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  1. Default Montgomery to Chicago (need help planning)

    So me and 2 friends (possibly 3) are planning to go on a road trip from Montgomery, AL to Chicago and staying for 2 days for a Phish concert. I am not an experienced traveler so I was wondering if some of y'all could help me figure out how much the whole trip would cost.

    The car we would take gets about 27 mpg, and we would try to only stop for food twice there and back. With three maybe four people chipping in for gas, I don't see this being a very burdensome expense.

    Also, we need to figure in the eating expenses while in Chicago. We'll probably bring some microwavable stuff/snacks with us so we don't spend as much eating out, but we will probably eat out for lunch both days (again, trying to keep it all pretty cheap).

    I have heard camping out is always an option for these short trips. How much does it cost to just stay at some camping ground for two nights? Also, do these places have showers? How much would it cost for us to just stay in a decent hotel up there for two days?

    Anyways, these are my primary concerns, and I would love to hear back on how much I should expect to pay for a trip like this or how to make this trip cheaper.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default cheap is as cheap does

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I will say the one thing you can do that can cause a very big problem when planning, especially with an eye on the budget, is to try to get too specific.

    When you're breaking things down to the point where you are trying to say how many times you'll stop each way, you're actually overthinking, and can build a schedule and budget that just doesn't reflect reality.

    I will say you do need to keep in mind that Montgomery to Chicago is a really long trip to try to do in one day. Its a good 750 miles, which is going to take you at least 14 hours. That's actually quite a bit more than we recommend trying to do in one day, especially considering your inexperience in long distance travel.

    Camping can be a good option to keep costs down, however, the problem is that to camp you'd have to be staying quite a ways outside of the city, and then you'd be dealing with commuting through one of the worst cities for traffic in the country. Its probably not the best choice as a first time camping experience. I'd say your best bet would be to find a hotel that's near an EL line, so you could easily get around the city without have to drive.

    Chicago also has a handful of hostels that could be worth looking at, and could allow you to stay in or near downtown for less than the cost of a hotel. The downside is that they typically charge per person, so it will likely cost more for your group than staying in a motel in the suburbs, but it could be worth it to be in an easy location.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Joplin MO
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    Default

    One possibility is the Chicago Getaway Hostel. It's in Lincoln Park (a very nice upscale neighborhood close to downtown) and it's supposed to be a pretty decent place, the Tripadvisor reviews are very positive. However, parking is $25 a night and rooms can get expensive. I don't know if you will be able to find anything much cheaper that's livable in the city. Rates vary and the price range is on the site.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
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    Default Hostels

    Quote Originally Posted by Midwest Michael View Post
    Chicago also has a handful of hostels that could be worth looking at, and could allow you to stay in or near downtown for less than the cost of a hotel. The downside is that they typically charge per person, so it will likely cost more for your group than staying in a motel in the suburbs, but it could be worth it to be in an easy location.
    Here is a site with a list of the hostels in Chicago. I have stayed at a few of these.

    The HI is probably the tops, right by the EL and a commercial parking garage. It is a very modern hostel with excellent facilities and great security. And they have lots of activities and tours, some free.

    The Parthenon is close to the Amtrak Station, with several bus lines within a minute walk. It does not have full kitchen facilities, but does serve a good free breakfast in the dining room downstairs. It is not airconditioned, but does have fans in all rooms.

    Both of these provide lockers for personal belongings, so be sure to bring a padlock. I found both these hostels secure, comfortable and clean.

    I have also stayed at the International hostel a couple of times. However, this particular hostel does not provide adequate lockers for your valuables, has facilities which leave a lot to be desired, including the bathrooms, and does not have locks on the bedroom doors. It is close to the railway, which makes it easy for a commute, but very noisy if you go to bed early. And is not airconditioned. It does however, have free onsite parking.

    A general tip on hostels, if you have never stayed at one....
    • Never stay in a hostel where sleeping bags are permitted. They are the main source of bug infection.
    • Be sure it provides a locker for every bed which is locked with your own padlock.
    • Always wear footwear in public showers. (That goes for hotels as well.)


    You will have to weigh up whether it is better to stay in a hostel downtown (even with a per person charge), or whether to hotel / camp further out and commute. All appear to be cheaper if you call and book and pay direct, rather than going through the booking services. All of which charge a fee.

    Lifey

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default

    One possibility is the Chicago Getaway Hostel.
    I've actually stayed at that hostel, albeit it was a while ago (I was in Chicago for the "Bartman" game) and it was certainly a decent place in a good neighborhood.

    The only reason I didn't mention it is that it appears the concert is at UIC, and one of the hostels downtown might be a better choice. In fact, There appears to be a hostel in Greektown (Parthenon Hostel) that would be within walking distance of the concert. However, I haven't stayed at that one or the HI hostel, so I can't really say anything more about them.

    edit: But it looks like Lifey has got some good first hand info!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    Default

    Looks like the Parthenon has valet parking for $10 a day. The only issue with that might be where they stash your car.

    I know this is a road trip forum - but have you considered driving to Jackson MS, leaving the car, and taking the train to Chicago?

  7. #7
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    Dec 2008
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    Default You're right.

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Looks like the Parthenon has valet parking for $10 a day.
    It is a parking lot across the street, behind a 10' (?) cyclone wire fence. Since I did not need to use it, forgot all about mentioning it.

    But I would endorse taking the train.

    Lifey

  8. Default

    Ok thanks for all the replies everyone.

    Right now I'm thinking we are going to just stay in a hostel. Is there anyway we can book a room that only accommodates 4 people so we don't have to room with random strangers? Also, is there anyway to avoid paying the parking fees per night? For example, could we just park a few blocks over and walk to the hostel or do you have to pay the parking fee?

    Also, we've decided we will make the long drive in one day with four people rotating at driving. If traffic is too bad in Chicago, we will simply take the subway to where we need to go.

    Basically, if we are able to drive up there and back and stay at a hostel, how much would those expenses excluding money for souvenirs,food, etc. be?

  9. #9
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    Default Call them!

    Quote Originally Posted by JGood911 View Post
    Is there anyway we can book a room that only accommodates 4 people...
    Why don't you ask them?

    Quote Originally Posted by JGood911 View Post
    ... if we are able to drive up there and back and stay at a hostel, how much would those expenses excluding money for souvenirs,food, etc. be?
    You can calculate the cost of fuel, using the fuel calculator on this site.

    As for the hostel, why don't you give them a call. In my post above you have the links to the hostels. Go to the individual hostel's sites - the link is on hostelz.com. All the information is at your fingertips.

    My only memory, as far as parking goes, is that $10 per day is very very cheap parking for Chicago. I think, back quite a few years ago, I paid something like $20 or $25 per day, downtown.

    Quote Originally Posted by JGood911 View Post
    ... we've decided we will make the long drive in one day with four people rotating at driving.
    It will be a very very long day. I suggest that you leave at sunup, as you do not want to arrive at hostels late. It will probably not be appreciated, and in some cases, there may not be reception. Once again, I repeat, call them and discuss all the details of your plan with them. Make sure you are speaking to someone who is actually at the hostel - not some central call centre. And make sure that you have allowed for unexpected holdups along the route.

    Lifey
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 06-24-2011 at 01:42 AM. Reason: add info

  10. #10
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    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JGood911 View Post
    Right now I'm thinking we are going to just stay in a hostel. Is there anyway we can book a room that only accommodates 4 people so we don't have to room with random strangers?
    I absolutely agree with Lifey, that's the kind of question you find out from the hostel if you want a completely accurate answer.

    However, I will say just based on my general experiences with hostels, you're really defeating the purpose. Most will offer Private Rooms, but many times they will only have room for 2 people. More importantly, such a room is likely to be far more expensive than a motel room - although it will be similar in price to a nice hotel downtown.
    Also, is there anyway to avoid paying the parking fees per night?
    In Chicago? Especially in Downtown Chicago? Good luck with that! The number of spaces available will be microscopic, and many of them will require a resident permit. You could try, but you could end up spending an hour trying to find a legal space, and what you find could easily be in a neighborhood where you wouldn't want to leave a car for several days.

    $10 a day for parking near Downtown Chicago is an incredibly good deal.

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