What I Spent: Two Nights in Philadelphia

  • 01 of 04

    Upfront Costs

    Philadelphia skyline from the Ben Franklin Bridge
    B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

     The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this new series, we’ll look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend.  (Thanks for the inspiration, Refinery29!)

    For this installment, a couple heads to Philadelphia for a quick weekend escape

    Transportation: $26 NYC to Philadelphia is 96 miles, or about a full tank of gas in our Prius, round-trip

    Hotel: Free! Due to a mix-up during our last visit, Loews Philadelphia comped our hotel stay, but retail price for two nights is about $358

    Size of Group: 2

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04


    Philadelphia's Broad Street at night
    Eric Bowers Photo/Getty Images

     6:30 p.m. We escape the bustle of NYC right after work. We stop in New Jersey to fill the tank because gas is much cheaper than in the surrounding areas.  Cost: $26.00

    6:45 p.m. In order to avoid the tolls from NY to Phila, we decide to take the free route. It’s a little longer, but we can use that extra $30.00 on drinks! Cost: Free

    7:45 p.m. Traffic makes for a longer drive than usual and we’re hungry. We decide to stop at a McDonalds (no judgments) for a quick dinner. Four items off the dollar menu and we’re good to go. Cost:  $4.26

    9 p.m. We arrive at the Loews Philadelphia to crash. Rather than pay the $40-a-night valet, we cheap out and use Parking Panda to find a lower priced lot nearby. A few extra blocks is worth the money in our pockets. Cost: $15.25 for the entire stay

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04


    The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

    10 a.m. The in-room hotel coffee is pretty good, so we decide to save a few bucks and make a cup before we head out for the day. Cost: Free

    10:30 a.m. We find a Phila Flea Market going on right outside the Eastern State Penitentiary and decide to walk around. Coming from New York, everything seems like a steal so when we come across two copper Moscow Mule mugs, we can’t say no. My boyfriend barters and gets both for a little less than asking price. Score! Cost: $10 and a little bit of courage

    11:15 a.m. Walking around the flea market has made us hungry and thirsty … off to scout out some sustenance.

    11:20 a.m. There’s a booth from an Italian shop (we didn’t catch the name in our carbs-starved frenzy) and we fight the crowd to try a bunch of delicious breads and dips. We leave with two olive rolls. Cost: $2

    11:30 a.m. There’s a coffee shop OFC right across the street so we decide to fuel up. We order a massive dirty Chai latte to share. Cost: $5.10

    12:20 p.m. We’ve been to Philadelphia a few times and the Eastern State Penitentiary has always been our list. We decide to give it a go this time. I sift through my bag and find my super outdated college I.D. and get a little off the ticket price (shhh!). My boyfriend pays full price. Cost: $24 for one student and one adult ticket

    2 p.m. An hour and a half later and we’re still browsing this amazing institution. The penitentiary was operational from 1829—1971, and walking through its halls feels like you’ve through traveled time. Included in admission is a free (!) audio tour narrated by Steve Buscemi. I’d say a couple fascinating hours and a story read by Steve Buscemi is well worth the price.

    3 p.m. So much history has made us famished. We’ve had the famous cheesesteak joint Dalessandro’s on our list for awhile now and since it’s a little later, we hope it won’t be as packed. Spoiler alert: It’s always busy. We patiently wait until we score two seats at the counter. We order two root beers and a cheesesteak with extra Cheez Whiz (when in Rome!) to share. Cost: $20 with tip

    4 p.m. It’s been a packed day so we head to Loews to rest before dinner.

    6:00 p.m. The annual South Street Headhouse Spring Festival, a massive music and food event celebrating the warm weather, is happening down on South Street. We walk from our hotel to burn off some of those cheesesteak calories. Cost: Free

    6:45 p.m. I find a ketchup stain on my jeans from a drunken partier who bumped into me in the crowd. Yep, I’m ready to leave. We need a drink STAT.

    7 p.m. We navigate to a nearby cocktail bar, Southwark, thanks to Yelp. I order the Philadelphia Fish House Punch and my boyfriend tries the Millionaire. Both are delicious and I start to hate my nagging sense of frugality. I avoid temptation to order a second and we head to dinner. Cost: $30.20 with tip

    7:30 p.m. Dinner is BYOB, so we walk to a wine store our bartender recommended. We pick out a cheap bottle of red. Cost: $10

    7:45 p.m. A thrift store right next door is calling my name. We walk into Philly AIDS Thrift and because I’ve never met a vintage lamp I didn’t like, we leave with a new desk lamp. We’ll have to carry it around to dinner, but my apartment will thank me. Cost: $15.50

    8:00 p.m. Dinner is a well-reviewed Moroccan joint called Marrakesh that offered a 7-course (yes, SEVEN) dinner for only $25. The large crowd swarming the alleyway assures us that it’ll live up to the hype.

    8:45 p.m. Only two courses in and already we can barely move. We’re in a small corner room with two other groups. We can tell they feel similarly stuffed. But we’ve been told there are belly dancers and the fourth course (the lamb) is to die for. We can do this.

    9:30 p.m. We did it. We made it through all seven courses, even if we only nibbled by the end. We agree that it was worth the pain. Cost: $70 including tax and tip

    10 p.m. A nightcap is out of the question. We hop in a Lyft pool and head back to the hotel. Cost: $6 for a shared ride 

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04


    A produce stand at Philadelphia's Italian Market
    R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

     9:30 a.m. We’re still stuffed from last night’s dinner, but vacation calories don’t count so my boyfriend runs over to Reading Terminal Market for sugary, delicious, fatty pastries to start the day right. Cost: $8.50 for two  

    11 a.m. We pick up the car from the lot and head over to South 9th Street to hit up the weekly Italian market.

    11:30 a.m. Officially jealous. From blueberries for $1.00 to a carton of grapes for $.75, you definitely can’t find these prices in New York. We grab three artichokes, a few lemons and three cartons of blackberries to take home. Cost: $5.00 for everything

    12 p.m. Uh oh. I stumbled upon Cardenas Oil & Vinegar Taproom. Flavored vinegars are my weakness. I can’t help but take home a few bottles of balsamic. Cost: $37.00

    1 p.m. Lunch is dim sum. Since we’re ardent fans of dim sum in NYC, we decide to give it a try in Philly. We find a hip joint called Bing Bing. A few plates of soup dumplings, a bowl of noodles and a couple of Bloody Marys later, we’re fully satisfied and agree that we could live in Philadelphia. Cost: $52.00

    2 p.m. Last stop before heading home is John’s Water Ice. Foursquare promises birthday cake ice cream is the way to go. My boyfriend goes with standard cherry ice. Cost: $5.00

    3 p.m. We drive back to NYC after a food-filled weekend. Our tank is still mostly full (thanks, Prius!), but we have to pay the toll to enter the city. Our stomachs are full and thankfully, our wallets are pretty full still too. Cost: $12.50 with E-ZPass

    Totals (everything below is split two ways)

    Food & Drink: $207.06

    Transportation: $59.75

    Entertainment: $24.00

    Miscellaneous: $67.50