(Previously Published on Canada.com)

When I decided to visit New York for the first time, I wanted to experience it without having the Big Apple take a big bite out of my wallet. Everyone knows New York is expensive, but as I discovered, there are some great ways to stretch your dollar.

Getting There

As a seasoned traveler, I tend to think most airlines are pretty similar; however, I was pleasantly surprised by American Airlines.

  • When booking, do your research. You can secure a great price with them if you are flexible with your time or day of departure.
  • In addition, pack light and only take a carry-on. This eliminates the charge of a checked-bag ($25 each way).
  • Their check-in is hassle free, the attendants are friendly, and their seats and leg space are ample (an important factor for a 5″11 woman).
  • In addition, this airline provides free entertainment on shared screens and access to their Wi-Fi service. Although it is an extra cost for Wi-Fi ($14 for all-day), it may be worth it for those of us who need to stay connected during a longer flight.
  • If you bring your own snacks for the journey, you can save on any additional in-flight costs.

Lodgings

The best bang for your buck is the Renaissance New York Times Square. It provides that New York feeling without the over-blown price tag. Their website provides several deals and promotions. If you book early, the savings are huge (you can save hundreds this way and rates start as low as $143 per night). You can also combine it with a special package or take advantage of their rewards program.

Iconic Macy’s Store in Manhattan

My room was modern, bright and comfy and had a spectacular view overlooking Times Square. In addition, the view from the Rlounge in the hotel offers one of the best panoramic views of Times Square. Tip: Visit in the evening with all the lights of Times Square in full swing and enjoy an appetizer off their Blue Ribbon menu.

As I was located right in Times Square, I was within walking distance to many of the iconic attractions such as Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Broadway theatres, the Empire State Building and Madison Square Gardens. This allowed me to eliminate the cost of cab rides during my stay.

Attractions

One of the smartest things you can do is book a tour with On Location Tours. For $40, it provides you with a 3 1/2 hour guided tour of the city on an air-conditioned luxury bus. I took the New York TV and movie site tour, which not only hit many of the well-known TV and movie spots, but several landmarks too. Think of it as killing two birds with one stone. The guide also allows you to hop off at various spots to take pictures.

I wanted to take in a Broadway play, and landed first row tickets to see Glengarry Glen Ross staring Al Pacino for $90. If you can wait until the day of the show and are flexible about what you want to see, you can obtain 1/2 price tickets at the TKTS discount booth located directly beside the Renaissance in Times Square. It’s a New York tradition for
many travellers.

I was also interested in being an audience member of a well-known show. It’s a great way to see celebrities and be entertained for free. I chose the Late Show with David Letterman. Insider tip: If you want to be selected as an audience member, go on a Thursday and sign up. They do two tapings of the show that day which increases your odds. Plus, your enthusiasm goes a long way – so be excited when you show up. I landed floor seating and enjoyed watching Anderson Cooper being interviewed by Letterman.

Experience New York without the New York price tag

One of the many delectable food carts in Manhattan. Kelley Scarsbrook photo

Food

Turnstile Tours provides two-hour tours of the food carts and trucks in the financial district and mid-town area of Manhattan. For $48, you learn where the best dishes are being served up to locals and the history of the food carts industry. I was able to sample from several delectable carts and trucks ranging from Indian to Korean to Mexican to Italian. Best part? I learned about the ingredients in each dish, met the chefs, and ate well during my stay for a fraction of the cost of similar sit-down restaurants.

For a great restaurant experience, it’s a tie between Virgil’s Real Barbeque and Carnegie Deli. Both offer delectable lunch and dinner options.

At Virgil’s, try the delicious pulled pork sandwich at 11.95 (it comes with potato salad, coleslaw and pickles). If you combine it with a pop, your meal is less than $18.

At Carnegie Deli, the rueben sandwich is a must. The famous open-style sandwich is piled high with meat (your choice of pastrami, corned beef or turkey) and is served with melted swiss cheese, sauerkraut and pickles. A bit steep at $24.95, but if you split it (an additional charge of $3) it will be worth it. Its size is over the top, and will be enough to satisfy two hungry people, with possible leftovers for later.