How to Get Big Travel With Small Money in New York City This Summer

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New York City is 1 of the world’s most vibrant cities.  It has a reputation for being expensive.  But there are plenty of summer activities that’ll allow you see New York without running up a big bill.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Visit New York This Summer for Cheap or Free!

If you’ve thought of visiting New York but were turned off by the costs, I’ll tell you about how to get there, where to stay, and what to do in the Big Apple with Small Money!

How to Fly to New York With Miles and Points

It’s easy to fly into New York from nearly anywhere.  It has 3 major airports (JFK, LGA, and EWR).  And hundreds of flights per day.

You can use your miles to get to New York City for close to free!

1.   United Airlines

Link:   United MileagePlus Explorer Card

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred

There are lots of ways to earn United Airlines miles.  This includes transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United Airlines.  If you need help with booking a United Airlines award flight, check out my series on how to use United Airlines miles. 

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

It Costs 25,000 United Airlines Miles Round-Trip to Fly to NYC From Anywhere in the US. There Are Lots of Available Seats From Denver in July and August!

You can use United Airlines miles to fly into any of New York’s airports.  They have a hub at Newark Airport (EWR).  A round-trip coach award ticket on United Airlines is 25,000 United Airlines miles from anywhere in the US and Canada except Hawaii.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

United Airlines Would Sell This Ticket for ~$450. But You Can Get It Nearly Free With Miles!

2.   Southwest

Link:   Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Link:   Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Link:   Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest flies into New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA).

Emily and I love to fly on Southwest.  That’s because with the Southwest Companion Pass, Emily can fly with me for (almost) free!

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

If You Have the Southwest Companion Pass, a Friend Can Fly With You to New York for Nearly Free!

The number of Southwest points required for an award flight depends on the cost of a paid ticket.

If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, flying on Southwest can be a great deal!

3.   British Airways

Link:  Chase British Airways Visa

Link:  American Express EveryDay Preferred

If you’re a short flight away from New York, you can save miles by using British Airways Avios points to book an award flight on American Airlines.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points, American Express Membership Rewards points, and Starwood points transfer to British Airways.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

All the Ways to Get British Airways Avios Points!

A 1-way coach award flight under 650 miles costs 4,500 British Airways Avios points.  To get to New York at this rate, you can fly from:

  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Columbus
  • Detroit
  • Montreal
  • Norfolk
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh
  • Toronto
How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Are You a Short Flight From New York City? Use British Airways Avios Points to Save Money on Short, Expensive Flights!

And a 1-way coach award flight between 651 to 1,150 miles costs 7,500 British Airways Avios points.  To get to New York at this rate, you can fly from:

  • Atlanta
  • Bentonville 
  • Chicago
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Indianapolis
  • Miami
  • Orlando 
  • Nashville
  • St. Louis
  • Tampa

You can get big value from British Airways Avios points especially on short, expensive flights!

4.   Budget Airlines

Also check fare deals on discount airlines such as Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, or even Spirit Airlines.  They often have promotions where you can get a cheap ticket to New York from select cities.

Read my post about how to find and book low fares.

How to Stay in New York With Points

New York City has no shortage of hotels where you can put your points to good use.  But you’ll pay lots of points for the best locations!

1.   Hyatt

Link:   Chase Hyatt Visa

Link:   Chase Sapphire Preferred

Hyatt has LOTS of hotels in New York!  You can choose from:

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Use Your Hyatt Points in New York and Get Great Value!

The Andaz 5th Avenue is ~$405 a night in July.  Or 25,000 Hyatt points.

You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt when you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Ink Plus, or Ink Bold.

2.   Hilton

Link:   Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card

Link:  Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature

Hilton has ~40 hotels in the New York area.  Hilton hotels include Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy SuitesHampton InnHiltonHilton Garden InnHome2SuitesHomewood Suites, and Waldorf Astoria brand hotels.

An award night that caught my eye was at the Hilton Midtown.  Summer rates are $359 a night.  Or 60,000 Hilton HHonors points.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Stay at the Hilton Midtown, Steps From 5th Avenue and Broadway, for 60,000 Hilton HHonors Points per Night

Right now, the sign-up bonus on the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card is 2 weekend night certificates that are good at almost any Hilton.  You get them after spending $2,500 in purchases within 4 months of account opening.

If you used the 2 weekend certificates in New York, you’d get over ~$700 in value from them!

Or, consider the increased sign-up bonus on the Citi Hilton HHonors card.  For a limited time, you’ll earn 50,000 Hilton points after completing the minimum spending requirement.  Plus a $50 statement credit when you spend $50 or more on your 1st Hilton stay in the 1st 3 months of opening your account.

3.   Starwood

Link:  AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest Card

Starwood has ~30 hotels in New York, many of which cost 20,000 Starwood points or less per night. 

Starwood Preferred Guest hotels include AloftElementFour PointsLe MeridienSheratonSt RegisThe Luxury CollectionWestin and W brand hotels.

You might consider the Four Points by Sheraton Midtown near Times Square.  Or the The Westin New York Grand Central.  Both are Category 5 hotels that are 12,000 Starwood points a night.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

A Weekend at the Westin New York Grand Central Would Cost ~$800 or 24,000 Starwood Points. Which Would You Choose?

The sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starwood points on the AMEX Starwood Preferred Guest card is enough for a weekend getaway in New York City.  And you’d have several hotels to choose from!

Hotel Award Search Sites

Here are 2 places I like to check for award nights:

  • AwardMapper (shows hotels you can book with points)
  • Hotel Hustle (shows available award nights and compares price of a paid room, plus you can set alerts if award nights become available)

What to Do in New York

Here are some fun summer activities where you can explore New York City with Small Money.

Bronx Zoo & Botanical Garden Free Day, TV Tapings

The Bronx Zoo is 1 of the biggest zoos in the US.  And every Wednesday you can see all the wildlife for free!

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

You Can Visit 1 of the Best Zoos in the US at No Charge on Wednesdays

While you’re in the area, you can visit The New York Botanical Garden.  It’s also free on Wednesdays.  And on Saturday mornings from 9:00 am to 10:00 am.

Arthur Avenue, home of The Bronx’s Little Italy, is also a short walk from both attractions.  So treat yourself to a home-style Italian meal when you visit the animals and gardens!  Remember to use a card that earn points or cash back at restaurants! 🙂

If TV shows are more your style, you could get free tickets to show tapings, like The View or The Tonight Show.

Free or Nearly Free Days at Museums

Many of the world-famous museums in New York offer a free day.  Get a lot of culture for not a lot of money.  Or any money, in some cases!

The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is free on Friday evenings from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

The Whitney Museum of Art offers a Pay-What-You Wish night on Fridays from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is always pay what you wish, although it’s recommended that you pay the suggested donation.  The Roof Garden Cafe and Martini Bar has gorgeous views of Central Park.  And great cocktails!

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Enjoy the View of Central Park and the Manhattan Skyline From The Rooftop Garden Cafe Atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Here is a guide with dozens of museums and their free days.

Bank of America Free Museum Days

Bank of America has a Museums On Us program where they’ll pay for your museum entry on the 1st full weekend each month.  All you have to do is show your Bank of America debit or credit card to get in free.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Museums in New York City Included in Bank of America’s Museums On Us Program

In New York City, you can get into the Queens Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, and more!

Stroll the Highline

New Yorkers love the Highline Park.  It’s free to walk the nearly 30 blocks the park stretches.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

The Highline Park in Summer Is a Great City Experience

The park was made from unused elevated tracks, so it’s above street level.  In the summer, folks like to enjoy the open-air beer garden at The Standard hotel.  There are also art installations, gardens, and other activities like music, storytelling, and more!

Along the way, you’ll get glimpses of downtown Manhattan.  And if you go in the evening, watch the sunset over the Hudson River for a romantic (and cheap!) date.

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar

It’s free to go up to 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar.  There you can find amazing views of the city including the Empire State Building.  No doubt you’ll be tempted to have a drink at the bar.  But you don’t have to.  And the views are worth the trip!

Empire State Building and Freedom Tower Observation Deck

If you want to splurge, you could go to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building or to the newly opened One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower.  Tickets start at $32 per person.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Get Breathtaking Views From the Empire State Building or One World Observatory

If you decide to visit either elevated experience, be sure to earn points for your tickets.  For instance, you can 2X Citi ThankYou points with the Citi Premier card for entertainment purchases.

Staten Island Ferry

This is a classic New York City daytime adventure.  You can take a ride from downtown Manhattan’s Whitehall Terminal to Staten Island on the Staten Island Ferry for free.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

The Staten Island Ferry Includes Great Views of the Statue of Liberty for No Added Charge

Along the way, you can get some close-up views of the Statue of Liberty.  On a nice summer day, the breeze is wonderful.  And there are plenty of photo opportunities!

The New York Public Library

The main branch of the New York Public Library is an easy walk from Grand Central Station and Bryant Park.

Emily and I stayed nearby at the Andaz 5th Avenue and had a view of the New York Public Library.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Emily Loved the Views of the New York Public Library From the Andaz 5th Avenue

It’s cool inside on a hot summer day.  It costs nothing to visit.  And it has free Wi-Fi throughout!

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

The New York Public Library Is a Beautiful Building. And a Great Place to Relax in the Summer!

The architecture of 1 of the biggest libraries in the country is stunning.  And the views of the city from inside aren’t bad, either.

If you visit, be sure to go to Bryant Park.  On a summer day, you can relax in the park, enjoy free Wi-Fi, and lay out on the lawn.  There are places to picnic and play ping-pong.  And beautiful architecture is all around.

There are also free outdoor movies on Mondays at 5:00 pm.

The New York Public Library and Bryant Park are both walking distance from Times Square.

Fourth of July Fireworks

If you’re lucky enough to be in New York on Independence Day, check out the Macy’s fireworks display from the East River.

If you watch from the Brooklyn Promenade, you’ll get great views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline.  Get there early to get a good spot!

Central Park

Central Park is a wonderful place to unwind.  And to continue your explorations.  Spanning over ~40 blocks top to bottom, there is so much to see in the park.

How To Get Big Travel With Small Money In New York City This Summer

Imagine the Peace at Strawberry Fields in Central Park

You can visit Bethesda Fountain and make a wish.  See the Strawberry Fields.  Or simply soak up the sun in Sheep Meadow.

None of it will cost you a thing.  And some parts of the park will make you feel like you’ve left the city altogether!

Free Kayaking on the Hudson River

At the Downtown Boathouse, you can take advantage of a free kayaking session on the Hudson River.  They’ll give you everything you need to have fun on the water.

This is a very unique experience that you’re sure to remember.  And it’ll cost you nothing!

Free Movies at Brooklyn Bridge Park

My buddy in Brooklyn always takes his family to Brooklyn Bridge Park to watch movies.  You can watch a movie projected under the Brooklyn Bridge.  For free!

Their movie lineup is out for July and August.  Bring a blanket and some snacks and enjoy the show.  Although the scenery will be competing for your attention, too!

The views from the Brooklyn Promenade are fantastic.  And you can visit after walking over the Brooklyn Bridge!

Bottom Line

New York is 1 of the most expensive cities in the country.  But not if you know how to get Big Travel with Small Money!

With miles and points, fare deals, and plenty of free or nearly-free things to do, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to experience New York.

HyattHilton, and Starwood have great hotels that are easy to book with points.  And if you’re a short flight to New York, you can get a 1-way coach award flight on American Airlines for only 4,500 British Airways Avios points.

When you get to New York, there is so much to do that costs very little.  And sometimes events are free!

Please add your Small Money tips for New York!  Is anyone planning a trip to New York this summer?

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8 responses to “How to Get Big Travel With Small Money in New York City This Summer

  1. Hello, Dariaus, from your longtime fan, here in little ol’ Noo Yawk! The next time you and Emily visit, please let me know — so I can invite you to join me for lunch in my employer’s cafeteria and enjoy the stunning views from the 48th floor of Worldwide Plaza!

  2. Darius, thank you so much for this article! It comes just in time. I will be in New York over the Independence Day weekend and with little time available to plan for this getaway, your article is perfect! You just saved me a lot of time and money when it comes to activities for the weekend. Thanks again!

  3. In July and August, Sunday night hotel prices in NYC tend to be inexpensive, so I would advise anyone booking with points to check whether it would be better to combine award nights and paid nights on one reservation. Prices for Sunday, July 5 tend to be even cheaper than for other summer Sundays, and it pays to keep checking as you get closer to the date. No need to spend 80,000 HHonors points for the Doubletree Suites Times Square on a night when you can get a $179 AAA rate and save those points for $500 worth of rooms somewhere else.

  4. I’ve been very pleased with location and price of hotels in Long Island City in West Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan, a short subway ride from the Times Square area. There are several mid-range hotels within easy walking distance of the Queensboro Plaza (lines N, Q, 7) “subway” stop. I’ve typically paid about $140/night (never more than $200; occasionally less than $100) when rates are at least twice as high in Times Square. The area is perfectly safe and walk-able (though pretty dead at night; not much choice of restaurants). The cash rates are so reasonable that I seldom find using points to be a good value. (Aspirational? No. But an excellent value for mid-range accommodations.)

    (Before I found out about this hotel cluster, I’d usually spend 48,000 SPG points to stay 5 nights at Cat 5 hotels in Manhattan. I feel I’m getting much better value in Long Island City.)

  5. @UAPhil:
    Or you can just use’s “Name your own Price” feature to get rooms in Midtown for the same (or sometimes even less money) as LIC. I’ve gotten 4 star hotels in Times Square for $99 a night. I never understand why people would rather stay in Queens over Manhattan for the same price.

  6. Most people who stay at the Andaz 5th Ave using award points will not get a good view of the city.

  7. We saved money by flying into LaGaurdia vs Newark. Newark was a pain for transit transfers and they cost more than taxi from LaGaurdia. Also, love the Hyatt Midtown Cat. 5 location, good breakfast and 2 out of 2 times our room must have been upgraded. We had a great view of the Empire State Building both times there….a perk was just 2 blocks to walk for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

  8. Roxanne Lucero

    For me summer is the best time to visit NYC. Concerts, beaches, films and Fourth of July festivities, are just some of the joys that a summer in the city has to offer. We went to NYC last summer, it was very hot and humid but we still enjoyed our trip. We saved a lot on accommodation since we stayed in a hostel. We also had city pass so we were able to see a lot of attractions. New York City may be known as the most expensive city in USA, but there’s also no shortage of free things to do. I already visited some museums, Time Square and Statue of Liberty. I also went to a lot of diners and clubs and I watched free concerts at Central Park after checking out the NYC Parks website. By the way, I found a website listing free events in New York which is great because I didn’t have much of a budget. I think might be useful to people also visiting New York who are looking for free things to do.