As for Chicago, ALA has the event planner up and I have been adding things like mad with some time slots having 8 or 9 programs. As I obviously cannot be 8 or 9 places at once, a slice-n-dice cull will have to take place. The problem is that they always add programs at the last minute and then I'll be conflicted by something I've planned on attending vs. something I desparately need to see/hear. Never fails. We are attending the Newbery Breakfast to hear Neil Gaiman speak and there are several other authors whose programs I plan to attend.
You never can tell who will be the best speaker. KT and I signed up for an author luncheon in Minneapolis last year and I kind of groaned to hear that Arthur and Pauline Frommer (just try to find a travel guide that isn't Frommer's) were the keynote speakers and it ended up being the best session I heard all conference. We have signed up for a breakfast, lunch, or dinner nearly everyday. One day we have all three provided so I consider our efforts golden as stewards of taxpayer money. Let the vendors pick up the tab.
Are all business conferences similar? Can you get the vendors to pay for nearly everything? I'm looking around for more meals I can sign up for so that I don't have to be reimbursed by the library. I get the student rate membership in ALA since I signed up while in grad school and I get that rate for 10 years! Well, six more now. :-) Travel expenses are going to be pared down to the absolute minimum next year so I want to show that I can be a conservative travel so that I can continue to attend my profession's conferences.
As for the beach, oh I can hardly wait. I'm going to take a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, some flipflops, a bathing suit, some sunscreen, a toothbrush, and a giant bag of books. Little else. My first vacation of the year and I am so looking forward to it!