Travel, Teach, Live in the USA and Canada
Planning a trip to New York City on a strict budget daunts even the most ambitious frugal traveler, but once you arrive it was worth all the hassle it took to get there. Airlines cull you to ticket sales; trains appeal to you with student discounts; buses offer insanely cheap prices---an NYC-craving traveler stands in the middle of the transportation intersection wondering how to make a move. Researching all options and choosing your motivation for traveling---whether it's a quick trip from A to B or a story-filled epic to the big city---is the first decision you need to make.
Travel by train. Amtrak railways, America's National Railroad Passenger Corporation, features budget-friendly train tickets into New York City from stations all across the country. Traveling from San Francisco to New York City might not be that cheap, but traveling from Chicago, East Coast, and southern cities show promising fares.
As of April 2010, Amtrak tickets from Chicago to NYC start from $86 one way, though it is a 19-hour trip. Train tickets from Atlanta, Ga., start at $124 one way; from D.C., it's $49 one way. To cut costs, one option is to take the train for one leg of the journey---say from Washington, D.C.---and make the other half of the trip by a discount bus. Amtrak features student-friendly and pocket-friendly deals for students and youth 26 and under in their Student Advantage program. Discounts can save around $30 or $40 per trip; the discount card, which travelers must purchase in advance, is $20.
Ride an intercity or discount busline for cheap.
Go by bus. The notorious, or at least storied, Chinatown bus has come a long way. The original low-priced bus departed from shady mid-city bus terminals in D.C., Virginia, Baltimore and Boston and pulled into a crowded, fruit market terminal in hectic Chinatown. Now the Chinatown bus offers wider routes, more times and dependable station stops departing from well-lit bus depots on the East Coast and arrives at Penn Station and other midtown New York addresses.
The Chinatown continues its $20 fares from Washington, D.C.'s, Chinatown to New York City's Chinatown, featuring stops in Baltimore's and Philadelphia's Chinatown on the way. The service operates a fleet of various brands of buses all offering the $20 rate. As of April 2010, one Chinatown bus brand---Apex (apexbus.com)---offers a $95 one-way fare from Atlanta, Ga., and a $40 one-way ticket from Richmond, Va., in addition to the daily $20 one-way fare between Washington, D.C., and New York.
Other discounted bus services pop up left and right. Bolt Bus (boltbus.com) and Megabus (megabus.com) feature rates into and out of New York, for as low as $1 each way. While that fare is not common, as of April 2010, travelers can snag a ride for $15 or $20 one way into New York from East Coast cities like Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Boston. These buses generally offer free Wi-Fi, include bathrooms and take a 15-minute break at a rest stop with eateries or a place to stretch your legs. Buses pull into Penn Station or other populated, midtown New York addresses.
While the intercity bus companies, like Greyhound, are not usually as cheap as discount short-trip buses, Greyhound buses (as of April 2010) introduced a new more luxury style bus with bathrooms and Wi-Fi connection with cheaper fares into New York City. As of April 2010, bus fares from Louisville, Ky., to New York City start at $111 one way if booked 14 days in advance and a bus ticket from Ann Arbor, Mich., to New York starts at $65 each way.
Rent a car and split the cost of gas to the city
Rent a car. Renting a car can be expensive but prices, as of April 2010, won't break the bank as much as expected. Car rental services around the country offer car-trip deals into New York City. Hertz (hertz.com), as of April 2010, offers discounts on one-way weekend car rental in locations across the U.S. Car rental agencies feature drop-off and pick-up locations at airports, train stations and downtown, midtown and uptown depots.
Car rental prices from Chicago to New York City, one way, start from $230 per day. If you share your trip with three or four other friends, it's about the same cost as a flight and more time scooting across the Midwest with friends. Avis (avis.com) offers rentals from $148 per day from Baton Rouge, La., into New York City's JFK airport. If you're attempting the epic cross-country trip, renting a car from Los Angeles to New York City goes for $250 to $298 per day. Rental companies offer standard, luxury, sporty cars and green (solar or otherwise eco-friendly) car model options.
Cruise into the city behind the wheel.
If you have your own car, cruise into New York at your own pace. Gas and parking are your only extraneous expenses. If you're not lucky enough to have a friend with a parking pass in the big city, choose a public parking lot with competitive low prices. According to the website Best Parking (nyc.bestparking.com), as of April 2010, lots in Manhattan start from $10 per day. Weekly specials start from $145, and monthly specials start at $127.
According to Consumer Reports Cars Blog (blogs.consumerreports.org), as of April 2010, on average drivers pay $2.85 per gallon for gas. Gassing a cross-country road trip, according to CostToDrive (costtodrive.com) starts around $375 for all 2,815 miles and 44 hours of that trip. The cost of gas does not leave you much spending money once you get dressed up to go out in New York City. But the drive can save you what you might spend on a flight, and staying in cheap hotels in small town along the way makes the trip an adventure. Weigh your options, and again, your objective for traveling (experience or straight-shot) when making a decision.
Fly into New York City's JFK, La Guardia, or nearby Newark airport.
Pick flying. The quickest and maybe most stress-free option (if you don't mind getting searched and potentially sitting next to a sick traveler or a gurgling baby), flying into New York is getting more cost efficient. As of April 2010, airlines offer deals daily to get passengers traveling in and out of New York's airports. Sign up for daily e-mails from mega-search engines, like TravelZoo (TravelZoo.com) that offer daily deals from U.S. cities into New York. One trick is to fly into Newark airport instead of JFK or La Guardia, the central airport hubs. Newark is only a $15 train ride from New York City's Penn Station and flights can start a lot cheaper. A flight from Chicago to Newark, for instance, starts from $223 round-trip and $134 one way.
Airline tickets from Houston, Texas, into New York's JFK airport---direct and nonstop---start at $267 round-trip. From Los Angeles to New York, look for flights starting at $299 round-trip. If possible, book flights on Wednesdays: Airlines tend to offer discounts on Tuesday nights that show up on the airline's website Wednesday at midnight. If you are under 26, search STA travel for discounted student or youth deals. You can book with an agent in person, online or over the phone.