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New York City was AWESOME!


As mentioned previously, my Christmas gift to the kids was a trip to New York City! And we have just returned, it was so much fun! And I’m pretty proud of how we spent 4 nights and 5 days there relatively inexpensively. (I mean, it was downtown Manhattan over New Years Eve.)

Cost of the trip

Let’s break down the costs of the trip:

  • Hotel – Hyatt downtown Manhattan just two blocks from Times Square, two rooms – $3,998
  • Train – Amtrak roundtrip from our tiny town to Penn Station (purchased 7 tickets but only used 6) – $1,876
  • Transportation – 2 Uber rides, one to the hotel from Penn Station and one back to Amtrak on the day of departure – $57
  • Food – budgeted $200 per day, but was able to keep it a bit lower – $679
  • Entertainment – Big Bus city tour, 1 day pass – $270
  • Refund using travel insurance – able to get a portion of the costs of the trip back since my ex did not go – ($400)


Total cost: $6,480

How we kept costs down

I realize this is still a lot of money. We are extremely blessed to have been able to do this and cash flow it. (This is especially mention able since my ex had committed to helping financially with the trip and ended up not doing that so it fell to me.)

But we did keep it under control with a couple of things (and granted this works because my kids are older and all work:)

  • I let kids know about this present almost a year ago. This gave them time to make sure they could get the time off work, most of them paid, and to save spending money.
  • Expectations were set early on that I would only be covering one meal a day. Breakfast was included with the room and then we planned a “linner” together as family depending on the days itinerary.
  • Entertainment was selected to give us the most bang for our buck. The on and off option of the City Bus tour allowed us to see all the major highlights without the transportation costs.
  • Googling “free things to do in NYC” and “cheap places to eat in NYC” a lot over the year proved to be invaluable.
  • Good tennis shoes were a must have for all because we walked and walked and walked. This is my favorite way to see any city and the kids are used to it. We see more, get more photo ops (social media kids, you know?), and save a ton on transportation costs with 6 of us.

Do it again?

I asked the kids the first night at dinner about their opinion of the train trip. We were on there for 17 hours straight with a 1 hour break in DC. It was unanimous that train travel is good. Yeah!

Everyone had a great time in NYC. We spent about 1/2 of each day together touring and eating and then everyone had ample free time to do their own thing. Win-win! I’m already working on a plan for a Christmas gift trip for next year. And I think the kids are excited about the possibility.


Hope & kids in NYC

Can you see the Statue of Liberty in the background?




  • Reply Anonymous |

    I’m floored that you spent $6500 on a 4 night trip and you’re calling it inexpensive.

    • Reply Hope |

      4 nights for 6 people, just to make sure that is clear. And I have no regrets…priceless memories made for all!

    • Reply Ro |

      Anonymous: I guess you have never spent any time in New York City. Rooms alone are very expensive no matter where you stay. There were 6 of them and if you break it down that is about $240 a day for room, meals, etc. which in NYC is reasonable for sure. Everything in NYC is expensive but as Hope said the memories are worth it.

      • Reply Anonymous |

        Ro, I have been to NYC countless times. And you can see by other comments here that I’m not the only one who thinks this was an expensive trip. Of course Hope can do whatever she wants with her money. But this blog isn’t called “Making Memories” it’s about debt reduction.

  • Reply Consuelo |

    Hope: I have great respect for all you’ve been through both lately and for years before. That said, I must say I’m astounded that you spent about $6500 on a vacation when, I believe, you still have significant debt. I’m glad the whole family enjoyed the trip but it would be wonderful to see you re focus on getting out of debt for good!

  • Reply Laura |

    Yikes that hotel cost! Maybe next year rent a house somewhere? Good to hear everyone enjoyed it though. The train is great, we took it to Chicago for a family vacation once and the train ride felt like a part of the vacation the way a plane trip doesn’t.

    • Reply Hope |

      I did think of AirBNB or VRBO and looked at them briefly, but not being familiar with the landscape of New York at all, I wasn’t confident in choosing a location.

  • Reply Cwaltz |

    Did you have to “rob” categories to spend on this vacation? Your last “ budget” had $250 a month for travel and $150 a month for Christmas. 250x 12 = 3000 150 x 12 = 1800. So recapping, with even saving for a full year using both your Christmas and travel budget of $4800 , you would have overspent by $1700 dollars( and you traveled earlier this year meaning some of those funds should have already been expended.) I get this year has been hard. However, you have medical debt that you said would accrue interest. You have medical problems and admit to not knowing about your ability to retire. Doesn’t that scare you even a little? My other question is what is the point of budgeting if you treat the budget itself as just some imaginary guideline that is to be dispensed with the minute something you want to do more comes up? Speaking of debt- any idea when you plan on coming clean and showing everyone where you are in terms of debt?

    • Reply Hope |

      No, I didn’t. I think I mentioned several months ago that I was cutting back on all extra debt payments and spending to prepare for New York so I was prepared for the cost.

  • Reply LB |

    Hope, so happy for you and the kids!! I love Manhattan (former upstate NYer). you did great with expenses. For me, I would have done the same thing. making memories and fun is priceless. you are entitled to run your life the way you want. Don’t pay no mind to the naysayers. I’ve been a long time reader and i applaud you for the hard work you’ve put in.

  • Reply Denise |

    Sounds like a great gift for your family! For anyone else considering something like this, I highly recommend staying somewhere on the Upper West Side. You can get a nice hotel right on the subway line for much, much, MUCH cheaper and are still just a quick subway ride away from downtown.

    • Reply Hope |

      Great note! After realizing how easy the subway was and addressing the kids’ fears, they were all happy to jump on the subway. I LOVED mass transportation when I lived in Chicago and would happily use it again if I ever lived in a big city.

      • Reply Katie |

        I love NYC and have probably been there 40 times. Glad you enjoyed it. It is an expensive city and visiting without spending a lot takes some practice. Your hotel expense seemed like a lot to me. If you ever do it again, I would research the cheapest time of year to go, it can be a huge difference. For example, we always go right before Christmas on our annual holiday trip into NYC because the cost for hotels, shows, etc is easily 2x as much right after Christmas.

  • Reply Den |

    I’m glad you had fun and made great memories! This is why we save money and budget – so that we can do fun things and live!

    Hope has always said travel is her goal so she is spending where it’s important to her and saving where it isn’t – smart! I think it’s also a good reminder to her that once she is completely out of debt she can travel so much more – a good goal to have!

    • Reply Cwaltz |

      The site is called blogging away debt….. It’s great she enjoys traveling but she actually should be, you know, blogging her debt downward at the same time.

  • Reply JP |

    Sounds like a pretty fun time. But I would have to say the idea of getting out of debt is not a priority. Your posts should just be under whats going on with Hope.

So, what do you think ?