Let’s face it, NYC is an expensive place to visit. The law of supply and demand is on brutal display as the rate for the same room hotel room often varies wildly from one night to the next.
So what’s a financially challenged traveller to do? Is it possible to get a decent hotel in NYC for under $200? Absolutely. Is it possible to get a decent hotel in NYC for under $150? Usually. Is it possible to get a decent hotel in NYC for under $125? Sometimes.
How do I know?
Over the past year I’ve had a couple of stints as a contractor in NYC that required me to travel to the city frequently, usually staying 4 or 5 nights at a time. I pay for my travel expenses out of pocket, so price is my primary concern when booking a room.
Basic strategies for a good deal
There are some basic strategies that will help you find a reasonably priced hotel in New York City.
Stay on a Sunday night or the last night of a holiday weekend
If your dates are flexible, this is the easiest way to get a deal on a room. You can consistently find very nice hotels for $150 and often under $125.
Use websites and apps that aggregate hotels
If you want to quickly check rates across multiple hotels, you have to use a an app or site that searches lots of different hotels. My favorites are: HotelTonight, Hotels.com, and Hotwire.com. The sites are easy to use, and the prices can be significantly lower than the hotel’s own site.
Be aware if you use these apps to book your room, your reservation is probably not refundable.
Be flexible on amenities
Do you need a hotel gym? Hmmm… Do you have a body buidling competition this weekend? If not, it’s nice to have, but not a necessity.
What about an indoor pool? Come on, like you’re really going to use it. I’ll cross this one off for you.
Breakfast? I’ll let you have this one. It should save you at least 10 bucks a person.
A Private Bathroom? For most travelers this is a must. Pay attention, if you see a shockingly low hotel price, you just might be sharing a bathroom. We all have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. For me this is it.
Be flexible on location
NYC has great transit service. It’s relatively easy to navigate, and is pedestrian friendly. So there’s no need to lock yourself into a specific area of the city
For the most part, if you’re staying in Manhattan, you can get almost anywhere else in within 30 minutes or less taking the subway and walking. There’s a lot to see, so get some exercise and enjoy it. A one way ticket on the Subway costs $2.75.
It’s helpful to have a map of the subway system with you. You can download one here, or better yet, install a subway app: for android or iPhone.
Be flexible on brands
I’ve stayed at many different hotel chains in NYC and quite frankly they’re all nice. Holiday Inn, Hilton, Sheraton, Double Tree, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, and Hilton. Across the board they’ve all been clean and the staffs are friendly.
What about hotel points? Does it make sense to spend an extra $50 to get your loyalty points? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Do the math.
Do the strategies always work?
Using the Basic Strategies above will usually yield a good deal on a room. But there are certain time of the year when you cannot find a mid-level hotel for under $400. For example last month, the confluence of the US Open and Fashion Week drove prices through the roof.
When that happens, if you can’t change your travel dates, your best bet is to explore the outer boroughs or cross the river to New Jersey.