7 Ways to Save Money on Chicago Meetings
Chicago, voted the No. 1 Meeting Destination in the U.S. by Cvent in 2014, is a leader in offering meeting planners many ways to save money. From scoring deals to attractions for your attendees to cutting transportation costs, get the inside scoop on making your Chicago meeting more affordable than ever.
1. Check for value dates.
Before you book your meeting, take a look through Chicago's convention calendar to determine when major meetings and events (think: conventions with more than 15,000 attendees) are already taking place.
2. Take advantage of special deals.
Whether you're looking to save on hotel room blocks, transportation, food or entertainment, many of Chicago's heavy hitters offer deals and discounts for meeting professionals. You could book a room at the Waldorf Astoria, one of the country's premier hotels, if you bundle your reservation with parking. (Valid through April 25, 2015)
No matter the time of year, Chicago's skyline is a standout vista. Enjoy it from beautiful Lake Michigan and save 20% on dining cruises with Mystic Blue, Odyssey or Spirit of Chicago! (Valid through December 31, 2015)
Curb your appetite and save with Kinzie Chophouse's dining deal, offering a seasonal 3-course dinner
for just $29.95
To get deals delivered to your inbox, sign up for Choose Chicago's e-newsletter.
3. Turn to Go Chicago Card or Chicago CityPASS.
If you're hoping to give your attendees a taste of quintessential Chicago without breaking the bank, there's no better way to save than with a Go Chicago Card or Chicago CityPASS. Each one works as an all-inclusive pass to the city's best attractions, like the Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum, and saves you between 40 and 50 percent over regular admission prices.
4. Plan outings at free attractions.
Another pre- and post-convention option for your attendees is to arrange outings to Chicago's free attractions. Navy Pier — with its 50 acres of parks, gardens, shops, eateries and attractions like the famous Ferris wheel — is always high on the list, while the free Lincoln Park Zoo offers a powerful animal experience against an urban backdrop. Both have unique meeting spaces worth exploring.
Or bring your group together at the new Maggie Daley Park, opened in December 2014 adjacent to Millennium Park. The park boasts a variety of stress-free event spaces, from open lawn areas to an outdoor café.
5. Consider facilities with in-house food/beverage options.
Chicago is a food-centric city, and in-house food/beverage options aren't just more affordable — they also taste incredible. Whether you're looking for lunch for 10 or dinner for 1,000, facilities with these in-house options may be more flexible in working with your budget and may be more willing to customize a menu for your event.
6. Use electronic (not printed) hand-outs to save on paper costs.
You don't need technical expertise to create electronic handouts — or even a microsite for your meeting. By using Chicago-based templates and digital materials, you can easily lift pre-written copy, insert a professional photo, send a link to a produced video or create your own website to keep attendees up-to-date on your event. It's simple and cost-saving.
7. Encourage attendees to use public transit.
Chicago is one of the most public-transit-friendly cities in the country, with more than 140 'L' stations (including above-ground, street-level and subway trains) and more than 140 bus routes throughout the city. Several bus lines and two 'L' lines run 24 hours, and transit maps are mounted in each bus or train car. Plus, Chicago Transit Authority's unlimited ride passes begin at $10. Make sure to use the new Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line station, which opened February 2015 just a couple convenient blocks from McCormick Place.
If public transit isn't in your plan, companies like GO Airport Express and several others can arrange transportation as well.
Photo: Clayton Hauck