While I do want to retire early, we also like to travel. What better place than NYC?
It hard to beat when you can stay at a nice hotel for 2 nights, fly round trip, eat at high-class restaurants and spend $500 (I know we spent too much, but we’ll do better next time).
But seriously, how did we get away with spending so little?
The answer is simple: credit card offers. Before you follow in these footsteps, make sure that when you open credit cards that you don’t buy a bunch of shit that you don’t need, and that you can keep track of meeting minimum spends. It’s not hard, but you have to have some restraint.
Here’s how we did it (Note: we do not get any $$ from these offers, but an unaffiliated website will):
We’ve accumulated 500,000+ frequent flyer miles through opening new credit cards. For this particular trip, we paid only for airline taxes. My wife and I both signed up for American Airlines cards, and after meeting minimum spend, we flew for free from our small regional hometown airport to Laguardia with miles left over.
As of this writing, American Airlines is offering 30,000 free frequent flier miles.
Delta is the only other airline that flies out of our regional airport. 30,000 is the current offer; we got 50k when we signed up, and I’ve seen as many as 60k from Delta.
Of course, our all time favorite is Southwest. If you accrue 110,000 miles in a year, you get a free companion pass good for the rest of the year, and for the entirety of the next year. That means free travel for your companion whenever you fly. To do this, sign up for a personal and business card. You’ll need $10k of spend to meet this. Make sure that you sign up when Southwest is offering 50k miles, not 25k.
Yeah, we stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria for two nights. Free. Staying at any decent hotel in NYC is likely to run you $200+/night easily. Don’t do it.
We used the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. Two free nights, plus you get automatic Gold status.
But since we cashed those benefits out, we have since signed up for an Starwood Preferred Guest Card. Current Offer is 25k “miles”, which is good for 2 nights in NYC at an Alot or similarly swanky hotel; we got 35k which an occasional offer (and good for three nights).
Paying for taxis, restaurants, etc.
You can actually eat for relatively cheap (for real!) if you seek out the right places, but that wasn’t our goal. We were kid-free for the first time, and we were going to eat well at lunch and dinner. And try out all the local coffee shops. And take cabs when we didn’t feel like walking or taking the subway (or when we needed to get to Broadway to catch our show at the last minute). We also went during restaurant week, so we were able to get multi-course lunches for $29 each, and dinners for $42 (these would cost you far more, normally). So with a bottle of wine, we were paying $100+ per meal. We could have done cheaper, but again, special treat.
We were able to keep our costs relatively low, however, because we used the benefits of our Barclay Arrival Plus card. Meeting min spend gets you $400 in travel credits. So put your taxis, subway, Uber (although we found taxis to be better than Uber in NYC. YMMV). restaurants on here, etc., and take the cash back on those purchases when you get home.
So yes, we lived a little high on the hog (multiple $100+ meals being a chief issue), but it was our first getaway in a long while. The next time we’ll do maybe one really nice meal, and maybe splurge on cocktails once or twice. If we had been really careful, we would have been able to get away with just a couple of hundred on this trip.
Do you have any NYC travel hacks that have helped you save bunches of money?
Jared Derksen says
Are you including the annual credit card fees in your total costs? Many of these cards have a fee that is charged as soon as the account is opened, correct?
Jared – good point. Many credit cards do have annual fees, and some charge up front, others waive the fee for the first year. I generally choose cards that waive the fee for the first year, and then downgrade or cancel the card once the yearly fee arrives. downgrading the card to a card with no yearly fee is good for the credit because it gives you cards with long credit history. All the cards I mentioned had no yearly fee at the time I first signed up for them. Some have better spiffs right now – for instance $500 from the Barclay Arrival plus. My homeowner’s insurance and one month of day care got me to the min spend there, and no fee for first year.