Road Trip Vs Train Ride: What to Know About Traveling Out of State

July 10, 2023

The buses and trains of the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) are an excellent way to get around the greater Chicagoland area. But what about when you want to leave the state?

If you’re truly on the fence or looking for a new experience, there is a lot to consider. What is your financial situation like? How many people are traveling? What will be the best way to get around once you’re at your destination?

It’s always best to do a bit of research before heading out of town, particularly if you want to keep your finances in order. And when it comes to road trips versus train rides, there are a few things you should know.

Amtrak’s Midwest Train Routes: See Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin

Did you know that 11 Amtrak lines go through Illinois? Amtrak in the Midwest means you can make connections between eastern and western cross country trains that stop in Chicago, the center of their national system. Better yet, there are frequent daily departures between Chicago and key cities in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Maybe your family would like to check out one of these Amtrak routes this summer:

  1. Chicago to St. Louis – Lincoln Service
  2. Chicago to Quincy – Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg Service
  3. Chicago to Carbondale – Saluki Service
  4. Chicago to Milwaukee – Hiawatha Service

Pro tip: Kids under two usually ride for free.

Take Illinois Metra to Visit the Sites in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Metra is the commuter rail system serving the larger Chicago area, as well as southeastern Wisconsin. Want to check out the Civil War Museum, Bristol Renaissance Faire or Petrifying Springs Park? When you take the UP-N Metra line at Ogilvie Transportation Center, you’ll have a speedy and scenic route to Kenosha – more relaxing than maneuvering through traffic – where you can enjoy local attractions, dining and Wisconsin’s beautiful landscape.

Benefits of Driving Versus Taking the Train

Driving isn’t an option for everyone, for various reasons. Not everyone has a car, let alone a reliable one to safely take them out of state.

Still, generally speaking, driving tends to be cheaper than flying or taking a train. And it can be just as fast when you take into account the stops a train makes and waiting times at airports. Perhaps the main selling point of driving is the flexibility it provides. No hand writing about getting to the airport or train station on time, and more scheduling options.

Best of all: a way to get to all the sites on your own, whenever is most convenient for you!

Do a Cost Comparison for the Specific Trip You’re Considering – Including Parking

If the cost difference is the only factor that will determine which form of transportation is preferable, it should be fairly easy to compare the two. For example, say a couple is considering a trip to Milwaukee from Chicago. The cheapest tickets might be about $18 one way – or $72 total. They may make more stops, taking longer than the two hours it takes to drive back.

However, how long will you stay? Parking costs can add up, not to mention the $25 or $30 you might expect to spend on gas. Most of all, you want to enjoy yourselves. The best trip of all can be one where no one has to be behind the wheel.

Currency Exchange Has Services for Cars and Other Forms of Transportation

There are many small ways to cut down on driving expenses, from taking shorter routes, driving at lower traffic hours, and cutting back on driving altogether. Check out your local Currency Exchange for transportation passes and auto services near you.

At Chicago’s South Suburban Community Exchanges (SSCEs), we offer a broad range of helpful day-to-day services. People who are trying to avoid overspending on their credit cards while on vacation should consider using a prepaid debit card, which only lets you spend what you already have.

SSCE helps south suburban residents stay on top of their finances by offering many convenient services – all under one roof! Find your nearest location or check out what else we offer online and start managing your finances today.

A person climbing up some stairs to get on a train.