Fashion (My Style) · Travel · Wardrobe Remix

What I’ve Learned About Traveling

I have taken my share of trips in my time.  While I haven’t had the opportunity to travel beyond the borders of the United States very much (maybe a couple places in Latin America and, of course, Korea when I was VERY young), I have been around enough to have developed a tried and not-yet-quite-true-as-I-would-like travel regimen (hopefully will have more opportunities to do further testing).

The hair says it all…WINDY!!

This “tried and not-yet…oh, you know what I mean” travel regimen seems to have percolated nicely, proving to be quite effective during our last weekend trip to Chicago.  By following these few simple travel tips, I was able to enjoy a fun, yet restful vacation (helped me get through a REALLY tough Monday after).  So considering such a positive end result, I am ready to share with you the few tidbits that makes traveling (especially resentfully short trips) a truly enjoyable recreational time…for ME, anyway.  These are things I’ve formulated based on my own recreational preferences, so please do not take these as rules to be obeyed at all costs…but tidbits of advice that may or may not work for you.  Okay?  Okay…

Here we go!  
(please don’t sue me, Budweiser)
A cute outfit lies beneath the jacket…really!

Be Smart, Pack Light!
I’m the type of person who likes to pack her entire closet to take with her on vacation (and this even before I started actually caring about putting outfits together).  I think that in some weird, completely illogical section of my psyche, I actually believed this would be more convenient…more choices in clothing and no risk of “running out” of something.  I will tell you right now, this reasoning was more of a cop-out than anything…I didn’t want to take the time to plan and think ahead.  I finally realized (after many unhappy trips lugging heavy, over sized luggage pieces) that planning ahead would make for a more relaxing trip.

General rules of thumb for packing light…

  1. (Like I said previously) Start planning your outfits many days in advance.  This is helpful because you can…
  2. …plan to pack articles of clothing that are versatile and can be worn with multiple outfits.  Example – I was able to wear one charcoal t-shirt with two outfits (only needed three the entire trip).  No need to bring ALL of the t-shirts in my closet that I would not wear anyway.  Besides, if I REALLY need something (like I did in Chicago…a weatherproof jacket and cross body purse!), I could go shopping (especially in a city like Chicago…so many consignment options!).
  3. Try to wear the bulkiest items as you travel instead of packing them.  This will save tons of space, obviously.
  4. Make sure you carry enough undergarments and socks.  These are the items that you DON’T want to skimp on!  And since they’re usually smaller items anyway, it won’t add too much to the bulk.
  5. Don’t feel you have to bring all of your toiletries and beauty products.  Just bring items you use daily (as Baloo the Bear would say, “look for the *beat* BARE necessities”).  Also, you can leave the big bottles of shampoo/conditioner and body wash at home…just buy travel sizes once you get to your destination (or use those travel size squeeze bottles, if you’re trying to be more cost efficient)!

I ended up taking just one duffel bag (not even stuffed full).  Granted, I did take my rain boots because it was supposed to rain and I knew we would be walking around a lot.  But that was OK…my hands were plenty free.

Make Plans (but DON’T make TOO MANY plans)

The only planned event of the trip!

There was a HUGE difference between my return to Michigan from my Atlanta trip in March and this Chicago trip last weekend.  Granted, I enjoyed both immensely while there.  But once I returned from Atlanta, I was tired and cranky…feeling as if I hadn’t been on vacation at all.  Coming back from Chicago, I felt refreshed and happy.  The funny thing was that my Atlanta trip was actually two days LONGER than my Chicago trip.  What the heck happened?

Simple – I had over planned my Atlanta trip!  It was somewhat inevitable, since there were so many friends and family I wanted to see while there.  It seemed I was running the entire time, going from one planned gathering to the next.  I’m not complaining…I enjoyed every single encounter!  But it left me feeling worn and ragged.

Stop along the way to see cool stuff

So, for the Chicago trip, I made it a point NOT to plan.  There were only a couple events that we had planned ahead of time, but mostly I wanted to play it by ear.  Lo and behold, it made all the difference.  It actually gave us time to do spur-of-the-moment things, see parts of Chicago we hadn’t seen before (away from the tourist-y places).  We could even just head back to hotel and lounge/sleep in if we wanted to.  Mentally and physically this was SO much more relaxing.  And with so much more relaxation, my return home to work and everyday life didn’t seem so bad (I will tell you, I was a MUCH pleasanter person to be around).

So don’t try to plan something for every waking moment of your trip.  Allow yourself ample blocks of time to be spontaneous and/or simply walk around and explore.  Your weary soul will thank you for it.

You’re more likely to run into awesome sights like this!

Try Local Foods & Beverages 

Most seasoned travelers will tell you to make sure and try the local foods and beverages.  After all, what’s the point in going to a city like Chicago and not partaking in some of its signature cuisine and libations (well, just cuisine for me…since I don’t like to drink alcohol)?  One of the EASIEST ways to do this is to talk with the locals.  In our case, we were lucky to have Susan (a friend of a friend, who is now our friend too!) take us to some great eateries.  We would NEVER have considered the places she took us because, well, we didn’t know any better.  But because of her, we got to try “The Little Goat” (which opened not to long ago) and Portillo’s (Italian sandwiches, chopped salad, and custard to DIE for!).  THANK YOU, SUSAN!

Of course, the other smart thing would be to look up places to eat online.  Our friend Joe is one smart cookie.  He not only found us a great dinner place, he found a place that would also shuttle us to and from our next destination – The United Center (to watch the Bulls take on the Magic…Bulls won, by the way).  ADDED BONUS!  Great food and no worries about paying for parking at the arena (because we could leave the car at the restaurant).

So whether you follow a native or look up places online, make sure to be a little adventurous in your dining undertakings.

Trying local fare – makes you feel SUPER!  😀

Plan Ample Time for Return
OK…so I told you NOT to plan too much.  But this is one thing you DEFINITELY want to plan…your return home!  By this, I do not mean you create and stick to a “down to the minute” timetable.  In fact, that is what you SHOULDN’T do!

Confused?  Let me try to break it down.

InChul and I knew we would eat lunch with Joe in Chicago and then hang out with him until he had to leave for the airport on the final day of our trip (Sunday).  We had driven to Chicago (just a 4+ hour drive…not bad at all), and we didn’t have a set time we had to be back in East Lansing.

THAT was the plan…to give ourselves PLENTY of time to get back!  Get it?

By the time we said our goodbyes to Joe and Susan, it was about 2pm.  Since we wanted to be back home early enough to wake up for work the next day, we figured we had about 2 to 3 extra hours before we should start back.  So we didn’t feel rushed at all.  In fact, we made a pit stop at the Chicago Hmart (to stock up on Korean groceries we otherwise would be paying an arm and a leg for in EL) and SUPERDAWG (which happened to be down the road from Hmart).

Knocked out some grocery shopping and dinner at the same time…saved us even MORE time!
DINNER!!!  (YUM!)
Long story short, we got back home around 8:30pm (even though we lost an hour, going from Central to Eastern time…yes, we planned well)…got a good night’s sleep (at least I did…InChul had to be up by 5am)…and was ready to tackle the work week.
So in the end, traveling is good for the mind, body, and soul…and if done well, one can truly feel refreshed and energized from one’s time “away from it all”. 
What are some of YOUR travel “rules” that work for you?

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