A perfect storm has hit the hotel market in New York City, driving prices to historic highs.
The ascent began, partially, in spring of 2022, when Governor Greg Abbott of Texas started busing migrants to New York. So far, Texas has sent 15,800 people, according to the Associated Press. The number could be closer to 50,000 though, when the migrants sent from Florida, or coming on their own, are added in.
Because of New York City's 1981 Right to Shelter Law, it became the legal responsibility of Mayor Eric Adams to find a place to house them humanely. He did so, in many cases, in the hotels that used to accommodate budget tourists. Long-established, low-cost hotels like The Row (formerly the Milford Plaza), The Belnord, and others, entered into contracts with the city to house these newcomers and stopped accepting tourists.
The second shoe dropped in September of this year when Local Law 18, passed in 2022, went into effect, and made it virtually impossible to operate a short-term rental in New York City. Under the new law, it is illegal to rent an entire unit for fewer than 30 days (except under special, and hard-to-obatin licenses), and owners who wish to rent out part of their spaces must apply to do so with the Office of Special Enforcement.
As a result, according to a report by Slate, the number of Airbnbs and other short-term rentals in the city plunged from a high of 50,000 before the pandemic to just 7,000 today.
The dramatic drop in available inventory means that Gotham hoteliers in Manhattan and Brooklyn in particular can charge whatever they damn well please—and most of them are doing just that.
I've seen rates as high as $700 a night for run-of-the-mill hotels once the now-ubiquitous resort fees are included.
I know all about this because I write the Frommer's guidebook to New York City, which I update annually. I'm about to start my research on next year's edition and I plan to offset the loss of affordable city hotels by adding a number of New Jersey hotels that can easily be accessed via train. I'll also create an article on those hotels for Frommers.com once that research is completed.
In the meantime, here are a few other strategies for saving money on hotels in New York City:
Come at the right time: If you can plan a trip in January, February, or early March, you'll find hotels for a fraction of what they cost the rest of the year.
To give a few examples, a standard midtown Manhattan property called the Blue Angel is selling rooms for $656 in December, but for just $89 in January. On those same dates, the Hyatt Place New York/Times Square is going for $699 vs. $139, the Moxy NYC is $719 vs. $135, and the Westin Grand Central is a shocking $929 vs. $129. (I obtained these prices by looking at the marketplace site HotelsCombined.com, and prices could be slightly higher with resort fees.)
Use your loyalty points: If you have enough, your savings could be far greater in Gotham than in other U.S. cities, and the city has every major hotel chain under the sun within its five boroughs.
Look at the outer boroughs: Hotels in the Bronx and Queens are often significantly less expensive than those in Manhattan, and if you stay in an area like Long Island City (a part of Queens), you'll only be one or two subway stops away from Manhattan. Brooklyn has fewer good values, except in the areas that are a long distance from Manhattan.
Make a cancelable reservation and search again right before traveling to the city: Often rates drop when hoteliers realize they've overreached on price and are about to have too many empty beds. By booking a cancelable reservation, you can recheck hotel rates shortly before you arrive and see if you can do better. Often you can.
Use a secret "club" for hotel bookings: Sometimes the savings can be significant. Here's a complete article on that strategy.
Consider the city's hostels and quirkier lodgings: Places that ask guests to share a bathroom are generally kinder to the wallet than those with all private facilities. Click here to see our complete list of recommended New York City hotels, and you'll find budget stalwarts like the Carlton Arms (which has some rooms with private bathrooms, and some without), the Americana Inn, and the New York City Vista.
Stay tuned for my upcoming article on decent alternative hotels that are located a short train ride away in New Jersey.