Whenever I return from a trip, I find people often want to know which hotel I stayed in. This has been especially true with my trips to the States; it is a quick and easy get away option on long weekends for us South Western Ontarians.
Given this, I thought I would share where we stayed during our time in Chicago along with a few money saving tips I picked up while I was there. Hopefully someone will find this helpful!
Ok, let’s talk hotel:
We stayed at the Inn of Chicago (162 East Ohio Street) for the duration of our trip. This hotel is in a great location, right on “The Magnificent Mile” with plenty of restaurant options around every corner. It is right in the shopping district, a close walk to the Chicago River and Ohio Street Beach.
The hotel itself is pretty small with narrow elevators – so it is a bit of a tight squeeze – but this was really insignificant. What matters to me most about accommodation is its location, cost, comfort and cleanliness.
The lobby is furnished in a modern and sophisticated style. The lobby is the only space in the hotel that has free WiFi (extra charge for WiFi in the rooms). There is a nice sitting area with a lot of space for people to sit back and roam the web. They have a small front desk, along with another desk to book transportation. The staff at the front desk were very friendly and helpful. They were happy to help us locate restaurants and navigate the public transit system.
(Note: I took this photo after I made the bed, housekeeping does a much better job! 🙂 )
We had a room with one Queen Bed. The room was quite small with a teeny bathroom. Truthfully I don’t really care too much about that. Sure, we had to kind of manoeuvre around each other and the furniture at some points, but really, how often are you in your room anyway? We were out until at least 9 or 10pm every evening and just came back to the room to crash or to take a quick break during the day. The room was kept clean and equipped with a comfortable bed and pillows, a desk, wardrobe and TV. Now the only real annoyance about the room was the bathroom sink. It was VERY small with absolutely no counter space. There was nowhere really to place your toothpaste, brush, cosmetics case, etc. Honestly, this was a bit of a pain, but not enough for me to pay more for an upgraded room.
Hotel parking is a public lot about a block away from the hotel itself. You can self-park with no in-and-out privileges for $38 a day or valet park with in-and-out privileges for $43 per day (Ouch! The parking costs did hurt, but no more than it did when we parked in NYC, Boston or Toronto). We chose the self park option to save a couple of bucks. With this option you must leave your car keys with the front desk of the lot (which we were not too comfortable with, we did it nevertheless). If you have a lot of luggage, then it might be worth skipping the hassle of carrying all your bags through the lot and street (like we did on a very hot day) by paying the extra couple of dollars for valet.
On the 22nd floor they have a nice outdoor rooftop terrace to enjoy during the day or at night. Complete with chairs and tables, it is a nice place to chill (when it is not too crowded) and get a view of the city.
Although this cafe is not part of the hotel and not technically a hotel amenity, it was a nice added bonus having it adjacent to where we were staying. They have excellent coffee and specialty coffees! Perfect to grab and go in the morning or to enjoy at the end of your day. You can read more about LavAzza Cafe in my “Chicago Eats” post.
Along with the above mentioned amenities, the hotel also has a fitness centre, laundry and dry cleaning services, safe deposit boxes, a bar and offers complimentary stays for children under 18.
To finish off, here are some money saving tips I learned along the way:
Websites such as Priceline and Expedia can save you between 40-60% on hotel stays. I have used both sites to get good hotel deals. Priceline allows users to name a price and bid on hotels. Users select the area they wish to stay in, the star rating they prefer their hotel to be, then offer a price you are willing to pay per night and wait to see if it is accepted. The only drawback is that you have to enter your credit card number in before you bid and you will not know the name of the hotel that accepted your offer until you have confirmation of the offer and the charge has gone through your card. This is a great money saving website if you have an idea of the general area you want to stay in and do not mind which hotel you end up in. However, the website does give users examples of which hotel chains are considered 3, 4, 5 star. This will give you an idea of the possible hotels that will take your bid. I have used this website several times and have stayed in hotels such as the Holiday Inn and Marriott.
Expedia has a similar option where it lists the price per night, the neighbourhood the hotel is in and star rating, but does not reveal the name of the accommodation until you pay.
Also important to note, you do not think you can cancel your reservation and get your money back when using this method to book.
While in Chicago we often used the “L” Train. If you plan on doing the same be sure to check the Chicago Transit website to see what your fare options are. If you are planning on using public transit frequently, you can save money by purchasing unlimited ride cards. For example we each bought a 1 day pass for $5.75US versus paying $2.25US for a single ride. We used the pass at least 4-5 times within a 24 hours period.
If you are planning activities for specific days it is a good idea to check tour operator websites in advance. Often they offer discounted prices if you book ahead of time. This will also guarantee you a spot on the tour and avoid any possible disappointment by showing up the day of to learn the tour is full.
Check with your hotel to see if they have city guide/tour books. We were given a couple in Chicago which includes some coupons for restaurants and admission into blues clubs.
If you have any tips on where to stay or how to save money while travelling, please feel free to share! 🙂