How I Vacationed in NYC for Under $500

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Last month I took a much needed working vacation to New York City for Blogger Bash 2015 and BlogHer 2015. Yes…this Momma went by herself and holy cow did I need the break! What I didn’t need though was a HUGE travel bill. Our budget is still very, very tight from the trouble that we had last year, but I not only needed to go for business reasons, but I wanted to go. It has been several years since I had even a small break so a week with my blogging friends (especially my bestie from The Frugal Navy Wife) was JUST what I needed. Luckily for me and our budget? This Momma knows how to travel on a dime. In fact? I vacationed in NYC for UNDER $500.00 and yes, that includes my airfare and hotel.

Vacationing doesn't have to be a budget breaker! In fact? I just spent time in NYC and proved it...out of pocket cost? LESS than $500!

Heads up! LONG POST!

Before we start with the “how’d you do that” talk, I want to say up front. I did receive BOTH of my conferences tickets totally free. That saved me well over $500.00, but even if I had paid for them? I would have still been well under what most folks spend to vacation in New York. I did not spend the entire week in NYC. I flew out of Dallas on a Tuesday, spent Tuesday with Danielle and her family, was in NYC Wed, Thurs and Friday then spent Sat-Monday with Danielle and her family again. Still, 3.5 days in The Big Apple for under $500? Not too shabby.

Onto the “how’d you” part!

For airfare I went to my good friends at Southwest. I don’t fly often, but when I do, I never fly with any other company. There are two reasons for that. One? 2 free checked bags, 2 free carry on’s. I peeked at another airline as I was looking for tickets and while their actual ticket price was about $15.00 less for my return flight? The $55.00 PER checked bag and no free carry on price tags made it MUCH more expensive. The other reason is that for the most part? I can actually buy my ticket for A LOT less when I buy the “Wanna Get Away” fares. Don’t believe me? Try this on for size:

  • Flight from DFW to Baltimore – $89.00
  • Flight from Baltimore to DFW – $151.00

My ROUND TRIP tickets with Southwest cost me LESS than what a one way ticket would have cost me with any other airline and that is with tax and early boarding fees. 

Next, since we were both headed to NYC for the conferences, we shared a room. Not only that, but we added a third roommate to help us save even more. Total hotel room cost at the Hilton Mid-Town? Right around $100.00/night so $300.00 for the entire time. I realize that sometimes you won’t be able to take a roommate, but if you are vacationing with friends or family members (which can also help you save big as well), you should have no problem finding roommates to split the cost with.

Yes. I know, I’m up to $540.00 total trip cost. Hold yer horses cause I’m getting there lol.

I’ve already told you guys how I get my groceries for free, but what I haven’t said is that I don’t always use that cash for groceries. The Friday before I flew out, I cashed out over at Swagbucks for $125.00 Paypal cash. I also cashed out $40.00 Paypal AND a $10.00 Burger King gift card from InstaGC. By the time I left, I had both in my Paypal account. This money knocks my total down to $375.00. No, it wasn’t planned for groceries or anything since our bills are paid and we won’t need to grocery shop for another month or two.

The BK gift card fed me on the way from PA to NYC (with a few dollars left over) saving me money on one meal. In NYC we mainly ate at the hotel and events. If your hotel provides a breakfast, you can use that to save money. Also, having a room with a fridge (and microwave) means you can go to the grocery store and “cook” in your room. If you’re not flying in, you could even bring your crockpot to make full meals that cook while you’re away! What’s better after a day of sightseeing than a hot meal? Oh yeah! A budget friendly hot meal!

In all, I spent around $50.00 on food and caffeine for the entire trip. This doesn’t include Starbucks at the airport since I used (2) $5.00 Starbucks cards that I cashed out from Shopkick. Yes…standing in the middle of the airport. I wouldn’t have even spent that, but a bottle of water cost me $3.80 every time I grabbed one and needless to say, I walked out of the house without my Brita bottle.

Taxi’s and rides in town cost around $40.00 total. We used Uber a few times since they were giving out free rides with referral sign ups.  Needless to say we ended up with 3 free rides. Taxi costs weren’t free, but for the most part they weren’t bad since we were splitting the costs and usually invited other people to ride with us to keep costs down. If you’re vacationing with friends or family, you can do the same thing. The subway is also fairly budget friendly (buy a daily pass) option if you don’t want to use taxis. Uber is a great alternative too since for the most part they are cheaper than taxi’s. If you don’t like Uber, try Lyft. Their rides are evenly priced around $5.00 but they have a minimum (and maximum) number of people who can ride. We did not use them because frankly? They took too long to pick us up.

One last thing; we did not do a lot of sight seeing because we didn’t have a lot of spare time due to our schedules. Obviously you will be if you visit. You can save on those things too by picking up a CityPass and by watching what times and days you visit certain attractions. A CityPass can save you 42% off of prices at the door and they’re fantastic investments. For instance, the World Trade Center Museum will cost you $19.00 on average per person, BUT if you visit during the last 2 hours they are open on Tuesdays? You will get in free. Doing your research and

Final Trip Costs?

Round Trip airfare – $240.00
Hotel – $300.00
Snacks and Drinks – $50.00
Taxi’s – $40.00
Burger King – $8.46
Starbucks – $9.69
Minus the $165.00 cash from Swagbucks and InstaGC
Minus BK Gift Card – $8.46
Minus Starbucks Gift Card – $9.69
Final Trip Cost: $481.92 out of pocket!!


Here’s the catch though…Do you see what the total would have been even if I hadn’t have had the additional money from IGC and Swagbucks? $648.15. STILL well under what MOST people pay for a trip to NYC! I think I’ll keep this getting away thing…I rather liked it.


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Stacy Ott

Stacy Ott is the face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family as well as The Genealogy Queen and a few others.By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome an alcohol addiction, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence, and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

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  1. I was at BlogHer 2015 and I wish I would have known about you then. I would have loved to have meet you. I was lucky to find a roommate and cut that cost. I live in VA, so I was able to take the train. I think I could have gotten a better price on the train, but I waited a bit long to make the reservations. I hope you learned a lot – I know I did.

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