An arresting skyline, bold architecture, world-renowned museums, sports, food, and music all make Chicago a worthwhile place to visit.
If you are looking to explore one of America’s largest, most influential cities, you will probably start off wondering just how much a week in the Windy City is going to cost you.
The cost of a trip to Chicago will depend hugely on where you decide to stay, the time of year you visit, and what you decide to do during your trip. But don’t worry — we’ll break down all the costs so you can decide for yourself how much you will have to spend to enjoy a trip to Chicago.
Take a deep dive into our research to figure out how much to budget and how to get the most out of your trip.
Average Trip to Chicago Cost in 2023
A week in Chicago costs around $2,400 for two people:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $150 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $200 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $100 per person, per day
- Transportation: $30 per day
- Total Cost: $2,400
Obviously, these numbers are an average, and your individual spending will vary quite a bit. The city has cheap and reliable public transportation.
However, if you are commuting from one of the outer regions, you may wish to rent a car. This will increase your cost quite a bit because you’ll be paying for the car rental, gas, and expensive parking downtown.
Similarly, you may save money on accommodations by staying in an AirBnb or by staying outside The Loop. As a trade-off, however, you may have to spend more money on transportation or spend more time getting to your planned activities.
We’ll break down the costs associated with a trip to Chicago so you can see how we arrived at our numbers and what a trip might cost for you.
Chicago Trip Cost: Average by Item
One of the great things about modern travel is how much choice you have when it comes to how you experience a place. One traveler can choose to stay only in hostels and subsist on Chicago deep dish pizza while catching only free entertainment.
Another can go the same week and have a luxury stay. Put your money toward the things you care about most to have a trip that is truly yours.
Chicago has hotels at a bunch of different price points, each with different perks and drawbacks. Budget Your Trip says the average across the top 180 or so hotels in the city is $160 per night.
This includes options at both the high and the low end. The quaint Publishing House Bed and Breakfast, for instance, has a 9.7 out of 10 rating with reviewers. Located in the West Loop neighborhood, it puts visitors right near many well-loved attractions.
Amenities include a lavish breakfast and well-appointed en suite rooms. A night in this hotel will run you anywhere from $250 to $350, depending on availability.
On the bargain end, you have finds like the Freehand Chicago. Located in the River North neighborhood, it puts visitors near nightlife, dining, and attractions like the Merchandise Mart.
A few guests note that the rooms are small, and amenities like the showers are on the spartan side. However, those who think of their hotel room as a place to crash at the end of the day will like the $50 a night price.
There are midrange options, as well. A room at the Farimount Chicago by Millennium Park will run under $150 per night.
If you are a member of a hotel loyalty program like the ones offered by Marriot and Hilton, you may be able to get discounts using points or membership levels.
Obviously, the amount it costs to fly to Chicago will vary based on where you fly from and which Chicago area airport you choose. Skyscanner says airfare from New York to Chicago costs around $200 if you fly into O’Hare.
If you are flying into Midway, you may wind up paying as much as $400 at the same time of year. Surprisingly, it doesn’t cost much more to come from the west coast or the southeast. Tickets from Los Angeles to Chicago are often under $200.
A flight from Miami may cost between $120 and $400, depending on the airline and how many layovers there are along the way. Check for flight costs frequently, as they can vary as flights either fill up or fail to fill up as a date gets closer.
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
This is an area where you have a ton of leeway. Everything from the right hotdog to a Michelin-starred tasting meal can be part of an unforgettable Chicago experience.
The hot dog, of course, is the fabled Chicago-style dog, a hot dog “dragged through the garden” and topped with anything and everything that isn’t ketchup. Expect to pay between $5 and $10 for a hot dog and fries.
If you are looking for a meal with a side of Chicago history, consider booking a table at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse. Menu items range in price from about $25 for a basic Fettuccine Alfredo to $50 for a 12 ounce filet mignon.
Pizza is another dish considered a must-try in Chicago. A specialty pie from Zaza’s or Forno Rosso will cost from $25 to $35.
Activities are also available at a variety of price points. Admission to the building historically known as Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) is technically free. It’s perfectly acceptable to ride the elevators up to one of the many restaurants and enjoy the view while you sip a soda.
If you want to spend some time gazing at the city from 1,353 feet up, you can buy a timed visit to the Skydeck for a little under $50. The Chicago Riverwalk’s 1.25 mile path is free to the public.
The Riverwalk features over 500 works of public art along the pedestrian trail. It’s a good place to pack a lunch and take in the local scenery. There are also a number of restaurants and shops along the way.
Chicago locals recommend seeing the city via riverboat tour. Depending on the tour you choose, expect to pay anywhere from $45 a person for the 90 minute architecture tour to $65 for a wine and cheese cruise.
Unless you are traveling outside the city and need access to a car, you are much better off using the trains and buses. Local experts point out that you won’t even save time usually when trying to drive.
With Chicago’s heavy traffic, using the bus and train system is typically faster. Luckily, train and bus transit are reliable and inexpensive. The L train goes straight to the two major airports in the area.
A seven-day pass will run you about $20 per person. If you need to take a cab or Uber to get to a particular destination, expect to spend a bit more. Fares can vary greatly depending on how much traffic there is.
But, Quora users agree you’ll spend anywhere from $15 to $25 for a 10 to 20 minute ride. If you do have to rent a car, you may be able to get a discount booking your rental a week at a time. An economy car picked up at O’Hare will cost just under $500 a week.
Be sure to account for parking costs if you plan to park in the city, as parking spots can run as high as $60 a day during events.
Things to Consider
- Round up prices you see to include the area’s 10% base sales tax. Depending on the part of Chicago you visit, you may also pay additional liquor, water, and luxury taxes.
- If you decide to drive, be prepared to pay steep fees for parking.
- Dress in layers. Locals on Reddit say you may encounter weather that is wet, hot, or freezing, or sometimes all three on the same day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Chicago an expensive place to visit?
Chicago can be an inexpensive city to visit as long as you plan well. Find free activities, choose the right months to go, and utilize the city’s excellent public transit to save money.
What is the best month to visit Chicago?
Fans of the Windy City say April, June, September, and November are the best months to go. You’re likely to find the mildest weather, smallest crowds, and best array of things to do during these months.
Is it cheaper to go to Chicago or New York?
Each of these cities can be great budget travel destinations if you plan your trip right. That said, Chicago is considered about 40% cheaper than New York.
Do you need a car to visit downtown Chicago?
Chicago has a well-run system of buses and trains that can get you anywhere you need to go, day or night. Most travelers can do just fine without a car on their trip to Chicago. If you are worried double-check on transit maps to be sure.
Which month is coldest in Chicago?
Chicago is well-known for its chilly winter weather. If you are trying to avoid the cold, skip Chicago in January. This is not only the month with the coldest average temperatures, it’s also the month that gets the most snow.
So, What Is the Average Trip Cost for Chicago?
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost||$150 per night|
|✈️ Average Flight Cost||$200 per person|
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities||$100 per person, per day|
|🚕 Transportation||$30 per day|
|💲 Total Cost||$2,400|
An average trip to Chicago costs around $2,400. What your trip will cost depends on whether you are heading there during the busy season or braving the cold off season, or something in between.
Look at all the variables and choose the activities that you want most to get the trip that fits your ideal Windy City vacation.
So, with so much to see and do, and a relatively inexpensive overall atmosphere, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Chicago has to offer!