NYC Red-Eye Recap [Travel on a Budget]

We just spent a fast-paced weekend in NYC for fall break and I took this past Monday to recuperate and share with you guys on the blog!

All I can say is wow.

I don’t think I have ever been this exhausted in my adult life. We had an amazing time, but my ankles are still feeling the effects of walking nearly 10 miles in one day.

Austin and I have both been to New York City in the past but thought it would be a fun trip to take together and hit some of the spots we missed.

Specifically, I wanted to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. I have been obsessed with the 2005 movie since I was 14 years old, and it has always been a dream of mine to see it on Broadway. For context, my 16th birthday party was actually Phantom of the Opera themed! In addition to watching the play, Austin and I also wanted to spend more time in Central Park, go to the Empire State Building, and enjoy some good food!

For just $175 a person we were transported on a tour bus that seated around 50 people from Louisa, Kentucky to NYC where we spent a full day exploring on our own.

We left Friday evening at around 7 PM and made stops throughout the night to stretch our legs and take bathroom breaks. The bus seats were actually super small and the temperature was cold. Austin and I were a little unprepared with just two neck pillows and a heated throw that decided not to work with the bus outlets. To say the least, we were a little uncomfortable.

We stopped outside of the city at around 5 A.M. and stood in line to take showers at a Pilot station. I actually applied my makeup in the hallway while waiting for the shower! I curled my hair before we got on the bus Friday evening, so all I had to do was use some dry shampoo and touch it up.

We finally arrived in the city at around 8 A.M. where we were dropped off in front of a pub and instructed to meet back in the same spot at 10:30 that night. We took this opportunity to have a quick (and cheap!) breakfast at a McDonald’s down the street. I noticed that the prices were the same here as they were at any other Mcdonald’s back home.

Times Square

After eating we headed out into the city and made our way into Times Square. If you have never been there in the early morning, it is so worth the trip. By the time we arrived it was around 8:30 A.M. and although there were people out, it was relatively quiet and calm. We enjoyed walking down the street under the bright billboards in the early morning air without being so stressed by crowds.


Early Morning in Times Square

New York City Public Library

We made our way towards Rockafeller Center and enjoyed watching the ice skaters and then made our way to the New York City Public Library. As you can probably tell by now, I love to read and I LOVE a good library. It had never crossed my mind to visit the NYC library, and we stumbled upon it as we were walking. My excitement went from 0-100 once I realized what this beautiful building was, and we just had to go inside.

I was not disappointed. As a person who has toured many buildings in NYC and Washington D.C., I thought I had seen every beautiful monument and building there was, but I was wrong. Maybe it was because it was a library, but I was SO enchanted by this place! The outside of the library had plenty of seating and a beautiful garden and water fountain. You are welcomed into the building by two lions perched on either side of the huge staircase. Once inside, the staircases are made of beautiful marble, and the ceilings adorned with gorgeous paintings. I was so excited in one of the larger reading rooms that I actually ventured past the ropes without realizing and Austin quickly motioned me back before I could get scolded by the staff (oops!)


Beautiful Reading Room in NYC Library

Empire State?

After enjoying the library, we made our way to the Empire State Building. This was one thing in New York that I had never done before, and I really wanted to see the view of the city from the 102nd floor. For those of you who don’t know, you have to purchase tickets to go to the observatory. This might not be a shock to everyone else, but I just assumed this was a landmark open to the public.

We entered the building and went to purchase tickets, but were informed it was extremely foggy and the view was significantly blocked. We skipped out on spending upwards of $100 to essentially see nothing and made our way back onto the street. I was really disappointed about this! But my spirits were still kept high by the idea of seeing Phantom later that day.

Grand Central Terminal

Next, we visited Grand Central Terminal, a place neither of us had been inside of. This building is absolutely gorgeous. First, we wandered down the corridors and tried out the famous “whispering wall” or arch that is just outside of the Oyster Bar.  Austin and I went into opposite corners of the archways and whispered into them. At first, I was extremely skeptical, but when I heard Austin’s voice whisper “hello” I was dumbfounded. Apparently, the archways allow sound to travel along them, causing whispers to be heard in the opposite corner! After this neat experience, we ended our visit to Grand Central by visiting the Main Concourse and gazing at the beautiful zodiac mural.


Grand Central Terminal- Couldn’t resist caffeine-

New York Style Pizza

We were exhausted at this point and stopped for lunch at a small pizza place called Previti. The pizza was HUGE as well as delicious, and we ate for under $20! We sat inside the small restaurant and enjoyed our lunch while we rested our feet. Spending an entire day in the city on little sleep was totally taxing, even more so than I realized. At this point during the day, I knew I wouldn’t be making another red-eye bus trip to anywhere.


Previti Pizza

Phantom of the Opera

I cannot stress the level of excitement I had for this play! We purchased our tickets ahead of time on the website and were seated in the Mezzanine in row F, seats 109-110. Our seats were amazing. We were right in the center! I was really hesitant to spend over $100 a piece on tickets, but after taking into consideration that this was truly a bucket list item for me I took the plunge. After arriving at the venue we discovered we truly had the perfect seats and view, I knew it was totally worth it. We were right in the center and didn’t miss a thing. This play not only included amazing acting and vocal performances, but the special effects are what really took the cake for me. The entire theatre serves as the stage for this play, as it is set up to look like the Opera House, complete with ornate crown molding on the ceilings and even the famous chandelier! It was set up as if you were watching a show at the Opera Populaire, and the Phantom was truly everywhere and nowhere. The audience jumped and gasped, it was so amazing! When the overture began to play at the beginning of the show and the chandelier rose off the stage, I actually shed tears!  I cannot stress enough how amazing this show is, whether you are a huge Phantom fan, or just want to see a show while in the city. Phantom is the longest running Broadway show for a reason!



Central Park

By the time we arrived at Central Park we were so exhausted. However, we both really wanted to spend some time exploring here and weren’t disappointed. I wanted to visit Strawberry Fields and take a boat ride, but it was so far away and we really didn’t feel like taking an Uber or taxi. Instead, we enjoyed the view from the part of the park we accessed from 59th street. Unfortunately, like every other place in the city, when we entered we were swarmed with offers for carriage and bike rides, all of which we kindly declined. There were also some booths set up where you could purchase hot dogs and pretzels, but we opted to wait a while and have a sit-down dinner. Central Park is absolutely huge, and one thing that is so amazing to me is the beautiful scenery and trees in contrast against the giant buildings in the distance. There were amazing playgrounds and tons of space to lay on the grass and enjoy the weather. We took a breather on a bench for about an hour and enjoyed the view before heading off for dinner.


Resting in Central Park

Wrapping Up

The rest of our evening was pretty calm after that. We were both extremely tired, but we decided to walk around a little more, have some ice cream, and enjoy the beautiful lights at Rockafeller Center. We ended up having dinner at a TGI-Friday’s in Times Square. If I had it to do over, I would have planned dinner in advance to avoid eating form a chain restaurant. Not only was the food something that we have on a semi-regular basis, but the prices were outrageous! However, we made up for the disappointing dinner by visiting a roof-top bar called the Playwright Celtic Pub for some drinks and consequently enjoyed some great views.

By the end of the night, both of our phones were going dead, although we had charged them on the outlets in the bus and had brought a portable charger. We were nervous about contacting the host that we would meet to board our bus, but luckily found a charging port in Times Square that you could plug a USB in and actually charge your phone! This is something I had no idea existed and is extremely important to know in case of emergency.  We charged our phones, confirmed our meet up spot, and boarded the bus. Even in the uncomfortable seats, I was out like a light before we even got out of the city.

We had a great time and enjoyed a lot of typical NYC activities on a fairly small budget. However, we learned a few things by opting to take such a short red-eye trip:

  • If you choose to take a red-eye bus trip, understand that you likely won’t get a lot of rest and the seats are probably going to be very uncomfortable. You get what you pay for.
  • If you do take a bus trip, be prepared to rough it when it comes to showering, getting ready, changing clothes, etc.
  • Bring comfortable clothes, a phone charger, AND portable charger. Also, be prepared with a thick blanket and pillow (neck pillows don’t cut it when you are sleeping on a bus the entire night)
  • Bring a portable charging pack and a USB cord with you into the city. If your portable charging pack dies you can use the USB to charge your phone in case of an emergency at different ports that are on the sidewalk in places like Times Square!
  • Avoid chain restaurants.
  • Bathrooms are hard to come by. Try public places like the library, Central Park, or even Mcdonalds if you are desperate.
  • Nothing is free (see Empire State Building)
  • Be prepared to be swarmed by people asking you to buy tickets to tours, etc.
  • Plan as much in advance as possible. You don’t want to be traveling back and forth between each end of the city, it is a waste of time and money if you are taking a cab.
  • Phantom of the Opera is amazing 😉
  • Comfortable shoes are non-negotiable.
  • Fanny packs are your friend (I wore one under my shirt to avoid pick-pockets!)
  • Pace yourself and take breaks! It’s a huge city and your feet are going to be tired.


Thanks for reading guys! Have you ever taken a bus trip to a destination? If so drop a comment below and tell me about it! I’m interested to hear if you had similar experiences. 

If you enjoyed this you might like my post Our 2017 Travel Plans

Follow me on Instagram @thewutheringwrites

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