It is getting late into the summer. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about a last hurrah before school starts or later in the fall. Maybe you’d like to, but not sure you want to spend the money or take the time off from work. Let me tell you to stop overthinking it and TAKE THE TRIP!
My family stepped way out of our comfort zone a couple of weeks ago. We took a big trip to Chicago! Many firsts happened on this trip: our first trip as a family to a big city, the kids’ first time on an airplane (and my second), our first time in a different time zone, our first time away for more than three days, and our first trip with an eternal purpose.
The intent of this blog post is not a guide on vacationing in Chicago, although I’ll briefly tell you some of the highlights. This post is to encourage you to make memories with your family. Do things together. Visit different places. Try new foods. Don’t delay. Whether it’s a weekend away at a campground, a staycation in your own town, or an epic trip across the country (my dream), take the time to make new memories. They are the things that last.
Memories that last a lifetime
Looking back as an adult, I remember every vacation my family took and many of the details. My dad saw to it to take us on vacation every year. Although not extravagant or very far away, the trips were always memorable. I can remember when we went to Disney World, and I thought we were going on a train ride around the park. It turned out to be Big Thunder Mountain. Oh how tight I held on to the bar! Another year, we visited Stone Mountain in Georgia. I remember a laser show and the exact song that was playing as the lights were projected on the mountain. The song was St. Elmo’s Fire. I’ll never forget how big the Statue of Liberty actually is, or what NYC looked like from atop the World Trade Center before it was gone forever.
My husband and I were talking, and I find it odd that neither of us can remember any more than two or three Christmas gifts ever received. I know that took more prep and money than any vacation we ever took! I started thinking about our most recent memories of our trip to Chicago that we were reluctant to even take. We will remember taking off our shoes for airport security, and the view of looking down on the clouds. We will never forget when we both almost lost our minds at the car rental office because they would not accept my husband’s heavily worn drivers license. I’ll not forget the intense heat wave we encountered for a day in Chicago, the first taste of Chicago deep dish pizza, or what it feels like to go up 103 floors in 60 seconds at Willis Tower. The gracefulness of a Beluga and her baby swimming at Shedd Aquarium. The beauty of the skyscrapers at night from Centennial Wheel. The kinks in our necks from viewing those buildings on our walk downtown, and taking selfies at our reflection at The Bean.
Take the time for a trip
My husband is a self-employed one-man-show. He doesn’t get weeks of vacation time or paid sick days. His days are long. This is the path he chose, and would probably never trade it for anything else. We usually take a small trip annually to the beach or the mountains, but taking the time off for a big trip was uncertain territory. This spring, we received a flyer about a Bible conference with a ministry he is connected with. It was the same type of flyer we got last year in the mail when we said, “oh that would be nice – one day”. I’m so glad we decided to take the trip sooner than later! A major deciding factor was that the kids are growing up.
When you have a 13 and 15 year old, you really start thinking in terms of time. Time they will still be under your roof. We knew this was an important time in their lives to be with like-minded teens and leaders. They had their own Bible studies, packed meals to send overseas, went to Six Flags, and made new friends from several states. It was something out of our comfort zone, but all of us quickly fit right in. They are even asking about going again next year! Whether you have little ones or teens, take the trip! Near or far! You can make more money. The work will more than likely still be there when you get back. We have a limited number of years together as a family before they grow up and get busy with lives of their own. Take the trip. It’s worth it.
Our favorite things in Chicago
Our trip was spectacular, even though our time was limited in the heart of the city. I’ll share what we were able to do in a day and a half, and any useful tips I encountered.
- Airline Tickets: I’m no professional in booking airline tickets. The only tip I can give is to check your credit card points. Those points were a huge help, and I didn’t even know we had them!
- Rental Car – be sure your driver’s license is in good shape and not falling to pieces from being in your wallet. The rental agency will not issue you a car! No exceptions. Even if it passes through TSA.
- Parking – It is expensive and limited. We parked the car at a parking garage, and did not move it until we left town.
- Hotel: Splurge a little on the hotel. You don’t want to stay just anywhere in Chicago. Be sure you are staying where you can walk to most attractions. Credit card reward points also helped lower our cost…..oh, and don’t open the bottled water in the room unless you want to pay big bucks for it. Now I know.
- Willis Tower Skydeck -this is a must do! I purchased and printed tickets online and it saved a little time in line.
- Navy Pier and Centennial Wheel – we went at night and the views were amazing!
- Shedd Aquarium – very nice, but also very busy! I’m from the coast of NC and can visit our local aquarium anytime with no crowds…..but they do have Belugas! Our online pre-purchased tickets saved time in line.
- Riverwalk – completely free, and one of our favorites!
- A walk in the city – for non-city folks like me, just looking at the skyscrapers was fantastic! The city is well-laid out, very clean, and I felt safe.
- Millennium Park – great photo ops!
- Food – DO NOT leave Chicago without a Giordano’s Pizza and a Portillo’s Hot Dog!
- I recommend the City Pass if you have longer to stay. It would be well worth it. With our limited time we would not be able to see everything it offered.