My Budget Business Trip to New York City
I welcome business trips to New York City with mixed emotions. Sure, it’s terrific my employer picks up (most of) the tab for the trip but I also cringe because of the expenses I’ll have to personally incur, expenses associated with travel but not reimbursed by my employer.
Then there are the non-travel related expenses. Purchases I wouldn’t otherwise make when home but make them while traveling for business. Financially, business travel stresses me out, especially since it’s dug me deeper into debt. (Read: “Four Ways Business Travel Dug Me Deeper into Debt” and ‘Another Six Ways Business Travel Dug Me Deeper into Debt”). Plus, I’m saving for a down payment on a house which means I need as much cash available as possible.
During last weeks’ trip, I tried to minimize my expenses for the good of my employer’s bottom line and my personal budget. Here’s how I did it.
Saving with Social Media on Lodging
Yes, my employer picked up the hotel tab at the Roger Smith Hotel, few blocks away from Times Square, and I saved a little by booking through the hotel’s Facebook page. Although I saved for the good of the organization, tipping housekeepers is expected in the tour and travel industry but my employer doesn’t recognize that.
Dining on $43 a Day in New York City
Don’t laugh but that’s what my employer’s per diem is ($10 for breakfast, $12 for lunch and $21 for dinner) and if you’ve been to New York, you know you won’t be enjoying a decent meal within this allowance. While some organizations use a different per diem rate for big cities such as New York, mine does not.
My first night in town I grabbed an overpriced Reuben sandwich from Roxy’s Deli and my tab with a beverage and tip was just under $30.
As I walked the streets in the morning I saw breakfast “specials” for $21 and up. What’s a gal on a budget to do? I had a Starbucks gift card which I purchased a couple of weeks prior for an event but they didn’t need it. I used it for breakfast each day grabbing a drink and a pastry (about $7 a day). Not the healthiest meal option but most convenient on the go and just under the per diem.
I had a gift card from TGI Friday’s in my wallet but couldn’t bring myself to eat in a chain restaurant while in the Big Apple and the same for the $10 Panera Bread credit by synching my American Express and Facebook accounts together.
Unfortunately, lunch and dinners for two days exceeded per diem, especially since one day I had a $9.50+ gooey sundae from Serendipity 3.
Yeah, I know you’re probably thinking it’s great I didn’t have to pay for hotel or airfare but if I had it my way, I wouldn’t have traveled to New York this time of year nor would I be eating out so often. My last night in town I enjoyed a hearty bowl of wonton noodle soup from a random Chinese restaurant near Times Square. Not quite as good as in Chinatown but filling. This helped bring my meal budget almost back in line.
Keeping hydrated is important and since beverages are incorporated in my per diem, I brought along a water bottle with me and filled it when possible, especially after going through airport security.
Saying “No” to Typical New York Entertainment
Some of my favorite shops are in New York and although difficult, I stayed away from Sephora, Lush and MAC, although I spent an insane amount on colorful candies from the M&Ms World. I met up with a friend and we visited a variety of New York sites for free or low cost, such as the African Burial Ground National Monument, Columbus Park to watch Chinese immigrants and sipped sangria in Little Italy.
Other free activities I’d recommend include walking the Brooklyn Bridge (or if you have time and money to spend, walk the Brooklyn Bridge with Contex Travel), riding the Staten Island Ferry and just wandering around Times Square. I saw actor Tracy Morgan my first night in the city.
If you’re an early bird, head down to the studios of ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today Show or CBS’s The Early Show. The earlier you arrive the better your chances you’ll end up on television. Or, if your schedule permits, attend a taping of a television show such as Anderson Cooper, Dr. Oz or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
I’ve probably visited New York a dozen times but I have yet to see a Broadway play.
Minimizing Transportation Costs
Although I’d be reimbursed, I didn’t want to spend much on transportation because again, I’m watching my cash flow. I used Super Shuttle from the airport to the hotel and used the subway once, round trip to and from dinner. I ended up walking everywhere else (my feet felt it) and splurged on a taxi from the hotel to the airport. I used online check-in for my flight and paid for my luggage in advance, which I’m not sure if that saves a couple of bucks these days or not.
I also saved my employer on tolls with my personal SunPass account in which I receive discounts on tolls.
Credit Card Interest
Since I’m watching my cash flow, I charged as much as I could during this trip because it could take 2 weeks to a month before I receive reimbursement. Thankfully, my employer pre-paid my hotel and I already received reimbursement for my airfare, but, I have a couple of hundred dollars charged to my personal card (employer’s card can’t be used outside of the state) and will probably end up paying interest on it.
Do you have any budget tips when traveling for business?