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How to Save Money on a Trip to the Big Apple

Use these tricks to scale back costs on your next big-city escape.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Save Money on a Trip to the Big Apple

USA, New York State, New York City, Aerial view of city with Freedom tower at night

With a little creativity and strategic planning, you can plan a memorable New York City getaway on a frugal budget.(Getty Images)

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple can take bite out of your budget if you're not careful. The "city that never sleeps" also happens to be an expensive city, but if you know where to look, you can score some deals and return home with some cash to spare. With that in mind, here are clever strategies to trim costs on your next trip.

Look for Free or Low-Cost Flights

You can often find reasonable fares to New York City from major cities across the country. If you have some flexibility in your schedule, consider flying on less popular travel days, such as Tuesdays and Thursdays, or with a low-cost budget carrier, like Southwest Airlines. If you fly with Southwest often or participate in its affiliated Rapid Rewards frequent flier program, you can take advantage of the Companion Pass, which lets one family member fly free for up to two years. It's also a smart idea to wait to book your flights until Southwest has a flash sale, which reduces the cost of flights booked with both cash and points.

Scale Back Transportation Costs From the Airport

Getting into New York City from the Big Apple's two main airports – LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport – can be expensive. While it can be cost-effective and convenient to take a cab, Uber or Lyft, you run the risk of traffic, and thus steeply increased fees. Alternatively, GoGreenRide offers wallet-friendly car service options, with hybrid cars equipped with free Wi-Fi and outlets available to charge electronic devices. They offer flat fees for pick-ups and drop-offs, ranging from a $40 rate for pick-ups at LaGuardia to a $65 rate for pick-ups at JFK and transport to Manhattan. Best of all, costs are calculated per car rather than per person.

Cut Costs Getting Around Town

While ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are prolific across the city, taking a taxi or the subway offer affordable alternatives. Taxi fares are reasonable, with meter rates starting at $2.50 and going up according to time spent and distance traveled. Plus, it's simple to pay using the credit card reader in each taxi or the app Arro, which lets you pay on your smartphone. What's more, taxis are easy to flag throughout the city.

The New York City subway system is also cost-effective and easy to navigate using Google Maps. With the Google Maps app, you can pinpoint exactly which station to board and which trains to take. Subway fares cost $3 per person for a SingleRide ticket, so keep in mind it may be cheaper – and quicker – to take a taxi if you have up to four people in your group.

Trim Attraction Costs

If you visit many New York City attractions and pay full-price admission, your wallet will be drained quickly. Instead, choose from one of several multi-attraction passes that leverage discounts when you buy multiple attractions at the same time. Apart from securing advantageous rates, these passes often allow you to skip the general line for faster admittance. For example, New York CityPASS grants you entry to the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, among other museums and landmarks. This pass saves you 40 percent on the price of tickets and costs $116 per adult and $92 for kids ages 6 to 17. Plus, the passes are good for nine days from first use, giving you ample time for exploration.

Meanwhile, the New York City Explorer Pass provides tickets for three to 10 attractions, allowing visitors to choose from more than 60 options and save up to 45 percent on admission. The pass is valid for 30 days from first use and prices range between $77 for three attractions and $180 for 10 attractions for adults. Another great option is the New York Pass, which grants entry to more than 80 attractions, but is only good for the number of days you purchase, with pricing starting at $109 for adults for one-day passes.

Buy Discounted Broadway Tickets

Everyone wants to see a Broadway show, especially popular musicals like Hamilton, but ticket prices can be quite high. For reduced-priced tickets, stand in a line at TKTS Discount Booths in Times Square to get day-of-show tickets. Another option is entering the show lotteries – either online or in person – for a chance to be picked for leftover tickets on any given day.

Take Advantage of Free Activities

During your city trip, make sure to check out free and noteworthy attractions, like the High Line. This landscaped park offers incredible city views overlooking the Empire State Building, as well as impressive modern architecture all along the way. There are gardens and plenty of places to stop and soak in the scenery. And don't skip checking out the nearby Chelsea Market, which offers an eclectic collection of locally-sourced restaurants and delis, butcher shops, bakeries and more.

Another quintessential New York City activity is strolling through Central Park. Pack a picnic lunch or grab a pre-packed gourmet lunch with wine, blanket, plates, glasses and silverware from the New York Hilton Midtown for $68 for two people. Afterward, make your way downtown to check out must-sees like the National September 11 Memorial & Museum where you'll find incredible artifacts, including one of the fire engines, the pillars of the original towers, the timeline of events and news footage.

Look for Reasonably Priced Restaurants

There are plenty of great places to dine in New York City, but the trick is finding establishments that are as appealing to the stomach as they are to the wallet. A general rule of thumb is staying away from major tourist hubs like Times Square, where prices tend to be inflated. To find the best local restaurants, ask New York residents or your hotel concierge.

Seek Out Hotel Deals

Much like dining, it's a smart idea to look for off-the-beaten-path properties to secure the best rates. Hotels in Times Square are going to command rates that are upwards of $400 and $500 a night, as are properties in hip neighborhoods like Chelsea. Midtown East, on the other hand, offers a central location that is close to Times Square and Central Park. Try hotels like Hotel Elysée, a charming property with top-notch service, or Hotel Giraffe, which offers nightly rates starting at $240. Another convenient retreat is EVEN Hotels Times Square South, which sits at 35th Street and 8th Avenue and offers nightly rates starting around $260.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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