Midwest day-trips on a budget

In 3 weeks, Josh and I are going to take a vacation. Not a big vacation or anything, just a day trip. We've done day-trips before, to Nashville, IN or Columbus, IN, or Parke County, IN. I thoroughly enjoy them- they involve lots of one-on-one time with my husband (in the car), no packing, and are relatively inexpensive, when gas prices are low and we go to these smaller cities. A day-trip to a bigger place, such as Chicago or Cincinnati, however, is a different story. The driving time is longer. Tolls may be incurred. We have to pay for parking. Attractions cost more. Big cities make for more major trips. When we want to take the adventure and not break the budget, what're we to do?

We're doing an experiment. we're going to use public transportation- a foreign concept to us Indiana-dwellers. There's a midwest inter-city bus service called megabus.com that has a few trips every day between Indianapolis and Chicago. How much would a trip from Chicago to Indy cost us, just in transportation, in our car? Google maps says it's 360 miles round trip to Union Station, not including driving elsewhere. 360 mi/30 mpg * $2.75/gal = $33. Parking AT LEAST once in downtown Chicago, probably a couple times would be... $15? I have no idea. I think we go through a toll road on the way (~$4? Again, I don't know.) These conservative numbers, added up, equal $52, without eating or going to any attractions. Now, to megabus.com. Their pricing policy:
Megabus.com one-way fares start as low as $1. Fares will vary by reservation date, day of travel and demand for seats. $1 fares are limited. Fares are subject to change without notice. ... Any change to your reservation may result in a fare increase. Megabus will offer its best prices to those who make reservations early or choose less popular trips. However, all trips will remain competitively priced offering excellent value for your money. Please note that due to the high sales volumes on our website, prices may fluctuate between searches.
So, the answer: the price can be anything. But, if, like us, you make a May 5th reservation on March 23rd, you get pretty good prices. The trip there, for 2 seats, is $2. We'll get there by noon and be there into the evening, leaving late. The trip back, for 2 seats, is $9. A reservation fee of 50 cents is charged, bring our grand total transportation costs to & from Chicago up to $11.50, and we'll get dropped off at Union Station right in downtown. Online, we're going to purchase a $5 weekend unlimited train pass for Chicago, so we'll be able to get around downtown wherever we like. Grand total: $21.50, a savings of over $30 in transportation costs, freeing up our budget a bit to actually DO STUFF once we're there. I'll let you know how it goes.

Any sightseeing suggestions? We've been to the Sears Tower and John Hancock building (Anyone remember that story?!) Also, we'll be there on Cinco de Mayo, and it would be cool to get pictures of festivities in a big city. I've already been in Chicago's Chinatown for Chinese New Year, and THAT was a very-cool adventure, for sure.


Matt B said...

I highly recommend Wicked if you can find the tickets and have the time. It's the best "new" show I've seen since Phantom of the Opera.


Larissa said...

I think you are saving more money than you could imagine. Parking for the day in a garage in downtown Chicago is about $15, at least it was 2 years ago. As far as site-seeing stuff to do, let me know if you are wanting to stay in the downtown part or if you are wanting to go to the nearby suburbs and I should be able to tell you at least one good thing to do.

mrs.burke said...

You know what, your comment engine clearly doesn't know which Matt is which!

Joanna said...

LOL, there are 4 Matt's that read this blog, that I know of. Two "Matt B"'s, one "Matt W", one "Matt M".

Larissa- we'll probably stay downtown, considering we just have the afternoon and are going to try to get around town on public transportation.

Matt said...

Regarding Matt B's comment, I own Wicked (the book) but have not read it. My wife did and was seriously turned off by the graphic, mature nature of some parts. I don't know if that is also prominent in the play, but there's my two cents.

Now, on to things I like in Chicago: Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, and for a meal Gino's East.

There's another nearby aquarium in Cincinnati, OH, which is a shorter drive than Chicago, so that makes the one in Chicago less of a "must see". But I like aquariums, so I still recommend it.

Matt M.

Ashley said...

Mmm I really like Chicago!! My favorite is the Art Institute... I could go there again and again...

I hope you have fun on your trip! :-)

Larissa said...

Millennium Park is a nice place to walk around. I know in the summer they have free concerts in the outdoor amphitheater but I don't know what month they start doing them. Also, it is easy to get to some of the closer suburbs on public transportation. I really like Lincoln Square, which I suppose is technically in Chicago but is its own little village sort of place. They have all sorts of artsy fartsy stores, used bookstores, trendy bookstores, and just a lot of neat stuff to look at in general. The people I lived with in Chicago the summer I did my internship there liked to go to the Daily Bar and Grill there. They took me there once and it was pretty good. My all-time favorite restaurant is in Chicago. It's called Joy Yees. They have a location in China Town and one in Evanston, which is near Northwestern University. I was told the one in Evanston was better. Anyhow, it would be really out of the way but you can get there by Metro Train. They have all types of Asian food and the best bubble tea ever. They make it with fresh fruit and it's more like a smoothie with the tapioca balls on the bottom. Daniel, Talitha, Bethanie, Regan, and I all went there when they came to visit me that summer. We all ordered different dishes and shared them with each other and all of it was SO GOOD! Anyhow, I hope you have a good trip and I look forward to reading a lengthy blog entry on everything you did. :)


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