My 4-night Roundtrip to NYC for $308.82

Everything is negotiable

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

Usually, the week between Christmas and New Years is my absolute laziest time of the year. It’s a great time to grab some coffee and Baileys, camp out on the couch and spend some quality time with Netflix.

Not this year. My wife and I decided to take a trip to New York City. It was the first time either of us had been there since we were kids and the first time visiting the city together.

The trip was amazing, the weather was unseasonably warm, and we got in nearly 100,000 steps in four days. We saw everything from the 9/11 memorial to Central Park.

The most remarkable thing about this trip was the final cost. Which came to $275.63 (per person) for four days in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

The major lesson I learned from this trip, is that when traveling it's best to hope your hotel and your airline screw you over. If you know how to negotiate with customer service representatives their blunder can be your good fortune.

Let’s break down the numbers to how we arrived at our final cost of the trip.

Flights- Negative $540

  • The face value of the cost of two round-trip tickets from Toronto to New York City was $950.
  • Luckily, we had travel points saved up so we only had to pay the taxes on the flight which totaled $260.
  • Our return flight back to Toronto was canceled and we had to spend an extra night at the hotel airport. We received a free voucher for our hotel and food (more on that later) and when we got home, we called up the airline and after some effective complaining, we each received $400 vouchers for future flights.
  • The net cost of flights was negative $540 ($260 minus $800)

Hotels- $783.91

  • We knew going in this would be our most significant cost. Neither of us had ever booked a hotel or air BnB in New York City before, so we wanted to play it safe by going with a big hotel chain.
  • We also wanted to be within walking distance of everything, so we booked a hotel a few blocks south of Times Square.
  • We had booked a king, city-view bedroom on the top floor weeks in advance. Upon arriving at the hotel, we were told all they had were rooms on the 4th floor.
  • This was another opportunity to negotiate the prices down. The hotel screwed up, they did not have the room available which we reserved.
  • We were able to turn their screw up into a King bedroom on the fourth floor, plus free breakfast vouchers each morning, 6 free drinks at the hotel lobby bar and $409.79 off the price of the room
  • The retail cost of the room was $1,193.70 after our $409.79 rebate we only paid $783.91.

Food- $317.73

  • Food costs can really add up when traveling. You are in a new city and you want to immerse yourself in the culture of where you are traveling and a big part of that is experiencing local restaurants.
  • Luckily, we had one-third of our meals covered when we were able to receive free breakfast vouchers from the hotel ($180 value)
  • Also, our food vouchers from the airline covered the meals from our extra night by the airport ($80 value)
  • The total retail cost of all of the food we ate was $577.73, but using our vouchers from the hotel and airline the net cost to us was $317.73

Transportation- $129

  • The main benefit of getting a hotel in Mid-Town is that it allowed us to walk almost everywhere, as demonstrated by the 100,000 steps we logged, in the four-day trip.
  • We had a few rides on the subway which totaled $16.
  • The train to and from the Airport-Penn Station totaled $68.
  • Parking at the airport in Toronto totaled $45.
  • No discounts here, we paid the full $129 in transportation costs.

Alcohol- $42

  • The full retail value of the drinks we had was $92 but after using our drink vouchers from the hotel, the net cost to us was $42.

Other Costs- $100

  • Costs for entry to tourist destinations like the Empire State Building and the Museum of Natural History totaled around $100.

Total Cost of the Trip

  • The full “retail” cost of the trip was $3,042.43.
  • Our net cost of the trip was $834.64.
  • Did I mention that is in Canadian Dollars? After converting to U.S dollars we paid only $617.64.
  • A grand total of $308.82 per person.

Not bad for a four-day vacation in New York City.

Negotiating with Customer Service

  • We learned a lot about traveling for cheap on this trip. The most important thing to remember is everything is negotiable.
  • Hope something goes wrong. With both our flights and our hotel, we did not get exactly what we paid for. You can allow this to frustrate you, or you can use this as an opportunity to get some money back.
  • With both the hotel and the airline, we wrote down the names of every person we spoke with, when we spoke with them and what they promised us.
  • This was critical as both the hotel and the airline tried to tell us when we spoke with them at the end of our trip that “there is no way one of their staff would have promised us what they did”. Once we told them exactly who we spoke to and when, we were able to get what we were promised.
  • For the hotel, it was useful to know that they advertised they had a 4.8 rating on Expedia. In competitive tourist destinations, those ratings are like currency for hotels. That told us that to get a good review (or avoid a terrible review) they would be willing to make concessions, especially since they screwed up.

We are already planning our next vacation and we can only hope that the airline and hotel screw up, so we can negotiate another amazing deal.

Do you have any other tips to save money while traveling? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below.