New York City isn't a cheap city by most standards. However, when business travelers take a summer break and rising mercury sends city dwellers packing for the shores, opportunities open up for the leisure travel set. Hotel rates drop, and tourism officials draw up enticing promotions such as Restaurant Week, free nights, and discounts on attractions. Plus, with a healthy dose of competition from three area airports, you won't need Donald Trump's salary to visit the Big Apple; just $500.
There have been so many New York City deals lately that's it's been difficult keeping track of them all. Here's my attempt to round them up and demonstrate how you can afford a trip, with hotel and airfare combined, for under $500, as well as save on the rest of your stay.
Staying in New York City
New York City hotels are notoriously expensive, so I'll start listing the bargains there. Most summer hotel promotions run through the end of August with rates reduced 15 to 30 percent. And don't assume you'll be stuck at the Hotel Carter (America's "dirtiest hotel" according to TripAdvisor). Many of these offers are for hip and/or luxurious properties.
NYC & Company, the city's official marketing and tourism organization, has a host of promotions such as a third free night at luxury hotels and Summer in the City, with 15 percent off the best available rates at a range of hotels. Perhaps the best overall value for short getaways is NYC Sunday Stays, where more than 45 properties have cut rates 20 to 30 percent for Sunday nights. Of course, this offer works best if you can swing a long weekend.
For example, at The Mansfield, a classy boutique hotel in Midtown Manhattan, Sunday-night rates (usually $300 to $500) drop to $195 for the lowest room category. Pair that rate with a Saturday night for $309, and pay $578.41 (including taxes) for both nights together. Stay with another person and pay just $289.21 each.
If this promo won't work for you, there are plenty of others for the taking. Hotels.com, for instance, has a list of discounted hotels featuring rates up to 30 percent off for stays through August 25. Among the listings, the recently opened Hotel 91, located on Manhattan's Lower East Side, offers pillow-top beds, marble baths, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi, while advertising rates from $179. With the hotels.com promo, the rate drops to $154 per night. Not bad. However, depending on your travel dates, you might do better booking directly on Hotel 91's website, where I found some late-July and August discount rates for $139.30 per night when you book four consecutive nights.
For something special and unique this summer, Hilton just posted a "Waterfalls Package" built around The New York City Waterfalls art installation by Olafur Eliasson. The package includes accommodations for two, two tickets for a cruise to see the waterfalls (a $50 value), and discounts on dining and shopping. While a handful of Hilton hotels are participating, I found the lowest rates ($254 per night) at the Millenium Hilton, located in the Financial District.
The offers don't stop there. Check Kimpton Hotels, which is discounting rates by 20 percent at its two New York properties, 70 park avenue hotel (which I've stayed at and liked) and The Muse Hotel. If you're still not satisfied, compare rates offered on major travel sites such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, or look for deals on the website of your favorite New York City hotel. Chances are it'll have a summer package or discounted rate available.
Getting to New York City
With three major area airports—JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark— finding affordable flights to New York is easier than with most cities. Here's a shortlist of the cheapest round-trip fares, including taxes and fees, departing in late July and August:
- Richmond: $159 (JetBlue)
- Boston: $160 (Delta)
- Washington, D.C.: $160 (Delta)
- Buffalo: $179 (Delta)
- Ft. Lauderdale: $199 (Delta)
- Rochester: $199 (JetBlue)
- Miami: $209 (multiple airlines)
When I checked, Delta and JetBlue seemed to be having good price days, but other airlines offer competitive rates on a regular basis, so don't limit your search. The best fares were concentrated on the East Coast; however, people departing from other cities can expect to pay $20 to $200 more, which is still reasonable considering how airfare prices continue to go up and up.
Here's the cost breakdown for the most expensive airfare on my list paired with hotel, based on two people traveling together:
$209 (airfare from Miami) + $289.21 (two nights at The Mansfield) = $498.21 per person
Taking advantage of New York City discounts on dining and attractions
New York's reputation for pricey restaurants relaxes a bit for the summer, especially thanks to NYC Restaurant Week, which runs from July 21 to 25 and July 28 to August 1. Patrons at over 200 participating restaurants can enjoy three-course, prix-fixe menus for just $24.07 (lunch) or $35 (dinner). Also, repeat diners who pay with American Express receive a $25 American Express Gift Card. With NYC & Company's Summer in the City promotion, visitors will find discounts (usually 15 percent off) for restaurants and food tours, as well as hotels and attractions through September 1.
Been to New York or know of a great deal? Comment below on your favorite money-saving tips, activities, or places to eat and stay. Or, post questions for fellow travelers to answer.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com and hotels.com.)