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City Vacations That Won’t Break the Budget

City Vacations That Won’t Break the Budget
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Sure, who wouldn’t want to be Eloise all the time – and stay at a suite at the Plaza, order room service, have your own butler? But that’s an expensive way to travel. There are ways to spend time in great cities – even New York – and not have to take out a loan. Here are some great cities, and inexpensive ways to see them:

New York

With reasonable prices for rooms on such sites as and, you can visit New York for a longer stay than you would if you were shelling out for a hotel. For about $140 a night you can get a great apartment all to yourself in desirable areas such as the lower east side and the upper west side. And if you go in the summer, the apartments are even cheaper. If you have an apartment, you can also cook – which saves money. Try living like a local and go to a great NY farmers’ market, buy food and cook. This map will help you locate the closest market to where you are staying:

For other cheap eats in the city, New York Magazine publishes its “Cheap Eats” column often – with a larger version once a year: And, hey, a couple of slices of NY pizza can fill anyone up. There are also many free entertainment options – especially in the summer with offerings such as Shakespeare in the Park. For free options all year round, look at this site: And, if you want to try your luck getting into Hamilton, the most coveted show in town, they have a daily lottery and now an app that makes it easier to enter:

For other Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, half-priced same day tickets can be found at TKTS in Times Square. But who needs to really pay for anything in New York when you can people watch on the Highline or on any of the walkways on the East and Hudson rivers for free.


Prague is one of the grande dame cities worldwide where you can stay at a higher end hotel and live in the lap of luxury for a reasonable outlay of money. For instance, the Domus Henrici,, where I stayed a few years ago, is only 110 Euros with breakfast. It is tucked away in a private neighborhood on the hill where the Prague Castle sits and is close to everything, yet away from the touristy hubbub. Meet what is always an interesting group of people from all over the world, in Old Town Prague for a Sandeman’s,, free walking tour (tips are appreciated). The tour guides are knowledgeable and fun and I found my walk fascinating. I learned all about the Velvet Revolution – the uprising against communists – that was not violent (hence velvet), but was successful, and many other fascinating historical and current facts. Eating in Prague also isn’t expensive. Slavia, a well-known café that opened in 1881, is right in the historical center, and offers wonderful traditional Czech food such as Baked Duck Old Czech Style, Sour Cabbage and Potato Dumplings with Onion for the equivalent of about $9. The Prague Castle tour, which can easily fill a day, is about $15. And, just like in New York, there are walks along the river, bridges to cross, and gardens to stroll in – all for free.

Buenos Aires

Known as the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is a bustling cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and hotels – without the Paris prices. The historic Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires, one of the city’s most distinguished and resplendent hotels, offers rooms in the $130 range. It has a spa with sauna, inexpensive spa treatments, and complimentary fitness classes. In terms of food, Pizzeria Guerrin,, is an institution where locals and tourists mix on a nightly basis. (Argentines eat late – don’t go before 9 or 10 p.m.) Slices cost a dollar or two and are made with local mozzarella and their own homemade sauce. It’s nothing fancy, but the service is good and the pizza is known as some of the best in the world. For more of a local type meal – that would be beef – Don Julio,, makes all of the best restaurants in Buenos Aires lists and offers a balance between traditional and modern style cooking. Try a good malbec, Argentinian wine, with a sirloin, tenderloin, sweetbreads – they eat all of the cow here – and dessert and it will only set you back around $25. The BA walking tours – again free – are funny and entertaining. They meet every day at 11 at the Plaza del Congresso and cover much of the downtown area of the city in two and a half hours. And finally, what could be better way to get a feel for a city than a flea market. The Sunday antiques market in San Telmo,, is a bustling place full of memorabilia and vintage items.


Vancouver is a sparkling thriving city on the ocean. It isn’t the cheapest city around, but doable on a budget with good planning. Since it is a fairly safe city, and English-speaking, it’s a good place to use Airbnb or VRBO. A one-bedroom apartment in a convenient location will cost you around $95 (but as low as $70) a day. And, unlike other times, the exchange rate from US to Canadian dollar is almost even right now which helps. Personally, I could spend several days in Stanley Park – one of the world’s largest city parks – right on the Pacific with miles and miles of walking and biking trails, totems made by local indigenous people, and great – free! –museums and gardens. This is a truly international city, but with a definite Pacific Rim flavor, so there is Asian food galore. Motomachu Shokudo, offers big bowls of comforting ramen (which is nice because it does rain often in Vancouver). Forget the kind in a cup – this is real ramen with miso charcoal broth and other broth options and items like free-range eggs, BBQ pork, seasonal vegetables, chili peppers and much more – for about $10. Another favorite eatery – very So Cal because of its proximity to the ocean – is Local Public Eatery,, which offers innovative pub food such as Tortilla Soup ($5), Crispy Calamari $7), and a burger with aged Canadian cheddar cheese ($13.50). There are lots of free things to do here,, including visiting art galleries on Granville St (one of the main streets in the city), a visit to the GMS Observatory, and a visit to the Richmond Chinese Market.



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