I had a work trip to make to Chicago and late last fall we discussed making it a family trip. We looked at train options, we priced hotel rooms to accommodate all five of us (side note: fire codes do not generally allow for 5 people in a hotel room and hotels are a bit prissy about it. Bah.), we considered flights and drives and various work-arounds. In the end we decided it was too expensive and too much hassle.
Then I started booking my travel details and remembering how many fantastic things there are to do in Chicago. Top secret vacation plans were hatched.
We booked train tickets with sleeper cars, a residence inn with a tiny (wee teeny tiny) kitchenette, and said nothing to the kids for nearly two months. Thursday morning we went off to school and work as usual and only on the way home did we inform them that we would be packing our bags and heading...somewhere.
The train comes through at 9:30 PM so we packed, ate, packed, scrambled around finding bathing suits for the hotel pool, and headed to the train station (conveniently within a few minutes from home) (thankfully, or we'd likely never get anywhere).
By the time we boarded it was nearly 10 PM. The kids had just had a long day toward the end of a long week and then we sprang a whole vacation on them. And it was nearly three hours after their usual bedtime. We were all very much ready to go to bed. The train attendant led us to our rooms which were already made up.
We had rooms across the hall from each other. Each had two chairs which folded down to be a bed, a toilet (which when closed was a step/chair/end-table), a fold-up sink, lights, fans, and an upper bunk that dropped down from the ceiling. The big kids claimed top bunks but were quickly second guessing their choices when we started moving again and the train did a few rocks and sways. But once they were tucked into their covers with their bookbags braced in next to them, they knocked off to sleep with hardly a peep until 8.
August and I passed out fast (after he dumped out a soda all over my mattress, that is. Thanks, August. Dumping food was sort of a theme with him this weekend. Foreshadowing.)
There was unlimited complimentary soda, juice, coffee, and bottled water down the hall and our attendant, Sharon, was amazing with the kids. We joked that the kids did so well sleeping we may just have to buy our own train car and roll it around town at night. She insisted that if we did she wanted the job. Katie sighed about missing her as soon as we left the next afternoon.
In the morning we had complimentary hot breakfast in the dining car. The kids had French toast, bacon, and sausage with juice. I had an omelet stuffed with squash and onions, plus seasoned potatoes, sausage patties, and a roll (which the kids split) and Rob had a corned beef hash with potatoes, bacon, and juice. We went back to our rooms to find Sharon had converted them to day-rooms, but since the train was mostly empty at that point she moved us up to the big double-bed rooms which have a sliding door to join the two huge rooms. She slipped the door open and let us hang out the rest of the morning with two couches, 2 chairs, two bathrooms (with showers) and great views.
We rolled into Chicago around noon and started on our adventure. It was a decently nice day and only a mile or so from the train station, so we loaded up our backpacks, put August in the umbrella stroller, and dragged the two suitcases all around town. Since we were clearly tourists, we got all of our "heads thrown back and staring open-mouthed at the buildings" out of the way. By the time we hit the sidewalks later for general sight-seeing we were mostly able to blend in (until we opened our mouths, at least, and the kids said something like "Look, that kid is on a LEASH!" (happened.) or just gawking at buildings.)
|Monkey and Bunny checking out the city from the 21st floor|