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February 7, 2017

New York on a Budget with a Baby; Part 1--Planning

Without much prior notice, I was told by my boss that I would be taking a business trip to New Jersey in mid-December. This was not my idea of a good time. However, it was some of the best news Chrissy ever received. You see, Chrissy had been bugging me to take her to New York for years, but I had no interest in going. This was her shot; with my travel being covered by the company, this was the best chance she had to convince me to see New York together. Of course, she had her way and I was able to extend my trip and spend a surprisingly fun long weekend in frigid Manhattan. Read on to learn about the planning of our frugal adventures in the Big Apple with our Little Nugget.

Due to the short notice from work, we started out at a disadvantage when it came to reasonable airfare. We only had about a week before the trip to book Chirssy's flight so we were forced to spend $572 to get her to New York, which is quite a bit more than it would have been with more lead time. The worst part is I probably had enough frequent flyer miles to cover this flight, but I completely forgot about them. We're clearly not travel hackers yet (but hopefully we will be by the end of the year). Luckily my flight was free, so our average price was reasonable.

The short notice also made finding a reasonable hotel room much more difficult, but before we could even consider booking anything, we needed to decide where exactly we wanted to stay. It would be much cheaper to stay outside of Manhattan, but traveling to and from the city would be a hassle, especially with the baby, so we determined we were going to stay on the island. That still left us with the choice of what neighborhood to say in, and we eventually settled on Midtown, which worked out very well for us. It was centrally located and allowed us to walk to many of the attractions we wanted to see. It also allowed us to duck back into the hotel a couple times a day for naps, which would have been impossible if we stayed further away.

When it came time to actually book the room, we had the same problem as with the airfare.  Hotels in Manhattan are expensive to begin with, and with only one week notice, they are outrageous. I also investigated AirBnB, but there weren't any attractive options. I think New York made a bunch of rules that really limits AirBnB there. Anyway, one of my friends told me to be prepared to spend $300 per night on a hotel, which terrified me. I was able to do a little better than that, but not that much. I scoured every travel site I could think of looking for rooms and ran into a lot of dead ends. Eventually one of the bigger sites linked to BudgetPlaces, which was offering the last remotely reasonable hotel room in Midtown at the Econolodge Times Square. We ended up paying an average of $220 per night, but the actual price for each night, which we didn't see until after booking, was pretty interesting. Friday night was $188, Saturday night was an eye watering $350, and Sunday was a rather reasonable $120. If I would have known how much Saturday night was, I would have saved the money and slept in Central Park instead.

Once the hotel was booked, we called to ask if they had a crib we could use in our room. They did not, so we went online and ordered the cheapest pack-n-play available for pickup at the Newark Babies "R" Us. With that done, our lodging was set and we could move on to other things.

The last step was figuring out what to do in New York, so we put together a list of what we wanted to do before we left. Chrissy compiled the list of all the activities she was interested in, alongside the one thing I wanted to see (the Statue of Liberty). That list eventually looked something like the chart below.
As you can see, we listed all our potential destinations and where they were in relation to our hotel. This proved to be incredibly helpful for planning our excursions because it allowed us to easily determine if we could visit multiple attractions with a single trip and if we could walk to them. Our official spreadsheet had more information, like addresses and what to order at each bakery, but you probably don't care about that.

We didn't really try to make a detailed schedule because it would inevitably blow up with a baby, so we took our spreadsheet and hoped for the best. You can read about how it went in Part 2 of this post, which is coming soon.

Affiliate Recommendation:
Who needs hotels?
If you're going anywhere other than New York, try Airbnb. You can usually find awesome lodging cheaper than a hotel. We used it throughout Europe and highly recommend it. If you sign up through this link we will each get a $35 credit.


  1. My wife and I visited NYC before we had kids. We went over 4th of July and we had a blast going all throughout the city. It was perfect weather and we were able to see a ton of things. Plus since it was 4th of July weekend it was pretty quiet since all the business travelers were at home :)

    1. You probably had much better weather than we did. I wasn't a big fan of highs in the 20s.
      I also wouldn't have thought a holiday weekend would actually be less crowded. I'm going to have to keep that in mind if we ever go back.