Get me from San Jose to Urbana-Champaign!
May 27, 2009 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Get me from San Jose to Urbana-Champaign on Southwest.


I am spending next week at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. I'm planning to arrive Sunday night and leave Saturday morning. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, nearest to SJC.

I have flight coupons from Southwest Airlines.

Should I fly into Chicago Midway or Indianapolis? Should I get a rental car or ride the shuttle?

It seems like the flights are a few hours shorter into MDW but the drive is an hour longer.

Surely someone has researched this route to smithereens, perhaps to the point where they could waltz out of Caffe del Doge in Palo Alto in the morning and be in Urbana-Champaign that same afternoon, just on a whim.

Thanks very much in advance.
posted by metaseeker to Travel & Transportation around San Jose, CA (8 answers total)
Well you have a couple of options here:

1. Fly into MDW and take the Amtrak to C-U. It comes in right downtown.

2. Fly into Indy and rent a car or take the Greyhound over to C-U.

From Chicago to Champaign you are looking at about 3 hour train/car ride.

From Indy to Champaign you are looking at probably a 2 to 2 and a half hour car/bus ride (I live 30 miles east of Champaign and it takes me exactly 1 hour and 25 minutes from my door to the airport)

On the few hours shorter in to MDW you also have to factor in that there is a 1 hour time difference between MDW and IND, the flight time to Indy should not be significantly longer - maybe 15 to 20 minutes - at the most.

If you have any more questions MeFi Mail me
posted by kasperj74 at 12:16 PM on May 27, 2009

The Lincoln Land Express shuttle from the Indianapolis airport to Champaign-Urbana is $80 each way. A quick look at car rental rates shows it would be about $200 including gas to rent a car for the week to drive yourself from Indianapolis and back.

Car rental from MDW is slightly more expensive, putting the cost at around $230. The Illini shuttle from MDW is about $30 each way.

The shuttle bus is of course more environmentally friendly as well.
posted by ChrisHartley at 12:18 PM on May 27, 2009

If I remember correctly, the driving time is about the same. There is an hour time change between Indianapolis and UC, so that might be throwing your calculations. I think the drive is right around 2 hours either way.

I can't say much about shuttle vs. rental car - I think the shuttle prices vary. One time I looked into the shuttle, but the cost for 2 people was the same as driving ourselves and parking in Midway's economy lot for the 5 days we were gone. The shuttles that advertise the most around UC are Lincoln Land Express (LEX), Suburban Express and Peoria Charter.

As for Midway or Indianapolis, I would recommend Indianapolis, although I must admit I've never flown from there. I've had horrible experiences at Midway the last few times I've gone, and I know people who have recently flown out of Indianapolis and had pleasant experiences. This is all anecdotal, of course, and to be fair, the last few times I flew out of Midway were in the winter. If you do go with Indianapolis, don't forget about the time change when leaving (I've also had friends do that - and miss their flight)
posted by chndrcks at 12:24 PM on May 27, 2009

In response to kasper - I think the drive from Midway is only a little more than 2 hours, because it's on the south end of town. The train is about 3 hours though.
posted by chndrcks at 12:29 PM on May 27, 2009

Indianapolis does have a very nice new airport but it is some distance outside of the city. Shuttles like LEX will pickup from the airport and take you directly to Champaign-Urbana but for Greyhound shudder you would need to take a shuttle or taxi downtown.

For your schedule Amtrak wouldn't get in to Chicago on Saturday early enough for your morning flight. You would also have to factor in the time, bother and expense of getting between MDW and Union Station.
posted by ChrisHartley at 12:36 PM on May 27, 2009

I would suggest Midway (MDM) - and you have a bunch of options from there:

The previously mentioned Illini/Suburban Express which runs around 30$ each way and has the added bonus of picking you up at the airport and taking you directly to the U. They have about 4 runs a day.

You could also go with Mega bus which will cost a whole 11$ each way but has only 2 departures and leaves from downtown (Union Station) & drops you off in downtown Champaign. Getting downtown is straightforward: Orange line train from airport to the downtown loop - then walk or transfer to blue line & get off @ clinton stop.

Amtrack: Around 30$, its slower/more scenic. Also leaves from union station. Commonly used by U students - but doesn't look like an option.
posted by zenon at 1:52 PM on May 27, 2009

The downside to Midway and car rental is that you have to either take surface streets across the south side of Chicago to get over to the Dan Ryan (I-90/94), or you have to take the Stevenson (I-55) to go southwest to I-80, to come back east to I-57. From Indy, you just have to hop on I-74 going west.

But, in my experiences with Southwest, the fewer takeoffs and landing you have to do with them the better, so if you can go direct SJC-MDW, that would be better than stopping somewhere on the way to Indy, even if you spend an extra hour in the car.
posted by hwyengr at 2:15 PM on May 27, 2009

I would choose based on your tolerance for travel annoyance. Midway + shuttle is almost guaranteed to be more annoying and possibly require you to get up at some ungodly hour of the morning to make your flight home. Other annoyances could include sitting next to a guy with terrible BO for three hours. (Speaking from personal experience.) Plus side: probably cheaper. Indy + car would be my recommendation. The drive is more pleasant (less traffic, shorter, simpler) and having a car lets you control your own travel times. I choose Indy whenever I can.
posted by MsMolly at 6:21 PM on May 27, 2009

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