We haven’t been vacationing much lately. Almost two years ago, we moved our family of four from Seattle back to our native Philly ‘burbs. In our ten years in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, every weekend was like a vacation because everything was new and exciting to us! The mountains, the sound, the Methow, Whistler, San Juans, Portland, Yellowstone, whale watching, etc. We were serious tourists for a full decade.
Back to the East, we’re still weekend warriors, with the benefit of having family (a free home away from home) on a lake in the Poconos, in beautiful coastal North Carolina and in the Finger Lakes … we’re really lucky to have family in great, vacation-worthy places.
But, we still like to take advantage of the culture, food and adventure of the east-coast cities. We’re only a 30-minutes train ride from downtown Philly, so we get there often. But this past weekend, we took the kids to NYC, with a little FI-style.
FI Family in NYC by the Numbers:
- Amtrak from Philly to New York’s Penn Station: $243 for four. This is actually what prompted this trip. I got a special offer email from Amtrak … and off we went. SAVINGS: $123
- Hotel: FREE! We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Times Square for $0. I redeemed 140,000 Hilton Honors points for 2 nights and it was the perfect location for tackling Manhattan in a weekend. SAVINGS: $652
There is so much to do in Manhattan, so free, some not. Let’s start with the free things we did:
- Walked through Times Square multiple times!
- Walked the High Line. Perhaps it was the early spring time of year or the construction or the beautiful day that drove hundreds of other people to it, but it was narrow, very few plants in bloom (it’s been a long, cold winter) and very crowded with a lot of scaffolding. I expected more art installations and we saw one mural and one tank full ‘o art. Perhaps in a few weeks it’ll be in full swing.
- Strolled through the financial district to see One World Trade Center Tower, Eataly, past the NY Stock Exchange on Broad Street and Battery Park to watch the ferries and wave at Lady Liberty.
- Visited Rockefeller Plaza to see ice skating in 80-degree weather, the Lego store and Top of the Rock
Other free activities we didn’t do include the Staten Island Ferry, so many museums and art galleries, central park, and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
We chose to pay for one activity per day: an observation deck on a tall building and a museum. I discovered that my company offers a ton of discounts on shopping, travel, insurance, plays, activities, etc. So we took advantage of discounts on these two:
- Top of the Rock: $110 for four. I thought that looking at the Empire State Building would be better than the view from it. We selected 6:40pm so we could watch the sunset, but the warm spring day took quite a turn and it was chilly and cold! The sunset was a bust, but the view was great and we stayed until the Empire State Building’s lights went on. SAVINGS: $55
- The American Museum of Natural History: $51.50 for four. Looking at the forecast, we knew we’d want to spend our time on Sunday inside. This museum is huge and was so crowded, but we were still able to see a ton of exhibits without feeling like sardines. SAVINGS: $20.50 and we got out of there without buying anything from any of the many gift shops!
I would have loved to see a show with the kids, so I looked at tickets to the Blue Man Group, but with the charges and fees, it came to $500 for four. It was $350 with the company discounts, but we still chose to pass. It’s a lot to spend and there’s only so much time in the day.
We didn’t save any money eating, in fact I’m afraid to look at what the total damage was. We’re thankful for the food hall trend – we all eat what we want in one place:
- The Food Court at the Plaza: The Doughnuttery only further fueled our son’s desire to open a donut shop.
- Eataly: the Italian food market; we hit the one in the financial district and enjoyed a drink, pizza, charcuterie with wine followed by gelato and some serious market browsing with beer. There’s an incredible amount of prepared food to indulge in here and plenty to offer to make every weary traveler happy.
Finally, how we got around:
- Walked 12.6 miles
- Climbed 30 floors
- Rode the subway six times
- And took four cab rides
With what we spent on food, drinks, souvenirs, subways and cabs, this was by no means an FI vacation, but we saved $850.50 with the points and discounts we used. We can be frugal and always look for the best deal, but by no means do we deprive ourselves, especially on vacation.
We’re looking forward to coming back to NYC for a weekend in Brooklyn!