Who’s Wide-Eyed and Bushy Tailed?

Planning a day trip to New York City sounds crazy. I mean, if you’re going to New York City, you should stay a while. But if you only have 12 hours, should you try going to the Big Apple? 

 My crazy friends and I did just that. Well, we attempted to see it all in one day. Along this crazy adventure, we learned how big, big really is. And how much (or little) you can  walk in just a few hours. 

If you want to visit New York City anytime soon, here’s a few tips we learned tramping all over Manhattan. How much of Manhattan can you see in a day?

Another big point, we’re all college kids here. None of us wanted to spend a fortune. How little can you spend on New York for a day? 

So for our fellow wide-eyed and bushy-tailed adventurers, here’s 4 tips to navigating the Big Apple on a Budget.


4 Ways to Save ~ New York City

Use Public Transportation 

I’m living in Philadelphia this summer, and after glancing at Google Maps a few times, I realized New York City is only an hour or two away! Just an hour and a half? Really?

Now being from Texas, hours are just a few minutes in my time frame. After all, driving across the Dallas metroplex is just around an hour.new york sub

But driving in the Northeast is very different from the Lone Star State. So we looked at metro fare. There’s not a high-speed train from Philly to New York City (Can’t we learn anything from the Japanese? Life would be so much easier) So after a bit of online research, we settled on the bus.

And it was a relatively reasonable rate. $11 each way.  ~ We’re getting to the city and it’s not costing an arm and a leg.

Once in New York City, you really only have two options. Walk or ride the sub. I really recommend walking as much as possible. (Can that be a new acronym? AMAP?) Walking is just so much cheaper, though only if you already have a good pair of walking shoes.

Since my goal was to visit the city and spend as little as possible, I wanted to ride the subway only 3 times.
The plan began like this. Ride One: from the bus terminal to Central Park. Then walk from the park to Times Square. 

At Times Square, I got back on the Subway (ride 2) and rode to Ground Zero. I planned to walk from the 9/11 memorial to Battery Park. After seeing the park, the plan was to walk back to Chinatown and board the subway there for bus terminal.

On the New York City Subway

All of us on the Subway!

But the plan changed slightly. I kind of underestimated how tired I would get, so I rode (ride 3) from Battery Park to Chinatown. After grabbing supper there, it was just another quick ride to the train terminal.

So, it was a 4 ride trip. Each entrance into the subway system is $3, if you’re buying individual ride tickets. If you spend an extra dollar for a MetroCard, it’s only $2.75 per ride. So the more rides you take, the cheaper it is. I’m estimating I spent right at $12 for city transportation.

The entire cost of getting to New York, riding in the city, and getting back to Philly was right around $32.

Compare that with taking your own car, paying for gas and parking. And not getting killed by the insane Manhattan drivers.

 Visit Free Places (or almost free)

Yes, there are a ton of cool and amazing museums in the city. Someday I may have a lot of money and spend a week in the city. Then I’ll pay for all the expensive stuff.

But this was just a “college girl gets a taste of the city” trip. That meant my budget couldn’t afford $25 admission. To 5 different places.
So what’s free? Not too much, but the outside of a lot of places is worth seeing. You can’t step into the 9/11 Museum without buying a ticket, but you can see the memorial. Which is haunting, beautiful, and tells the story very well.



Also, the MET and American Museum of Natural History run on a suggested price. If you buy tickets online, it’s $25. Yes, you skip the line but is 15 minutes of your time really worth $25? I  stood in line for about 5 minutes and payed only one dollar. (score!)

The MET is amazing. We only had time for about 45 minutes, but those minutes were enough to get a small taste of the beauty of the artwork.

Me at the MET

My Happy Place

Parks are also free: Central Park and Battery Park. As well as the Icons: Times Square, Rockefeller Plaza, Plaza of the Americas, Madison Square Garden and Wall Street.

I loved Battery and Central Park. Most Definitely my favorite places in Manhattan. When you arrive, it’s like you can finally take a breath after choking for so long. 

Despite all the hoopla, Times Square is not the greatest. At least, in my opinion. My friend, Cesia, loved it. I have no idea why. You feel as though you’re about to get run over, just stuck in a cacophony. But that’s just me.

Plan your Meals

I’m on a budget. Or at least trying to be. I didn’t want to spend a fortune on food (I’m sure, you don’t either). I packed a bunch of granola bars, peanuts and a water bottle.

<By the way, you can’t take any real drinks into the museums. You can take water and sealed food>

I ate breakfast at home and had my snacks along the walk. Around halfway, I was completely famished, so did my next step on the plan. Just like a real New Yorker, I bought a hot dog.  🙂 It was actually really cool to just sit outside the NBC building, eat and watch people. It only cost $3, too.

As mentioned before, Chinatown was the dinner plan. We went to a really authentic place, where I reaffirmed my inability to eat with chopsticks. And it was just under $10, dividing a meal’s price with 3 people. (The other 3 members of our party decided they wanted their own plate.)

 Be Flexible and Smart

New York City Itenerary

Original Itinerary

Like me, you may have big dreams.I dreamed I could see it all, but quickly realized that was not going to happen. Halfway through the day, we trimmed our plans, cutting out Little Italy, the New York Public Library and Trinity Church. And to our grief we had to cut out the Brooklyn Bridge. :'( 

We made a valiant attempt to stay on time. If we had followed our precise calculations it would have taken us 14 hours to see everything on our list. None of us counted our listed times till after we were on our way back to Philly, but we only had 10 hours to begin with. So, it’s a good thing we thought on our feet (literally) and spent our minutes on the stuff that mattered most to us.

As a matter of smarts…It was an insanely hot day too, with temperatures peaking at 95′ and 80% humidity. So, be prepared to drink lots and lots of water. Also, sit and rest if you feel yourself overheating. Actually, might be best to not plan on going in July. 😉 

Quick summary, I love the Met, Manhattan is clearly amazing, and you should really go! I spent just under $45 and it was totally worth every penny.

Battery Park Flowers

Battery Park Blooms

Now, if you have the time to spend a while in the city, there’s this neat thing called the New York City Pass. It’s one set price for 80 attractions. You only pay right around $100 a day, and get into a ton of neat places! (I checked most of these places out, there is really nothing under $20) Just throwing that out there if you ever get to spend a while in the city.

Hope the tips were helpful! Have you been to Manhattan or other Burroughs in New York City? If so, what was your favorite spot and what advice would you dish out?

When you do go, drop a line in the comments! I would love to hear about your trip!


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A Redheaded Texas Gal. I love the woods and thrive where there’s green grass and room to grow. I dream of living in a used book store and wearing period costumes to work everyday. In the meantime, I’m studying Journalism and Political Science, and trying to follow Jesus wherever He leads.