NYC! (traveling on a student budget)

New York City is a wildly popular summer vacation destination and one I’ve been dreaming of doing for quite some time. As it’s known, NYC is an expensive location especially for students, but I am here to tell you it can be done affordably!

Recently one of my best friends (Liv) and I spent four full days in the city that never sleeps and had an incredible time! The NYC post will be split into two parts, this as the first being tips on how to keep the trip within your budget; we’ll talk about travel, AirBnB housing, rush Broadway tickets! The second part will consist of experiences you won’t want to miss out on when you make your visit. The city awaits!

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The NYC skyline view from Liberty Park on the New Jersey side.

To begin, after searching through endless expensive flights we decided to make it a road trip! A daunting task it may sound like but in all honestly, it wasn’t so bad! From where we live in Michigan the drive time was 10.5 hours total; we alternated at the wheel every few hours and split the gas cost. The 10.5 hours flew by with the constant laughter, storytelling and belting Broadway songs for hours on end, if you take this trip with friends the drive truly is surprisingly enjoyable!

The area where we significantly saved the most money was in the decision to use AirBnB rather than stay in a hotel. AirBnB is an online service where hosts around the world list their space for travelers to stay in at affordable prices. You can make a free account online and begin searching for vacation rentals, homes, apartments and rooms for rent. Though we were a bit hesitant on this idea at first, when researching through the housing options we found it is very safe and easy to figure out. Make sure to read the reviews and profiles of potential hosts before you book. Look for verified phone numbers, read everything about the listing, the description, the amenities and the rules. We rented a room in Jersey City, New Jersey which was only a 15 minute subway ride into NYC. The room was wonderful as it had it’s own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. You can find rooms within any price range depending on location and the amenities the room includes. I would say that a nice and safe room that students my age would be looking for could range from around $50 to $100 per night with Jersey City being the example location. To compare this to what you could expect to pay for a hotel in Manhattan, the cheapest single hotel rooms we could find were all above $250 per night; Liv and I did not even pay that much in total for our ENTIRE three night stay. AirBnB was new to both of us but it turned out to be a great choice that I would highly recommend!

If you’re anything like Liv and I you would never travel all the way to New York City without seeing a Broadway musical! As a theatre fanatic myself, I knew just how expensive Broadway tickets could be. Most shows sell tickets with prices ranging from $80 to even over $200! Feeling discouraged when thinking we may not end up seeing a show, I was thrilled to learn of something called “Rush Broadway Tickets”. Rush tickets are sold only on the day of the show and are available to anyone willing to wake up and get to the box office early and spend some time in a line, you can get greatly discounted tickets to the majority of shows on Broadway. Most rush tickets range in price from $25-$40. There is no set number to how many tickets they have left to sell for rush but you are limited to two per person only. The seat locations vary with different shows, from front row to rear mezzanine depending on show popularity and the number of tickets already sold. Not all shows offer rush tickets, but many great ones do. Almost all shows do also offer an online lottery opportunity; some of the lotteries draw for free tickets and some draw for discounted tickets. You can enter the day of the show online and will find out if you won a couple hours before the show begins. The reason we stuck with only doing the Rush option was because we knew we wanted to see a show that night and didn’t want to risk the possibility of not winning the ticket lottery. If we had been there for a longer period of time, the lottery would have definitely been something we did. So, when searching for a show we wanted to see that also offered Rush Tickets, I found a fantastic chart listing the shows and times their box offices opened each day of the week. To make sure we got tickets to at least one show we made a mutual list of our top three shows we would like to see from the orange rush tickets list. Our first choice that one of us would wait in line for (Chicago the Musical), our second choice that the other would wait in line for (School of Rock), and our third choice if we weren’t able to get tickets to either of those (Tuck Everlasting). All of the box offices opened at 10am so we arrived around 9:30am which in hindsight I would actually recommend getting there even a little earlier to be safe. We split up, Liv when to the Chicago line and I went to the School of Rock line. (All of the Broadway theaters are very close to each other, splitting up was safe and easy – Chicago was on 49th street and School of Rock was on 51st). Liv had about 15 people in line before her and I had around 12. Keep in contact with whomever you split from so you don’t both end up buying tickets for two separate shows! When doing this also remember that each person ahead of you is able to buy two tickets each and the tickets their selling aren’t necessary next to each other. The Chicago line actually ended up being quicker and Liv bought the last two tickets they were offering at $37 each! Needless to say we were ecstatic and show was unbelievable!

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I hope this was helpful to anyone looking to visit the city at an affordable price! If you have any questions feel free to comment and stay tuned for the second part of this post on other experiences you won’t want to miss when you book your trip!

Sincerely, Sienna


  1. Mary Lou Hudak

    I really enjoyed reading this, Sienna . In fact, I read it twice. So happy for you and love the great tips here. Can’t wait for the next part.


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