8 Great Ways to Get Free Lodging in New York City was originally published September 6, 2010 on Travelskills.blogspot.com.
Tomorrow I (and many others) begin a month of travel using JetBlue’s All-You-Can-Fly pass. One destination I want to visit is New York City. That is convenient, since New York’s JFK airport is a JetBlue hub and their HQ.
Some say New York City is the greatest city in the world. I recently saw Travel and Leisure’s ratings of the world’s top ten cities: New York City was number 10. It was the #1 city in the United States; San Francisco was #2.
I have already planned a couple of day trips to the Big Apple. It is an easy flight to and from my home airport. However, I do not plan to spend a night in the city that never sleeps. I would like to but have not found a place to stay. OK, my budget is very, very tight and I am looking for free or cheap lodging. Here is my process. Perhaps it will help others:
1. Have a friend living in the city
I will start with the obvious. Knowing someone in New York City or even close would be ideal. I do not. Strike one.
2. Have a friend of a friend in the city
I even put out a feeler on Facebook and LinkedIn for a friend or a friend of a friend. I must know someone or know someone that knows someone there. OK, I can certainly try harder but I have not. Strike two (let’s call it a check swing).
3. Anonymous “friends”
There are places to find people with a spare bed, couch or floor space for a night. I have not tried couchsurfing.com, servas, craigslist (shiver) or others. There must be dozens or hundreds. Again, I could spend some time trying to find a place or a host. Do I want to? I am pretty comfortable flying up in the morning and flying home 8 to 10 hours later—and even repeating the process the next day. I know that I could try alumni groups and even travel contacts.
OK, so the nearly passive approach will not work for me. What else can I do? I struck out but I am still in the game…
4. Make a new friend during my trips
Indeed, I will attend the JetBlue AYCJ kick off celebration in Terminal 5 tomorrow. Perhaps I can sweet talk my way into some free floor space in one of the boroughs. Yes, Upper East Side is preferred but anywhere is a short subway ride from anywhere. Right? OK, this idea has merit. Also, I will be on probably a dozen flights during the first two weeks. There will probably be over 2,000 potential people that live in New York City or know someone that lives there. On the other hand, I am not much for in-person networking. Plus, is the allure of a free place to stay worth the potential risk? I am not Monk from USA Network but, still, many people are scary.
5. Sleep? I don’t need no stinking sleep
I can book a morning flight to New York City and return home the next morning. Sure, I can stay up all night and see what the fuss is all about in this city. When it gets to be 3am, I just have to stay awake until my flight in the morning.
6. Ride the rails
Researching ground transportation options from JFK airport to Manhattan and around New York City, I learned that the subway operates 24 hours. Sweet! I can ride the rails when I get tired. Oh, yeah, there are the muggings on the subway. I cannot realistically do this, can I?
7. Sneak a snooze
Then there are hotel lobbies, all night diners (like on Seinfeld), theaters, train/bus stations and parks. Again, scary people and the mugging factor. Perhaps the JetBlue terminal would be a safe haven. I can book an early morning flight from JFK, play in the city all night and when I get tired, take the subway/train to JFK and snooze before the flight.
8. JetBlue Flights
I can keep doing what I already have planned. Visit New York City between morning and evening flights. Take an evening flight home and then fly back to New York City in the morning. Honestly, I live close enough to do this and it will be fun. If I did not, I would consider flying to another city to stay the night and then return the next morning. JetBlue has tons of flights from JFK and there must be many evening flights to destinations with less expensive lodging. For instance, there is a 10:3oPM flight to Portland, Maine. Perhaps there are even red-eye, overnight transcontinental flights (there are from the West coast to the East coast).
Know any other Great Ways to Get Free Lodging in New York City?
©2010, Charles McCool
Since this article was originally published in 2010, I used Couchsurfing. Here is another post about free lodging. Using the JetBlue All-You-Can-Jet pass, I made a couple of trips to NYC. On one NYC trip I stayed up all night and flew early morning to New Orleans.