How to plan a trip to New York City! – Budget, accommodation, itinerary and much more!

How to plan a trip to New York City! – Budget, accommodation, itinerary and much more!

How to plan a trip to New York? This is for sure one of the most frequent question I receive from you guys! And even though there are many ways to start planning your next vacation, I’m gonna share how I usually plan my trips and also my opinion and knowledge as a NY resident and as at some point a tourist myself! 

Oh, before I forget…To see more of my day to day life in NYC, check out my Instagram (@marthasachser), and follow my Youtube channel. For more NYC tips join my NYC tips Facebook group HERE! And if you are traveling to NYC, don’t forget to get my New York City Guide HERE! 


Things to consider before you start planning your trip to New York:

Passport and visa! If you need a visa to enter the USA I suggest  applying for one before you book any airplane tickets or accommodations. A visa is not always easy to get and you don’t wanna waste money, unless it is a free cancellation ticket/hotel room.

Also, it is important to consider the number of  days you have available for NYC and when you can travel, so you can better prepare your trip according with the season.




How to plan a trip to New York: 


1- Learn about the best seasons and the best time (for you) to explore the city

Yes, this is VERY important but also super personal. New York is divided in 4 well defined seasons and in my opinion there is no such thing as a bad time to visit New York City, but you need to know what kind of experience you wanna have because whether you want it or not it will impact your trip, both financially and in terms of (physical) experience!

In the summer months, besides the heat, it is also school vacation so there will be longer lines and places are more crowded. BUT the days are longer, it gets dark around 8pm.

In the winter, especially between January and March, the city is quieter, hotels are usually cheaper BUT it is super cold and it gets dark around 4:30pm.

The solution? If none of the above made you excited, traveling in May-June and September- October when the weather isn’t extreme and you still get a good amount of daylight!

Christmas in New York: yes, it is truly amazing and  I recommend planning in advance to avoid lines, book  desired time slots and restaurants and also to find the best accommodation for your money.


2- How many days are necessary to explore NYC?

Honestly, if you are the kind of person who wants to take your time and see everything you can, you can stay for one month and it won’t be enough! But, being realistic, if this is your first time in New York I recommend  between 5-10 days. 7 would be ideal if you are the explorer kind like me but also don’t wanna rush too much to see the basic. To help with planning don’t forget to download my New York City Guide HERE!


3- Where to book you airplane ticket to New York?

I usually use websites such ad  Skyscanner, Google Flights and Scott’s Cheap Flights to search and compare flights but most of the time I end up booking  through Priceline.



4- Booking your accommodation in NYC

Yes, it can be expensive, especially if you are traveling during the holidays or if you are trying to book something last minute.

But what is the best type of accommodation in New York?

I’ve mentioned some reasonable priced hotels HERE and some hostels HERE. And if you don’t have an account on Airbnb and wish to receive U$40 in credit on your first stay, make sure to use my special code HERE! Just FYI: Airbnb is considered ilegal if the host isn’t living in the apartment during your stay if for less than 30 days.

Things to take into consideration when booking: how far it is from the subway station and Manhattan. I believe spending up to 25 minutes to get to Manhattan is okay,  that’s how long it takes me everyday. Anything longer than that I would reconsider, just so you don’t spend too much time on the train instead of exploring NYC! But it’s up to you, of course.

Other affordable options in NYC: Most of my followers had a good experience staying in Queens in neighborhoods like Long Island City, Astoria, Woodside, Sunnyside, Elmhurst…And in Brooklyn: Williamsburg/Bushwick/Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Staying in New Jersey: Near a PATH train station, so you can easily get to the city 24 hours and for U$2.75 one way + NYC subway. You can also take the NJ transit from some near towns but it doesn’t run  as often as the path train.



5- Planning your budget: How much money to bring to New York?

It obviously depends on the kind of trip you wanna have. But after booking your tickets and accommodation you can’t avoid but start planning daily expenses with food, transportation and experiences/attractions and perhaps, shopping. Ny isn’t the cheapest city in the world but there are ways to save money and still have the BEST time! Click HERE for some of the best free things to do in NY!

Food expenses: I suggest U$50 a day for food if you are planning on dining out 3 times a day (10+20+20), but still saving some money perhaps eating at a simple/casual restaurant, sharing meals with other family members, or not ordering alcoholic beverages. Of course you CAN SAVE a lot more by dining at cheaper places but for an ” okay” meal, U$20-25 is MY average. And if you wanna save a lot more, there are countless salad bars, falafel and sandwich places, self service buffet and of course, U$1 pizza spots!

About attractions and things to do, first of all, you DON’T NEED TO DO OR SEE EVERYTHING! That’s why it is important to do your research and remove from the itinerary similar attractions or things you aren’t really into (you know that museum that EVERYONE “has  to go” and you’re going even though you are not a of fan of museums?!) so you have the best time possible! You can search for attractions and buy them in advance HERE!

Well, if you wanna see a lot but wanna spend little, I recommend getting the Sightseeing PASS, which covers over 100 attractions and it is the only one to include the beautiful One World Observatory! You can read more about it HERE! Or if you just wanna cover  some of the basic attractions, you can get the CityPASS HERE!



7 – How to plan your itinerary for NYC:

You’re not alone! Creating the “perfect” itinerary takes time, there is always that last minute tip, that amazing restaurant you can’t miss…. And even though it is a bit overwhelming for some people, it is the best investment to save yourself time during your trip and better prepare yourself for not so great surprises.

So my tip for you is: do your research to find the places you REALLY wanna see here in NY (I’m always sharing NYC tips on instagram, just saying :D), attractions you can’t miss, restaurants that need reservation… and from there try to break into areas  of the city, that way you will most likely only spend 2 subway tickets a day instead of going up and down several times.

OR, simply get my NEW YORK CITY GUIDE HERE and the work is done 🙂



8- How to bring money to NYC

Whenever I travel I always exchange some money for emergencies and for places that don’t accept credit cards but most of the time I swipe, I usually only travel with credit cards that don’t charge me foreign transaction fees. But yes, I always bring cash, it is better to be safe.

Years ago I used to also travel with pre-paid cards such as Visa Travel Money, super useful and easy to cash money in the local currency or pay for everything I needed.

But you can also use Western Union, Transfer Wise and even PayPal (to transfer money overseas, great option if you know someone with a bank account).

Is it worth exchanging money in New York or before you travel? Most of my followers mention they found better rates by exchanging in their home country.

And how to carry money in NYC? Well, New York is pretty safe but I still recommend a travel belt for larger bills or important documents, just so you’re safe if you loose your bag or something. And also because even though it is pretty safe it doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen, always pay close attention to your belongings.


9- Packing

If you don’t plan ahead of time you might find encounter not so lovely surprises during your trip such as spending extra money or wasting time during your trip shopping for something you could have easily packed at home. Or if you over pack, you might end up spending money paying for an extra piece of luggage… so yes, by planning ahead I don’t mean over packing.

Being comfortable is key when traveling to NY. You will most likely walk A LOT, all day, everyday! So make sure to include sneakers if you can or something as comfortable as one. Also, pack light for the day, most likely you will be on your feet all day, so carrying heavy bags during your stay won’t be fun at all.

If traveling in the winter months make sure to layer up with thermal clothes  and for really extreme weather I recommend buying hand and feet warmers at any drugstore, they are less than U$2.


10- Arriving in New York

Once you arrive at the airport you must find the best way for you to get to the city (Manhattan) or other boroughs. So to better plan, make sure to read this blog post where I explain more about how to go from JFK Airport to different areas of New York City!



11- Enjoy your stay!

One thing I know for sure: it doesn’t matter how much you plan your trip, something might not  go as planned. And this isn’t something bad at all and it might even bring you a good laugh and stories to tell your family and friends back home! AND you will most likely discover a new place in NYC that wasn’t in your itinerary and chances are you will love it even more! To follow my adventures here in the city and for more NYC tips make sure to follow me on instagram @marthasachser and @blognyandabout!

Before I forget, remember you can save money and time by getting my NYC Guide!

Plan your trip