And now to wrap up the tale. Here’s what we did when not hanging out with friends or dealing with horrible motels.
As previously discussed, Tim was hoping for very little downtime. But at least in some cases, it was unavoidable.
I had hoped to wander a few areas of the city that I always found fun: Fremont, the pier and maybe the University District. Fremont and the U-District have lots of cool shops. The pier means Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe, which means a random mummy (and other strange stuff).
That would have kept us out of the hotel more, but Tim was reluctant to walk around too much. His back has been pretty bad lately. Plus, he didn’t want to go to too many places where he’d be tempted to buy stuff. He had plenty of fun money, but suitcase space was incredibly limited.
We did briefly visit a mall close to our old apartment. We were looking for a place to eat, but ended up just cruising the now-vastly-expanded offerings.
We discovered a ThinkGeek store, which I didn’t even know existed. We spent a good 20 minutes in there just ogling all the cool (read: nerdy) stuff. And I found a shirt on clearance for $6.
There was also a Hot Topic there that carried some items we didn’t have down here. Tim found a (vinyl) replica of a Peter Quill jacket. I found some Harley Quinn loungewear #NerdLingerie
There was also an anime store in the mall, where Tim found some nerdilicious shirts that showed nerd-versions of beer bottle labels: Street Fighter, Legend of Zelda and Mega Man.
All of these items were ones we could cram into suitcase nookies/crannies, so they were acceptable purchases.
The University District
Because of Tim’s aforementioned concerns, we didn’t wander up and down the main drag. But to be fair, I don’t know how much I’d have wanted to look around either. It’s almost a mile stretch of stores — all uphill. And it was cold and drizzling. Not terribly appealing.
I did get to eyeball it as we drove toward the restaurant I wanted to eat at. And I was satisfied to see that chain stores no longer seem to be encroaching. They were starting to clutter the area the last time I was there.
But my real concern was getting back to the teriyaki place I’d been craving for ages. It’s probably horribly Americanized stuff, but it’s delicious and I missed it.
As I walked out, eight-year craving fulfilled, I discovered that a small-batch ice cream store had opened up a couple of doors down. I mean, I didn’t need dessert. But you have to support local businesses, right?
I chose a dish split between Dough or Die (sugar cookie dough, fudge, caramel) and The Dark Side (homemade chocolate cookies with chocolate ganache swirls). I faltered part of the way through the bowl, so Tim valiantly took over. He shouldered the burden with great dignity.
Beyond the delicious offerings, the store was intriguing because of its floor.
Apparently, the owner blanched at the cost of a retiling. She instead decided on a DIY version. She and the general manager spent a few days gluing down thousands of pennies. A few coats of varnish later, and they had:
Well, three of the four hotels. I think I’ve said plenty about the Port Orchard motel.
The Holiday Inns spoiled me rotten. The rooms were nice and there was a breakfast spread that I overindulged in every day. (Cinnamon rolls at breakfast? Weird. But I try to respect local customs.) There were also cookies in the lobby each afternoon. I miss those.
But perhaps nicest of all was the 24-hour hot tub at the North Seattle location. My back was acting up, and Tim’s whole body is always complaining. A soak quieted everything down, and being able to do it at any hour (including right before bed) felt luxurious.
We also stayed at a Holiday Inn the first time we hung out with Seth. It was a bit of a waste, though, since we didn’t check in until almost 1 a.m. and checked back out at 11 a.m. But at least the stay took care of breakfast.
The last two days were spent at a Days Inn by the airport. It was a tad rundown, but it had the main stuff we needed: Internet, a fridge, a microwave, and surprisingly decent breakfast offerings. All for about $60 a day.
I definitely preferred the Holiday Inns to the rest of the places we stayed, but the Days Inn proved to me that Holiday Inn really wasn’t worth the price difference. So next time we’ll pick another place like Days Inn. Maybe one step up, especially if we find a hotel near the same price range that also has a hot tub.
And rather than ping pong all over the Seattle/Tacoma area, we’re just going to pick another place by the airport.
I’d originally had us stay in North Seattle to avoid long drives in traffic. But a) Phoenix is so stretched out that I’ve gotten used to longer car rides and b) as long as we avoided anything close to rush hour, trips didn’t take us nearly as long as expected.
We ate at more chains than we would’ve liked. We had plans for a couple of specific restaurants, but apparently they thought my eight-year absence was permission to close. Rude!
Still, we enjoyed our food. A lot. Arguably, too much. Between all the meals out and the snacks in the room, I definitely gained back at least one of the pounds I’d lost. But I pretty much expected to. Part of the fun of vacation is not worrying so much about the normal strictures in day-to-day life. Well, it is for me anyway.
We already spend a lot on convenience food, so I wasn’t expecting a huge difference. But I was wrong.
The discrepancy was mainly due to eating at more sit-down restaurants than fast food ones. Even if both of us eat out, it’s normally fast food ($15-17) instead of a Red Robin-esque place ($30-35). So I was startled by how quickly it all added up.
But that’s what vacations are for, I suppose.
In the end, this trip wasn’t too expensive.
The flight was covered by rewards points, though checked baggage was a nasty surprise. After we waited 20 minutes in the TSA line, we were informed that Tim had to check his pool cue. Apparently, it’s considered a potential weapon.
So that added $50 total to the checked luggage charges, and we were already checking two bags. On the bright (?) side, the case — not the cue itself — was damaged, so we got a voucher for $125 off a future flight.
Still, that was $150 in checked luggage fees plus $20 for a replacement cue case.
We used Barclay points to erase both Holiday Inn charges. Plus, I booked the North Seattle Holiday Inn through Mr. Rebates netting us $55 cash back.
We used Chase rewards for the Days Inn and for the rental car. But the rewards didn’t cover the rental car’s taxes or the Garmin we added. So that was $80 in charges.
And since the Barclay’s card requires a charge of $100 or more to use rewards points, we had to pay for the Port Orchard motel out of pocket.
Finally, our food costs were somewhere between $100 to $150 more than usual.
This means that the trip cost $370 to $420 (net of the Holiday Inn rebates). If you want to count the Alaska Airlines discount, which will be used for my October FinCon trip, then it was $245 to $295. Not bad for a seven-day vacation, eh?
As mentioned in the first and second posts, there were definitely some hiccups/disappointment. And of course, the trip ended on a sad note. But miraculously I still have a positive impression of our time there.
This whole experience (minus losing Patches) is also a good lesson for future Seattle visits.
Tim knows to expect my reluctance to drop in on people. I have a more realistic view of how little downtime we’ll (ideally) have during our vacation. And we can go armed with a list of things to do while our friends are unavailable.
Plus, I can better protect our budget by stressing fast food options — assuming we don’t see a local place that really catches our eye.
All of this should help reduce friction on our next trip.
I definitely want to go back up to Seattle. But I think our next trip should be somewhere that we don’t know anyone. Things would probably go a lot smoother if we’re not worried about anyone’s schedule but our own. Then the only real limits on our activities will be our own physical issues.
The plan was to go to DC next year, but that’s no longer certain.
Tim and I are both unhappy with the president as a whole and his actions in particular. Unlike me, Tim thinks this kind of thing will color his time there. I don’t think that’s true — we’ll mainly be enjoying monuments, museums and local restaurants — but he and I often react to things differently.
We’ve decided to table the discussion for a few months. I’m hoping he’ll change his mind, but I’m also trying to think of contingency destinations.
I’d prefer a place where the hotels are the main expense, since that’s the whole reason that I chose our latest rewards card. But a lot of potential spots are ruled out by health and other issues.
Ideally, we’d go to Orlando and recreate our honeymoon (theme parks!) since it’s our 10th anniversary. But Tim has seen one too many videos about how unregulated theme parks are, and now he’s unenthused about his previously beloved roller coasters. Even without that, there are some health factors that would probably rule out Orlando anyway.
I was thinking Philadelphia might be cool, but after some research I realized it won’t work. We considered another trip to New York, but neither of us is terribly excited by the idea. His social anxiety could make the crowds untenable, and there’s just only so much we feel like doing there.
Right now, my only other idea is San Francisco, which is admittedly a cool destination. We do know people there, but only two. Which is kind of the perfect number: enough that it’ll be fun to see them, not so many that Tim feels like the whole vacation is scheduled.
Still, I’m holding out hope for DC. Tim’s willing to go because it’s important to me (husband points!), but I’d prefer he be excited about the trip.
What’s your next vacation destination?