New York is a place the American public dreams of going and many spend months saving up for a vacation of a lifetime. They may ask an extended amount of time off of work just to fly or drive there and spend all of their savings on expensive hotel rooms, high-priced taxis, and steeply priced admission fees to all of tourist attractions that they feel they must pay to live out the complete “New York City experience.” However, mine and Jonathan’s trip looked a lot different from what I just described. We didn’t break the bank, we didn’t spend hours out of our way to travel there, and we were able to receive a well-rounded New York adventure in just 12 hours. This may sound a little too good to be true but it is possible and very doable for a young couple who have the desire to travel but have always been told that they do not have the wallet to match it.

Things you will need:

-A cheap way to get to NYC or go through it (we had a 16 hour layover in JFK Airport on our way to Europe).

-Good walking shoes.

-Layered clothing.

-A backpack or bag to keep personal items safe.

-Non-perishable snacks.

-$25-$30 per person (depending on how much you want to spend on food).

We booked our flight to Europe, choosing the flight which included a 16 hour layover in JFK Airport just outside of New York City. Usually 16 hour layover is not a positive thing while traveling but we decided to make the best of it. Our layover was from 6AM through 10PM which gave us plenty of daylight to complete our checklist of activities. We took an AirTrain into the city which is $5 per person each way and not included in the budget of the day. If you are coming in from the airport you will have to allow for this extra cost. However, compared to getting a taxi, Uber, or taking a bus, the price is very affordable.

From the AirTrain, we took the the E subway into Midtown and got off at the 5Av/53 St station. (This ride was $2.50 per person.) An important thing to have when navigating the NYC subway is a map that shows all of the different subway lines, stops and street names. We simply walked into the Hilton on 6th Av and the concierge gave us a complimentary one at our request. We stopped at Le Pain Quotidien on 53rd St to plan out our day’s itinerary and also to fuel up coffee and a croissant. (This breakfast was around $10.) In Midtown there are many attractions that are completely free to walk by and examine such as the Rockefeller Center, St. Thomas Church, and Times Square.

After we had completed Midtown, we got on the subway once again at $2.50/person and rode the 4,5,&6 line up to 77 St and got off in the Upper East Side. After a short walk we got to the Metropolitan Art Museum where the admission fee is only suggested and each pays according to what they can afford. We purchased tickets and spent a couple of hours exploring Egyptian, American, European, Greek, Roman, and Modern Art. In order to cover the entire museum, we would have needed the full day but we had to budget out how much time could be spent at each place. Lunch consisted of a gyro dish from a nearby food cart for only $7 which we enjoyed while strolling through Central Park and sitting by the pond watching the miniature sailboats go by. There are also bikes for rent that you can use to get a more exhaustive view of the park.

We got back on the subway ($2.50/person) and took the 5 train down to Bowling Green and headed directly for the Staten Island Ferry which will give you a free ride to Staten Island and back. This ride takes about 45 minutes and is a wonderful way to see the entire city from the water and to get a good view of the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge without having to spend a lot of time or money in order to experience both. Next, we walked a little ways over to Freedom Tower and were able to look at the 9/11 memorial site as well as go in the World Trade Center Mall which is right across the street and is beautifully and modernly designed. It would be a good idea to try to plan your NYC trip on a Tuesday because every Tuesday from 5-7 admission into the 9/11 history museum is free. In order to get in, however, you must arrive an hour early because they quickly sell out of tickets. In the Downtown area there are more free attractions to visit such as Wall Street, the Stock Exchange, Tiffany’s, and Trinity Church.

We finished our final meal of the day ($12) at a local market near the 9/11 memorial site which offered a variety of foods and prices for us to choose from. We then took our final subway ($2.50/person) back to the AirTrain which returned us to the airport in time to catch our international flight that evening. We were exhausted but pleased with our crash-course of NYC attractions and left feeling guiltless over the money that had been spent that day.

Meghan Mathews