Recently I headed to the Big Apple with Max, who had long yearned to go. I’m not sure he’s a convert of the big bustling city (me neither), but it was a good experience. I know that first-timers are easily overwhelmed, and a visit to New York City can be incredibly stressful, so I wanted to share a few tips to help you.

1. Skip the Brand-Name Hotels

rockefeller plaza

As soon as you start searching for a hotel in NYC, your jaw will drop. A hotel room at a major chain like Marriott can cost upwards of $300!! Space is at a premium, which can seriously impact your travel budget.

Even if you try to stay in a particular brand hotel when you travel, you might want to modify that plan for this trip. There are hundreds of boutique hotels you’ve never heard of, and they’re a lot cheaper. You’ll still pay a pretty penny (I paid close to $200 a night at 36 Hudson), so be prepared. Just read plenty of reviews, because even if a place is expensive, it can still be terrible or in a bad location.

2. Stay Outside the Tourist Zone

times square

There are two reasons for this: one, it’ll be cheaper. And two, you won’t have to fight the swarms of uber-annoying tourists the way you would if you stayed near, for example, Times Square. Trust me on this.

Our hotel was about a 10-minute walk from Times Square, so it was convenient, but it was on a quiet street near the Hudson River. Pick a hotel that’s near an attraction you plan to visit.

I normally suggest renting an AirBnB¬†when you travel, but I haven’t had luck with them in NYC. One time the person I rented from told me if I saw the super to tell him I was her friend!

3. Take the Subway Once…Then Take Lyft

pretzel in new york city

I don’t know what’s happened. I used to love taking public transportation, but the older I get, the more it stresses me out. I end up taking the wrong train. Or staying on to Queens when I meant to get off near Central Park. Chalk it up to my age.

We did take the subway a couple of times, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Lyft and Uber (I preferred Lyft in NYC; cars were nicer and drivers left you alone) are easy to summon, and really not that expensive. It cost no more than $8 to get across Manhattan, and we got to see the sights from the comfort of the back seat.

4. Get a CityPASS

empire state building

I’ve written before about passes like this in San Francisco and Amsterdam, and I’m just as big an advocate of CityPASS in New York. You get entry into a ton of attractions you’re going to anyway, like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, so it makes sense to pay less to do it all.

We, unfortunately, didn’t have enough time to take advantage of much on this trip, but our time at the top of the Empire State Building more than exceeded our expectations (thanks to CityPASS for providing complementary passes for us in exchange for a mention).

5. Eat Out of Your Comfort Zone

korean bbq

Ah, food in New York City. There are literally boundless options when it comes to cuisine types. I was a bit limited because Max is picky, but we managed to eat dim sum and Korean barbecue, so that was all right in my book.

central park

The pace of life in New York City is probably faster than you’re used to…and yet it takes forever to get anywhere. Be patient and don’t set an agenda. And if you get overwhelmed with the concrete jungle, head to Central Park like we did for a little green oasis!