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Five Ways to Save in Chicago

This blog post was updated on October 11, 2018.

When you are one of the biggest cities in the United States, you are no doubt also one of the most expensive for the traveler. Chicago is no different than Los Angeles or New York when it comes to expenses. While it might have better deals than New York, it can still be a budget-breaking destination. However, it would be a shame to miss out on the tasty food, lively scene, wondrous architecture and baseball games that this city has to offer. Rather than just head for more budget destinations, here are a few ways to save in Chicago.

Don’t bring a car: Parking a car in any big city is bound to take up your whole trip budget. In Chicago, it is no different. If you can stand to be without a car, your wallet will thank you. Parking garages right in downtown and around the Loop can charge about $50 per day just to park your vehicle. The hotel that I stayed at charged $43 for each night. When you stay three nights, this quickly adds up. If you ditch the car, you can use that parking money toward dinners and more attraction admissions.

Set sail on the Chicago Water Taxi for a DIY boat tour:
I looked into taking a boat tour around Chicago. The steep entrance fees had me backing off and looking for cheaper options. The Chicago Water Taxi allows you to float through Chicago, without hurting your wallet. A single ticket costs $3.00 while an all day pass costs $8.00. Chicago Water Taxi features stops at Michigan Avenue, LaSalle/Clark, Madison Street, Chinatown and North Avenue. Any ride allows you to take in the city’s architecture and skyscrapers from the water. If you sign up for most boat tours in Chicago, they will cost anywhere from $20 to $30 per person. The Chicago Water Taxi makes for an easy way to save and get around the city.

Take advantage of free attractions: Chicago can quickly add up in expenses when it comes to hotels, parking and entrance fees. However, there are plenty of attractions that don’t cost a dime. For example, Millennium Park offers a wealth of freebies to entertain travelers including the “Bean”, or Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain and nearby Grant Park. The Lincoln Park Zoo is also one of Chicago’s great freebie attractions.

Go beyond downtown and head for other neighborhoods:
I was in Chicago for a Bachelorette party, all of whom wanted to stay in downtown Chicago. From hotel room rates to those Friday night drinks, it was expensive to say the least. If you want to afford Chicago, you will need to explore beyond the downtown, Magnificent Mile area and seek out more neighborhoods. A drink in downtown is hard to come by under $10. Away from downtown, most drinks are under $10.

If you’re going to Wrigley, bring your own water and soda:
On my long weekend in Chicago, I found myself at Wrigley Field, one of the city’s most popular and oldest attractions, on two occasions. Beers in cans that normally cost around $0.99 cents where selling for $8. If you can skip the party, it is helpful for your wallet while in Chicago to bring your own refreshments to the game. Even a Pepsi runs for around $5, something you could get at a vending machine for a $1.00. Those high mark-ups at the ballpark can be damaging to the travel budget. Bring your own unopened water and soft drinks to the game instead and get a beer after the game.


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