Exploring NYC on a Budget: Tips for a Frugal Family Trip

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, I traveled to New York many times, as my grandparents, aunts and uncles almost all lived there. But we didn't really do touristy things there, other than trips to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Then I lived in New York for a year right before I got married and moved abroad to where I live now, but in my year there I did no touristy things because I was busy working, going to school, etc... So I would love to actually experience New York as a tourist, and maybe I will one day, ideally with my children. If you, like myself, would want to go to visit New York, you can spend a lot of money there, but there also are ways to do it cheaply. Mommy Poppins is a site I learned about and it has so many cheap and free activities to do there with families, and there's also NYC For Free plus so many other places. Here are some tips about how to plan your trip there frugally. Have fun!

New York City, the Big Apple, is a dream destination for many travelers. From iconic landmarks like Times Square and the Statue of Liberty to its vibrant arts scene and diverse culinary offerings, there's no shortage of things to see and do in the city that never sleeps.

However, visiting NYC with your family can quickly add up, making it essential to find ways to save money without sacrificing the experience. In this article, we'll share valuable tips on how to save money when exploring NYC with your loved ones.

Plan Ahead for Sports Entertainment

If you're a sports-loving family, catching a game at the Barclays Center can be an exciting and memorable experience. Whether you're rooting for the Brooklyn Nets or attending another event, booking tickets in advance can help you save money. Many venues, including the Barclays Center, offer early bird discounts and special promotions for those who plan ahead. Additionally, booking tickets online often allows you to select the best available seats and avoid the hassle of waiting in long lines at the venue.

Embrace Public Transportation

New York City's public transportation system is a cost-effective way to get around. The subway and buses can take you to most major attractions, and they are significantly cheaper than taking taxis or rideshares. Consider purchasing MetroCards for your family, which offer unlimited rides for a set number of days, saving you money on transportation costs.

Opt for Free and Low-Cost Attractions

While NYC has its fair share of pricey attractions, there are also plenty of free and low-cost options that can provide a memorable experience for your family. Some examples include:

Central Park
: Explore the expansive Central Park, which offers beautiful scenery, playgrounds, and even free concerts and events during the summer months.

Museums: Many museums in NYC have designated free or pay-what-you-wish days, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History.

Brooklyn Bridge: Take a stroll across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, offering stunning views of the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

Times Square: Experience the dazzling lights and bustling atmosphere of Times Square, which doesn't cost a dime to visit.

Consider a CityPass

If you plan to visit several popular attractions during your trip, a CityPass can be an excellent way to save money. CityPasses typically offer discounted admission to multiple attractions, allowing you to see more for less. Some of the attractions often included in CityPasses for NYC are the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Dine Smart

Eating out in NYC can be expensive, but there are ways to enjoy the city's culinary delights without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips:

Food trucks: NYC is famous for its food trucks, offering delicious and affordable options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

Local delis and bakeries: Opt for local delis and bakeries for budget-friendly meals and treats.

Share meals: Consider sharing larger dishes at restaurants, which can save you money while still allowing you to sample a variety of flavors.

BYOB restaurants: Some restaurants in NYC allow you to bring your own wine or beer, which can significantly reduce your dining bill.

Explore Neighborhoods

While Manhattan is undoubtedly a must-visit borough, don't forget to explore the other boroughs, such as Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Each neighborhood has its unique charm and attractions, and they often offer a more affordable experience than the bustling streets of Manhattan. Explore DUMBO in Brooklyn, visit Flushing in Queens for authentic ethnic cuisine, or enjoy the Bronx's botanical gardens and the Staten Island Ferry, which offers breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty.

Shop Wisely

Shopping in NYC is a temptation that many travelers find hard to resist. To save money, set a budget for shopping and stick to it. Look for outlets and discount stores for designer items at lower prices. Additionally, consider purchasing souvenirs and gifts from street vendors or markets like the Union Square Greenmarket for unique and budget-friendly options.

Utilize City Apps and Deals

Before and during your trip, make use of city apps and websites that offer discounts, deals, and coupons for various attractions, restaurants, and services. Apps like Groupon, Yelp, and Time Out New York often feature special offers that can help you save money on dining, entertainment, and activities.

Timing Matters

The timing of your visit can significantly impact your expenses. NYC tends to be more crowded and expensive during peak tourist seasons, such as summer and the winter holidays. Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons, like spring and fall, when the weather is pleasant, and prices for accommodations and attractions are typically lower.


Choosing the right accommodation can make a big difference in your overall expenses. Look for family-friendly hotels that offer complimentary breakfast or kitchen facilities to save on dining costs. Consider staying in neighborhoods like Queens or Brooklyn, where accommodations are often more affordable than in Manhattan.

In conclusion, exploring New York City with your family doesn't have to break the bank. By planning ahead, embracing public transportation, opting for free and low-cost attractions, and making smart choices when it comes to dining and shopping, you can enjoy all that the city has to offer while staying within your budget. With these money-saving tips in mind, you can make the most of your family trip to the Big Apple without the big expenses.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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