Frugal Life · Travel · Uncategorized

New York City in a Weekend

I have always dreamed of visiting New York City.  There is just something about the lights, the buildings, and the hustle and bustle that appealed to me.

I’ve talked about this dream with my sister for years and one day she stopped me and said, “Let’s do it! Let’s go visit New York City this year.”  And I said, “Ok!”  We decided to try to keep the budget low and to only visit for 3 nights, one weekend.  We made our list of “must stops” and started planning.

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Day 1:  Thursday

We arrived in NYC at around 6 pm and after checking into our hotel we hit the streets!

*Money Saving Tip*

–We booked our hotel Priceline.  We found that they had the best deals (this is NOT sponsored!).  We also used ebates which gave us an extra 6% off the price.  We scored a boutique midtown hotel (with a king bed) for only $200/night.

Our first stop was pizza at Uncle Pauls Pizza.  The pizza was delicious and only $4/slice.  Win, Win!

After dinner we walked around and enjoyed sight seeing.  We visited Grand Central Station, St.Patricks Cathedral, window shopped down 5th Avenue, and ended the night in Times Square.  Everything we saw Thursday night was completely free!

 

Day 2:  Friday

Breakfast Friday morning was at Home Front Deli.  This is a small little restaurant, but boy was it delicious!  They made the best bagels I tried all weekend!  I highly recommend!

After breakfast we headed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met for short.  This was one of my favorite stops of the entire trip!  It is WELL worth the money!  You could spend DAYS in this museum.  We focused on the Egyptian Room, The American Wing, and European Art.  Everything was absolutely incredible!

 

*Money Saving Tip*

–To help on costs we bought the Explorer Pass.  This was the cheapest option we found for us to be able to see our “must stop” places.  We used it for The Met, Top of the Rock and 9/11 Memorial Museum.  You can customize the Explorer Pass, enabling you to pick and choose the places you want to go.

After The Met we rode the bus down to Top of the Rock and were treated to absolutely amazing views of New York City.  Going to the top of Top of the Rock is not only cheaper than the Empire State Building, the views are also better.

 

Next, was lunch at The Halal Guys for the best Gyros I have ever had.  This is seriously a must stop.  The portions was huge and only around $8 for a platter.

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That night we had tickets to go see The Lion King on Broadway.  This was one of our big splurges for the trip and it did not disappoint!  We paid full price for our tickets to The Lion King, but there are ways to get discount Broadway Tickets.

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*Money Saving Tip*

—You can buy same day Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth located right in Times Square.  These same day tickets are heavily discounted for a select shows.

–For Hamilton tickets download the Hamilton app onto your phone.  You can enter a lottery with the winner given the option to buy two Broadway Hamilton tickets for just $10 a piece.  Warning:  I have entered this lottery numerous time with no success!

–Check out Today Tix for discounted tickets that can be bought in advance.  We used this service for a Broadway show Saturday night and were very pleased with it!

Day 3:  Saturday

Saturday breakfast was at Zuckers Bagels.  I didn’t enjoy this breakfast quite as much as Home Front Deli, but it was still really good!

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Immediately after breakfast we headed to the 9/11 museum.  We were treated to an amazing museum full of heart wrenching photos, survivor stories and gut wrenching facts.  We spent about 3 hours walking around and taking it all in.  We honestly could have spent all day there, they had so many exhibits and information to look through.

 

 

After the museum we headed Downtown to hop onto the Staten Island Ferry.  This is a completely FREE ferry that takes you right past the statue of liberty.  It was so simple to walk right on to the ferry.  I recommend going to the very back so that you can also be treated to a view of the NYC skyline.

The views of the Statue of Liberty were even better than we had expected!  Once we arrived to New Jersey, we walked off, went around the corner and walked right onto the next ferry to ride back to Manhattan.  This was really easy, and you just can’t beat FREE!

Next, we headed to Brooklyn for a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a wet and stormy day, but we still enjoyed the views on the bridge. The architecture was incredible!

 

That evening we had dinner at The Melt.  They make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.  The food was amazing and very budget friendly!

After dinner we headed to another Broadway Show, Waitress.  To save money on this show we bought our tickets using TodaysTix.

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Day 4:  Sunday

We had half a day on Sunday before needing to catch our plane.  Breakfast was at Wafels and Dinges.  Which is absolutely delicious, and a MUST stop when in New York City.

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Following my sweet tooth we went straight from breakfast to Levain Bakery for the absolute BEST cookie I have EVER had!!!  You MUST, I repeat, MUST stop by Levain Bakery.  Their cookies were absolutely amazing!

 

We ate our cookies in Central Park and then spent the rest of the morning wandering the paths and enjoying the day.  It truly is a beautiful park with so many unique areas and sights.  I loved strolling through all of the different areas.

 

Our trip was a busy whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change anything!  We were able to see everything we wanted to see, and had a lot of fun doing it!  I can’t wait to go back again one day and visit even more of the amazing sights.

Be sure to check out my post 20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City for more budget friendly New York City ideas!

 

 

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Travel

Kauai on a Budget

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I have never seen anywhere more breathtaking than the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Kauai.  With it’s gorgeous green mountains, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque beaches, it is my idea of a perfect vacation spot.

 

When I was planning our trip to Kauai I spent hours and hours researching everything there is to know about the “Garden Isle.”  I wanted to enjoy every inch of the island, but without having to spend much money.

I read a lot of books about Kauai and the very very best one I found was The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed.  This book was everything!  I consulted it about beaches, hotels, restaurants, etc.  EVERYTHING you could want to know about Kauai is in this wonderful perfect book.  My husband teases me that I have it memorized because of all the facts I kept spouting out of it.  🙂  Seriously though, if you are going to Kauai read The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed.

After a lot of research and planning we were able to plan the perfect vacation and stayed within the budget.  Today’s post is going to be sharing what worked for us and all of the money saving tips I learned along the way.

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Where to Stay

We were able to find a beautiful condo to rent for $100 a night on Airbnb .  It was a studio on the beach with a small kitchenette.  The kitchenette enabled us to make a lot of our meals right in the condo.

Airbnb is seriously amazing for finding great deals on lodging while traveling.  It has a lot of options and was very easy to work with.  I will use them every single time I travel to Hawaii.  You can get $40 off your vacation rental if you book it using this link!

We decided to stay on the East Shore so that we would have easy access to both the North and South sides.  It was only ten minutes from the airport and very quick and easy to find.  The East Shore hotels were all cheaper than the other areas, which is exactly what I was looking for!

Rental Car

If you want to spend any time outside of your resort you will need a rental car in Kauai.  We reserved an economy sized vehicle on discounthawaiicarrental.com for ONLY $6 a day.  YES!  You read that right!  $6 a day!   The prices change often so you will want to check the website frequently, and when you find a low price make sure to snatch it up because the price will change.

Where to Eat

We ate most of our meals in our condo.  Immediately after arriving in Kauai we went to the local grocery store and stocked up on easy quick foods to prepare throughout the week.  We stopped at Foodland in Kapaa, but I know others who do their shopping at Walmart or Costco.  We had fruit and toast for breakfasts, packed sandwiches for lunch and stopped for quick dinners while we were out exploring.  A few of our favorite cheap eateries were Tacos Al Pastor, Da Crack, Hanalei Taro & Juice Company, and Puka Dog.

We ate Shaved Ice every day while in Hawaii.  It is so good and is a MUST try!  Our favorite shaved ice was at Hee Fat General Store in Kapaa.  We always ordered one to share to save a little extra money.  We did splurge on ordering real fruit syrup, this was definitely worth the splurge.

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What to Do

There are so many fun FREE activities to do on Kauai.  You do not need to spend a lot of money, or any money to have a great vacation.  We had a great week adventuring around the island and spent very little money on activities.

Snorkel Bobs

We rented snorkel gear for the week from Snorkel Bobs.  It was only about $15 for the entire week.  It was so nice to have the gear with us all the time so we could pull it out whenever we came across a great snorkel area.  Our two favorite snorkeling beaches are Hideaways and Turtles.  Snorkeling is very best in the morning, so get their early!

Beaches

Kauai has so many beautiful beaches.  With golden coarse sand, blue turquoise water, and large green mountains for a backdrop it is the perfect place to spend a day relaxing and playing in sun and sand.  The beaches and parking are all FREE, so take advantage of them!

Our favorite beaches on the North Shore were Kee and Hideaways.  Kee is at the end of the very end of the road.  Parking is limited and fills up quickly, so I recommend getting there first thing.  Hideaways is a little bit harder to find which makes it a perfect, quiet, and uncrowded beach.  To get there we used valet parking at the St.Regis Princeville (this is free, but it is a good idea to tip!).  There is a trail a short distance away to hike down to the beach.  The trail is steep and slippery, so wear good shoes.

 

Our favorite beach on the South Shore was Kiahuna Beach, also known as Sheraton Beach.  Kiahuna Beach is located directly in front of the Sheraton Kauai Resort.

Hiking

Kauai is known as the adventure island for good reason!  There are so many beautiful hikes to do and beautiful places to explore.

Our first day we hiked along the Kalalau Trail.  This is an intense 11 mile long hike along the Napali Coast.  We just hiked the first two miles of it to Hanakapiai Beach.  The views along this trail were incredible.  The majority is right alongside the ocean.  The Kalalau trail starts out extremely rocky and steep, so be prepared.  It is worth hiking the first 1/2 mile at least for a fantastic view of Kee Beach.

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Secret Falls

Secret Falls is a magestic 100 foot waterfall deep in the rainforest.  The only way to get to  Secret Falls is to kayak down the Wailua River and then hike about 30 minutes through the rainforest.  You could pay for a guided tour that will take you to Secret Falls, but we decided to go with a much cheaper option.

We rented a kayak from Kamokila Hawaiian Village in Kapaa.  It is right on the Wailua River and you launch the kayak right from the village.  It cost us $35 for a daily rental.  They give you a map showing where you need to go and will answer any questions you might have.

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We kayaked about 15 minutes up the river, docked the kayaks and hiked to the waterfall.  This trail is very muddy, so bring water shoes!  We passed MANY people hiking barefoot because it was to muddy for sneakers.  When we arrived at Secret Falls a large tour group just happened to be leaving and we were able to have the entire place to ourselves.  It was so fun swimming under the waterfall.

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Once we got back to our kayak we paddled up stream another 5 minutes to a cliff jumping spot and were able to jump off the cliff and swim in the river for a little while.

We loved this entire day and it was really so easy to rent and find where to go all by ourselves.

Sightseeing

There are so many great sight seeing stops around the island.  They are all free and fun to stop at.  I’ll list a few of our favorites.

East Shore

Wailua Falls:  These falls are very easy to get to, and a only a quick stop alongside the road.  They are absolutely breathtaking!

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Opaekaa Falls:  I’ll be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by Opaekaa Falls.  But, I do know of many others who have enjoyed seeing them.  They are very easy access right off the road and only take a few minutes to view.

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South Shore

Tree Tunnel:  While driving into Poipu on the South Shore you will pass through what’s known as the Tree Tunnel.  It is a beautiful section of road lined with Eucalyptus Trees.

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Spouting Horn:  Spouting Horn is located near Poipu Beach.  A blowhole is naturally formed when water crashes through a small hole in the lava rocks.  The water can reach up to 50 feet in the air.

Waimea Canyon:  The road to Waimea Canyon is a little long, but the views are spectacular!  It is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  The reds of the canyon next to the green vegetation were breathtaking!  We did not spend a lot of time here, but there are a lot of hikes in the area that all sound fun to do and explore.  Drive a little further up the road and view the Kalalau Valley Lookout.  It is another view of the beautiful Napali coast and was once home to an ancient Hawaiian village. The history buff in me enjoyed imagining what life was once like there.

 

North Shore

The North Shore is my FAVORITE and the next time I go to Kauai I will be spending all of my time here!  It is so green and dense with vegetation.  This is the part of the Island that gives Kauai the nickname the Garden Island.

Kilauea Lighthouse:  This picturesque lighthouse is located just a few minutes off the main  highway.  It is a beautiful sight..  We only viewed it from the parking lot, but I know that there is a bird sanctuary and other fun things to see.

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Hanalei Pier:  Hanalei Beach wasn’t my favorite, but it was a very pretty area to view and I am glad we made the visit.  It is a popular place for boogie boarding and surfing and we were able to catch a few waves and a bunch of laughs for the afternoon.  I did love walking out on the pier and watching the locals jumping off.

Hanalei Valley Lookout:  Right along the main road right, just past Princeville you will find this beautiful area of taro farms.  They look like a green patchwork quilt and is a great stopping spot for a few pictures.  When we were there we counted 8 waterfalls on the mountain right behind the field.  It was a breathtaking sight!

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Souvenirs

The best place to find souvenirs is at the ABC Store.  We stopped at the one in Kapaa on our last day in Kauai.  I was happily surprised and impressed to see how much cheaper the souvenirs were here than at the other places we looked at during the week.  They have all your typical souvenirs; shirts, trinkets, food, etc.  We bought a few things to bring back home to our kids.

 

If you do some research and planning you can visit Kauai on a budget!  We spent less than $2,000 for our entire trip.  Half of that was spent on airfare.

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Have you ever been to Kauai?  What was your favorite thing that you did?