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Lonely Planet Writer

Spending diary: what I spent on a five-day trip in New York

I spent five days in New York this month. With enough savings and an excuse to visit (my friend Rheanna is over on a graduate visa), myself and my housemate Síne booked flights in mid-April. On a tight timeframe and an even tighter budget, I was determined to see and do as much as possible.

Pre-trip spending

Flights: €347 return with Icelandair that included a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Accommodation: €0, as we stayed with our friend in Brooklyn for the duration of our trip.

Visa: $14 (€12.93)

Plane food: €9 for a turkey pretzel sandwich (in-flight meals aren't included in the price with Icelandair).

Total: €368.93 ($420.12)

On the ground

Thursday

Total: $33

7pm: Síne and I landed at JFK Airport and faced an hour-and-a-half wait through passport control. After pricing a taxi to our friend's office in Manhattan – $78 not including tolls – we made the journey via public transport. A ticket for the AirTrain from JFK to Jamaica Station costs $5 and then we had to get another train and the subway. At this point, we were too tired to look into MetroCards properly, so we each bought one-way tickets ($15).

The Empire State Building at sunset is a beautiful site, but it is a New York City landscape you can skip. Instead watch the sunset from another New York City building
Views like this are the reason I came to the Big Apple © Istvan Kadar Photography / Getty Images

10pm: After we met Rheanna at Swift Hibernian Lounge (leaving Ireland to go to an Irish pub on holidays is a stereotype I'm happy to fulfil), she suggested we order food from there as the kitchen stayed open until 4am. I went for the mac 'n' cheese, two pints of Diet Coke and a Guinness. Our friend covered the bill and we covered the tip ($10 each). Jet lag kicked in and we got the subway to our friend's apartment on Bushwick Avenue ($3).

Friday

Total: $148.30

10am: We hit the Brooklyn Standard deli for breakfast; I got a regular 'F' smoothie - pineapple, strawberry, mango and apple juice ($5.50). Although delicious, this was the start of a slippery single-use plastic slope I found impossible to get off while in New York.

Two images. The left image is of a young woman gazing into a fridge in a NY deli. The second photo shows a half-eaten cookie and a milkshake on a counter.
L-R: Síne scoping out Brooklyn Standard's wares; the cookie and smoothie combo. © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

12:30pm: We went on to a brunch spot Rheanna recommended: The Butcher's Daughter. I ordered a pesto quesadilla ($11) and a matcha latte with oat milk ($7.50 - $2.50 for the oat milk, rookie mistake on my part). Síne also ordered the pesto quesadilla, while Rheanna opted for the plantain party bowl ($15).

Interior shot of The Butcher's Daughter restaurant and an image of the bill for all three diners.
The Butcher’s Daughter, New York. © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

2pm: After a stroll through Williamsburg, I stopped at an Apple Store to buy a headphone adaptor ($9.80). We ignored Rheanna's protests and went for a walk in Domino Park ('It just seems very fake'), before relaxing on wooden deck chairs. The heat meant the temptation from the Mom & Icepops popsicle stand was too much: we splashed out on two for $7. I got lemon and jasmine flavour – their best-selling pop.

Two images: the image on the left is of people walking along a path in Domino park. The second image is a close up of an ice pop with the menu A board in the background.
L-R: Domino Park; Mom & Icepop's Lemon and Jasmine popsicle. © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

4:30pm: A busy period at work meant my planning had fallen by the wayside. We went to Pianos bar to regroup and plan ahead with the help of frozen margaritas and the happy hour nachos. The total came to $23.64 including the tip, which we split three ways.

Two images: the image on the left is of a table with a large dish of loaded nachos and two menus. The second image is of the bill for the food and drinks.
L-R: Pianos nacho offerings; the bill. © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

6:30pm: We decided to prioritise the 9/11 Memorial Museum, making the last entry at 6:30pm. The guided tours were sold out, so we bought standard entry tickets ($26 each). It ended up being one of the most emotionally intense experiences I've had; I'd recommend putting aside about two hours for it. We also made the very wise decision to pick up unlimited ride MetroCards for the rest of our time in NYC ($34).

A mural featured in the 9/11 Memorial Museum
A mural featured in the 9/11 Memorial Museum © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

8:30pm: Rheanna was not enthusiastic about our plans to take the Ellis Island ferry during our stay, insisting we'd get just as good a view if we walked down to harbour (rest assured, we did not feel this way). After a squint at Lady Liberty, we headed to BlackTail Bar for a cocktail from their extensive menu. I went for a Soft Touch ($21 including tip) and took advantage of their free postcards to inspire jealousy back in Ireland. Next on our pub crawl was The Boiler Room, which you might recognise from the karaoke scene in the movie P.S., I Love You. I paid for two drinks ($16 including tip).

11:30pm: Our NY pal was keen to bring us to a house party in Bed Stuy, so we caught an Uber there. We'd left it too late to bring booze and jet lag was kicking in, so we didn't stick around. The 30 minute walk back to Bushwick Avenue unfortunately didn't yield an infamous $1 pizza slice. However, we did stop off in Bunton's World Famous bar for a nightcap ($6). Our hunger led us to a deli before bedtime, where I ordered some kind of falafel and cheese concoction in a drunken haze ($6.50).

Saturday

Total: $99.82

1pm: Broadway, to me, appeared to be the done thing to do when in New York. We decided to trek into Times Square with the hope of securing victory in the ticket lottery. Before that, we dropped into Chelsea Market for breakfast. Chelsea Market is described as an 'urban food court', featuring everything from donuts to sushi to currywurst. I decided on Sarabeth's for food as it had the most traditional menu, and I was craving eggs benedict ($15.92).

Two images: the right image is an interior shot of Chelsea Market with people milling around the various dining options. The left image is a close up of eggs benedict in a carton from Sarabeth's Bakery. A can of San Pellegrino sits to the left of the container.
L-R: An inside look at the urban food-court that is Chelsea Market; eggs Benedict from Sarabeth's Bakery © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

2pm: At TKTS – the discount ticket booth in Times Square – we were met with the same response as all the theatres: 'It's Saturday! You'll never get something cheaper than $80!' I decided to break up the disappointing answers with a pitstop in Pret-A-Manger. I got an iced chocolate, which the cashier gave me on the house as I was the last order on her shift. Score! ($0)

6pm: Síne and I decided to shake off our Broadway woes with a bike ride around Central Park. Our leisurely pace slowly progressed in to my own personal Tour De France as I struggled with steep inclines and my dress getting tangled in the spokes. My advice to anyone thinking of doing it during their stay: wear literally anything else other than a maxi dress. ($15 for an hour).

Two images of cycling through Central Park from the cyclist's point of view.
NYC on two wheels © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

7pm: Next on our list - Chinatown and a recommendation of to-die-for dumplings at Deluxe Green Bo. I recovered from my maxi dress drama with a feast of split satay soup buns, pork dumplings, Shanghai rice and spring rolls. ($12).

8pm: I popped into Union Market on my way to the pub to get some flowers for our recently married friend ($19.59). Unfortunately, they did not last long in Empellon Al Pastor, despite our heroic efforts to save them with sugar water. Here, myself and my travelling companion split rounds ($19.31 each including tip) and then ended the night in another Irish bar, ironically called Sláinte. They had a two drink minimum here for card payments; who was I to argue? ($18 including tip).

Sunday

Total: $183.90

11am: We made a beeline to Williamsburg Pizza to sate our longing for a proper New York slice, before heading to the High Line. I tried the Bianco, which had fresh mozzarella, ricotta, pecorino and parmigiano-reggiano. If someone tells you there's such a thing as too much cheese, they're lying. I washed it down with a can of Coke ($7.50 including tip).

12pm: I succumbed to the siren call of Sephora, despite previously insisting that this was not a shopping holiday. Those minis are just too hard to resist. ($105).

1pm: After my retail pitstop we arrived at the High Line: a 1.5 mile long public park built above a historic freight line. Entry is free, so we split an ice cream sandwich from the Melt Bakery cart to cool off. ($2.50).

L-R: The High Line on a sunny day; enjoying a Melt Bakery ice cream sandwich.
L-R: The High Line on a sunny day; enjoying a Melt Bakery ice cream sandwich. © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

4pm: I avoided the lure of skincare stores in Koreatown and went directly to a Korean food hall to sample yet more dumplings and bubble tea ($14.90).

A strawberry green bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea, accompanied by some fried chicken dumplings.
A strawberry green bubble tea from Kung Fu Tea, accompanied by some fried chicken dumplings © Fionnuala Jones/Lonely Planet

6pm: Fuelled by dumplings, we decided to dance the night away at Tiki Disco at The Well. Had I known about the eye-watering $30 card minimum, I might have made other plans. Nevertheless, it was a fun night of disco and drinking; sadly this resulted in none of the photos being safe for work. ($50).

11pm: We made a brief stop at The Graham but my Sephora guilt ensured I didn't order another drink. But I did say an enthusiastic yes to mozzarella sticks from a local takeaway ($4).

Monday

Total: $22.84

12pm: As the skies opened on our last day, we decided to shelter at The Met. We were particularly interested in the exhibition 'Camp: Notes On Fashion' because of our keen interest in the Met Gala. Our budget lunch was consumed in Chick-Fil-A: a perfect choice for something cheap, cheerful and chicken-y. I went for chicken tenders and a lemonade ($12.84).

1:30pm: Our desire to arrive dry meant an Uber ($10) was the only option. After a 10 minute wait in line (don't be intimidated by the queues, they move fast), we were inside. General admission is $25 but and worth every penny. The Play It Loud exhibition featuring the instruments of rock and roll was a highlight.

4PM: We made the journey back to our friend's apartment to collect our stuff and head to JFK for our flight.

The final tally

Total: $482.86

Notes: I'm under no illusion about how lucky I am that I didn't have to pay for accommodation; it's prohibitively expensive in NYC. I did the trip entirely cashless, initially putting $100 on my Revolut card to avoid fees and using my normal bank card when it ran out. This was solely down to poor organisation on my part. I avoided taking out money where possible, but you'll still incur fees for making card payments in the US. Next time I'll definitely take out half of my spending money in cash and put everything else on my Revolut.

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