Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vacation on a Semi-Budget

After what seems like weeks of holidays, I am back. Wow! Amazing how your brain takes holiday literally, and shuts down to absolutely everything that resembles responsible work. House work. Pampered Chef work. Blog work. Work-work. If it didn't equal relaxing, and it involved a computer, I was nowhere to be found. Unfair for you, but it was an excellent refresher nonetheless. I spend so much time at my computer lately in the office, I was in serious need of recharge.

Recharge was exactly what I did with not one, but 2 holidays! Well, maybe it was more like 1 + 1/2 + a wedding. Nevertheless, I feel happier and I'm more focused.

I did feel a little bad about leaving you in the dark for over a week, so I copped the "Wordless Wednesday" idea from Hip House Girl last week and gave you a little sneak-peak to vacation #1.

Any guesses?

Here are a few more hints...

One more maybe....

Chicago is hands-down a beautiful city. Young and virtually first-timers (bf had visited once for a day), we easily navigated the transit system, took in the major landmarks and managed to find several vantage points for the beautiful skyline. We also managed to do it all on a pretty reasonable budget, which if we'd tried, we could've slimmed down even further.

Planning your own budget-friendly vacation? Check out these tips to make the most of your time and money!

  1. Start with user-review travel websites. TripAdvisor has a Chicago City Guide, packed with user recommendations for hotels, food and attractions. It also has great tips for visiting, ie. wear good shoes. Budget-travellers will also appreciate their "Top Value" picks - 'a great deal for the price, as judged by millions of travellers'.
  2. Flying? Check airline websites in the late evening for the best deals. I also read once that flights are cheapest on Tuesday. I don't know if it's true, but we did find a great Southwest deal on a Tuesday night. I also follow airlines on Twitter and check their recent tweets. Some, like Porter and Air Canada tweet discount codes for their followers.
  3. Buy a transit pass. We paid $15 each for a 3-day pass in Chicago. At $2.75 per regular ride, we made this investment back within the first 24 hours, jumping on and off trains and buses to see the city.
  4. If the city has a good transit system, consider staying further from downtown. Yes, we had a 20 minute train ride each morning, but we paid almost half of what we would have for a downtown hotel and the hotel shuttle picked us up from the train every evening.*
  5. Bring a water bottle. We refilled ours at least 6 times a day, which not only kept us hydrated but left a few dollars for a cold beer every day!
  6. Ask the locals. It's a no-brainer, but we scored an awesome view of the skyline and fireworks this way. We were also saved from the John Hancock Tower tourist trap and enjoyed the view over a cocktail in the 95th floor lounge instead!
  7. Sign up for Groupon or Clickedon as soon as you know your destination. You never know what kind of deal you'll get. Also, many cities offer a 'city pass' of some type. For a cost, you gain discounted access to the main tourist spots. 
  8. Don't forget the Free! You don't have to spend money to have a good time. Parks, architecture, skylines - all free. We spent an entire afternoon lounging in a waterfront park. Chicago's free Lincoln Park Zoo is also totally worth a visit.

* Be sure to read several hotel reviews to be sure you know what you're booking if you do this. You usually get what you pay for in a hotel, so cheaper may not only mean away off the beaten path, but literally in the backwoods. Take the good, the bad and the downright ugly reviews into consideration. If the worst review is true will you still have a good time?


  1. Haha I wondered if you got the Wordless Wednesday idea from me or someone else. I got it from Kate at Twenty Six to Life. Looks like you guys had a lot of fun! Good tips too.

  2. I did! hahaha I have seen it elsewhere though in the past, but I never took advantage of it! Such a no-brainer way to get content up! I'm just curious to know now, who is stuck in the hole in your photo?!