When I first arrived in Chicago, I became enamored by all Chicago had to offer. O’hare airport is really nice. The passageway leading to the train station is adorned with neon lights that change colors as you walk. This was a trip meant for exploration. I didn’t want to take a cab into the city, I wanted to be like a local and take the train. It was 20-stops on the Blue line.
I got off the train at Jackson Street and took a bus to my Airbnb apartment. I would be staying with a man named Jack. He lived in a condo on the South Side of Chicago along Michigan Avenue. When it was time to get off the bus Jack was waiting at the bus stop to greet me. It was wonderful. Jack’s apartment is beautiful. It has white decor, with pictures of Chicago hanging along the hallway walls. The apartment is treated just like a hotel. He had slippers waiting for me and a welcoming name sign on the room door. The continental breakfast was a plus as well. He mentioned he kept a camera in the kitchen which made total sense, I always wondered about the safety of Airbnb hosts. The view from Jack’s apartment is also amazing.
One of the first things I wanted to do was to visit the Navy Pier. It was about 20-minutes away from the apartment. I got on a bus then took a cab. To be honest, I was quite underwhelmed by it. It was still under a lot of construction, but the views from the pier were magnificent. Lake Michigan is such a beauty.
From the Navy Pier, I went on to the Sky Deck Chicago in the Willis Tower. The Skydeck is about $19 and it’s an experience. There are two noteworthy rooms that you must go threw before you take the elevator to the 103rd floor. The first room is a sort of pop culture room, exhibiting everything that Chicago is known for including the Chicago Bulls, President Obama, and Oprah. There’s also a room where you can watch a video on the history of the Willis Tower and how it came to be. Finally, you are led along a hallway to elevators that take you to the 103rd floor. Once on the observation deck, you see the city like never before. There’s thousands of tourists there, all waiting to get a chance to stand on the sky deck.
You think you know, but you have no idea.
That tagline will forever be in my head. As a kid, I spent hours upon hours watching the Real World on MTV. There was something so genius about putting a group of young, eccentric people in a house together and discovering who they really were at their core. Spend enough time with someone and their inner selves will begin to show. Whether it’s their passions, vulnerabilities or insecurities, it all begins to spill out. I can now say the same thing about going on vacation with a mate. If you really want to know your boyfriend/girlfriend go on vacation with them. What makes a baecation different from just hanging out at the house or in your neighborhood together is that both of you are completely out of your element. You will begin to notice things about how the person you’re with takes charge (or not). You’re more inclined to notice things like if your boyfriend will instinctually help you with your bags or if your girlfriend will make you breakfast in bed. Things that you didn’t know you were seeking might be revealed. Which can be a good thing or a bad thing.
I say this from experience. I took my first baecation recently and what was supposed to be an amazing opportunity to explore a new city that we both have never visited ended with the demise of our relationship.
Discretion: I am not writing this piece from a place of bitterness, more of a cautionary tale.
My relationship was not ready for this next step of traveling together. There were a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied and a lot of things that we both didn’t know or like about each other when we went away. When I am on vacation, I hate taking naps as soon as I get into the room. However, he wanted a nap, which turned into 6-wasted hours of a day. It gave me anxiety watching him sleep when I wanted to discover this new city; we had a whole itinerary planned and each hour that passed made me feel like we would get nothing done. Yet what he didn’t know is that I go to sleep really early so by 10PM I was turned down and this was prime time for him to turn up. He wanted to hit up a blues club around 11pm but by that time you could hear my snoring miles away. Our personality disparities were shown in many other ways and we ultimately realized this relationship wouldn’t work.
Before you decide to take a baecation with your mate you must have a discussion, and in this discussion be totally honest about your expectations for the trip:
- How will we pay for the trip? Do you have a partner that will take care of all the costs? Sometimes as women we would love this, but it’s not always realistic for us working-class people. So to be fair you both will most likely be splitting the cost. Who will pay for flights? Who will pay for hotels? Or will you just go 50/50 on everything?
- How will we pay for things while on the trip? I harbored a little resentment when we were on the trip and my boyfriend didn’t pay for certain things. It bothered me when we went to dinner and I had to pay half or when we went to an attraction and I had to pay for my ticket in front of the lady at the stand (who I secretly thought was judging me). Yes, I am petty (maybe a bit unrealistic) but these were my concerns.
- Manage Expectations, What do you both want to do during the course of the trip and how can you compromise and get everything done so everyone is happy? Brainstorm all the things you would like to do and draft an itinerary.
- How will we get to the airport? Together? Apart? When I went away with my now ex-boyfriend I was a little annoyed that he didn’t come to pick me up and we just go to the airport together. Granted he lives in Harlem and I live in Brooklyn (two different worlds) but it was 3 AM and I am a female in a taxi cab by myself. I’ll admit it was scary but I got to the airport safely. What I would’ve preferred was for us to go together. Again, maybe you are not as particular.
- Are you a stay-on-the resort person or do you like to vacation like a local This is important! You both have to make sure you’re on the same page. If one person wants to explore and the other wants to hang out by the pool all day you won’t be spending much time with each other.
My best advice is to keep the peace, ignore little idiosyncrasies and live in the moment, at least until the vacation is over.
I HATE PACKING…but I’ve never had to pack for a two-week vacation (The Horror). Initially, I was going to buy a new suitcase for my trip. I saw IT-Lightweight luggage at TJ Maxx one day and immediately fell in love. It was a measly 4pounds and meant that I could probably fit more clothes in my suitcase without going over 50 pounds. Eventually, after much thought I decided against it; I spent too much money on the trip already and at this point, I needed to focus on saving for it.
When I got home I began to pack all of my things in a large suitcase, yet it seemed like the suitcase itself was heavier than my clothes. I downsized literally 2-hours before my flight to a smaller version. It was probably the best decision I made for myself. In total I carried a:
- Medium suitcase
- Book Bag with Wheels
- Purse-which was more like a second carry on
Switching my suitcase now meant squeezing all my clothes in by any means necessary. I had shirts inside of heels and wore two jackets on the plane. I basically packed all my clothes in large Zip Lock bags and poked holes in each of them to release the air (each bag was separated by the outfit I would wear in each country). The zip lock strategy worked out but to be honest by the end of the trip it was hard to keep up with. An approximate list of things I carried is below:
- About 10 Day outfits
- 5 Night Outfits
- 3 Jackets (Winter, Raincoat, Leather)
- 3 Sexy Shirts for the night
- 2 Leggings
- 2 Jeans
- 1 Overalls
- 2 Sweaters
- 8 Shoes boots and sneakers
- Ipad (A waste, I didn’t use it one time)
- Passport holder and passport
- A pen for documentation
- ID besides a passport
- Converter-London and Europe plugs are different
- 2 Travel books
- A Journal
- Tooth Brush
- Extra Pair of Clothes
To be honest I over packed. I packed two pairs of black boots and only ended up wearing one. I also packed three heels and ended up wearing two. My advice: less is more when it comes to shoes
Ky’s Travel Tips
- Pack light, in the words of Erykah Badu. Next time I travel to Europe, I will be taking 2 bags instead of three. It becomes too much of a hassle trying to keep up with all that luggage…it’s just super annoying
- Also invest in a Bungee for luggage which is a sort of elastic rope that allows you to hold in place any sized carry on, on top of your luggage
- Iron clothes before you leave, as European hotels have a weird policy that doesn’t allow irons in the hotel rooms
- I bought a lock for my luggage but didn’t end up using it. Don’t be like me and take that risk, use the lock because you never know who’s rummaging through your stuff
Before Leaving for Europe Remember:
- Remember to switch your phone to an international service or else you will have no way to contact your loved ones
- Remember to download What’s App and MagicJack to call and text internationally