This article was contributed by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, the most comprehensive travel search website allowing you to find the best deals on anything from flights and hotels to train rides and Homeaway rentals.
Traveling is one of the quintessential experiences of young adulthood, and a lack of funds is no reason to give up one’s dreams of seeing new places and trying new things. In fact, traveling on a budget adds an element of creativity to the whole affair. Instead of doing the typical tourist activities, someone who travels frugally will find himself mimicking the day-to-day existence of someone who actually lives in the city they’re visiting. It is always fun to visit the fanciest restaurant or the most exclusive club in any locale, but the true flavor of a city can only be felt by experiencing how the locals really live.
Every city is brimming with fun activities that are either very affordable or completely free. Even New York City can be very easily managed on a budget. Many of the city’s most famous museums offer free admission on certain days, or if one has a valid student ID card, but it might be more enjoyable to forgo the familiar works of art in favor of a small gallery.
Art galleries are open to the public and rarely charge an entry fee. This is where young talent is nurtured, and the static and sterile nature of a museum does not compare to the excited buzz of being among the first to see potentially iconic works before anyone else knows about them. A traveler would be getting a true taste of the city by exposing himself to local art before it becomes mainstream and takes on meaning beyond what the artist originally intended. Seeing art in the city of its creation is the only way to absorb its true message.
Attending small music venues is another essential New York experience. New York City is practically synonymous with underground independent music. Nearly every genre and movement in popular music has had ties to New York. The American incarnation of punk was born in CBGB, and the more recent garage rock revival sprung up on the Lower East Side. Most of the bands playing in downtown venues will never graduate to larger stages, but that is part of the fun of seeing them. Much of the music is brilliant and powerful, and only a handful of people will ever hear it. For the cost of a few drinks at the bar, tourists can count themselves among the lucky few.
There is no need to research restaurants before arriving in the city. One cannot walk more than a few feet without coming across a bar, restaurant, cafe or food truck. Some of the best and most affordable eateries are not listed in tourist guides, so the easiest way to find a cheap place to eat is to keep walking with an open mind.
Accommodations are the one area in which it is best to plan ahead. Hotels in New York City are notoriously expensive. Sites like Hipmunk help tourists find places to stay that are off the radar and within their budgets. Hostels are great options for people who travel light and are not too concerned about privacy. Some people prefer travelers’ inns, which feature private bedrooms and two or three shared bathrooms on each floor.
No matter how one manages his or activity checklist, the most important part of traveling is doing it at all. Keeping costs low forces travelers to be spontaneous and adventurous.
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