In our final post of the New York City series, I will show what we spent. If you’re looking for pictures of delicious food and fun activities, make sure to read Part 1 – What We Ate and Part 2 – What We Did.

Our last vacation to Manhattan was nearly six years ago. We stayed at an upscale Marriott in Times Square and planned dinner every night at the best restaurants the city offered. Fast-forward to last month.  This was not that sort of trip.

In June of 2014, we took our first trip together with an eye toward reducing our spending. Since then, I have tracked every penny we have paid on our travels. My parents have been sending me their travel spreadsheets for years so it felt natural for me to do it as well. Tim has already written that he’s captured everything he’s spent as an adult so he’s on board completely.

This post will not be about the cheapest possible trip to NYC.  We seek value but still want our own private space and bathroom and don’t want our trip compromised because we were too cheap.

Here are some of the ways we saved:

  • We have the Southwest Companion Pass for 2017 and 2018.  It allows me to fly free any time Tim buys a Southwest ticket with money or points.  This means most of our flights will be to destinations served by Southwest for two years (we are excited to hear they are planning to add Hawaii to their routing!).  Southwest has a nice policy.  Book a ticket and call if you see the fare go down.  They credit the difference with no hassle.  This applies when paying with cash or with points. They also allow free checked and carry-on baggage. We usually pack light and carry on our bags. On this trip, a friend gave me a collection of fun liquids which meant we had to check our bags. We really appreciated not having to pay bag fees!
  • We park off-site at our airport (DIA) and get frequent customer points with every paid stay. We like being dropped off at our car after a day of travel and appreciate getting free days on future visits.  On this trip, we used four of our free days and paid for a fifth.
  • At LaGuardia Airport, we each purchased a seven-day pass and used it for all transportation.  Even though we were there for 96 hours, it made sense for us to buy.
  • Manhattan hotels and Airbnb apartments are very expensive.  Even though we may have hotel points, we still seek a good redemption on those points. We knew we would be in our room mostly to sleep and shower and just wanted to be near a subway stop.  We rented a full floor of a clean, large and charming brownstone in Bedford Stuyvesant through Airbnb with a private bathroom which was an incredible value.
  • We booked a free 90-minute walking tour of a portion of Central Park.
  • We took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan skyline in all of its glory.
  • We bought tickets for a concert online at Goldstar.
  • We ate the best food of our trip in three different food halls.  The meals tend to be affordable and the variety is unbeatable.  We have enjoyed this trend in Portugal, Mexico and throughout the United States.

Our Airbnb Brownstone

Our AIrbnb Room


We had a few splurges, too.  Some were worth it, some were not:

  • The Tenement Museum was not a “cheap” activity but it was fascinating and worth it.
  • We spent $125 for the two of us for dinner.  While the reviews and service were great, the food was just okay.  We learned (again) that the most delicious and memorable food is not the highest-priced.
  • Tim regretted spending $9 for each domestic beer.
  • A $12 slice of cheesecake can be the best part of an already fantastic day.
  • May is a more expensive month for accommodations.  The weather on our trip was generally fantastic and we were outside often, so we have no regrets on the timing.


Airfare $279.10 BOGO
Airbnb $287.00 4 nights
NYC 7-Day Metro Card $66.00 2 cards
Live jazz at Birdland $71.00 Cover charge plus 3 beers
Tenement Museum $119.00 One building tour plus neighborhood food walking tour
The Pit Live Comedy $20.00
Shopping $16.33
Food and Beer $376.82  Includes $125 dinner
Random tips $13.00  $3 to subway musicians
Parking at DIA $9.78  One paid day, four free days + $4 tip
Total Spent


Actual Spent






 Includes every penny after we left our home

Airbnb focus group payment



I participated in an Airbnb focus group which paid $200. This opportunity was only available to select Airbnb guests currently staying in the area. I am going to take that off the total trip cost and count it as $1,058.03.

As a point of comparison, the hotel we stayed in six years ago is currently $1,812.13 for 4 nights in mid-May.

* We noticed an answer pop up several times when we talked travel with friends or family about vacations. In unrelated conversations, we were told the person’s/couple’s/family’s last vacation cost them $12,000. That’s correct…one person or a family, it didn’t matter.  We offer an antidote to the $12,000 vacation.

Where do you splurge when you travel for pleasure?