Written by Ashley Romasko with contributions from Olivia O'Hara.
I stepped off the bus and got swept away in a crowd of people without knowing where I was going. Adrenaline, anxiety, and too much excitement hit all at once- my mind was overstimulated instantly. I looked to my right and saw the Genome Research Center, and I looked to my left and saw a few boys playing basketball on a small square between sky scrapers. The smells ranged from different ethnic foods to car exhaust and everybody was in a mad rush.
Welcome to New York.
My roommate, Olivia O'Hara, and I went to the city for two nights and three days. It was perhaps the shortest, most efficient trip I've ever been on. I want to share some of our travel secrets in case any of you need to head up there any time soon.
Total cost of transportation in and out of the city: $15
Olivia lives right outside of Washington D.C, so we took the Bolt Bus. At first when I thought about taking a bus for four hours I was a little bit hesitant, but the bus turned out to be the best means of transportation for many reasons: It was more comfortable than an airplane seat, it had free wifi, plugs for chargers between every seat, it dropped you off right in Soho, and it was the cheapest way of getting there by a long shot. It cost me $15 roundtrip to get in and out of the city. Normally if you purchase a ticket, it's about $30 one way, but if you book it far enough ahead of time there are discounted rates and special offers- thanks to Olivia for figuring that one out!
Total cost of lodging for two nights: $85
If you've never heard of Airbnb, you should go check it out right now. People living in cities all around the world rent out their full apartments, or rooms in their homes, to travelers near and far. They have to go through a registration process that verifies their services, which ensures safety and reliability. If you invite a friend to create an Airbnb account, both of you will have $20 of credit to use on your next reservation; Olivia took advantage of that and rented out a place in the middle of Little Italy. Our apartment was a five minute walk to a subway station, 10 minute walk to the best shops in Soho, and right on the border of Little Italy and Chinatown. We rented one room out and had access to the kitchen, shower, and common space for the two nights we were there. We definitely got the gritty, urban, New York experience- and where you stay doesn't matter, since you're never in the room.
Total cost of transportation within the city: $12
I don't care how much money you have, you should swallow your pride and learn how to ride a subway. For $3 a ride you can get anywhere in and around New York city. It's a quick means of getting places and it allows you to bypass a lot of traffic. It takes a second to figure out and it's easy to get a little bit lost, but if you stay calm and ask people around you for help you'll get where you need to go. Everybody is always in a rush to get on and off, but don't let them scare you- put on your game face and figure it out like a big kid.
Total cost of FOOD: $50-60
This part is up to you; eat what you like, because New York has it all. We took advantage of cheap street food and also took time to pick the perfect restaurant for each meal. Prior to the trip we collected recommendations from friends and family in the area. Ollie and I were referred to a place in Soho called Cafe Gitane that had French-Moroccan cuisine. The cafe style restaurant served cocktails, tea, treats, and amazing food; it was packed with NYU students and business professionals on a Wednesday night. There are ways to eat cheap and there are ways to eat expensive- if you love food, allot more money to that part of your trip.
Fun stuff and my personal input:
I hate Times Square; I can't stand how many people crowd the streets and how many advertisements are in my face at any given moment. Little did I know the quickest way to reach the fabric district from where I was standing required me to walk through Times Square. Olivia wanted to stop in the Hershey's store on the way through to check it out; we discovered that if you take their in-store survey you receive a free chocolate bar. Take advantage of that, it was the perfect afternoon snack!
Wear comfortable shoes because you will walk forever. In one day we walked 22,000 steps, or 10.5 miles. We saw a ton of amazing things by foot and I would recommend walking to anybody, but it was a hike. And don't be afraid to carry a backpack, because a lot of people that live there even do it; it makes sense to utilize the resources that will make your traveling easier, even if it's not the most glamorous look.
My purpose for this trip was to get fabric swatches for school and get a feel for the New York lifestyle without breaking my bank. With more time, possibilities are endless; all it takes is an email to reach out to your favorite bloggers and industry professionals to grab a cup of coffee and learn from them. New York is truly the land of opportunity and it's also a tough game to figure out. Someday soon I will learn to know and love it like the back of my hand, but for now I'm just out for a great adventure on a college budget.
Total trip (minus spending money): About $175
Visits: Williamsburg, Brooklyn; Brooklyn Bridge; Rockefeller Center; Times Square; Fifth Avenue; Fabric District; Soho; Little Italy; Chinatown; Fashion Avenue; and Ground Zero.