How To Take a Vacation For Less Than $1,000

Chicago TripMy wife and I recently spent three days and three nights on vacation with another couple in Chicago, IL. Many couples do not go on vacation because they do not think they can afford it. But our trip was very affordable – we had an unforgettable time, and we managed to spend less than $1,000. I want to share what we did, how much it cost, and how we were able to afford it so you can take a vacation also.

What We Did
We arrived at our hotel on Friday evening. After unpacking, we went to Navy Pier. We saw all of its shops and attractions (including a fireworks show) after eating dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

We went to Skydeck Chicago on Saturday morning. This is a floor near the top of Willis Tower devoted to viewing the city of Chicago. We ate Chicago-style hot dogs for lunch and spent the entire afternoon at the Field Museum. We ate dinner at Uno’s Pizzeria, where deep dish pizza was invented in1943.

We attended church at Willow Chicago on Sunday morning. This is a church-plant of Willow Creek Community Church in the downtown area. We ate lunch at Fontano’s Subs before strolling through Millennium Park and shopping on Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile). We ate dinner at P. F. Chang’s and did a little more shopping on Monday morning before we left.

How Much It Cost
We stayed at the Renaissance O’Hare International Airport for a AAA rate of $92 per night, plus tax and $24 per day for parking. We used the public transit system to get into and around the city by purchasing 3-day passes, which cost $20 per person. Admission to Navy Pier is free, Skydeck costs $18 per person, and the Field Museum costs $23 per person.

We ate at several restaurants and frequented the Starbucks in our hotel lobby. We purchased souvenirs as well as gifts for our daughters. And we paid for gas to drive between St. Louis and Chicago and for meals on the road.

How We Afforded It
We do not have a lot of extra money, so we took several steps to make sure we could afford this vacation. You should also take these steps if you want to go on vacation:

  • Plan ahead. We began to plan two months before our trip. We decided when to go, where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. We took advantage of the travel resources provided by our AAA membership. Do not go on vacation impulsively or without preparation.
  • Split costs. We asked close friends to go on vacation with us. We drove the same car and stayed in the same hotel room, sharing the cost of each. If your budget is tight (like ours), do not go on vacation by yourselves. Invite some friends to join you who can share larger expenses.
  • Go cheap. Many of Chicago’s attractions charge for admission, so we limited ourselves to a few. We also stayed in a hotel that was 45 minutes from downtown because it was the only one we could afford. Do not spend an enormous amount on attractions or a hotel. Be content with basic admission and accommodations.
  • Get help. We have two daughters; my parents watched one, and my wife’s parents watched the other. Our parents gave us money for the trip and some friends gave us an Uno’s gift card. Find a babysitter and ask for money or gift cards instead of presents if there is an anniversary or holiday around the time of your vacation.

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