Over a month behind in life, but here is my vacation breakdown post! Each year I’ve gone on vacation since starting this blog, I’ve been able to pay for my weeklong vacation in cash! It’s been a goal every year and one that I’ve consistently hit each year – including last year!
This year was my longest trip yet and, of course, brought some unexpected travel expenses. I succeeded in almost all of my travel goals: museums, food, and obviously some theatre (but I still didn’t win those Hamilton tickets)! Since I went on a longer trip, this turned out to be a longer post, so dig in!
Here’s the highlights, from lowest to highest costs:
Accommodations – FREE – I crash with friends whenever I’m in the city, so I’m incredibly thankful that I can cut costs here. I know not everyone is as lucky, but again, I’m super grateful. If that’s not possible for you on your next trip, I definitely recommend AirBnb at a place on the island of Manhattan. Search for a place that’s close to the 1 or A train as well, in my opinion that’s the best choice for tourists who aren’t necessarily public transit savvy yet. I’ve also heard great things about some of the hostels, but I’ve never stayed in one.
Non-Theatre Entertainment – FREE – This part of my trip had lots of new discoveries.
- Thanks to some of my professional affiliations, I covered two new-to-me museums free of charge – The Museum of the City of New York and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. FYI – the 9/11 Memorial is FREE to the public, but the museum costs the average visitor.
- For the first time in all of my NYC trips, I checked out a BUNCH of the city’s parks. I got to check out Washington Square Park, The Battery, Roosevelt Island’s Lighthouse Park, The Conservatory Garden, and Bryant Park. Of course, those are all free! Each one of these parks took me to different parts of the city, including some places that I’d never been before! I think I was most impressed with The Battery and Bryant Park. The Battery has some really great views – the water, cruise ships floating out to sea, cool plants and park elements, not to mention the super fancy Seascape carousel. Bryant Park is also very cool and just off the beaten path from Times Square! I thoroughly enjoyed perusing all of the food and table options, putt putt golf, and board game selections. There was a lot of checker playing during my visit and I won every time!
- This was also the first time that I rode the Staten Island Ferry – which is also free! You get great views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Brooklyn. You can get great pictures of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island without paying to set foot on the island. I also found the ferry ride very relaxing after running around the bustling city all day. I swear, people actually get quieter on that ferry, but maybe that’s just where I was sitting.
- Also made a pit stop to Carrie Bradshaw’s house from Sex in the City! Yes, that amazing building that you see in every season of the show is actually someone’s home. There are signs around that say to be considerate of the neighbors, but if you’re a hardcore fan like me, you can pose for a photo and enjoy the West Village atmosphere.
- We also went to a live #Ham4Ham show! Right now, it’s happening on Wednesdays around 12:20pm. Double-check Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Twitter as he usually updates with the latest news about the show & lottery. It’s free and may be the closest you’ll get to ever seeing Hamilton. Arrive early to get a prime viewing spot, but be ready to be moved since they tend to people wrangle to arrange lines and such. Be prepared to get close to your fellow Hamil-fans as the lines and crowds grow larger.
Transit – $61.77 – This trip used a lot of NYC’s transit options! I used the subway, NYC buses, the Roosevelt Island Air Tram, a cab, and an Uber. This cost included the one-week unlimited MTA pass (which also covers the Air Tram), a split cab fare (which was $2.52), and then I put $27.25 on my card to cover my additional days in the city, but I didn’t end up using it all.
TRANSIT TIP: When reloading your MTA card, check and see if you get a cash bonus for adding a certain amount to your MTA card. I ended up getting a free ride or two because of the amount I pre-loaded.
Gifts/Souvenirs – $76.12 – I picked up a few very specific souvenirs for people on this trip. I even got a couple of small things for myself, but my nephew was the one who really lucked out from my trip this year! 🙂 One of my favorite souvenir stops was Dylan’s Candy Bar – this place was serious about candy. I mean, really serious. I loved every minute.
Odds & Ends – $118.12 – A mere few moments before I was leaving for he airport to fly to NYC, I realized that the zippers on my suitcase were splitting. Not to be deterred from getting my bag packed, I ended up reinforcing all of the zippers with duct tape to fly out of town. Once I got to NYC, I knew I’d have to get a new suitcase to fly home. My friend and I found a really great little shop on 8th Avenue that had some great bags with low and mid-range price points. I made sure to buy the most obnoxious pattern I could find on a hardshell suitcase ($87.07) and I still love it – it even weighed less when flying home! I also bought myself some new clothes on this trip ($29.96), because I hadn’t bought any NEW clothes in a very long time – only Goodwill stuff. I even had to buy a new toothbrush at one point ($1.09), so there were obviously a few odds & ends.
Airfare – $137.96 – For round-trip direct flights, I was extremely pleased with this. I bought these in January when Southwest was having one of their infamous flight sales. I even managed to find someone I knew on the flight out, so that was a great added surprise.
Food – $498.86 – If you couldn’t tell, I reallllllllly like to eat. I am a super foodie – I own it. I like to try all new places each time I go to NYC and I always make sure to try wild things. This category includes restaurants, coffee runs, Seamless orders, bars, a quick grocery run, and pizza delivery. We ate some really incredible food all over the city. Some of my favorite restaurant highlights from this trip include:
- Beauty & Essex – This restaurant on the Lower East Side was, by far, the most expensive restaurant that this Midwesterner visited on this journey. That said, I would do it over again in a heartbeat. From the moment we all walked in, I was mesmerized. From the mysterious pawn shop entrance that makes you even wonder if you’re at the right place, to the fur (FUR!) on the walls – the ambiance does not disappoint. We made sure to try three appetizers, three main courses, three desserts, and we each had like 2-3 cocktails apiece – so there was lots of sampling all around. They have an amazing cocktail called “Black Tie White Noise” that has some great ingredients – particularly the activated charcoal. Seriously. Be ready to drop some cash if you go here, but it’s well worth it and make sure you take a HotPoint video in the lobby.
- Gato – This is a Bobby Flay restaurant in NoHo and this foodie was pleased. The European flair of the menu had me wanting to TRY EVERYTHING, but I went with the Orata. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that kind of time. This place had one of the best desserts/treats that I had on my entire trip – a Pistachio Brown Butter Cake.
- Friend of a Farmer – I love all restaurants that are farm to table. Just look at the name of the restaurant and you’ll know you’re in for some country-style comfort food. I found this restaurant on a random TimeOut search and it turned out they had some 1,000 point tables during my trip, so we jumped on it! There’s a sweet little patio area that you can sit in, but the interior of the restaurant is also beautiful. This place had a great cheese plate that my friend and I shared as an appetizer – 4 or 5 cheeses with some great chutney. My main course was also very interesting, the Terry Allan Chicken featured a chicken breast stuffed with cheese and granny smith apples on top of a piece of lemon bread. Sound crazy? It was. Tangy and sweet with a side of mashed potatoes all tasted so good in my belly!
- Bar Bacon (pictured above!) – Everything here has bacon – the entrees, the drinks, everything has a touch of bacon. The picture you see above is a “Midnight & Molasses” and it’s a combo of bacon bourbon, St. Germain, molasses, ginger lime syrup, and champagne with a bacon garnish. So wild, but super good. Aside from our questionable service experience on the night that we went, we enjoyed the novelty of this place for our post-show dinner.
- Trailer Park Lounge – This place just cracks me up! It reminded me so much of many of the restaurants in the town I grew up…if that tells you anything! Burgers, Sloppy Joes (Veggie or Turkey, too), fries, Philly Steak Sandwiches – it’s like home! The decor is incredibly tacky, but endearing, and the prices won’t bust your wallet. We went on a day that had margarita drink specials and I must recommend the jalapeno margarita, just spicy enough with a splash of sweet! I really should have bought a tank top with the logo when I was there.
- Barbetta – Bless this place, they dealt with us happily when we had to keep pushing our reservation back due to changing plans. Our waiter was an older gentleman, but he was such a riot. He gave my friend (who is a male) such a hard time because he brought two women into the restaurant. We got a huge kick out of it! Great Italian food and an awesome Theatre Prix Fixe menu. Also seemed like a family affair running the restaurant – lots of people stopping by to say hi and ask us about the experience. If you’re in the theatre district, you have to get down there at least once.
….and that doesn’t cover all the restaurants I visited during my foodie tour!
FOOD TIP: Seriously, if you’re in NYC, get thee to a grocery store to stock up on snacks and breakfast food.
Shows – $630.11 – Ah, yes. The mother load of this trip. Like I mentioned above, I didn’t win the infamous Hamilton tickets, but I saw pretty much every other new musical on Broadway that’s up for a Tony Award, plus a few others. Overall, I saw TEN shows. Yes, TEN – that’s a show in every possible time slot that could have been booked with a show during my trip. That’s an average of $63 per ticket. In my opinion, for the quality of work, that was a steal for over a week’s worth of shows! Plus, this wasn’t terribly hard to accomplish. I used a lot of the same strategies that I used last year, plus I won the lottery for one show and that helped bring the overall average down. This seriously all comes down to planning.
SHOW TIP: Under 35? Become a member of Roundabout Theatre Company’s HIPTIX program for $25 tickets! I used this program for 2 of my 10 shows this year!
That brings the whopping total of this trip to $1,522.94 for a 10-day trip. It was only supposed to be 9 days, but the airline decided to cancel my flight out of the city and forced me to stay one more night (so sad haha). No debts incurred and everything was completely paid for at the time of purchase! I miss it and I’m already planning when I might be going back.
Where are some of your favorite places to travel? Tell me your places/tips in comments!