Lessons learned from my stay at the HI Chicago for BlogHer '07
Funny story: When I registered at the conference hotel for BlogHer '08, the tax on the room was more than I paid for my entire stay at the HI Chicago in '07. And don't get me wrong, the Westin St. Francis was shiny. But the HI Chicago is an awesome low cost alternative this year, if that's what you're looking for. Let's face it, you can't beat $33 + tax/night right in the middle of the city, just 1.27 miles from the conference.
And plus, you're staying in the hostel, man! It's an adventure!
I have to admit, that was part of the appeal for me. I felt like I'd missed out on youthful hostel hopping. I wanted to see what it was like and have that experience. I totally walked to the conference from the hostel, too, although I did take a cab back a couple nights. BlogHer can be just a little exhausting! (Plus, swag can be heavy.)
But first you have to get there, and you can totally take the train in from airport. The hostel is 3 blocks from the LaSalle stop off the blue line from O'Hare, and there's more information about transportation to HI Chicago on their website. Did I mention that taking the subway costs $2?
First tip: Make sure you place those reservations. While I was waiting in line to check in, multiple people tried to get a room, and the hostel was Full Up.
I had packed somewhat light, but not anything crazy. Your basic wheelie that fits in the overhead and a duffel bag. The dormitory rooms in the hostel have tall lockers, so you're going to want your bags to fit into that, and here's my second tip: Get a smallish lock. I had purchased a lock with a tall loop, and it flat out wouldn't work with the lockers. Luckily I was able to purchase a new one at the little shop downstairs, but it took a while and was annoying.
Third tip: Bring a flashlight. I had thought that everyone in my room would be BlogHer folks, but the hostel can't guarantee that. So everyone's on different schedules, and since I'm the type who doesn't like to disturb, there was a fair amount of groping about in the dark. (Once you're in your bed, you do have a little bedside light you can turn on without disturbing anyone.)
So who's at the hostel besides BlogHers? Well, mostly international student types, which is pretty cool. There's a fun common area (with free wi-fi), and it's got a great vibe. I also spotted a couple older folks and one family. Plus, there's friendly hostel staff. They actually organize activities for guests, which I couldn't partake in, but which seemed pretty cool.
One big negative was that the bunk beds are creaky creaky. Fourth tip: If you're a light sleeper, you are *definitely* going to need some ear plugs and maybe an eye mask. Also, your reservation assigns you to a bed, and it may be the top bunk. I got used to climbing up into the bed fairly quickly, but it was a bit intimidating at first.
Final notes: Linens, towels, and pillows are provided, and yes, they have a luggage check if you arrive too early to check in, or need to store your bags for a beat after check-out. They have a laundry, and they have 24-hour security. I used the shared bathroom off the hall, and it was clean, as was the room and my bed and every area I went in. You can explore HI-Chicago here. Last tip: You might consider bringing your own towel or pillow. What they provide is fine, but as long as you're roughing it a bit, you might find that a little fluff goes a long way.
To register now you can call 312.583.2225 or visit online at www.hichicago.org - when making your reservations make sure to give them the promotion code BLOG. Happy Hosteling!
And here's posts from more peeps who've stayed there: (Some of these posts are dense; if you don't want to read the whole post, I recommend using the find tool on "hostel.")
Contributing editor Liz Rizzo also blogs at Everyday Goddess.