8 Budget Tips for a NYC Holiday Trip

Posted by Katie Hamlin on October 21, 2009 at 8:30:38 AM EDT | Post a Comment
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Despite the holiday season being one of the most expensive times to visit New York City, many travelers still come eager to see the city all lit up. Taking part in many of the festivities can be surprisingly affordable (and even free) if you plan accordingly.

Are you trying to wing a last minute trip? Check out our online New York City guide for our favorite affordable picks and look to travelers in our Forums for help planning your trip. This recent topic is also a particularly good starting point.
- New York City online guide
- View the 25 most recent Forum topics tagged New York

8 Budget Tips for a NYC Holiday Trip

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1. Hit the ice

While Rockefeller Center's rink may be more on more tourists' radars due to its proximity to the center's famous looming tree, you'll save time and money if you head to Bryant Park's The Pond. Skating is free; skate rentals are $12. The Pond opens November 6th and you can make reservation online in advance---but not quite yet.

Other Rinks

Rockefeller Center - Opens November. 6th; admission $9.50-$19 (price goes up on Nov. 20th), rentals $9
Wollman Rink in Central Park - Opening in November; admission $5-12, rentals $5

2. Knock out your Christmas shopping at the Holiday Market at Union Square

This large market stretches across Union Square kicks off the day before Thanksgiving and runs through Christmas Eve (the market is closed on Thanksgiving). You''ll find a mixed bag of small retailers selling everything from hats, gloves, art, and housewares. You may be able to negotiate prices down, especially if you're considering purchasing several of one item for multiple people on your list. Keep in mind that this market is all outdoors; be sure to bundle up!

Nearby coffee break: City Bakery

Other Markets

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park - Open November. 6th-January 3rd
Grand Central Holiday Fair - November 23rd-December 24th
Columbus Circle Holiday Market - December 3rd-December 24th

3. Go caroling

Fodor's member k_brklyn recently posted that the Church of St. Luke in the Fields will be hosting a caroling walk in the Greenwich Village on December 18th. If attending a holiday concert is more your speed, there are several around the city, both choral and instrumental. In years past travelers in our Forums have recommended concerts at Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Miller Theatre at Columbia, and Avery Fisher Hall.

4. Don't wait to book your hotel

If you plan to come to New York this holiday season and you haven't booked your hotel, it's time to! This is one time of year in New York that it doesn't typically pay to wait. Travelers in our Forums recommend several ways to tackle finding a hotel on a budget at the last minute, including using hotel points, taking your chances with Priceline, researching local B&Bs, and opting to stay across the Hudson in New Jersey. Share your specific situation and budget in our Forums and they may be able to help.

5. Savor New York's tastiest soups

Need a meal that will warm you up? Want to dine in style but without the heftiest of price tags? Think soup. For something quick and on the go stop at one of the city's several chain eateries that are known for good to great soups, including Hale & Hearty, Whole Foods, and Au Bon Pain. For a higher-end experience, try the goulash at Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie, the clam chowder at Grand Central Terminal's Oyster Bar, or a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup at Bouchon Bakery.

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6. Endure the crowds to see Manhattan's spectacular holiday window displays

The holiday crush of humanity in New York perhaps reaches it's zenith on the sidewalks of Madison Avenue in midtown. Seeing the big department stores' heralded window displays are holiday must-sees for many tourists (and locals) and for good reason. Here's a Google map featuring the locations of the most popular displays. For best viewing, go in the late evening to see the windows at their brightest, while still avoiding the peak crowds.

7. Get over your fear of the subway

New York's streets are particularly clogged during the holidays; it's best to let go of the notion that you need cabs to get around. You'll save money and time by opting for a subway pass. The cars are warm and toasty and large stations typically boast surprisingly good musical talent who will most likely be playing seasonal tunes. There are several handy online trip planners out there for navigating your route---try either the MTA's site or HopStop. Not sure what pass to buy? This topic in our Forums exhausts the subject.

8. Carefully consider your flight options

Hopefully you booked your flight long ago---but if you haven't be sure to research fares on multiple days for the lowest price. Search for flights on a search engine website like Kayak.com, which features an option to search for round-trip fares for the dates you enter, as well as the lowest fares available on the surrounding dates. I performed a quick search there for holiday fares from several major hubs to New York and found that prices generally were the lowest for itineraries that included arrivals on Monday, December 21st or Friday, December 25th. Unsurprisingly, some of the priciest itineraries included return flights on Saturday, December 26th, Saturday, January 2nd, and Sunday, January 3rd.

Posted in Travel Tips Tagged: Community, New York City

Member Comments (7)  Post a Comment

  • home_exchange on Nov 5, 09 at 09:29 AM

    New York is one of the best places to be in. You can also try home exchange which will offer you benefits of affordable and economical holidays.

  • Aduchamp1 on Oct 22, 09 at 02:49 PM

    While you recommended good places to eat, during the holiday visitors should try and avoid eating in midtown and the theatre district because they are extremely crowded and eat in the residntial areas if possible.

  • vpvacations on Oct 22, 09 at 11:14 AM

    "8 Budget Tips for a NYC Holiday Trip" Very nice tips. Thanks you so much.

  • frogoutofwater on Oct 21, 09 at 09:38 PM

    Take the Air Train/subway in from JFK and back again. Ordinarily, it's very hard to persuade me to take public transit to or from an airport. I like the convenience and, usually, the speediness of a taxi. But when I fly out of or into JFK, I almost always take the Air Train/subway because a) it's easy, reliable and cheap. At JFK, just follow the signs for the Air Train, where you will board a skytrain-type train for a 5-12 minute ride to the subway station. Then it's about a 5 minute walk (and an elevator ride) to the subway platforms and about a 40-50 minute ride into Manhattan (depending on your destination). While taxi rides usually are faster door to door, they can be a LOT slower if traffic is bad - and you you can't beat the price (about $7.50 in total). You can also take the Air Train and then connect to the Long Island Railroad, which will get you to Penn Station in Manhattan in about 35 minutes (for about $15). Late at night when travelling alone, I would probably take the LIRR rather than the subway. Otherwise, I take the subway.

  • chrisbaron on Oct 21, 09 at 04:53 PM

    Museums are great places to go when it's cold and often have reasonable places to eat as well. Don't overlook the International Museum of Photography, the Brooklyn Museum, or the Frick.

  • cynthiamorin on Oct 21, 09 at 01:16 PM

    eat in Chinatown - or at other ethnic restaurants - cheap eats.

  • artnuvo on Oct 21, 09 at 09:18 AM

    for budget art, there is Target Free Fridays at MOMA, line up at 330, free admission at 430 on Fridays; and next door, the Folk Art museum is also free on fridays; Guggenheim is pay what you want on Sat evenings; Metropolitan is whatever donation you care to give ($1 will do) at the ticket counter-don't be fooled by the $20 suggested admission posted at the ticket counter;Whitney is free on F 6-9;and there are numerous pre-theatre dinner specials at fine restaurants if you want to eat before 7pm.

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