My daughter and I took a 5-day trip to Chicago recently so we could connect and I could show her the city I grew up near. As always, traveling was a way to expand and to learn.
- Always double check your hotel. I was dreaming about the Palmer Hilton and that was what I thought I reserved. Our train pulled into Chicago at 10am leaving us lots of time before check-in. We left our luggage with the bellhop at the Palmer to explore Millennium Park. After the park, we thought we would check in and relax before our chocolate tour. But, the Palmer Hilton couldn’t find us in their system. I showed them my confirmation email and they told me we were supposed to be at the Hilton Chicago. Dragging our luggage seven blocks down to the other Hilton, then race-walking an extra 15 minutes (45 minutes total) to get to the chocolate tour on time was not fun. Thankfully the chocolate tour was fun and delicious.
- Pack lightly. Our hotel was originally going to be 20 minutes from Union Station and I asked my daughter to pack light so we could walk. Her definition of lightly meant still preparing for every conceivable thing that might happen. The bellhops strained every time they had to deal with her bag. We ended up getting a taxi instead of walking to the Palmer House and also taxied back to the station at the end of our trip. On the other hand I had one light tote and the camera bag.
- Research tips. I went online to check out the tip situation in Chicago so I wouldn’t be flustered trying to guess how much to tip the bellhop, chambermaid, taxi driver, etc. Though we did have an angry cab driver as we hunted for our money in the camera bag. After that we always got the money out before stopping.
- Corral fear. Both Brea and I are sensitive and prone to being overwhelmed. Neither of us liked the idea of the train, but even less driving in Chicago. So we breathed deeply, ate candied ginger for nausea and distracted ourselves by looking out the window as we rode the train. We both are too curious to let anxiety stop us too often. One of my main questions when feeling fear is, “Will this make my world bigger or smaller.” We try to choose to make our lives bigger.
- Relax at night. Part of controlling overwhelm for us was making sure we were back at the hotel between 6pm and 8pm depending on where we ate dinner. We took baths, went into the hotel Jacuzzi, watched Chopped on TV, looked through pictures and relaxed. We knew we couldn’t be out all day at museums and then out again in the evening for shows or musical acts. We wouldn’t last a day.
- Experiences instead of shopping. Coming back, half the people said, “We want to take a vacation like you,” which was mainly museums, nature-related places and food. The other half wanted to know where we shopped in Chicago. Besides chocolate stores we didn’t set foot into any of them. We prefer experiences over things. So we save our money to do stuff and don’t get the souvenirs. But, Brea took lots of pictures and I wrote about our experiences so we aren’t going to forget anything.
- Know yourself. Our kind of trip may not be for others. I am sure most people don’t stay in museums as long as we do. They might not want to try octopus or lamb ravioli. But, we love trying new food, especially since there isn’t much of that where we live. We planned based on what we know about ourselves, our interests and our energy. Since it was only the two of us we didn’t have to make our vacation match anyone’s expectations.
- Unpack right away. Our train was late so I didn’t get home after the trip until about 11:30pm. But I knew if I didn’t unpack immediately it would lay around the house for days. We often think unpacking will take a long time, but in less than ten minutes I was done.
- Clear your schedule for the next day. Thankfully most of my clients canceled for me when they heard about the trip. “You won’t want to have a call, trust me.” They were right. I ended up sleeping in and working as little as possible.
What did you learn on your last vacation? Do you have an upcoming trip you can make uniquely you?