Chicago, Illinois Day Trip | Budget Travel

One of the best ways to see a city, on a budget, is to do a day trip. A day trip is when you fly in & fly out on the same day, so you don’t have to get a hotel room. Day trips are also a great way to travel, without having to use your vacation time at work. I love day trips, although I hate the necessary evil of early morning flights.

I’ve always wanted to go to Chicago, it’s one of the cities I check (daily) on my Google Flights search. One morning, while browsing, I noticed $58 one-way tickets for several days in June, including Saturday. I quickly bought the tickets & started planning. One thing I have learned is that in order to maximize your time, it is best to plan your day. Make sure to itemize your time, including how will you get from Point A to B. You don’t want to over-plan your day or miss your flight because you didn’t plan properly.

Let’s see how we spent 11 hours in Chicago:

[7-930am] Flight

Our flight left on time & arrived 30 minutes early. However, the gate was occupied & 30 minutes were spent on the tarmac waiting for a new gate. Cost: $117

[945-1045 am] Travel Time

Whenever we go to cities, we try to take public transportation. It’s a cheap way to get around & it quickly immerses you in the local life. After we landed, we followed the airport signs for Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). It was about a 5-minute walk from Terminal 3 to the train.

We purchased two all-day passes ($10 each) from the kiosk & headed downstairs. There were three trains on the platform, we saw the “Board Here” sign next to the middle train, so we started to walk over & the doors closed! Drats, we thought we missed the train. The doors swung up quickly & without hesitation, we hopped on. Hooray! I was glad we got on since the next train from O’Hare was not leaving for 15 minutes. It was about 45 minutes from O’Hare to our Clark/Lake stop. Cost: $20

Pro Tip: O’Hare is the first stop, go to the middle of the train to find a seat. If you must stand, make sure you stand in the middle of the train, rather than near the doors, as the train fills up quickly.

Once we got off the train, we walked about 1/2 mile to the restaurant. This was a beautiful walk across the river.

[11-1130am] Lunch

Lunch at 3 Greens Market: We arrived at the restaurant minutes before 11. We proceeded to the coffee bar (to the right of the entrance) to grab a 12 oz almond milk latte & Doughnut Vault Pistachio Muffin. The latte was delicious, not too sweet or bitter, with just enough foam. The pistachio muffin was a sourdough donut of yumminess, sprinkled with coconut. I am upset, I only purchased one. Cost: $8

We placed our coffee bar items at a table in the cafe & then went to the salad bar. Food is by the pound, similar to Whole Foods. We went to the hot brunch bar & grabbed a bit of everything. Their Maple & Black Pepper Bacon was the best bacon I have ever had. I honestly contemplated getting a to-go box of their bacon, it was that good. Cost: $28

[1145-1215pm] Travel Time

We left lunch around noon, & called a Lyft to take us to Adler Planetarium. We could have also taken CTA (Green/Orange from Clarke to Roosevelt, then taken 146 Museum Campus bus). Cost: $13

[1230-4pm] Adler Planetarium

We purchased tickets through TravelZoo for $16 off their All-Access Pass (Admission + Unlimited Shows). We were planning on buying the Basic Pass (Admission + 1 Show) because we wanted to see “Planet Nine”. With the deal, we saw two shows (Planet Nine & Cosmic Wonder). The shows are around 30 minutes each. Both shows were amazing, and visually stimulating with tons of information. They were well worth the time. Make sure you get there 15 minutes early to get a good seat. For both shows, pick a seat in the middle & furthest back. Cost: $38

Pro Tip: The TravelZoo is valid for visits until June 15th. If you are an IL resident, Adler has Free admission from June 5-9, 2017.

[415-445pm] Travel Time

Called a Lyft to take us to the New Nutella Store. I Googled ‘Chicago Nutella Cafe’ for the address & we took the Lyft to Eataly at 43 E Ohio St. However, this was not the correct address, as the Nutella Store is located at 189 N Michigan Ave. Cost: $10

[450 – 5 pm] Eataly

We noticed a Gelato Bar, next to the wrong Nutella cafe, so we grabbed a small Pistachio & a small Lemon to ease our pain. Cost: $10

[5 pm – 510p] Travel Time

We walked the 1/2 mile to Lou Malnati’s. No way I come to Chicago & not have a deep-dish pizza.

[515- 615p] Lou Malnati’s

When we arrived, the tables outside were full, but there were several two-seaters inside. We were promptly seated & looked over the menu. We ordered two personal pans: the “Lou” (add sausage) & Pepperoni. We arrived at a good time, as soon after we ordered, the lobby started to fill up. The pizzas came out in 30 minutes (our server quoted us 45 minutes before we ordered). The pepperoni was nice & smoky with a hint of spice. The Lou (spinach mix, mushrooms, and sliced Roma tomatoes covered with a blend of mozzarella, romano, and cheddar cheese) was also very good. The cheese blend was a great compliment to the spinach; the sausage was top-notch. Cost: $28 (food, tax + tip)

[620 – 720p] Travel Time: We walked back over the River, to Clark/Lake CTA & grabbed the Blue Line back to O’Hare. Cost: $0 (since we had the day pass)

[830p-1230a] Flight: The forecast was overcast & rainy, but it was a perfect day. Ironically, the rain started, once we were on the plane headed home. Our flight left O’Hare at 830p & we landed in Miami 15 after midnight. Cost: $117

Total Cost: $439

  • Flight: $234
  • Parking: $0
  • Transportation: $93
  • Entertainment: $38
  • Food: $74

I am glad we finally visited Chicago! We did not do the River cruise or visit the observation deck, but it was a perfect day. Can’t wait for our next trip to Chicago.

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