How much can you expect to spend in Chicago?
The most important thing to consider when traveling is your budget, especially when you are going to a notoriously expensive place. When I plan my trips, I look for others’ spending reports to get an idea of how much to save for spending money, but I rarely found detailed information about how much a trip could cost.
To help my fellow travelers, here is a snapshot of our expenses for our six-day trip to Chicago in August 2018.
WE SAW HAMILTON ON MY 30TH BIRTHDAY!
Our Chicago Expenses
|Two round trip flights from northern California to Chicago Midway||$22.40||We paid for two round trip tickets on Southwest with 22,706 points, which I transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards , and the Southwest Companion Pass. We only had to pay taxes and fees for our flights.|
|Accomodations||$0||We paid for our five-night stay at the Hyatt Place Chicago/Downtown-The Loop with 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points that I transferred to my Hyatt account.|
|Meals||$1,275||We did not skimp on meals in the Windy City! We love trying interesting places to eat and we also wanted to splurge since this was for my 30th birthday. Breakfast was included in the hotel, so we were able to splurge on lunch, dinner, and treats. Our meals included steaks at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, Morton’s Steakhouse (a birthday tradition), deep-dish pizza at Giordano’s, and burgers at Au Cheval. Food in Chicago was expensive, especially because the sales tax is 10%. Look for a separate post about all the delicious finds from our trip!|
|Activities||$726||We mostly walked around and took in the free sights. We spent money on the SkyDeck, the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, and a yacht cruise on Lake Michigan. The most expensive activity was seeing Hamilton on my birthday, but that was the ultimate reason why I chose to spend my birthday in Chicago. Two tickets to the show in Chicago cost $600 for Orchestra-level seats. |
The entire trip cost less than two tickets in the same section to see Hamilton in San Francisco! So why not take the same amount of money and turn it into a six-day adventure?
If you’re not planning to splurge on a Broadway musical, you could probably get away with $200 for activities for two people. Most of the sights are free to see in Chicago.
|Transportation||$26||We took the metro from the airport and took a Lyft to a few things, but we walked most of the time.|
|Souvenirs||$95||Since sales tax is so high in Chicago, I didn’t buy any souvenirs. Even though it was my birthday trip, my husband had to have a Jack Skellington blazer from the Disney Store (grrr).|
|Total||$2,180.40||Average total per day = $363.40|
A few tips to save money in the Windy City:
Limit the souvenirs that you could get elsewhere.
While my home state of California has an 8% sales tax, I was not prepared for how much a difference the sales tax makes. I didn’t buy anything from Magnificent Mile or the local malls since we have the same stores in California.
Use discount sites and eat during happy hours to save money at local restaurants.
Groupon and Living Social have restaurant deals in Chicago and you usually receive the voucher on the same day. Also, find happy hour deals instead of paying full price for meals. Side note: if your lodging has a fridge, I suggest buying waters, sodas, and alcohol, rather than buying them when you are out exploring.
Hack the tourist sights and souvenirs.
If you want to see 360 Chicago (also known as the Hancock Building), skip the observatory and ticket fee and go to the Signature Room at the 96th restaurant (on the 95th floor) instead. There is a lounge where you can order a $10 drink and enjoy the view.
Look for Chicago-branded souvenirs in unexpected places like grocery stores, big chain stores (e.g. Target), and drugstores. These stores often carry small souvenirs such as picture frames, key chains, and mugs priced less than the stores at tourist attractions.
Stay in a central area of Chicago.
Find lodging in a central area, which will make it easier to walk, bike, or take metro. It might be slightly more expensive than staying on the outskirts of town, but you can save time and money by not driving or depending on ride shares/taxis.
Did this help you plan your trip? Any recommendations for saving money in Chicago?
I hope this spending report gives you information about planning your budget for your trip to Chicago. If you’ve been, what are some of your strategies to spend wisely in Chicago? Let me know in the comments below.
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