Hotel Alternatives in New York City

As anyone who lives here can tell you, New York is expensive.  Very, very expensive.  The city of New York and its suburbs account for 4 of the top 10 most expensive places to live in the U.S., according to government-published cost of living indices.  While some swoon at a $10 cup of coffee or the $15 fee charged to drive across the bridge that connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, it is living space that is most at a premium in the city of New York.  For natives, that translates to one of the most expensive places in the world to rent or buy an apartment.  For visitors to it means high hotel rates, especially at peak tourist seasons.

A trip to New York for a family or large group could easily cost upwards of $1000 per night in hotel rooms.  But for those willing to forgo some of the amenities that a hotel provides in favor of a lower price and more room, there are alternatives to staggering hotel bills. One of the easiest, most cost-effective and popular is short-stay apartment rental. Vacation home rental websites that specialize in entire home rental for longer stays have existed for several years but several newer companies have taken the concept of vacation rental and made it even more versatile. Instead of committing to a long-term stay in a large property you can rent an entire apartment, a room, or even just a bed in shared bedroom on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis. Depending on the season it is often possible to find entire apartments that rent for the price of a single hotel room.  Aside from the cost benefits, renting an apartment as a visitor can give you a chance to see what it is like to live in New York City, to see neighborhoods that most tourists never see, to interact with locals and to learn about the city from a new


Below is a list of sites that rent apartments, rooms in apartments or even a couch to sleep on to short-term to visitors. All of the listed sites offer secure online payment and all require that payment be completed through the website to ensure the security of credit card information.


The most popular site in the New York City metro area.  Offers entire apartments, rooms in a shared apartment and even beds in a shared room. Searches can be done online or through a mobile app.  Search by location (either using an interactive map or using a list), size, number of rooms, amenities offered, price, positive reviews, dates available, or a combination of search parameters.  Guests pay a booking fee of 6-12%, depending on the total of the reservation amount. Please note: in 2014 New York City law changed. It is now ONLY legal to rent a room in a native NYer’s apartment if the legal resident is also there. Many Airbnb members do not follow this law to the letter, however.


Search properties by dates available and then refine the search based on other criteria such as size, price or neighborhood.  Specializes in Apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn.  Guests pay a booking fee of 5-10%, depending on the total cost of the rental amount.


One of the oldest of the short-stay rental sites, you can search by location as well as size, number of bedrooms, price and date available.  This site covers entire properties only, not rooms in a shared apartment and tends to feature longer-term (at least a week) rentals. Guests do not pay a booking fee.


Rent a room or an entire apartment.  Searches can be filtered by location, size, price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, and by amenities available.  Guests pay a booking fee of 12% for stays of 1-30 nights and 8% for stays of more than 30 nights.

Although all of the sites above have measures in place to protect you as well as the owner of the property, it is important to remember to put safety first when renting from a stranger.  All of the listed sites have features that verify the host’s identity using credit card and other information as well as reviews from past guests.  They also all require you, as the guest, to provide detailed information to verify your identity.  Thesesecurity measures go a long way to making both parties involved in the transaction feel safer, but always use caution and your best judgment when entering into a short-stay rental agreement.

E.T. Carlton is a New York Based Freelance Writer

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