Frugal Travel to New York: My $400 3-Night Trip

What's the most economical trip you've ever taken?

I have to brag a little here.

I just took a 3-night trip to New York and spent only $410. Here's how the costs broke down:

I just took a 3-night trip to New York and spent only $410. Here's how the costs broke down

Flight (DFW to LGA): $213

There's no doubt about it. I lucked out on airfare. To my credit, I booked a few days before the 21-day window. And I was flexible in terms of airline, layovers, and arrival times.

But, in general, fares dropped significantly in August for some reason. And I just lucked out. I don't think I've flown this close to $200 in 5 years. Chalk this one up as a positive sign we're still in a bit of a recession.

Edit: By the way, I booked direct through

Room (3 Nights through $170

Having stayed in NYC before, I knew frugal travel to New York City wasn't going to be easy. The biggest cost of the trip was going to be hotel.

I had to find a way to make this less expensive. About a month ago I stumbled upon a blog post by Monevator regarding a site called CrashPadder. It's a social travel website that connects frugal travelers with hosts that want to make extra money by renting out a room. Sort of a more capitalist version of couch-surfing. LogoNYC rooms were few and far between on CrashPadder, but I stumbled upon the U.S. equivalent,, and found tons of places to stay in NYC. is a peer-to-peer room/house/couch renting service that connects homeowners (or tenants) with short-term renters. Airbnb provides an alternative to hotels for travelers interested in a different experience. Get $20 towards your first Airbnb stay.

Airbnb also provides homeowners (or tenants) with a great way to make extra money with their extra room, couch, or their entire place when they are out of town. According to the Airbnb website, there are currently over 22,700 places/rooms/couches to rent in New York City through their service.

After some trial and error, and getting comfortable with the fact that I'd be staying in someone's spare room (you can rent shared rooms, private rooms, or the entire place), I booked a place. $66.67 a night, plus $20 for's cut.

After I booked I was offered $50 off of my stay if I listed my own place on I quickly took advantage of this promotion. So my total ended up being $170.

Metro Card (7 Days): $27

I love traveling in the city because you can take advantage of public transportation. The NYC subways are the best. Since I was there for 4 days, I knew I'd need the 7-day, all-you-can-ride card, which costs a mere $27.

I was able to take the bus from LaGuardia Airport to the subway metro line and from there I could go anywhere in the city I wanted. Taxis are the quickest way to kill your efforts towards frugal travel to new york city.

Since I live in Texas and in the burbs I welcome the chance to “live in the city” for a few days and do the subway thing. Part of the joy in the trip for me is experiencing this.

That brings my total to around $410 ($27 + $170 + $213). But I forgot to mention that I just started using my new cash back small business credit card. So I will receive another $5 back on my spending. Making my trip $405.

Frugal Can Be Fun

Okay. It's clear that I saved some money. But did I have any fun? Yes. I was there for a conference and got to spend some much needed time with other finance bloggers.

We spent most of our time talking about finance and blogging (what else?) there in the conference hotel (bonus: free wifi included). This is what I love doing so it was well worth the expense. But even if I'd been there for sight-seeing, NYC has plenty of frugal options for a visit.

So my expenses wouldn't balloon up that much, and frugal travel to new york city isn't impossible. Two of my personal favorites are the Staten Island Ferry (free) and the Central Park Zoo (only $8).

Share your frugal traveler story in the comments below.

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  1. Angelo Cocchiaro says:

    I am just a kid but that is impressive. We took a 2 day trip and it cost more. We didn’t even use airfare! We drove for almost 10 hours to get there! On 1 tank of gas! But uh man that there is VERY impressive. Surprising.

  2. @Deedee – I figure food is a sunk cost. I’d eat in Texas or in New York. Although, Manhattan prices can be expensive. We kept it pretty cheap with the exception of one nice steak dinner. I probably spent $25 to $50 more dollars on food in the 4 days that I was there than I would have in Texas.

  3. No mention of food costs here. Were meals included in the room? Or did you do all your eating at the conference?

  4. Phil, you did great! It ended up costing me over twice that in airfare and hotel! It was a great trip though! 🙂

  5. Glad to provide some inspiration, if not the straight-line to the sofa! 😉

    I love NY!

  6. @Evan – Oh, I totally didn’t know you were that close. Next time I’ll let you know. Let me know when you’re in Big D as well.

  7. I would have aboslutely met up in NYC! I am only 20 mins away…

  8. NY Daily Quote says:

    First time I hear about airbnb. I’ll definitely check it out. If you are into art, you should also know that a lot of museums in NY offer free admission on certain days. MoMA has free Friday afternoons, for example.

  9. Very impressive indeed! I am also trying to be frugal during my trips, but never reached up to your level, lol. I am planning a trip to NYC as well, and your post is very informative. Thank you!

  10. That is impressive! I just booked our flights to TX for Christmas and it was $400/person! Luckily my mom gave us miles for 2 tickets – we could have kept my daughter as a lap kid since she won’t yet be 2 but since we’ll also have our 6 month old we decided it’d be worth it to have the whole row to ourselves. And, since we’re staying at my mom’s and using one of their cars – I guess $400 for the 2 week trip isn’t bad. 🙂

  11. @MoneyEnergy – Yes, airbnb was great. And you can really find some nice apartments all to yourself. Perfect for a group trip too since costs can be split even further.

  12. MoneyEnergy says:

    Excellent – thanks for the recommendation! I’ll use that next time instead of paying $160/night for a hotel (which was cheap when I found it):) NYC is definitely great for public transportation, especially if you’re on vacation and don’t have tight deadlines.

  13. @Craig – Great meeting you too. Thanks for the tip on the new park. With two kiddos now, I’ll be sure to hit that up.

  14. Dude, it was awesome meeting up with you!

    Funny you mention the Staten Island Ferry. We just took the family into the city today and rode the SI ferry. We got to see the Statue of Liberty as the sun was going down and in the evening all lit up (we took the ferry back and forth).

    There’s also an awesome new (free) park for the kids in the South Street Seaport full of water, sand, and things for the kids to build and explore with.

  15. I live in NYC. If you want to save money consider to stay in Brooklyn. You will save 30%. Also almost all the restaurants have lunch special for $5.95 to $9.95. I hope you enjoy a lot.

  16. Wow! I’m jealous! I’ve never actually stayed in NYC. I have family in CT so when I head into the Big Apple, I just have to pay a round trip train ticket which is like $17 and sleeping at my grandparents for free is a pretty sweet deal!

  17. @mfo – I just used They usually have the best fares for me here in Dallas. As for blogger meet ups, just try to hit up one of the big conferences in your area or in Vegas. The one’s I’m familiar with that I know other bloggers go to are blog world expo, pub con, sxsw, and affiliate summit. You can also find bloggers in your area by searching my pf blogger map. Doesn’t J. Money do a meet up in DC?

  18. myfinancialobjectives says:

    Impressive! What site did you use to book your flight? I am looking for a flight now to fly to Miami from Washington and back. Lowest I can find is around $200.

    Also I’m curious about the time spent with other frugal bloggers. Is there a site with information on PF blogger meetups? I think that would be not only awesome, but an excellent learning opp!

  19. Very impressive! I think the most frugal trip I ever took was to Paris for 3 days. Everything, including airfare, was around $300 (I was living in Madrid, so that made things easier :)). I booked my flight on Ryan Air, which runs ridiculous specials between European cities. You can get round trip flights for $40 sometimes. We stayed in a hostel (a classy one) for $20 each a night, so that left me plenty of extra spending money for restaurants, night life, and sightseeing!