After the question about the weather in New York – whose subject got a post last week – that’s another question that always ends up happening on the Facebook group – click here to join – or on my social media. My answer is: It depends! It depends on many, many factors. You want to visit which attractions? Do you want to see a Broadway show? Do you want to eat every day in a nice restaurant? Do you want shopping? It is something too personal to a stranger come and set your budget for YOUR trip. The truth is that a little research and organization does not kill anyone and helps avoid surprises during your vacation. Remember that Google’s there for that and this blogger who writes has made numerous posts giving A LOT of tips that help in planning the trip as well. And to help a little bit, I decided to put together this guide to help you in predicting how much you’re gonna spend.
NOTE: In this post, I am not taking into account the prices of airline tickets or hotels. If you want tips on how to save on accommodation in New York, click here and check out a post I wrote with several tips on this subject. The reason why I will not consider these two factors is that, first, hotels and airline tickets vary according to season – and in times of so many sales, it’s easy to buy a ticket. Second, let us consider that when someone is boarding, the concern is about the expenses during the stay in the city, since the person already paid the tickets and booked a hotel (and you already know how much you will spend on it). Understood? So, let’s go!
1. Organize your itinerary– you’ve decided that will travel to New York. If you are coming to the city, it’s for a reason. Is because you always dreamed about the city, either because they want to shop, either because you want to see the Statue of Liberty, because you simply chose the city for your vacation. It doesn’t matter. Now that the decision was taken, it’s time to start organizing. First, list all the things you always wanted to see and to do – Times Square, Museum of Natural History, Central Park. Then, search, search and search for more. Do not limit your list to only what comes to your mind. New York is a city full of things to do. So let’s search – whether here on the blog and other blogs, websites, books and magazines to see what the city has to offer. All that is interesting to you, take a note and add on your wishlist. Do not forget the different programs – ice skating, attending a Broadway play, see a jazz concert, go to that wonderful concert that will coincide with the period of your trip: everything enters your list (if you’re up, Sure!).
2. Set your priorities and be aware about the options in the city– do you really want to see the Statue of Liberty or will you ever happy taking the free ferry to Staten Island? You will be satisfied with the view from Top of the Rock or you also wanna see the view from One World Trade Center? You can adapt your itinerary to get the free days of some attractions or do you prefer to pay the entire amount and go whenever you want? You are ok with the fact of taking the Air Train + subway when you arrive at the airport or do you rather invest a little more and take a shared van or even a particular car, like a Uber or a cab? Do you want to see a Broadway show? Find out what are the options for ticket purchase – there is a post here and another here. All this information must be taken into account when planning your trip. Here on the blog, there are several posts about free places to go or cheap tours in New York. Just browse the category “tours” in the main menu.
3. Open the map – for those not familiar, Google has a tool called Google Maps which is essential for anyone who is organizing his trip alone. In My Maps, you build your custom map and you search every place and can add to your map. In this way, you will already beginning to locate in the city and identifying which points are close to each other. Thus, you can plan each day of your itinerary, based on locations. Plan each day according to what is a priority for you.
4. List the price of each attraction – open a spreadsheet on Excel or even a simple document on Word and list all the attractions that you put on your itinerary. Now it’s time to check the price of each of them – and on the website of each attraction of you will find this information. Add the price of each – and do not forget what was mentioned in item 2. The MET museum and the Natural History Museum, for example, have suggested admissions- which means that you pay what you want. And there are also many free attractions: walk in Central Park, enjoy Times Square, cross the Brooklyn Bridge: all these tours are classic and totally free!
5. Do not forget the fixed costs– you will hire a health insurance? I’ve done a post about this here on the blog – and you can click here to check. For a 7-day trip, the value of insurance ranges from $26 to $41 per person. It’s the kind of investment that we make hoping to not have to use the service – after all, nobody wants to get sick or have any health problems during the trip. But it can happen and we must take this into account. Another thing: New York is a city where you walk a lot and also use the subway a lot. Each ride costs $ 2.75 and there is unlimited card (personal, non-transferable) which costs $31 for a week and $116 for one month. If you will be here on vacation and will stay at least 5 days do not even think twice: use the weekly pass. If you go to spend 10 days, buy the weekly pass and then calculate how many times will need the subway and add the value to use during the remaining days. Still speaking about “fixed costs”, you need to define what will be your transportation from the airport and back to the airport – check the options here – and decide whether you will invest in a sim card to use the internet on your mobile – check a post with more information here.
6. Eating – how much a person spend with food in a day in New York? It depends! You can spend from $2 in a slice of pizza up to $100 on a full meal in an expensive restaurant. One thing that a friend always says and I think it fits here: if I have X to spend on the trip, I’ll make my trip fits this X budget. Obviously, we need to know the reality of each city. But this phrase is true. Your hotel offers breakfast? If so, great, it’s an expense you don’t have to worry about. If not, you don’t need to spend a lot. There are a lot of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts locations throughout the city – just to mention the cliché, as there are numerous other cafes in New York. There are even carts on the street selling coffee, muffins and bagels. Markets are also options to buy some food – both for breakfast and for snacks in the middle of the day. Speaking of meals – lunch and dinner – here on the blog I’ve talked about numerous restaurants – the most economical to the most cool (and, consequently, higher price). Explore Gastronomy menu on the main menu and check all the posts. I quote price range in all of them. You can choose to save money at lunch – spending, for example, $ 9 a meal – and then you can spend more at dinner, $15 to $20. Anyway, for each day of your itinerary, see what are the options in the area for lunch. Not happy with the suggestions of restaurants here in the blog? Download Foursquare and Yelp – they are great for you to search cafes and restaurants by areas. They report notes, tips, comments, the price range of each place.
7. Shopping – do you intend to buy something during your trip? If so, make a list of everything you want to buy. Lists prevent you from falling in the excitement and buy more than you should “only because it was cheap.” Time to check the prices. When it comes to electronics, there are two wevsites to check: Apple (for IPhone, IPad and other produts brand) and Best Buy,, for other types of electronics. Want to see home appliance prices? Check Bed Bath & Beyond. In this way, you will already have an idea, since the prices of websites are the same physical stores, in this case. Remember that some products are also cheaper on Amazon. Check if your hotel receives orders – or send to an Amazon Locker. Do you want to get an idea about cosmetics prices? See Harmon and Sephora websites. If your idea is to buy clothes, look for the desired store: Century 21, H&M, Zara, Forever 21 – all of them have websites. Doing some research before, you will already have an idea of the price and how much you’re gonna spend, which helps a lot in planning. Do not forget to include the value with bus if you wanna go to some outlet out of town – as Jersey Gardens or Woodbury.
Finally, after reaching a final number, remember to round the value up. It is always good to have a safety margin! Predicting is predicting: at the end of the trip, you can spend less or more than expected, but I guarantee that after following your plan, the difference of what you will spend on what you have planned will not be that big!
Another thing: whether you are an old blog reader or just arrived here, I recommend an intensive reading: my blog has a lot of content, with a lot of posts about saving money. So, take your time and explore all categories.
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.