Remember when you jailbroke your iPhone 4 back in middle school?
Today, we’re going to be hacking another apple — the big apple. Just like jailbreaking your phone, you’ll do cool stuff, and it’ll save you money sometimes. New York City is fun, but not cheap. In fact, it’s known for having a ridiculously high cost of living, which is why people like to visit instead of moving there. And if you visit right, it’s honestly very doable for a budget-friendly trip.
The biggest trick is to find alternatives. What do I mean by that? Well first, let’s start with lodging.
Do you really need that Airbnb in Manhattan? No. While that island is arguably the financial and cultural center of the world, there isn’t much actual benefit to sleeping there. While you’re traveling, your lodging is really only for you to rest your head at night. During the day, you’ll be out exploring the city. With the New York City public transportation system, even getting back to your room to switch into Broadway attire won’t take much time. But more on the subway later. So instead, book a hotel room in Jersey City or Hoboken. You will save quite a bit of money compared to if you book comparable accommodations in Manhattan. Even your morning coffee will be cheaper there. For the light sleepers, New Jersey and the outer boroughs are noticeably quieter at night, so that can’t hurt either.
Back to transportation. Firstly, forget about taxis. Unless you really want to experience that ‘90s New York aesthetic, which undoubtedly features the iconic yellow cabs, just ignore them. The price of a taxicab medallion has gone down for a reason. There are better ways to get around, such as the public transportation system, which is managed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
The New York City public transportation system is somewhat complex, and covering it entirely warrants another article. The important thing for you tourists to know is that it’s a great way to get around. A fresh MetroCard card is $1, and trips are $2.75 each. You will use your MetroCard mostly on the subway, but it is also valid for the bus, the Staten Island Railway train and the train that connects New Jersey to New York. It’s a sweet deal. And thanks to geotechnology like Apple Maps, you can receive step-by-step instructions on how to ride the subway right on the black rectangle you keep in your pocket. Just remember to be safe and use common sense — uptown is north, and downtown is south.
Once you figure out where you’re staying and how to get around, you’ll want to do things. Do what makes you happy, but my suggestion is to avoid tourist traps.
It’s a hot take, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a bit of a tourist trap. It’s crowded, loud and often under construction. Additionally, just like a teenager deciding whether they’re goth or emo, the Met switches back and forth between being an art and history museum. Maybe it’s worth it if there isn’t much of a line that day and you’re with a friend who can secure free admission for NYC residents (a big hack, by the way, is that New York residents and their guests receive discounts in some places). However, if you’re into art, you’ll likely have more fun at the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA is slightly cheaper and, more importantly, less crowded. The museum knows its identity as a New York art museum, and they have an excellent collection because of it. Don’t you want to see what is probably the second most famous painting in the world in person?
Anyway, you get the point. There’s so much to do in New York that a little research pays off. Alternatives, alternatives, alternatives. Instead of a Marriott in Manhattan, try a Hilton in Hoboken. Instead of a taxi, take the subway. MoMA, not MET. Visit the High Line, not Times Square. Electric Citi bikes will take you further in Central Park than a carriage tour, and they’re cheaper.
Have fun! It’s a concrete jungle that informed consumers enjoy even more.