Over Thanksgiving weekend, Isaac and 150 band members and 50-some chaperones and family members went to New York City. The real reason for the trip was to march in a parade, but once that many people go that far, it's wise to stay a little longer and see the sights. So, they did. One night in Philadelphia, 3 nights in Newark.
The logistics of the travel plans are the thing of nightmares. 5 groups, leaving at 5 different times, 5 different flight plans with different layovers and different arrival times. Busses, room mate decisions, box breakfasts. In truth, the trip was very well organized and went off with only minor catastrophes (Isaac's group had an unexpected 5 hour layover at the Dulles airport, one bus got in a wreck, some clowns in the parade heckled the band, borrowed a flag from a flag team member and hit her with it, just minor things). It was an experience that the teenagers and parents involved will never forget.
While the majority of the trip and sightseeing were planned by a travel agency, there were certain activities and meals that were "optional" and up to the individuals. A couple of lunches, snacks, a dinner. There would be time to SHOP on 5th Avenue on the day after Thanksgiving. There would be ample opportunities for souvenirs. All of this meant one thing.
Bring a lot of money.
The band directors and sponsors gave helpful advice. Protect your assets by splitting them; one wallet in your pocket, one in your backpack. Budget your funds. Don't spend it all on the first day. Don't forget to tip the waitperson in a restaurant.
As most parents did, we considered carefully just how much spending money was "appropriate". We gave Isaac some, he added a generous amount of his own saved allowances. A $20 bill was zipped into his jacket pocket, "just in case". He was reminded one last time to NOT spend it all the first day, or he'd be the kid with no lunch money for the airport on the return flights.
He returned from the trip with all but $35.
Seven dollars a day spent en route to and in one of the major commercial opportunities in the country. He said he could have kept it to $5 a day, except for that layover at the airport...he'd read all of his books and bought a "Star Wars" novel for the return flight.
He assures me that he did not feel in any way deprived. He didn't go hungry, but the street corner hotdog vendor was more interesting than a sitdown restaurant, not to mention cheaper. He saw a lot of things to buy, but nothing he needed. He didn't need a lightup Statue of Liberty, he didn't need a sweatshirt emblazoned with "I HEART NY", he didn't need a keyring, pencil, pen or stuffed animal. He briefly considered a $5 "Rolex" watch, but suspected that it might not be "real" (no pulling the wool over the eyes of THAT kid!)
He doesn't think he'd do anything differently if he took the trip again.
Except, next time, he'd take a camera.