Kelsee’s NYC Frugal Travel Hacks – Broadway Shows

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It’s pretty common knowledge in my circle of friends that I take a big trip to NYC each year to celebrate my birthday. This year, it’s a summer trip – next week! It’s become something that I plan for each year. While the trip changes a little bit each year, I usually use the same basic plans to make it happen. Three or four times every few weeks, I have people ask me about how I plan my NYC trips. I get messages on Facebook asking about where I stay, how I get there, what shows I’m seeing, etc. I thought I would answer ALL the questions I could potentially answer in a series of posts so that I can dig in with as much helpful information as possible.

Series Post #1: Transportation
Series Post #2: Broadway Shows (I know this is something lots of people are excited about.)
Series Post #3: Accommodations & Food
Series Post #4: Things to Do That Aren’t Broadway Shows

Today we cover my favorite topic…BROADWAY SHOWS!

Yes, this is the topic that I get asked about the most. I’ve been seeing a lot of shows through various means during each of my NYC trips.

My personal cost per show best was in 2016 – $630.11 for 10 shows in 2016. That averages to $63.01 per show and none of these seats were obstructed or terrible – many were the orchestra or front mezzanine.

Broadway tickets don’t have to break your budget, but the more flexible that you can be, the better deals that you will get. If you get stuck on “I must see [biggest most popular show there is] or this is gonna suck,” you’ll probably be disappointed with the costs. I’ll encourage you to do the same things I do to save a few bucks and see the most shows you can. Stay flexible and keep an open mind – it’s the best way.

Start by Making a List

There are oodles of play and musicals happening on Broadway at any given time. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Hop on over to Playbill to see the list of every show that’s currently playing (or will be playing soon) and break it down. BroadwayForBrokePeople also has a very good list for schedules and prices!

I make a list each year of “Must-See Shows,” “Would See Shows,” and “Don’t Care to See.” From there, you can start crafting a plan about what your show priorities will be during your trip.

“Must-See Shows” = obviously are the priority when it comes to buying tickets!
“Would See Shows” = shows you would see if shows from your “Must-See Shows” list weren’t available.
“Don’t Care to See” = I think this is pretty clear.

TIP: Costs will vary depending on the season you go. After Tony nominations, tickets for SOME shows will become more scarce and more expensive just because they’ve been nominated for awards. You’ve been warned.

Go to the Official Ticket Website

Most of the time, the show’s official website will lead you to Telecharge or Ticketmaster. Go ahead and look to see how much full price tickets will cost you, DON’T BUY ANYTHING YET. This first visit is all about checking costs and availability. Don’t buy until you check for discounts. If the show is sold out during your trip, all hope isn’t lost yet, but it might affect your prospects of getting discount tickets.

TIP: Ticketmaster had a major class action lawsuit payout happen recently. If you’ve purchased ANYTHING from Ticketmaster in the last few years, log in to your account and see if you have anything in your “Vouchers” section. Chances are you might and you could apply the credits to a purchase.

Actually Look for Discounts

Discounts are everywhere. The promo codes are so simple to find. Just look – take 5 minutes and do it. The first place I look is Google. Type “[Show Name] promo code” and see where it leads you. I’ve found all kinds of random discounts this way – ranging from 20% – 50% off, not to mention a random two-for -one deal that occasionally pops up.

Below are some of my favorite places to find discounts. Use them.

  • Sign up for EVERY theater mailing list you can. There’s TheaterMania, Broadway World, Playbill, Telecharge Offers – ALL OF THEM. There are probably even some that I don’t know about. Don’t discriminate because they send discount codes out ALL THE TIME. Seriously, I get emails with codes every few days. It’s worth it. Follow all of them on social media as well.
  • Get the TodayTix and TKTS apps to start tracking prices a couple weeks before your trip. You might see that they have better prices or discounts and you may be able to swing a last minute purchase.
  • Sign up for HipTix! If you are under 35, you MUST do this! Their discount program is off the charts. All tickets in this program are $25. It’s a steal. Don’t miss out.
  • Sign Up for Audience Rewards. Before you even use the account for purchases, they send out all kinds of goodies. Be on the list for stuff. This is the OFFICIAL REWARDS program for Broadway ticket purchases, so sign up! Make sure you enter this rewards number every time you make a ticket purchase. It’s worth it if you plan to visit NYC more than once as it’s super easy to earn and stack up rewards. They even have a credit card you can sign up for if you feel comfortable enough to hack points that way.
  • Sign Up for Broadway Boosters! This is a no brainer! All you do to earn entries into their contests is share their links on your social media. It’s WAY TOO EASY. I’ve won MULTIPLE swag bags and free tickets. It’s worth it.
  • Sign up for Show-Score. This site rates shows (if you couldn’t tell), so you can get some great feedback before buying. They also have discount tickets and host events that have also have discount show tickets.
  • Look at the discount sites of Groupon, Goldstar, and even The Skint. Yes, you can find discount tickets on ALL of these! Groupon and Goldstar are discount sites where you can buy almost anything, but The Skint is a newsletter that links you to free and cheap events ALL OVER NYC…sometimes that means Broadway shows.

What about Rushes and Lotteries?

I got you. This is the bread and butter way to get some cheaper tickets. Keep that “Must-See” and “Would See” list you made with you because this is when you’ll need it.

Start with the Playbill Guide “Broadway Rush, Lottery, and Standing Room Only Policies”

Rushes: This guide above lays it all out and how it works. You can plan out which shows you want to attempt rushing for each day and where/how that works. “Rushing” usually means arriving at the theater early-ish in the morning and lining up outside the box office. Once the box office opens, they’ll start selling whatever tickets are available for that day – usually at a deep discount. Sometimes these seats are obstructed or way out on the sides. Who really cares?! Ask me about the time David and I saw Les Mis…from a private box…for $30-$35. You’re seeing shows for a deep discount. Sometimes these are seats in the orchestra or front mezzanine – you just don’t know until you get there. The lines for the most popular shows start really early, so plan accordingly – this year (2019), I’m talking about Hadestown, Oklahoma, Beetlejuice –  get in lines EARLY.

Lotteries: No guarantee you’ll win, but it’s always worth it to enter because WHY NOT?! I’ve won a fair amount of ticket lotteries in my time, but there’s no real formula to guarantee a win. You can’t win if you don’t play! Some lottery tickets are as cheap as $10, all the way up to $40-$50ish. Refer to the Playbill Guide or BroadwayForBrokePeople for the links to shows with digital lotteries. Broadway Boosters also has a lottery option for some shows.

TodayTix: For me, TodayTix is the BEST option for last-minute purchases. You seriously go on the app, look at the options, and buy right from the app. No need to wait in line. You look for the TodayTix rep outside the theater, flash your ID, get tickets and BOOM! Done! I also like that you can specify where you want to sit within the app – orchestra, mezzanine, rear mezzanine, etc. They also have tickets for off-Broadway shows, shows at 54 Below, and operas.

TKTS: I list TKTS as second best for last minute tickets for a couple of reasons. Number One: They have to sell you their most expensive discount tickets first. The show may be listed at 50% off, but that may be 50% off the most expensive orchestra ticket they have (which they have to sell first), not a mezzanine seat which could be significantly cheaper. Plus, they don’t disclose prices upfront…just the discount percentage. Number Two: You have to wait in line. My TKTS tip: Don’t go to the Times Square location. It’s usually the last one to open for the day, so they don’t always have the best options available. Consider going to the Lincoln Center location or the South Street Seaport because they open earlier. Since they open earlier, you may be able to get better tickets a little sooner.

Tony Awards Tickets: Yeah, these aren’t cheap unless you know someone. Be ready to drop a minimum of $400. That’s all I got for those.

Those are my top tips, but let me know if you have any specific questions and I may add to the post!

Coming Soon: Tips on food and accommodations!

Do you see Broadway shows? What are your recommendations for tickets? Do you already use some of my tips? Tell me in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “Kelsee’s NYC Frugal Travel Hacks – Broadway Shows

  1. Kelsey! You are so right about all of this! There are a few I should check more regularly, so thanks for the reminder! There is one last option–join TDF which runs the TKTS booth. You must be able to prove you’re “in the business” or be in a government service industry, like a police person or a teacher. There is a $30/year membership, but then you have access to shows at about a 75% discount. My favorite show this year, SIGNIFICANT OTHER, I saw in the front row for $41. The less “popular” shows are always on their website–like Pulitzer Prize winner SWEAT or SCHOOL OF ROCK. I recommend to every eligible person!

    1. Phebe! Thanks for swinging by! I saw SCHOOL OF ROCK last year – we won the lottery and loved it! SWEAT is on my “would see” list for this trip, so I might end up seeing that! I’m super sad that SIGNIFICANT OTHER is already done because I was definitely interested in that!

      Thanks for the tip about joining TDF as well – that’s a good one!

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