Travel Money Diary: Alicia at Riotfest

When it comes to spending, music festivals are almost always overpriced. While you get to see a ton of your favorite bands, you’re stuck with food and alcohol vendors with high festival prices (ahem, $4 bottles of water). 

I recently traveled to Chicago for Riotfest with my boyfriend, which was a fantastic three-day punk, indie and ska music festival, but the overpriced nature of music festivals was certainly a struggle. Here’s how we spent while we were there. 

We signed up for a ticket payment plan that broke ticket prices up into three payments of $63. It did cost a bit more than buying the three-day pass outright, but since my boyfriend was in school when we were looking at tickets, we chose the payment plan to make it a little easier on his immediate budget. 

We bought our airfare through Spirit Airlines, which offers the barest of fares for really cheap prices. We brought one suitcase between us and checked it to lower costs. We also checked in for the flight online and didn’t pay extra for seats next to each other. Luckily we got to sit side-by-side on the plane regardless! A round trip to Chicago was $168 each. 

When we arrived, we shared a Lyft to our Airbnb, which I had booked online just a few weeks before the trip. The Lyft came out to $40, which we split, while the Airbnb for the weekend - also split - was $252. While we usually go for an entire home or apartment on Airbnb, we chose a private room since we barely planned to be at the apartment. 

Our choice was both good and bad. We soon learned that we had picked a “bad” neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago (several residents warned us about the area), but our host was kind and ran the Airbnb like a little hostel, offering water bottles, beers and breakfast for free. 

On Friday, we grabbed sandwiches at the McDonalds near our Airbnb (there were no other options for lunch, unfortunately). I paid $4 for a chicken sandwich and got a massive cup of water. We then bought passes for the L, Chicago’s public transit. We each put $10 on the cards, which we used for the subway and a bus to the show. 

Once at Riotfest, we caught a few bands, including New Order. We each bought a $9 beer (Tecates) and wandered the festival grounds. Eventually, we met a few fellow festival goers, who offered us some of the vodka they managed to sneak into the festival. Score! Free booze is always welcome, especially at a show where beer is so pricey. 

We took a $20 Lyft pool home that night. We split the cost. 

The next day, we headed to an early lunch at Chicago’s Uno Pizzeria, which our Lyft driver recommended the night before. Deep dish pizza is… fine? After spending $10, I was underwhelmed, especially knowing that New York dollar slices are so much better. 

The acts early in the day weren’t our favorites, so we decided to take part in the festival’s promotion: pick up a gallon bag of small pieces of trash to receive a free ticket for next year’s show. It was a total win because we weren’t missing any of the good bands. The only downside? They were pretty strict about what trash they accepted.

Later in the day, we grabbed some beers and caught more of the concert. We pushed off dinner until late in the evening, which ended up being a good move; at the end of the day, many food vendors were giving away free meals. We ate ribs and pizza (certainly not the healthiest) without paying a dime. 

Another Lyft home, another $20 down the drain. The next morning, we ate breakfast in the Airbnb before heading to the last day of the show. I donated $10 to a charity, Our Music Our Bodies, in exchange for a Consent Rocks shirt before catching the rest of the music. 

We left a little early to catch a cheaper Lyft ($16) and catch some sleep before our 5 a.m. flight. Early in the morning, we headed back to New York exhausted, but happy.

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