New York City on a budget – is it worth staying in New Jersey?

This past weekend, I embarked on a journey I have often avoided taking: I went across the Hudson River and spent two nights in New Jersey. My goal was to determine whether or not staying in New Jersey is actually a smart, cheaper, just-as-good way to visit New York City.

My snobbish aversion to New Jersey is partially born of fear. I don’t know how to “do” New Jersey, and everyone I know who lives there pays less rent for an apartment twice as big as mine. All this makes me very uncomfortable. That, and the fact that I love living in Manhattan.

Still, Manhattan is expensive — and that goes for hotels, too. Everyone in New York knows full well that it only takes about 15 minutes to get to New Jersey, and yet many of us view it as a whole other country. The fact is, for the frugal traveler, you can get a hotel in New Jersey for a lot less than you can in NYC. The Westin Jersey City Newport, where I stayed this weekend, typically costs 30 percent less than the Westin in Times Square, and you’ll see that kind of price variance and greater across the board. And, as I said, it’s only 15 minutes away. But is it really worth it to stay in New Jersey when visiting New York City?It turns out that some people, particularly Europeans, like to stay in New Jersey. The energy of New York is admittedly hectic, and can be stressful for some. “People like to be able to walk in and walk out,” said Bob McIntosh, Director of Sales and Marketing at The Westin Jersey City Newport.

That makes sense to me. The difference you feel when you exit the Newport/Pavonia PATH station (just one stop from Manhattan’s Christopher Street stop in the trendy West Village) is palpable. There are fewer people, everything’s clean, the views of NYC are stunning and nobody asks you for spare change. Staying the night at the Westin in the spacious, airy room with a view of Manhattan was comfortable and unbelievably quiet — I was impressed. And when you think about it, why pay money to sleep in noise?

The answer came to me the next day when I looked out the window at what seemed like a different country, as I mentioned before in reverse. When you look across the river, the effort to get to Manhattan feels monumental. I had hoped to take a ferry ride across the Hudson and catch some sun along the way, but unfortunately, it was a Saturday. I learned that ferries and water taxis don’t run on the weekends, and the PATH trains don’t run as often as they do Monday through Friday.

Still, I timed my trip from the white tea-scented lobby of The Westin to the World Trade Center via PATH train with one transfer — 22 minutes, and I had just missed a train when I got there. That’s not bad; as a matter of fact, it takes longer to get there from my Manhattan apartment. The PATH train is just $1.75 and runs 24 hours (albeit slower nights and weekends).

During the week, according to the concierge, you can get a ferry for $12.75 or a private water taxi (NY Waterway) for just $7.25. The earliest ferry is at 6:58 AM on weekdays, and the latest return is at 7:39 PM. Alternatively, you can get a car service any day of the week for about $45 plus an $8 toll.

So, is it worth it to stay in New Jersey? Financially, yes — you can often find cheaper flights into Newark, and you might be able to afford a luxury hotel like The Westin in New Jersey even if it’s out of range in NYC. The obstacle is making yourself commit to trekking under or over the Hudson River every single day of your trip, because if you go for a wander outside a hotel in New Jersey, it’s really, really not the same; not the style, not the food, not the people — but after a frenzied day in New York City, that change to a safer, calmer place may be just what you want.

My stay at The Westin Jersey City Newport was free, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are only biased by my personal snobbery, not the hotel.