NYC on $19 per day. Final tally


2012-09-19 15.44.33

Last week I challenged myself to visit New York City and spend no more than $19 per day out of pocket.  I saw this as a fun challenge, and it was!  For this three day trip, $19 per day meant that I could spend no more than $57 altogether.  Here were the rules I set for myself:

  1. Travel and dine in comfort. This meant no hitchhiking, no soup kitchens, and preferably no fast food.
  2. Get good value from my points. It would have been very easy for me to pay for anything and everything with my Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold credit card and then use my Ultimate Rewards points to pay the ensuing credit card bill. That would only get me 1 cent per point value from my Ultimate Rewards points. That’s no good! I was determined to get value equal to or better than the Fair Trading Price.
  3. Sightsee. I had to do something. Museums, walking tours, events, etc., all were fair game as far as I was concerned.
  4. No help from friends. To keep the game honest, other than a meet-up dinner that was already paid for, I vowed not to accept meals or rides from friends (or strangers).

My trip

During this trip, I ate terrific meals, I spent a full day sightseeing, and I stayed in a nice hotel.  I had a great time and never felt like I was sacrificing comfort or fun by traveling frugally.  I’ll post a full trip report soon.

All costs tallied

Altogether, my out of pocket costs came to almost exactly $57!  Here’s how the costs broke down:

  • Detroit Airport parking: $18 + $2 in tips: $20
  • Detroit Airport lunch: $1 (after getting $5 back from American Express)
  • Flight to/from NYC: 9000 British Airways’ Avios + $5
  • Transportation between airport and downtown, and within downtown: $10 (I bought and used a MetroCard)
  • Tuesday evening dinner: $0 (thanks to a combination of a voucher, and an OpenTable check)
  • Hotel + breakfasts: 80K Hilton HHonors points for two nights + $0
  • Wednesday Greenwich Village tour: $10 (free tour plus $10 tip)
  • Wednesday lunch: $6 (street vendor)
  • Wednesday walk through Little Italy & Chinatown: $0
  • Wednesday ride Staten Island Ferry: $0
  • Wednesday dinner: $0 (covered by BoardingArea for blogger meetup)
  • Thursday lunch at airport: $5

Total: $57

I arrived home having spent the exact amount budgeted!

Rules Broken

Despite my best efforts, I did break a few of my made-up rules:

No fast food: I thought I’d be able to use my American Express Platinum card to get into the Lufthansa club at the Detroit Airport to get a snack on Tuesday before my flight.  No luck.  Instead, I synched my American Express card to my Twitter account and tweeted a special code that gave me $5 back for a McDonalds purchase.  Then, I bought a $6 salad for an out of pocket cost of $1.

No help from friends:
I turned down people who offered to buy me meals, buy me drinks, take me to events, etc., but I did let down my guard a couple of times:

  • After I treated a friend to dinner on Tuesday evening (for free!) I could have walked back to my hotel in the rain, but he offered me a taxi ride instead.  I accepted.
  • On Wednesday, on a walk through Little Italy, a friend offered to buy me a cannoli.  How could I refuse?


Reader comments, emails, and tweets made this trip possible.  In fact, there were so many great ideas that I’m sure I could have enjoyed a much longer trip for only $19 per day.  I’m looking forward to going back to try more ideas in the future!

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[…] challenges.  For example, I once challenged myself to do New York City for $19 per day (results here).  Later, I challenged myself to earn a million points & miles in one month (due to […]


I know this is an old post but one thing was bugging me. To/From NYC is 4500 Avios + $5 each way, totaling: 9000 British Airways’ Avios + $10. Maybe back then, BA was only $5 RT?

[…] I visited New York City for a total of $19 per day (including all transportation and meal costs) […]

[…] I’m always interested in learning about new rewards cards, so I quickly replied that I would attend.  This was my first invitation to a behind the scenes event like this since… ever.  I thought it was unlikely that the new product would be one that I’d be excited about, but I was interested to hear about it anyway.  And, since I once successfully visited New York for only $19 per day, I knew I could do this with minimal out of pocket expense (see “NYC on $19 per day. Final tally”). […]


Agree, Bus + Train into the city is awesome in NY..very cheap to get to Manhattan in under an hour! I love my 9000 Avios redemption to the City!

Thank you FM, Chase, BA, OD, WM, Mio, MO’s ,MTA, 🙂


awesome challenge and congrats on achieving your target!


@Dave: Instead of changing to 6 train if the weather’s decent I’d just walk from 59th & Lex to the hotel. That’s assuming you have rolling luggage. 56 minutes sounds a bit long for the trip, but Google is usually spot on with its estimates.


thrashsoundly: good question. My wife got $150 worth of credit a while ago for signing up for a magazine. If you want to buy them very cheaply, they are usually available on the resale market via CouponTrade


Nice summary! A little nitpick question (all in fun): Did you have to pay any money up front to get the voucher?


I love using the Bus and Train when I fly into NYC! Nice work!!!


Dave – I would take the M60 to the Lex/125th Street station, then transfer to the 6 downtown. That way you only have one train, instead of two, and with bags, that makes a big difference.


Always knew you made it through.
Didn’t know you had no fast food restriction.
Hotdogs won’t fly then.

Free ferry?


Mark: I was mainly trying to avoid big fast food chains: McDonalds, BurgerKing, etc. Yes, the Staten Island Ferry is free


Google maps is giving me: M60 bus to the Q train (off at Lexington/59th station), to the 6 train (off at the 51st St. station), and walk 3 blocks to the hotel (est. 56 min.). Do these directions/time estimate sound about right, and how much will it cost 2 ppl/one way?


Dave: $2.25 per person no matter how many connections you make. Yes, the Google directions / estimate seem about right. When you get off the bus at Lexington/59th, there are stairs going up to the train. Climb the stairs and follow signs to Manhattan


Well done. Especially finding a cab in the rain which, in my opinion, can be harder than NYC on $19 a day!

Joseph M

I actually felt guilty about the Cannoli. I bought two at the stand without asking – a typical NY thing to do. Thanks for easing my conscience.


Joseph M: No worries! Thanks again for the cannoli. It was delicious 🙂


Frequent Miler,

Awesome blog. I really appreciate your insight. What is your opinion on the airport shuttle from the hotel to DTW and DTW to the hotel. Is is worth the wait to catch the shuttle at the curb at DTW? I noticed from your Twitter feed that you had to wait a long time. Is this true? I’m traveling next month on a low budget and would like your opinion. Thank you.



Andrew: I ended up waiting half an hour for the hotel bus to take me back to my car at the Comfort Inn. Other than that, it was good service all-around. They park the car in covered parking so I might do it again if I go away for a long trip during the winter. Otherwise, I’d rather pay $2 more for US Park to avoid the wait.


@Dave: Take the NYC Airporter shuttle for $12.50 each way per person. Otherwise load up on discount Uber credits & free promotional credits. A taxi will run you $50-$60 otherwise. There’s also public transportation (bus and subway) but it’s long and inconvenient


I’ve never been to NYC and my wife and I are using award nights to visit the city and stay at the Hyatt 48 Lex in November – curious what the suggested best (cheap/easy/fast) route would be to get from LaGuardia to this hotel and back…?


Dave: Cheapest is definitely to do what I did: buy a metrocard at the airport and then take the bus to the train. I didn’t find it to be inconvenient at all, but I wouldn’t do it if I had more than a small bag along.


What a celebrity! Turning down meals and drinks! 🙂


Great work! I knew you’d pull through 🙂 Hope you and the BoardingArea gang had a blast. Sorry I missed out!