The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel.com’s resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She’s always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
BB writes, “I’m having one of those BIG birthdays in the fall and would like to celebrate by going to New York City in October. We’ll be traveling from Tallahassee, FL. I think I would like to go for three days and take in a Broadway play or two. I know NYC is expensive. Can you suggest some moderately priced, good hotels that aren’t chains? Or should I stick with well-known chains? Is traveling during the week, i.e. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, a good idea? Do you know of any package deals? Thanks for your help.”
First off, let me be the first to wish you a very happy birthday this upcoming fall. New York City is an ideal place to celebrate, especially if we can find you the right hotel at the right price.
There are a few key elements that will make finding a deal that much easier. First, BB is traveling in the shoulder season, and prices usually drop to reflect the decline of visitors. Second, traveling midweek can also help save a bit, since many hotels charge more for weekend visits. I was able to price rooms in October at the Washington Jefferson Hotel through Expedia that started at $203 (without taxes and fees) per midweek night and $217 per weekend night. Though this may not seem like a major difference in price, every little bit adds up when you stay for a few days. Some hotels, however, will charge the same price each night of the week, so it pays to compare prices before booking.
Still, there’s no denying that hotels in the Big Apple can be expensive, especially in Manhattan. However, it’s not impossible to find a good deal in the heart of the city. It’s true that chain brands often have specials or promotions that are too good to pass up, but you may end up trading a unique experience for a discounted price. Rooms at non-chain hotels near Broadway start at $159 per night (without taxes and fees) in October, and go way up from there. It’s always wise to read other travelers’ reviews of hotels through our sister site TripAdvisor, because sometimes the price is really too good to be true.
One way to avoid the high cost of a hotel is to stay at a B&B. You can find a range of inns through a provider such as BedandBreakfast.com. Rooms start at $60 per night (without taxes and fees) in Manhattan, and typically include breakfast.
Another way to beat the high price of lodging—and my favorite way to visit a city—is to rent an apartment. Vacation rental providers such as VRBO provide a list of apartments or rooms in guesthouses available to rent. Most apartments come equipped with a kitchen, which can help cut down on meal costs. Plus, you get the added perk of knowing what it feels like to live in the city. Rentals start at $85 per night for a studio that sleeps two people near the Empire State Building. You can also cut costs if you are willing to stay outside of the city in Brooklyn or Jersey City.
But, if you have your heart set on staying close to the action but prices are still a bit too high, hostels are an inexpensive way to stay in Manhattan, and several offer private rooms for a lot less than most hotels or B&Bs. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with other travelers and experience something totally new. I priced hostels starting at $17 for dorm-style accommodations and $28 for a private room with a shared bath at the Jazz on Lenox in October.
If you still haven’t booked your flight, you can also opt for a bundled package, which will include your airfare and hotel. Going this route can save you money and it does take a lot of the legwork out of planning. However, be aware that your flexibility in choosing a hotel may be a bit more limited and sometimes it pays to investigate on your own. I priced packages starting at $512 per person (without taxes and fees), including round-trip airfare from Tallahassee to New York City in October and three nights’ stay at a Manhattan hotel.
These are only a few strategies on how to save in the city, but there are dozens of other ways to track down deals or promotions. Begin your research through New York’s official tourism website, where you will find special offers, events, and tips on things to do. From there, you can begin planning your birthday celebration that will be bigger than the age you are turning.
As for my other readers: Have you taken a bite out of the Big Apple’s high prices? Do you know insider’s secrets to how to get the most for your money? Can you offer BB tips on how to cut corners to have the best birthday? Please share with everyone any and all tips below.
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