poohmaine's trip to Washington, DC: COMPLETE 10/23
About This Page: This is a discussion on poohmaine's trip to Washington, DC: COMPLETE 10/23 within the Globetrotting: General Travel Planning, part of the PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel; Trip Report: Washington, DC
Travelers: poohmaine (me!); DH Ben; DD Hayley, 16; Evelyn, 11
7 days, August 20--27
I must ...
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poohmaine\'s trip to Washington, DC: COMPLETE 10/23
Trip Report: Washington, DC
Travelers: poohmaine (me!); DH Ben; DD Hayley, 16; Evelyn, 11
7 days, August 20--27
I must start this report by thanking all of the Passporters who answered questions and gave advice. I am truly grateful to all of you. This is a fabulous, caring community.
Background: I had credits on Southwest from our WDW trip in December 2004 I had to use or lose. We had discussed a vacation in DC for a few years. Hayley is a junior this year; we figured next summer would be spent touring colleges, and then senior year she would be too busy, so this summer was our best (and maybe last for a while) chance to take a family vacation.
Could we afford it? At first we were only going to go for 5 or 6 days. But when researching airfare and hotels (more details below), I found out it was actually going to be cheaper for us to go for a full 7 days, if we went Saturday to Saturday. A no-brainer decision there!
Southwest had amazing low fares to Baltimore in August, only $29 each way, if we flew on a Saturday. The credit took care of 75% of that. I had long ago asked for this week off from work, because our daycare was going to be closed, so it worked out wonderfully.
Hotel: This was going to be our biggest expense. Our ideal hotel would have the following: 1. two queen beds, not doubles 2. within walking distance of the mall OR close to a Metro station; both would be wonderful 3. a pool 4. positive reviews/ratings from at least two sources 5. under $150 a night 6. a safe neighborhood.
You would think with all the hotels in the DC area, this would be easy to find. It wasn't. I spent hours looking! We went back and forth, finding great deals, only to have them booked when we called for reservations, etc.
FINALLY I read on another Passporter thread about the Holiday Inn on the Hill. What the heck, I'll try it. Only $119 a night? What's the catch? I had to stay Saturday to Saturday. Okay, I can do that. Location: Great, on Capitol Hill, two blocks from the Capitol building, two blocks from Union Station. Across from the Hyatt. Queen beds! Rooftop pool! Too good to be true? I checked reviews. I emailed Passporters. This place was good! All six criteria met! YAY!
Next: ground transportation from Baltimore to DC. The train was only $6.75 each, but the trains into Union Station did not run on Saturdays. Shuttle service was $18 each; a taxi was around $65. We ended up renting a car; it was cheaper ($31) and more convenient (as we could drop it off at Union Station, just two blocks from the hotel).
With everything falling into place very nicely, our DC vacation was a go!
NEXT: did I really just plan a vacation only 5 weeks in advance? *a bit of planning panic sets in*
With just five weeks until our vacation, there was so much to do. Luckily, I have the most wonderful husband in the world, and we divided the "to do" list so I wasn't too overwhelmed.
First we researched as much as we could about DC so we could get an idea of what things we wanted to do. We hadn't been since 1986, and we knew it was a different city since 9/11. We made a list of "must-dos" and researched building and museum hours, ticket requirements, locations, etc. Some of the best information I got came from links from our hotel's website! We also went to our local AAA office for maps and tour books.
We really wanted a tour of the Capitol and the White House. As soon as our dates were set, Ben was on the phone with our senator's office to see what tours they could get for us. [In case you don't know, the staff in your senator or representative's office can get you tours. Call them ASAP when your dates are final, because each senator or rep only has so many passes per day.] Our senator, Olympia Snowe, has a wonderful staff. We were able to get both tours!
Now that I knew what day we had tours scheduled, I made our basic vacation schedule. I tried to group together places that were near each other, to minimize walking back and forth across the city. I also didn't want to have to wait in line for tickets more than once a day. Also, during the summer, some museums were open late, etc. and I wanted that type of information all in one place.
About tickets: In case you don't know, many museums and government buildings in DC require tickets. The tickets are free, and distributed on a first-come first-served basis, usually in a kiosk somewhere nearby. I found out what places needed tickets, where and when the tickets were distributed, and planned accordingly.
Here was our basic plan:
Day 1: flight, Air+Space Museum in Chantilly, VA while we had rental car, check into hotel, return rental car
Day 2: National Zoo all day
Day 3: Capitol; Supreme Court; Botanic Gardens; Library of Congress
Day 4: Holocaust Museum; memorials around the Tidal Basin, ending with the WWII Memorial
Day 5: Bureau of Engraving and Printing; Natural Histroy Museum, American History Museum
Day 6: Washington Monument; White House, Ford's Theater, House where Lincoln Died, Old Post Office Tower
Day 7: Air + Space (mall location); art museums, American Indian Museum
Hey, is this too much detail? Let me know, please!
I printed out web pages I needed and put them in a binder. All our reservation confirmations, maps, list of area restaurants we wanted to try, stuff like that. My own little DC Passporter!
Then I used my old WDW Passporter for things like making a budget page and packing list. Isn't it the greatest thing?
I was calmer now, and feeling pretty darn organized.
We were late leaving the house, we didn't leave until 6:00 a.m., and we had a 8:50 a.m flight--in Manchester, NH, a 1.5 hour drive! I printed our boarding passes, but I was still nervous we weren't going to make it. We hit traffic, too!
By the time we parked the car, etc., it was 8:00 a.m.! Luckily the lines at SWA and security were short. We got to our gate as the flight was starting to board. Phew!
We had an uneventful flight. The plane was full. I sat with Evie. It was cloudy so Evie couldn't see much, but it was still nice to hear how excited she was--helped take my mind off how much I hate to fly! We landed on time at 10:10.
BWI has a weird set-up. The rental car facility is far from the terminal; you need to take a 10-minute shuttle bus ride to get there. And the road is so twisty-- I was completely disoriented. Not a sole in the National line, so we were out to the car in less than 10 minutes.
Since we had the rental car for the day, and since check in at our hotel was not until 3:00 pm, we decided to head to the Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. (If we had waited and took a shuttle from DC, we would have paid $12 EACH for the shuttle; if you drive there, you only pay a $12 parking fee.) We arrived at 12:30. It is HOT! 95+. We were all very hungry, so we ate lunch at McDonald's, it's the only restaurant on the property.
We explored for about 2.5 hours. There is much to see. If you love aviation, you could easily spend the day here. I don't. I enjoyed seeing the Space Shuttle (only a test craft, not one that went into space) and the related astronaut displays, and the Concorde, and I understand the huge historic importance of the Enola Gay--but after 20 or so planes and missiles, they all started looking the same to me. Please, no angry responses from all you aviation enthusiasts, it's just not my thing. I enjoyed the mall Air + Space Museum a lot more (more about that on day 6).
[A note about the photos: I never had the camera. Okay, maybe a few times when I begged. This trip report's photos are selected from what my family took-- so if you say to yourself, "why isn't there a photo of that?" now you know why ]
Hayley and the sculpture and walkway at the entrance to Udvar-Hazy
Ben and Evie under the back of the Space Shuttle
Ben and the girls in front of a space lab
Another view of the Concorde; it gives you an idea how huge this place is!
The Enola Gay (the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima)
What a great first day - very interesting to read your comments about the Air and Space Musuem, as that's one of the reasons we're finishing our vacation in DC, so that DH can visit that. It does sound like it's got a lot to it, but like you, I think I might end up bored at some point!
We are heading to DC next year for Dave's 50th birthday. Why DC ond not WDW? The new air and space museum. He is an space and aviation nut. But he is so enthusiatic and knowledgable about explaining everything that I get into it too. (BTW, the reverse is true when I take him to see the Italian Renaissance art at the National Gallery of Art!)