For most of us, “Spring Break” conjures
up images of beaches and bathing suits. But every year, thousands
of college students spend their vacation on the breezy shores
of... the Hudson River. In fact, New York City was the fourth
most popular Spring Break destination in the country in 2004,
according to actual hotel bookings at travelweb.com.
With a vibrant cultural and social scene, it’s not surprising
that so many students would shun the sun for the mean streets
of Manhattan. But unlike inexpensive Spring Break destinations
such as Galveston, Texas and Panama City, Florida, New York can
quickly max out the credit cards of even the most budget-conscious
visitor. The average room cost in the city in 2006 was estimated
at $268, up 7% from 2005, according to figures compiled by PKF
Consulting based on a poll of 100 hotels. Though the cost of
hotel rooms continues to climb, some new sightseeing options
can help students stick to a budget and make the most of their
Traditionally, visitors have had three options for touring New
York City: Bus tours, guided tours, and do-it-yourself sightseeing.
Bus tours cover a lot of ground in a short period of time and
with almost no effort required. But they are expensive Gray Line
Bus Tours (www.grayline.com) is offering a “Three-Day Super
Saver Combo” for $109 per person. And sightseeing by bus
means that you miss a lot of the romance and depth that make
New York City more than just the home of the Empire State Building.
Students who want a fuller experience can opt for a guided tour.
Ranging in cost from free to over $200 per day, guided tours
give you a deeper understanding of the city. The down side is
that you are forced to adhere to someone else’s schedule
and pace. Also, finding tours is not always easy. Your best bet
is to visit the Web sites of places that interest you (for example,
www.centralparknyc.org for Central Park tours). Big Onion walking
tours allows users to book guided tours online at bigonion.com,
at $10 per tour for full-time students).
Finally, there’s the bane of most budget travelers’ existence
digging through guidebooks and Web sites to compose a personalized
itinerary. While this is a relatively cheap option around $15
for a decent guidebook the cost in lost sleep and pre-trip stress
is immeasurable. Students preoccupied with “studying” will
hardly have time to eat, let alone take on this project.
Fortunately, you won’t have to. Over the past few years,
some alternatives have emerged that incorporate the best features
of the traditional tour modes-seeing the big sites, getting up
close and personal with the city, and offering personalized sightseeing
while introducing some innovative new benefits. Because these
three options are all self-guided, you retain complete flexibility
and independence. All three also use restaurant and activity
recommendations to give you an immersive experience.
Published in 2004, City Walks: New York (Chronicle Books, $14.95),
by Martha Fay is a deck of cards that include “50 Adventures
on Foot.” Each card is a self-guided walking tour, with
a detail map on one side and a description of the tour route
on the other. The deck comes with a foldout overview map that
shows the location of each tour within New York City. The City
Walks series includes other cities as well, like Washington,
D.C., London, and San Francisco.
While the City Walks series is innovative, its tours are not
interest specific. On the other hand, Frommer’s New York
City Day by Day (Wiley Publishing, $12.99), released in 2006
offers 22 Smart Ways to See the City, in sections like Best Neighborhood
Walks and Best Special Interest Tours. A traditional guidebook
with tour itineraries tacked on, Day by Day includes star-rated
listings of just about everything in New York City, from day
trips to dining. The book also comes with a foldout map in a
pouch glued to the back cover. Like City Walks, the Day by Day
series is available for other cities, like Rome, Paris, and London.
Launched in November 2006, TailoredTours.com lets you browse
and buy self-guided tours online for $3 each. Delivered as PDF
(Portable Document Format) e-mail attachments, the tours, which
include a route map and several description pages, can be printed
out or uploaded to a PDA. Like the Day by Day book, the site’s
tours are interest specific. But TailoredTours.com offers a greater
level of personalization: There are currently 30 tours available
in 11 different categories, including shopping, nightlife, scavenger
hunts, and pub crawls.
Their compact size makes these tours less confusing and easier
to use than the Day by Day book, and delivery in an electronic
format affords Tailored Tours a few other advantages. For example,
Tailored Tours are updated periodically to ensure that they provide
users with the most current information. Also, each tour includes
live Web links for select sights, so you can check hours of operation
and admission fees for museums or make reservations at a recommended
restaurant before you print out the tour.
And to help soften the financial blow of spending Spring Break
in New York even further, TailoredTours.com is giving students
across the country $2500 in free tours. Students can use gift
certificate code “springbreak07” to get the free
The site is also offering special packages, exclusively for spring
breakers, that include a three-tour mix of daytime and nightlife
tours for $6.
Once you return to campus, Tailored Tours also serves as a ready-made
travelogue of your New York experience.
Spring Break in New York can be a daunting financial challenge
for students. But with these new sightseeing options, they can
see the real New York without having to sacrifice anything important,