Family of Four Taking Flight to Financial Independence

Start Spreading The News: FI (Financial Independence) and Travel

When we decided to take flight towards FIRE (financial independence retire early), we continued to make travel a priority for our family (among other things!).  Yes, we can live off one salary (a teacher’s salary), save over 60% of our take home money, and still be able to afford travel!

This year we’ve been able to budget a snow trip to Colorado (Snow Mountain Ranch), trip to New York City to see family / for my birthday, and we have a (surprise) trip for our kids to Disney World later this year.  (We also had a cruise gifted to us this past summer so that doesn’t really count).

But how can we make this work?  The key is to plan and budget for the expenses.

Travel hacking and sometimes even the small things help too!  I’m going to share a few key tips from our recent summer trip to New York City (one of the most expensive cities in the world).  (I will preface this with saying, I did spend five years living here after college so I do know some ins and outs more than most people.  My sister and her family also live there so we can save by cooking at her apt for some meals, etc.  But we still have some helpful tips regardless!).

For this post I will focus on a few things (not everything!) on travel, lodging, and food.  I can go on and on, and I have much to share so we will revisit NYC in future posts.

Milk and Cream Cereal Bar in NYC


One of the most exciting travel hacks for us was the transportation to and from the airport.  That may not seem like a big deal, but not only can this be a long adventure with kids (traffic! smelly car!), it can be expensive (a car service would have cost us at least $75 if not closer to $100 one way).  Yes, car services are maybe the most convenient, but that is definitely not the most affordable option.  Now I will say when I travel late at night (I’ve flown in before at midnight), that is the way to go.

If you fly into La Guardia (LGA) you can take the La Guardia Link Q70 bus from the airport terminal right to the subway!  The cost for one ride is only $2.75 (this can be cheaper depending on the NYC MTA Metrocard you buy), and you get a free transfer to the subway.  You do NOT need to pay again once you reach the subway.  Traveling with kids??  From their website: "Up to three children 44 inches tall and under ride for free on subways and local buses when accompanied by a fare paying adult."

Once we left the airport, we got off at the first stop for the subway (Jackson Heights Subway Connections) where the subway options were E, F, M, R, 7.  We were able to take the E directly to a stop that we needed in Lower Manhattan.

So how does this all work?  Watch this video to be walked through the entire process!  1) Once you have your luggage go buy a Metrocard at one of the machines.  2) Next go outside to the LGA Link Q70 stop.  Insert your Metrocard into the machine to get your Q70 ticket (you are not charged again).  3) Get on the Q70 when it arrives.  4) Get off at the Jackson Heights Subway Connections to catch the E, F, M, R, 7.  Take the appropriate train to Manhattan / your destination!  The YouTube video sums it up best.

But what about your luggage?  We tried to travel light.  We only had one suitcase (with wheels that rolls pretty easily), and the rest of our luggage was on our backs / shoulders.  We only had to carry the luggage a few times on stairs in the subway (some subway stations have elevators).

But how long did it take?  Isn't a taxi / car service / Uber faster?  It only took an hour or less door to door, and we had to go all the way to Lower Manhattan (Tribeca).  A car might be faster, but that depends on traffic!  And we did this with two kids (age 5 years and 7 years).

We will definitely plan to fly into LGA our next trip and use the La Guardia Link Q70 / Subway to get into Manhattan.

Subway: I highly recommend learning the subway and using this form of transportation during your visit.  Not only is this the cheapest way to go, but it's usually the most convenient way to go.  Just check ahead of time for subway service alerts (the subway lines can change - even more so on weekends), and put an app / map on your phone prior.  Or if you prefer, buy yourself an old school map.

And be sure to walk when you can.  The best way to enjoy NYC is by walking around and seeing everyday sights.


What about lodging?  Aren't hotels expensive there?  

We try to use travel hacking (such as airline / hotel points) for plane tickets and hotels, but we will save those details for another post.

One small tip is to look for a hotel that offers free breakfast.  That is one meal you don't have to worry about.  For example, we stayed at the Hampton Inn Soho.  Not only was the price of the hotel affordable, but it also offered free breakfast.

You may also want to consider AirBnb (depending on your length of stay, number of people, what you want to do in the city).


What about food?  Is everything more expensive there?  

Yes, it can be.  For example, many places in Midtown (tourist central) may have their prices hiked because much of their clientele includes tourists.  Don't go to Times Square and eat at Olive Garden!

NYC has any type of food you can imagine.  If you are a big foodie and want to go to a high end restaurant, just budget that into your spending prior.  You can save on your other meals and get some cheap(er) authentic foods in NYC too.

For example ... 

  • Pizza: I always have to get pizza when I go to New York City.  This is the real deal y'all.  For our last trip my sister treated us to Il Mattone.  Another great spot is Lombardi's in Little Italy.

  • Bagels: You can't go to NYC without treating yourself to a bagel.  I personally prefer a toasted Everything Bagel with cream cheese and lox.  My favorite place is Ess-a-Bagel, but this past trip we went to a place near my sister - Sadelle's (see photos below).  Delicious!

  • Hot Dogs / Street Vendors: Of course our kids love hot dogs.  When we were in Battery Park we got them a cheap lunch at a Nathan's street dog vendor.  

  • Pretzels / Street Vendors: These are huge, cheap, and entertaining for our kids.  (And yummy too!).  In the photo below, my son is enjoying a pretzel in Central Park.

None of these food choices will break the bank, and they will keep both the adults and kids happy.  Plus you can't go to the Big Apple without enjoying some New York pizza (and other New York favorites).

These are just a few things to share about NYC travel, lodging, and food.  Stay tuned for many more NYC tips and tricks (such as why not take the "carousel tour (SeaGlass Carousel in photo below)" through NYC?), but if you have any specific questions about New York, let us know.  I often help co-workers / friends plan their trip to NYC.

How do you budget for travel?  How do you find ways to reduce spending / save money when you are traveling?


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