Commentary: Chicago a realistic option for a college traveler on a budget
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 18, 2013 22:03
This spring break I decided to take a cheaper alternative to a spring vacation, but without sacrificing any of the fun. Instead of the usual beach getaway, my roommates and I went to the Windy City.
Since we are the stereotypical broke college students living off Ramen Noodles and Cheerios, we needed a break that would be easy on our debit cards.
The first issue we had to address for this trip was where to stay. I am from Maine, and one of my roommates is from Columbus, but we lucked out with our third roommate being from Chicago. Not only did she provide us with a place to stay but she also served as our tour guide.
With all the exciting sights Chicago has to offer, we didn’t want to waste our money getting there. We took the Megabus for $29, and it picked us up right outside the Ohio Union. The Megabus is an excellent choice for cheap transportation and can cost, if booked far enough in advance, as low as $1.
Public transportation does have a downside, however, and that can be the people who are along for the ride with you. One roommate had to sit next to a male passenger who thought it was acceptable to pull out a pocket knife to clean his nails and tell her his very colorful life story.
Upon arriving in Chicago, the first place we visited was the Shedd Aquarium in the Museum Campus area. To get into the city we took the train for $5.25. Compared to parking at $30 an hour, we decided it was the better option.
If you’re an Illinois resident, the Shedd has select days where admission is free. For the rest of us, general admission was only $8 to view the aquarium’s smaller aquatic creatures from all around the world.
The biggest tourist attraction was the Skydeck on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower. Tickets were $18, and going on a weekday meant we didn’t have to wait in line. At the top, if you’re daring enough, you can step out onto a glass overhang with the city below you — this is the sight to see.
However, even if you don’t have a dollar in your pocket to spare on the aquarium or the Skydeck, touring Millennium Park can make for a great afternoon. The Cloud Gate Sculpture, which is an enormous mirror-like bean, showed us a reflection of the whole skyline.
The trip only got expensive when we walked the Magnificent Mile, a mile-long strip of shops which certainly lived up to its name. Water Tower Place, a seven-story mall that looms over the Magnificent Mile, ensnared many of the shoppers within its reach.
When you’re shopping on a budget, there’s only one word to look for: Sale. Nearly everything I bought came from that section, and trust me, finding $10 jeans and $5 sweaters in the city isn’t easy, but it is possible. Be sure to bring your BuckID, because stores like Charlotte Russe give a 10 percent discount to college students.
When planning a trip, if you can bring a local out with you, do it. The little things someone with familiarity with the city knows make the trip even more worthwhile. My roommate was able to show me Michael Jordan’s home, and the 6-foot tall “23” welded on the gate. There was no better way to make my guy friends jealous than by giving MJ’s house a visit.
I did splurge at Molly’s Cupcakes in Lincoln Park, and I’ll admit it was well worth it. It has delicious cupcakes, a cozy décor and swings to relax on. I strongly recommend the Ron Bennington chocolate cupcake with gooey peanut butter and butterscotch.
I was surprised with how much fun you can have in a big city without doing much damage to your bank account. Even if you don’t have money to spend, walking the streets and seeing the sights makes for an interesting trip.