I had an amazing Chicago get away this weekend despite being forced to pay $5.32 for a 2 ounce bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. We left the kids with grandpa and grandma who are visiting from warmer climates. We kept the two-day adventure below $200 in total, and it was well worth it!
Let me just start with the highlight of my Thanksgiving dinner. We all went around the table saying what we were thankful for. My baby said “I’m thankyou for daddy says funny things!” It was totally unexpected and just melted my little dad heart. Priceless. I’m going to tuck that one away to think about when she is throwing one of her infamous tantrums.
Now back to the trip. Here’s the breakdown:
- Food $70 (could have been $45!)
- Gas $45
- Parking $34
- Movie $18
- Tolls $10
- Internet $10
- Famous Amos cookies $5.32
- Total $192
The hotel was paid for with bonus points earned through my United Mileage Plus Explorer card. I originally signed up for the card when I booked a flight over the summer for my brother-in-law’s wedding. By signing up, I got $50 off my flight. Since I got the $50 off, I don’t think I was also supposed to be eligible for the 50,000 point sign up bonus promotion the card was running, but I called and asked and they gave it to me! Lesson #1: Always ask.
Food – We frequented PF Changs ($25), Chipotle ($20), and Houlihan’s ($25) (a breakfast buffet that pretty much held us over for the whole day). The hotel room we got was on the 35th floor, which required a card scan to access the floor. It was on the same floor as the exclusive lounge for “diamond” members. It didn’t occur to me to see if my card could get me into the lounge until we were about ready to pack up and leave. I casually walked up to the glass doors of the lounge, trying to hide my fear that my card would be rejected and I’d be discovered as a fraud. I scanned my card, the light switched green, and I walked in like I owned the place. I surveyed the area, grabbed some drinks, and ran back to tell Amanda probably more excited than I should have been. She humored me by coming in to sit down with me for a while to soak up all the diamond member exclusivity. Even though I was full, I had to try the food. So much for already having spent $25 on breakfast. Lesson #2: Always see if you have access to the members only lounge.
Gas – We probably drove between 5 and 6 hours round trip.
Parking – The garage was fairly close to our hotel and was a decent rate compared to the other ones I found.
Movie – I can’t remember the last time we spontaneously decided to go see a movie. We went to the new Hunger Games, which wasn’t bad.
Tolls – I’m just estimating what we incurred as we ignorantly drove through all of the E-ZPass lanes. Having grown up in a toll-free state, toll roads still drive me nuts.
Internet – I can’t believe I paid for internet at a hotel! Who charges for that anymore anyway?
Cookies – There is a story here. Amanda needed something to help a melatonin pill go down, so we mutually decided that we would share the $3 dollar bag of cookies from the snack tray. When we got the bill in the morning, the cookies were listed with a $5.32 charge. First of all, HOW did they know we ate the cookies? Either I’m living in the Stone Age, or I’ve been staying at basic hotels for too long because I did not know there were snack trays with sensors on them. Secondly, I discovered the cookies actually cost $4, and the hotel added a nice even 33% sales tax. She was not happy when I told her this would definitely be documented. She said “How is it that the ONE time I ever take something from the hotel room snack bar everyone is going to know about it?” Lesson #3: Always double check the price and don’t forget about taxes. [Amanda’s edit: best night’s sleep I’ve had in awhile- no regrets].
Two days in Chicago for less than $200 doing whatever we felt like doing whenever we felt like doing it was well worth it. It may not be as impressive as doing a week in Paris for less than $1,000, but you gotta start somewhere. We relaxed, ate good food, hung out in Millennium Park, explored Chicago, and just had a good time.
Our anniversary is 2 days before Christmas and on our son’s birthday, so we counted this trip as our anniversary celebration. As I said before, as long as I am budgeting wisely, I am okay spending a little extra in order to invest in what is most important.
What rules do you have for anniversary/celebration spending?