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(Not A) Native New Yorker

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

I'm not a native New Yorker, but I sure love to pretend I am for at least 24 hours. Traveling around the city that never sleeps on an (attempted) budget, taking photos, eating lots of inadvisable things that will likely make my nutritionist (if I had one lol) weep with despair.


I'm a wanderer, so it's a little surprising it took me this long to get into the groove of solo traveling. My favorite thing to do in a new city is put in my headphones and let my feet take me wherever they want. Here's my youtube playlist and some of my favorite wandering shots of the city!

... And then blog about it afterwards, of course. And then cry over my finances. Just kidding. I really do try to plan it out beforehand, although you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men... yeah they tend to get waylaid by incidentals and mysteriously delicious smelling streetside snacks.

Projected Cost vs. Actual Cost:

As you can see from my excel spreadsheet screenshots, I learned a valuable lesson from the city that never sleeps: hotel taxes are insane. The price I was given when booking versus the price tag I got at the end of the stay was at least $100 off, and that was entirely due to miscellaneous NYC hotel taxes. Yikes. Definitely need to remember that the next time I'm booking something that *seems* surprisingly cheap.

Other surprises: La Guardia was a fabulous airport and the new makeover does it wonders. I was in and out, which was a pleasant surprise. But! Public transportation from La Guardia into the city was a bust. A bus had to be involved - a bus with 20+ stops that took around 45 minutes assuming it was running on time and you weren't waiting around for an extra 15 at the bus stop. I took a lyft both in and out from the nearest subway stop, and that wasn't exactly cheap either, coming in at around $20 one way (tip included). I had expected an airport in the middle of the city to have subway access; learned that lesson the hard way. In other news JFK does have its own subway stops even if it is farther out than LGA. Maybe something to consider?

Surprisingly didn't spend as much on food as I had anticipated. I grabbed snacks from Cafe Zaiya in the Kinokuniya Bookstore right after checking in around 2pm, ate an onigiri and a melon pan right in nearby Bryant Park while reading the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 I picked up. That filled me up until I met up with my friend in the city, where we got Ethiopian down in East Village ($40 each with tip). The next day I had myself a lovely morning coffee walk in Central Park before I checked out of the hotel on Sunday, walked with my bag down to Ootoya for a quick lunch before I headed out back to La Guardia. Cost around $36 (pricey, yikes!) but it was too delicious to complain about. It really gave me nostalgia for that Japanese ryokan experience with their adorable set meals.

Japanese Set Meal at Ootoya
Japanese Butter Fish Set

Honestly the reason I didn't spend nearly as much as I anticipated is because I made the somewhat painful but necessary decision to just grab my coffees at Starbucks instead of touring the cute but boujee coffee shops around the city. I had a ton of Starbucks monopoly money in my account (which due to how I buy gift cards using my Chase Freedom I don't count in my regular budget) so I bit the bullet and just binged on Pistachio Lattes. I saved so much on the coffee I ended up slurging on a late night Cheesecake and cookie from nearby Lili's Bakery after stumbling out of the 57th street subway on my way back to the hotel from East Village. Another money saver? The fact that my mentioned friend I grabbed dinner with doesn't drink! If we'd gone out for even a single night cap, I would have expected to pay something around $20 for a single drink.

The Hotel:

So the only reason I picked this place as opposed to being my usual Marriott loyalist self was because I'm trying to rack up my Southwest points by using their hotel booking system, which has most definitely gotten me out of my Marriott comfort zone. Aside from location, I wouldn't call it anything to write home about. I *thought* it had been worth it considering the price, but after getting hit with all those fees I'm reconsidering that. This hotel was NOT worth $400 a night. It was barely worth $290, or whatever it had been when I had originally seen it when booking (plus the taxes and fees at booking, plus additional once I arrived?!)

Alas, I suppose that's what happens when you decide to stay not only in Manhattan, but Times Square to boot. For the record, the Midtown / Time Square / Lower Central Park area is still my favorite place to stay in the city and I'll pay for it if I have to. I love the walkability of it; I love how exciting it is no matter the hour. The only area I loved more was the Two Bridges/Dumbo area, with its stunning views of the bridges and the city lights against the water.

The Transportation:

As I said earlier, excellent. So easy to get around from Time Square.

People can hate on the subway all they like and they're probably right, but I'm willing to wait and ride around for that flat rate fee. Again, it was sort of annoying having to get off around Jackson Heights area to catch a Lyft if you want to avoid the finicky bus system, but only from a monetary perspective. Lyft and Uber are abundant in NYC, it's never an issue finding one and the wait is almost always less than 5 minutes.

On the subject of La Guardia: They have a shake shack but no priority pass lounges, rip. They do, however, have a suuuper nice Centurion lounge for any Amex Card holders!

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