleepy head each night.
    Defo recommend that to anyone thinking of going.

  2. Mrs Small May 21, 2017 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    I am so impressed that you got a hotel for £120. Was that really for 5 night!? I am travelling with a family so have opted for an AirBNB in Brookyln, but it was still quite expensive.

    • TMM May 23, 2017 at 9:13 am - Reply

      Yes, I can only imagine it was because they were struggling to fill it due to the time of year. It being permanently minus 10 did have some advantages LOL 🙂

Leave A Comment