Cheap family holidays: New York on a budget

cheap family holiday to New York

cheap family holiday to New YorkTaking a bite of the big apple doesn’t have to eat up your cash. Yes, New York can be expensive – but there are also plenty of free or cheap things to see and do, making the city surprisingly accommodating if you’re looking for cheap family holidays.


Flying into Newark? The speedy Newark Airport Express bus to Manhattan costs £10 one-way – a cab costs around £60. From JJK, a shared ride is around £14 one-way – you’ll have to wait 15-30 minutes (less If you reserve ahead), but the minibus goes straight to your address, at a fraction of a cab price.

Out and about

Expensive tours are a no-go if you’re aiming for cheap family holidays – New York’s free Big Apple Greeter sends a New Yorker to your hotel to give you a personal insight into the Big Apple and an hour’s walking tour of your chosen neighbourhood.

Many museums have weekly free or ‘pay-as-you-wish’ periods. The latter means you pay whatever entry fee suits your budget  – participants include MoMa, the Guggenheim and the New Museum of Contemporary Art. Don’t be shy – plenty of locals pay a minimum so the tellers are used to it.

Time Out New York – nicknamed TONY – is the best place to find out what’s going on every week. Plus it has listings of over 100 free things to do in each edition – some including free drinks and unexpected perks.

Catch the Staten Island Ferry with the commuters for a free view of Lady Liberty, New York Harbour and Ellis Island. Get on at South Ferry Terminal and once you get to Staten Island board a ferry back to Manhattan – round trip 50 minutes.

Look into less well-known Big Apple offerings. Governors Island is a free ferry ride away (Friday-Sunday), with free bikes for an hour on Fridays, picnic spaces and summer concerts. A game at Staten Island Yankees ballpark costs £9.50 (including free hotdog!) – sit at third base for the best view. Or build sandcastles on14 miles of public beaches in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.


They don’t advertise it widely, but take your passport to Customer Services at Macy’s for a 10% discount on most purchases. Bloomingdales offers the same with a valid New York Pass.

Food and Drink

Make your budget stretch by eating on the go, like the locals. A filled bagel is around £2, ubiquitous pizza-by-the-slice around £1.50 and Chinatown noodles roughly £3.50. Or dine cheaply in style during Restaurant Week. This twice-yearly citywide event offers half-price lunch and dinner at participating restaurants.


Are cheap family holidays possible with the extortionate hotel prices in New York? You’re looking at a minimum of £70 per night, before you go into shared toilet territory. But there are still ways you can save money. Book an apartment instead through or – we found a Greenwich Village studio, sleeping three, for £95 a night – plus you’ll have a kitchen, and more charm and space than any budget hotel room.

Night on the town

The Times Square TKTS booth is a well-known place to get 50% off Broadway tickets. Less well known are ‘rush tickets’ and ticket lotteries, offered by most shows. These cost about £18 for front row, or the next best seats available. Around 20-25 tickets are released as soon as the box office opens (usually 10am, queue early). Lotteries take place two hours before a show – drop your name in a bucket and cross your fingers. Going on a weekday performance ups your ticket chances considerably.