10 Ways to Love New York Without Breaking the Bank

New York City is one of the most captivating cities in the world, and one of the most expensive. Fortunately there is an abundance of things to see and do for free or a reasonable fee. For me, exploring one of the distinct neighborhoods is a great way to spend an afternoon. Here are 10 more great things to see and do in New York without breaking your budget.

1 Bike, walk or row through Central Park

For the best escape from the city, rent a bike, take a walk, or rent a rowboat from the boathouse in Central Park.



2 Get up close and personal with the Statue of Liberty

A visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are a must on any trip to New York. The $18 ticket including both is already good value. But for only $3 more for a crown access ticket, you will receive priority entry, saving you wait time, and given access to climb the 393 stairs up inside the statue for an unforgettable view from the crown. These tickets go fast and must be booked in advance.



See a Broadway play for half price

For same day tickets at up to 50% off, head to the official TKTS booth, located “under the red steps” on
Broadway and 47th Street. It helps to be flexible, but there is usually a good selection of plays available.

Times Square


Walk the High Line

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long new urban park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. Day or night, the park is a place for running, walking, eating, or just relaxing.There are food kiosks on the High Line between West 15th and West 18th Streets. See the High Line website for access points and more info. The High Line is fully wheelchair accessible. Note that dogs and bicycles are not allowed on the High Line.

Visit a world-class museum for free

NYC has some of the best museums in the world, and several offer free entry certain days of the week. Here are just a few examples: Fridays: Museum of Modern Art (4 to 8pm) and The Whitney Museum of American Art (pay what you will, 6 to 9pm) Saturdays: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (pay what you will, 5:45 to 7:45pm) Sundays: Frick Collection (pay what you will, 11am to 1pm)

Head to Chinatown for deals and dumplings

Check out the deals then try some authentic dumplings, in the home of the largest population of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere.

Watch a taping of your favorite show

Jimmy Fallon, Live with Kelly and Michael, The View, Saturday Night Live, and more all have live audiences that you can be part of for free. You have a better chance of getting in with advance tickets, but you can try arriving early and joining the standby lineup.

Visit the Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo is the largest urban wildlife preserve in the United States, and offers pay-what-you-wish admission every Wednesday.

Walk across the Brooklyn bridge

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge (from Manhattan to Brooklyn) is one of my favorite New York activities. There’s a dedicated pedestrian walkway above the car traffic and you will have the best views of the city . While you’re in Brooklyn, get a pizza at Grimaldi’s or hot chocolate from Jacques Torres Chocolate.



10 Hit some golf balls at at Chelsea Piers

Located on a scenic Hudson River pier, this four-tiered driving range features a 200-yard fairway, and an automatic ball tee-up system. Starting at $25/148 balls, off-peak hours.

How to Bring Your Dog to Europe

We recently took a six-week trip to the Costa del Sol in Spain, accompanied by our yorkshire terrier, Winston. He has travelled with us on several road trips in western Canada and the US, but we have never taken a pet on a transatlantic flight.  The experience turned out to be a great one for us as well as Winston.

Please note: the following reflects our experience bringing our dog from Canada to Europe. The procedure for pet travel from the United States to Europe is almost the same. Contact the USDA for more information and forms. Check with your veterinarian, preferred airline, and destination authority for travel and pet import requirements specific to your situation. The following information is essentially the same for cats and ferrets. 

Why we decided to take Winston on this trip:

  • Our stay was long enough to make the effort and expense worthwhile.
  • Winston is small enough to fly in the cabin with us.
  • We were planning to stay at one location, rather than moving a lot from place to place as we have on other trips.
  • There is no quarantine period for pets entering the EU from Canada (or the United States).

If we were taking a shorter trip or one with multiple stops, we wouldn’t bring Winston, as it wouldn’t be worth the expense, red tape, or the stress on our pet.

At a glance

  • Our cost: about $600 including airline fees, certification fee, and veterinarian fees.
  • Airline requirements: A pet reservation must be made in advance, and a limited number of pets are allowed in the cabin. Some airlines or specific flights don’t allow pets. Check airline pet policies before booking your flight.
  • Visit veterinarian at least one month prior to travel to check pet’s health, rabies vaccine and microchip. Second visit to veterinarian 7 to 10 days before travel to complete Veterinary Certificate.
  • Cross-border requirements: Completed Veterinary Certificate, endorsed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Planning ahead

  • Check the rules for bringing your pet into your choice of destination. Our dog was traveling from Canada to Spain, and there are different procedures depending on both the country of origin and the destination.
  • Certain dog breeds may be restricted from entering certain countries, so check with your destination country and airline.
  • We chose to avoid connecting through the UK, as they have their own process that would have meant additional paperwork and restrictions. There are also specific country requirements for Finland, Malta, and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Check with your airline for their pet policies, and to make a reservation on your specific flight.
  • Check the location of your nearest Canadian Food Inspection Agency office. If there is not one in your city you will need to allow time to have the Veterinary Certificate endorsed.

One month or more before travel

  • Obtain Veterinary Certificate form from a local Canadian Food Inspection Agency office or download the Veterinary Certificate. If convenient I would recommend picking up the form as the CFIA agent can explain how to fill it out.
    • It is recommended that the certificate be printed double-sided on letter-size paper in English and the language of the Member State of entry, and that it be completed in block letters. The reference number of the certificate must appear at the top of each page. The pages should be numbered (page # of total # of pages) so as to make each sheet part of an integrated whole. The signature and stamp must be in a different colour to that of the text of the certificate.
    • The certificate must be completed in English and the official language of the first point of entry into the EU.  (This really means the questions on the form are bilingual, not that your answers need to be.)
  • First visit to your veterinarian (This is not mandatory but recommended to be sure your pets identification and vacinations are in order)
    • Bring Veterinary Certificate. Even though it’s too early to fill out, it may be helpful to your veterinarian to see the form in advance, and know what the requirements are.
    • Pet Identification: make sure your pet’s identification either has a microchip compliant with ISO standard 11784, or a clearly readable tattoo applied before July 3, 2011. If the microchip isn’t compliant you may need to bring your own reader so the border agent can read the microchip.
    • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. The microchip or tattoo number must appear on the rabies vaccination certificate in order for it to be considered valid. There is a 21-day wait period if this is a primary rabies vaccination or if the booster vaccinations were not kept up-to-date.

One week to 10 days before travel

  • Second visit to the veterinarian for completion of the Veterinary Certificate
    • Note: The certificate is valid for 10 days from the date of issue by the licensed veterinarian until the date of the checks at the EU travellers’ point of entry, with the exception of dogs to Finland, Malta, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, where the echinococcus treatment will be the time-limiting factor for length of validity for entry into the EU (i.e. treatment must occur between 120 and 24 hours of entry into the EU). For the purpose of further movements within the Union, the certificate is valid for a total of four months from the date of issue or until the date of expiry of the anti-rabies vaccination, whichever date is earlier.
  • Present certificate to local CFIA office for endorsement
    • Fee is $20
    • When the certificate is presented for CFIA endorsement, it must be accompanied by supporting documentation, or a certified copy of it, including vaccination certificate and official microchip certification. The documentation must bear the identification details of the animal concerned.
    • It is also highly recommended to bring this supporting documentation for presentation at the port of entry in the EU , should it be requested. It is better to overwhelm them with paperwork at the border. Our experience was that it was barely glanced at in Spain, but better to be prepared.

Airline rules and fees

Check with your airline, and find out what their fees and requirements are for accompanying pets. Some allow pets within their weight restriction to fly in the cabin with the owner, and some don’t. There may also be a limit on the number of pets allowed in the cabin, so reservations are a must. Know your pet – if you think your dog will be barking for the whole trip, let him travel in the baggage hold for the consideration of your fellow passengers.

The following info is from KLM, but always check with your specific airline.

Pets in the cabin

  • In a suitable kennel or pet travel bag no higher than 20 cm (7.9 in). Your pet must be able to stand up and lay down comfortably.
  • Total weight of pet + travel bag or kennel may be max. 6 kg (13 lbs).
  • The kennel must fit under the seat in front of you for take off and landing.

Pets as check-in baggage in a ventilated part of the aircraft:

  • In a rigid plastic kennel that complies with IATA rules – for example those of the ‘Sky’ and ‘Vari’ brands. You can purchase such a kennel at larger pet shops or specialist shipping agents. Read more about kennels on www.iata.org.
  • Total weight of your pet and kennel combined may be max. 75 kg (165 lbs).
  • Instead, they are kept in a dark, heated, pressurized hold, which encourages them to sleep for the duration of travel.
  • Please note that airlines may not take pets as check-in baggage on specific flights during certain times of the year, due to risk of heat or cold.

Our experience

  • We purchased Winston’s travel bag a couple weeks before the flight. We used it for car rides and he began to associate being in the travel bag as a positive experience, as it meant he was coming along with us. The bag itself is a lightweight duffle bag specifically for pet travel, with ventilation on both ends as well as the side. This is essential so your pet gets enough air while down at your feet. During takeoff and landing the carrier has to slide under the seat in front of you, but at other times they can be between your feet or on your lap (but never out of the carrier).
  • Winston basically slept through most of the flight and didn’t seem too stressed or excited on the plane.
  • At the airport, let airline personnel know you have your pet with you in case there are any unexpected procedures.  We had to have our pet reservation approved at the airline ticket counter before we could check in.
  • At the advice of the airline, we did not let Winston eat or drink four hours before departure. At our connection we allowed him a tiny bit of water.
  • It is not recommended to tranquilize your pet, as altitude can affect medications.
  • You can’t bring pet food with you, but in Spain it was easy to find in pet stores, as well as larger grocery stores.
  • We unfortunately had two connections, in Amsterdam and in Paris.  In both airports there are no areas within security to take your pet outside to relieve themself. In Amsterdam we didn’t have a long enough layover to go through border control and security, and were told just to let Winston go on the floor, and it would be cleaned up. We actually saw another passenger with a dog lay out papers on the floor for their pet to go.   Winston isn’t used to this and wouldn’t go indoors so he actually didn’t pee until our next connection in Paris, where we had time to exit security and take him outside for a bit. (on a side note, in Paris nobody asked us for Winston’s papers when we went through border control.)
  • This is stating the obvious, but make sure your accommodations allow pets. We chose to stay in an apartment that included a yard which was a great home base.  Our apartment was in Nerja, which is a pet-friendly smaller town, with a lot of areas to go for walks.
  • Pets can be a great conversation starter! Winston enjoyed meeting other dogs and we enjoyed talking to other locals and vacationers.





How to See the Statue of Liberty with Crown Access

The first thing to do once you have booked your trip to New York City is to reserve your Statue of Liberty Crown Access ticket.

How to visit the Statue of Liberty Crown


Statue of Liberty Crown Access Tickets go fast and must be booked in advance

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are highlights of a trip to New York, and the $18 ticket including both is already good value. But for only $3 more for a Crown Access Ticket, you will be whisked past the regular line-up, saving you a lot of wait time, and given access to climb the 393 stairs up inside the statue for an unforgettable view from the crown.

The Statue of Liberty was designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States. Climbing up to the Crown is a much more intimate experience than the regular tour, as only a few people are allowed up at a time. In 1886 the Statue was completed, and she has since become a symbol of freedom to millions around the world.

Statue of Liberty – Original Torch


This tour would be a great family outing. The climb is equivalent to 27 stories, so might not be suitable for some younger children, while others will love the challenge. (Children 4-12: $12) Children must be at least four feet tall, and must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Plan your visit

  • Tickets can only be booked through Statue Cruises, the official provider. Other ticket sellers either don’t give access to the island, just a view from their boat, or are over-priced/scams.
  • Tickets can be purchased online or by phone: 1-877-LADY-TIX (1-877-523-9849) or 201-604-2800
  • Prices: $21/adult, $12/child, $17/senior
  • Ticket includes ferry and access to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
  • Audio Tours of Liberty and Ellis Islands are included.
  • This is a high security attraction, and it’s essential to visit the National Park Service information page, so you know what to expect.
  • All crown visitors must be able to climb up and down the 393 steps unassisted.
  • There are 162 narrow and tight steps from the top of the pedestal to the crown.
  • There is no elevator from the top of pedestal to the crown (the Statue’s feet to the Statue’s head).
  • The stairs to the crown are in an enclosed area that can have high temperatures in the summer, so bring water.
  • Try to book your tour earlier in the day as afternoon tours (2pm or later) won’t have enough time to stop at the the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.
  • Ferries leave from two locations: Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan in New York City, and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 – Emma Lazarus





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How to get tickets to the Statue of Liberty Crown

Three Quick Tips for Safe Travels

Be aware of any travel advisories, use common sense, and you don’t need to travel in fear. Here are three quick tips to keep safe while travelling.

When you are overloaded with baggage, you make an easy target.

We’ve traveled in and through London several times, and one time we were at the end of our trip, looking forward to relaxing a few days in a Bath B&B before heading home to Canada. We were carrying our suitcases, along with extra bags with things we bought along the way, and my purse was worn securely across my shoulder.

As we exited the packed subway at Paddington station and headed up the escalator, I realized my purse was gone.  My purse, which contained both our passports, and all but one credit card of my husband’s. All I can figure is the strap must have been cut, and I didn’t notice as my hands were full with my other bags.

After filling out a police report, we made our way to the Canadian embassy, and I was directed across the street where I could get a new passport photo taken.  I was reminded of that day for the next five years by that passport photo of a frazzled me, with messy hair, trying not to cry. Nobody was hurt, we were able to cancel our credit cards and replace our passports in time for our flight home, but I don’t want to repeat that experience. We’ve been in other locations where I’ve been more aware of pickpockets, etc., but in London I felt too safe and was not paying attention to the people around me.

There are at least three lessons I learned from this:
  1. Don’t keep all your valuables in one place. Each person should carry their own passport, and divide your credit cards and cash, carrying some in your wallet, some in a money belt, etc.
  2. If you travel light you can keep track of your things and be a less easy target.
  3. The place you are most comfortable can be where you are most vulnerable.

Take the advice of the locals.

When in Beijing we were told more than once by locals, don’t take a ride on the rickshaws, as they will rip you off.  We took that advice, until one day exiting the Forbidden City, we were tired and the rickshaws were lined up waiting at the exit. Being aware of their tactics, we wisely agreed on the fare to our hotel before hopping aboard. 50 Yuan, that’s five zero, fine.  It was a fun ride, and we arrived safely at our stop.

“That’s $50 US” the driver said.

“No” we said, “50 Yuan”.

“OK” he laughed, he couldn’t fool us.

Unfortunately, we realized we only had a 100 Yuan, and would need change. No problem, our driver had change, and he handed us the fifty and went on his way.  Only then we realized he gave us 50 Rubles, not Yuan, which was probably counterfeit at that. This only cost us about $9, but the lesson was, if the locals warn you, take their advice.

Look both ways when crossing the street.

We are used to automatically looking left when crossing the street, but in London (and Japan, New Zealand, etc.) you usually need to look right. It can be very easy to be on autopilot and step into the traffic.  Play it safe in a new city, and just look both ways.