Broadway on a Budget

Create your Broadway dream vacation -- without breaking the bank

Times Square
Times Square. Getty Images

Getting to Carnegie Hall may take “practice, practice, practice,” but seeing Broadway shows on a budget takes planning, planning, planning. The glittering lights of the Great White Way beckon you to the Big Apple even as the cost of travel and show tickets induces “sticker shock.”

Never fear! Choosing your shows and buying online before your travel dates can be the secret to affording Broadway on a budget.

Travel to Broadway in New York

Travel options to New York include flying, riding a bus, or even a scenic car or train ride. Buying your tickets well ahead of time ensures the cheapest fares for all travel options.

  • Bus: A chartered bus offers special travel opportunities from nearby cities. For instance, a luxury bus shuttle from Washington, D.C., to Times Square, New York, is only $30 per person, each way. At $60 round-trip, that is significantly cheaper than a plane ticket.
  • Train: Trains still operate from select cities and provide the advantage of seeing pristine countryside. Long train rides can be as expensive as airfare, especially when booking a sleeping booth for privacy. Riding the rail from a neighboring state, however, presents a unique, picturesque trip without breaking the budget.
  • Airplane: Most people fly to New York City, choosing either LaGuardia Airport or John F. Kennedy International Airport. From the airport, take a cab or city bus to your hotel destination. Sign up for free e-newsletters from the airlines’ websites to be notified of airfare specials to your preferred cities.
  • Car: If you're traveling by personal vehicle, figure gasoline and parking fees into your overall budget. Most hotels charge for valet parking in the range of $50 per day for a car and $80 for an SUV.

Tickets to Broadway Shows

Broadway ticket prices span the range from $50 to over $200. For your family of four, assume an average ticket price of $75, or $300 per show.

The seats for tickets of this price will be in the back of the front mezzanine or in the front of the rear mezzanine but still have great visibility.

Online sites such as TheatreMania.comPlaybill.com, and BroadwayBox.com offer discounts of 30 to 40%, but vary by show and by date. Also, buying tickets from a discount website might incur minimal fees associated with buying online.

If you get to New York and are open to specials offered that particular day, go to the TKTS booth in Time Square at Broadway and 47th Street. TKTS, a service of the Theatre Development Fund, offers daily specials of surplus seats up to 50% off the original price. They even sell standing room only tickets, the cheapest tickets available.

In general, the least expensive seats will be for matinees on Wednesday and Saturday or evening performances on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. If you plan your trip well in advance, watch the theatre discount sites to see which specials pop up and grab your tickets to secure your seats to your favorite shows.

Hotels

Hotels in the Theatre District are expensive, charging anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars per night. With dazzling features like express elevators, one-of-a-kind views of Time Square, or a rotating roof restaurant, these four-star hotels certainly earn their fee.

Smaller hotels in and near the Theatre District offer rooms starting at $200 per night. A short walk to the subway or bus stop means you are never far from the action of Broadway.

Large and small hotels offer amenities such as plush bedding, complimentary breakfast, and pay-per-day wireless Internet. Some hotels do allow pets but charge a non-refundable sanitation fee of $250. The hotel concierge can also assist you in getting tickets to shows and reservations at popular restaurants.

Hostels

If you book well in advance, nearby hostels offer cheaper lodging at an average daily rate of $30 per person. Convenient to everything, they are accessible to the Theatre District via cabs, city buses, or subway.

Hostels are designed for students and travelers who need cheaper housing than chain or boutique hotels. Some hostels do not have locks on the doors but have rental lockers available. Each hostel has different amenities, such as a laundry facility or game room, or rules implementing a curfew or guest age limit. Hostels allow stays up to 14 days, but most do not allow pets.

The hostels’ rooms feature bunk beds that sleep four, six, or eight to a room with a shared bathroom, trading hotel perks and privacy for economical dorms. Some hostels do offer private rooms with one or two double or queen beds, averaging $170 per night, which is still cheaper than nearby hotels.

Taxes and Fees

When calculating your budget, be sure to account for the various taxes and fees for New York hotels, hostels, and bed-and-breakfasts.

Required fees include Sales Tax at 8.875%, the New York Hotel Occupancy Tax of $1 to $2 plus 5.875% per day, and the daily Unit Rate of $1.50.

Pre-Show Dining

Eating in the Theatre District can be done affordably by avoiding the more expensive dinner hours and famous restaurants. Choose smaller, local eateries over chain restaurants for a taste of the “real” New York at a lower cost. Local delis serve sandwiches at $8 to $10, satisfying your hunger and your wallet.

Hot dog stands are as synonymous with New York as the Yellow Cab, the Empire State Building, and Broadway itself. Whether tucked into a stainless steel pushcart or a full kitchen on wheels, every wiener, bun, and topping configuration imaginable can be found on a nearby corner. Inexpensive and portable, you can dress your classic hot dog low-key or elevate it to luxe street-food.

Fast food chains are situated amongst the sit-down restaurants. Feeding your family from a healthy value menu will save your money for souvenirs at the theatre.

Broadway Travel Packages

Travel agencies and hospitality groups buy tickets to popular shows, packaging them with flights and hotel rooms. Many hotels offer a Broadway show package that includes pre-show dinner.

Depending on your budget, working with a travel agent or hotel concierge may help get you organized.

If you plan to stay a week or more, sublet an apartment or timeshare condo. You will need to bring in your own food and linens, but this may be cheaper than a week-long stay at a hotel and can feel just like home.

TIPS:

  • Travel to NYC off-season to get the best rates for flights and hotels.
  • Attend matinees and weekday evening performances.
  • Buy tickets online or at the TKTS booth for discounted prices.
  • Stay in a hostel instead of a hotel, booking it well in advance.