Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

March 6, 2020

Travel Diary: NYC Girls' Trip on a Budget.

     Last weekend, a group of my Charlottesville girlfriends and I enjoyed the best weekend in New York City! I've been to NYC tons of times before, but with the exception of NYFW last year with my friend Gentry, it's always just been with my parents. This was my first time in NYC for a group girls' trip, and it was even more fun than I than I expected!

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     I wanted to share a travel diary for the things we did (and how to see as much as possible of NYC in just a weekend!), where we ate, and the amounts that I spent on various things on the trip in hopes that it might inspire you if you're trying to visit New York on a budget. NYC isn't famous for being a cheap city, but if you travel in a group setting and are mindful of how much you're spending- traveling there is possible on a budget. I will make note as well that January/February are generally less expensive times to visit NYC- it's after the mad rush of the holiday tourist season, so a lot of hotel and flight prices go down. It was in the 20s and 30s the weekend we were there... definitely cold but not unbearable if you bundled up. And I'd rather deal with toughing out some cold weather if I know I'm saving money! 

    About my travel companions: I've been very lucky to have made so many wonderful girlfriends in Charlottesville, but my bestest friends here are all apart of my dinner club (which we affectionately call Family Dinner- more about that in this post!). Our dear friend Eden moved to NYC this past fall for a wonderful new job opportunity- we were so proud of her but knew we would miss her tons. We wanted to plan a trip up to see her before too many months went by, and the end of winter made the most sense for most of our schedules. Myself, my roommate Abigail (who is Eden's old roommate! That's how we met. 😊), and our friends Lily and Kelly made the trek up to NYC. Our fellow Family Dinner friend Emily sadly couldn't be there with us, but she was there in spirit! I know we'll make another trip back at some point with all six of us. 

     While Virginia technically is close enough to drive to NYC (7ish hours from Charlottesville), driving in the city sounds absolutely terrifying to me, and not to mention parking is crazy expensive up there. That left us with the options of bus, train, or flight. Since we were only going to be there for two nights, we wanted to max out our time as must as possible, so the bus or train routes didn't seem like the best use of that. We decided to fly!
     Charlottesville has a very small airport that doesn't fly many places, but thankfully NYC's LaGuardia airport is one of the spots there are direct flights to! There are several flights from Cville to NYC each day. For the weekend we wanted to travel, we found an amazing deal on flights and we also all opted for Basic Economy tickets, so it was even cheaper than we thought it would be. It's a quick 50 minute flight from here to NYC- so glad we went the flying route!
     Once in the city, we used a cab to get from the airport to the hotel. It was a little expensive, so we did Lyft to go back to the airport on Sunday and it was a good deal cheaper. We took one Lyft back to the hotel on Saturday night as well, but other then that we just walked and used the subway.

     My friends and I debated doing an AirBnb, but some of them had heard that NYC isn't the best city to do that in (apparently there's a lot of scams with it there), so we then decided hotel would be the best route. Four of us went up to visit Eden, so it worked great to have a room with two queen beds split four ways. I am a Hilton Honors member, so I like to book Hilton properties when I travel if possible. My friends let me handle booking the hotel, and I selected the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square for us, located conveniently on 8th Avenue, just one block from Times Square! We got a really great rate on it, and I thought it would be fun to stay near Times Square since it was going to be Abigail's first trip to NYC. 
     We did have a small issue with a rude staff member right when we arrived, but other then that we were very impressed with the hotel! The beds were incredibly comfortable, and it was also super quiet. The room was pretty spacious too as far as NYC hotels go. And it was so close to so many things since we were near Times Square. I would definitely stay here again!

     Here are all of the restaurants that we ate at! For a two day trip we ate very well- I'd recommend all of these spots.

  • Bluestone Lane (all over NYC) - coffee shop with a great beverage and food selection. We went to two locations- both had a great aesthetic/decor.
  • Pret a Manger (all over NYC) - chain coffee shop all over the city. Good beverages and great croissants! Very moderately priced as well.
  • Calexico (multiple locations, we went to Upper East Side one) - Delicious casual Mexican restaurant. Incredibly affordable for NYC! Loved the vibe in here as well. I highly recommend the smoked queso.
  • The Butcher's Daughter (Nolita, near SoHo) - The menu at this restaurant is like 80-90% vegan! I don't typically eat vegan dishes so I wasn't sure how I'd like it, but it was phenomenal. The vegan waffle was probably the best waffle I've ever eaten. The Nolita location is small and we had to wait awhile for a table- but worth it!
  • Junior's (Times Square) - An iconic NYC spot for cheesecake that I had amazingly never been to before this trip! Their cheesecake is unreal, probably the best I've ever had. I know I'll be going back on future trips, and I'd also like to eat a full meal there!
  • Madangsui (Koreatown) - This was my first-ever Korean BBQ experience, and I loved getting to try it here. It was fun to try and the perfect type of meal to share in a group. 
  • Top of the Strand (Midtown) - A fully indoor rooftop bar (perfect for winter) with incredible views of the Empire State Building! They also have a few food options on their menu. 
    We all woke up early and took the 6am flight out of Charlottesville. Well- I should say my friends woke up early. It was a normal Friday morning wake-up for this morning show host! 😉We landed in NYC before 7:30, and we were at our hotel before 9am, so we had the whole day ahead of us! We dropped our bags off to be stored, and headed to a coffee shop a few blocks away, where we finally got to be reunited with Eden. She kindly took the day off work on Friday to hang with us!
     Our first stop was the iconic Met museum! I shared in my NYC bucket list blog post that although I've been to the city many times, I had never made it over to the Met before, and I very much wanted to see it. First order of business was getting our iconic Gossip Girl photo on the steps of the Met! And I can't think of a better group of girls to get that photo with. 
     I'm not a big art museum girl, but I absolutely loved the Met. It's iconic for a reason! It's huge and there's something there for everyone. We spent two hours exploring but I could've spent so much more time in there had it been a different day. But alas- we were hungry from our early morning flight and ready for lunch! Eden took us to a nearby Mexican restaurant that was both affordable and delicious.
     We then went back to the hotel to check-in to our room, and we spent a couple hours napping, which was much needed. The first stop of the evening was Times Square- we needed to get our classic tourist pictures! We ended up grabbing quick slices of NY pizza for dinner at a grab and go type spot nearby our hotel, and then we took the subway to one of Eden's favorite nightlife spots, Beauty Bar. This is a nightclub that's themed like an old time beauty salon. And they also employ manicurists- you can literally get your nails painted in the bar! They played some interesting music the night we were there (all 70s and 80s songs- very old school) but it was tons of fun. 
     We stayed there dancing until about 12:15am, and then made it back to Times Square area just in time to finish the night with delicious Junior's Cheesecake. At this point we had all been awake almost 24 hours, so we were exhausted. But what a fun first day in NYC!

     I woke up a bit earlier than the rest of my friends, so I could head out to a special breakfast! I got to spend a little time with my high school friend Anna. She was an exchange student from Japan at my high school when I was in 11th grade, and we became very good friends. (11th grade was my least favorite year of high school- I suffered with depression and anxiety all year. But my memories with Anna were some of my favorites from that time!) She is now getting her master's degree in NYC, so we were able to meet up Saturday morning for the first time in many years. So special to see her! 
     Once my friends were up and ready to roll, we took the subway to SoHo to meet Eden for the day. We walked around several of the streets to get a feel for the area, and then had a delicious late brunch. After food, it was time to shop! Eden took us all to the Glossier makeup flagship store to start things off. Glossier is unlike any makeup store I've ever been to- quite an experience! I didn't end up purchasing anything, but glad I got to see it with my friends. We then hit up Bloomingdale's, Zara and Aritzia- I was an amazingly budget conscious shopper (for once?) and only bought a pair of jeans at Zara, that's it! Still proud of myself haha. 
     We then went back to the hotel to change for dinner, and both Kelly and Lily met up with friends of theirs that live in NYC. We then all headed up for Korean BBQ in Koreatown at a restaurant Eden picked for us. I had never had Korean BBQ before and NYC seemed like the ideal place to try it for the first time. 
     After dinner, we finally got to see Eden's apartment. It is so bittersweet not to have her in Charlottesville anymore, but I loved getting to see her cute new home- which she and her roommates have decorated so well! The final stop of the evening was Top of the Strand, an indoor rooftop bar with incredible views of the Empire State Building. Since it's indoors it's ideal to visit in the winter, but I would go there again at any time of the year!
     Sunday we had to leave for the airport around 9am, so the only thing on the agenda was a quick breakfast. But I think we did a great job packing in a lot of activities into our two full days there!

  • Flight - $157
  • Food - $130
  • Hotel - $105 (split four ways)
  • Lyft/Cabs/Airport parking - $40 (split four ways)
  • Shopping - $50 (so proud of myself here!)
  • Met admission - $25
  • Subway card - $22 
    That brings the grand total for the weekend to $529!  Overall, not bad at all price-wise considering everything we did and all the restaurants we ate at. NYC can definitely be expensive, but if you travel in a group setting and are mindful of the costs for meal and activities, you can still have a great time there without spending crazy amounts.

     Last year around this time my girlfriends and I went to Charlotte, this year was NYC... any ideas for our 2021 weekend trip? I think it needs to be an annual tradition. 😊

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese 



  1. Such great pictures and sounds like wonderful activities! The food looks delicious!
    Ellibelle's Corner

  2. Aww so fun! I love that you have a dinner club with your friends. I'm impressed with your budget for NYC, it really is expensive. I will save these tips for when we go back someday.


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