As those who have been following know, I have been researching our two night getaway to NYC for a long time. Though NYC is only just over two hours away from my home, my own children had never been. Two main reasons were that it can be intimidating and expensive. I do all the travel planning and navigating in the family and so it fell on me to try to create a trip that kept my family engaged and not agitated. When you throw in a husband who isn’t a fan of cities that gets a little more difficult. So after talking to friends, readers, and spending hours online researching I finally took the dive. Here are some tips and tricks that worked for our family. The trip budget was to spend less than $600 a day for lodging, entertainment, transportation, and food. That sounds like a pretty nice sized budget, but in NYC it goes quickly.
- Lodging – Save or Splurge?
This being my children’s first trip in, we went with a bit of a splurge. My son is an 11 year old trapped in the body of a 70 year old businessman. He wanted a traditional and classy New York Hotel and I wanted to spend less than $300 a night with taxes. I looked at all options, held my breath, and waited to the last minute to book a hotel. We ended up at The Warwick. The location was what I wanted. Close enough to walk to and from our show without the loud and busy nature of Broadway/Times Square. It was walkable to Central Park and close to subway transportation. It had a classic and elegant feel. When the booking the Warwick I was able to score a room with full breakfast for all of us (I was quoted as it being four, but arrived to find out it is 2. They honored the quote). Daily breakfast at this spot was running $120 a day for our family of 4. We thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast and made these our only fancy eats of the trip. Total Cost for room, taxes, breakfast daily, and parking $700.
A few suggestions when booking a hotel.
- Use travel sites like Travelzoo, Hotels.com, The Oyster, and TripAdvisor to research reviews and rates.
- If you are a party of two and travelling last minute, check out Hotel Tonight App.
- Factor in transportation costs if you are staying outside the action. We saved a considerable amount by selecting our location.
- Families should decide if having a hotel with breakfast is worth extra. For us it was since the buffet was high end and included a lot of fresh fruit and protein which helped us walk many miles!
- Factor in at least 15% for taxes and parking can run between $35- as much as $100 nightly.
- Request an early check in. We arrived around 11:00 and they gave us our room right away. That allowed us to make the most of the 48 hours we were able to park.
2. Transportation- Save or Splurge?
Since we splurged on the hotel, transportation needed to be a savings. Once our car was valeted, we were on our own to make our way around the city. We choose two methods of transportation: the subway and our feet. Yes, we walked a mile through central park in 95 degree heat, but took that subway back! Once you arrive in NYC, purchase a metro card for $1 at a station and load the card up. We loaded ours with $20, which lasted the entire trip and left the remaining balance with our housekeeping tip. The subway is fairly basic in the tourist areas and as long as you remember that uptown heads to the park and downtown to the World Trade Center, you shouldn’t get lost. Our feet clocked 16 miles in 48 hours, not bad for real feel of 105!
3. Food- Save or Splurge?
We chose to save other than our fancy breakfast each morning. NYC has a lot of food choices that won’t break the bank. The local markets offer fresh sandwiches, food bars, chopped salads, and smoothies. We drank a lot of fruit smoothies at about $5-$6 each, they worked well to keep us going. One of our favorite meals was from The Halal Guys, which was a food truck business a block from our hotel. We ate a huge dinner with leftovers for $16 (two meals split up). My kids would prefer ethnic food to kids’ fare every time, so this was a great find. There are a lot of delicious food truck businesses to check out all over the city. We also packed some water bottles, juice, and sodas. I brought red cups and we used the ice from the hotel to rehydrate every time we stopped in!
4. Broadway- Save or Splurge?
Can you save on Broadway? Well, we were lucky enough to be gifted show tickets for Christmas from my parents so we saved. We bought two sodas for $20, which came in souvenir cups and got our Playbills signed. If you want to save on Broadway, you can check out TKTS the day of the show. Asking for family to gift toward this type of life experience is a wonderful idea. This is coming from a person that just had a huge yard sale for NYC spending money. My kids don’t really need more stuff, but we can’t always splurge on this type of experience. Don’t forget Travelzoo and Groupon for savings on shows in NYC. We saw School of Rock which regularly has tickets for $59 and even less than that for TKTS. There was not a bad seat in the house!
5. Museums- Save or Splurge?
Neither, I think we just hit this on the in between mark. We saw the Museum of Natural History and did not spend the extra for the Planetarium or extra exhibits. We also went to the 9/11 Museum and felt it was a fair price for the visit. It was not our intention to actually take the children in, but after a discussion following the visit to the memorial we ended up visiting with them.
6. Activities- Save or Splurge?
There are a lot of ways to save money around New York and keep busy. The city itself is entertainment between parks, neighborhoods, and window shopping. Here are a few ways we saved.
Visit hands on, kid friendly stores. We checked out Nintendo (Rockefeller), the Ford experience (Oculus), American Girl (Rockefeller), Eloise Shop (The Plaza). Set the kids up with a certain amount of spending money, prior to the shopping. I will say, my kids are great with not asking for much. My daughter was happy with the $8 doll brush she bought at American Girl.
If the real feel dips below 105 on your visit, then playgrounds make a great way to have fun. Also many playgrounds have water features for summer. Bring a set of water shoes and a thin towel to enjoy.
Check out neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy or stroll down the High Line. These are all on our list for our next visit.
Get famous! We took the kids to see Today. We arrived at 7:30 and met plenty of personalities. We left by 8:30 and caught the Fox news crew wrapping up on the walk back to the hotel and got some pictures there. The staff at Today make it fun for the kids and the check in process is easy. They provide materials to create signs and gave the kids pins. At both locations the personalities were engaging and friendly. Additionally Good Morning America is in NYC, it just was further from our hotel.
9/11 Memorial- We loved our experience at the 9/11 Memorial, because we went between 10-12:00 where there is a kids’ program. The volunteers engaged with the children and they learned about a family that was killed the day of the attacks. The children then created paper flowers to honor this family and left them on the memorial. Also they created a craft to be left at the survivor tree. They enjoyed the memorial so much that they wanted to go into the museum, which we did. That is a full post in itself.
The Statue of Liberty- Did I mention that my family doesn’t do well with crowds? So the idea of actually being at pedestal during peak season wasn’t thrilling? After seeing the boat of tourists heading out looking like sardines packed in a can, I knew we made the right choice. Head over to Groupon for great boat rates. We used a Groupon that allowed us an hour tour with great shots of the statue and narration about NYC, Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty, and Governor’s Island. That ran $48 total for 4 of us. It was an easy walk to the Seaport following the 9/11 museum.
So that is our version of 48 hours in NYC. Thank you to all who gave advice, I am passing this along in hopes of helping another mom like me navigate this amazing yet expensive city!