Washington DC is a fabulous city. It is definitely one of my all-time favorite cities to visit and definitely one of my favorite to run in. There is so much to do there as well as so many cheap ways to get there (and many free attractions once there:) ). My kids had not been there yet and since it will be quite a while before they are back in the US again, I wanted to give them a chance to see in person the things that they had been learning about last year.
Washington in a Whirlwind
Since we had most of our time in the US already claimed, we only had a very short time to make our visit. We chose to leave on an early morning flight, spend the day in DC, stay at a nearby hotel, and still have a little bit of time the next day before heading back to Rochester. Our children are 5, 4, and 2 so there would be an understanding of some of the things and not of others so we planned our visit strategy around that. We knew that traveling with younger children on an early morning flight and then moving around would be difficult but we also wanted them to get all the time we could. Here is a rundown:
We left the house at 5AM for our 6:20AM flight (Southwest). Unfortunately, I was the only one who received TSA PreCheck, even though we all qualified for it (Global Entry) and had our Known Traveler Numbers (KTN) in the Southwest system. That meant we had to leave a little earlier than we would have otherwise.
The plan had been to put our kids to bed a bit earlier than normal on Sunday night (night before departure). That was complicated by the overwhelming smell associated with natural gas in the house. That meant a call to the gas company and visits by them and the fire department. This necessitated that we have everyone outside. Very exciting for the kids, but not the sort of thing we wanted – adrenaline coursing through their little bodies just as they were getting in bed. 🙂 After finding the problem, that was shut off and everyone went to bed in their clothes so they could be pulled out of bed in the morning and get right in the car.
We chose to fly to Baltimore instead of Reagan National due to the time of arrival and availability. The earliest we would have been able to get a US Airways flight to DCA would have been the afternoon and we could not afford to lose the morning. This did require us to take a train in, but we figured it would add to the experience. 🙂
Arriving in Baltimore
We arrived shortly before 7:20 and headed right to the ground transportation area. We boarded the MARC/Amtrak shuttle and bought tickets at the MARC terminal. Our children rode free, so it was just tickets for the two of us. We made the next train with just a couple of minutes to spare and were off for DC!
Arriving in Washington
We made it to DC before 9AM and started towards the Capitol building. Since it was beautiful weather, we figured the kids would enjoy seeing some of the sites along the walk. They certainly did and were really overwhelmed by the Capitol building! A very kind Capitol police officer came up to them and talked for a couple of minutes before giving them police badge stickers, which they wore proudly for the rest of the day. After snapping some pictures of them and pointing out various vantage points from the Capitol, we made our way to the first museum.
The first museum on our list was the Air and Space Museum. This has always been my favorite and I knew would be a big hit with the kids. We got there just before opening (10AM) and got them set up on the steps with snacks while I went to take our bags to our hotel (about 1.5 miles away). They headed in when it opened and were in awe of some of the big stuff. 🙂 I joined them on my return and we had a great, fun-filled time exploring so many of the different hands-on science experiments. We spent a couple of hours in there before grabbing lunch and heading back to the hotel for a little rest time. That required the first metro trip of the day, which was a lot of fun for them.
After a couple of hour rest, we headed out again. We hit the Natural History Museum this time as it was opened until 7:30PM that day (there is a rotating schedule of museums that have later closing times). We spent a couple of hours in there and there were a lot exclamations, especially from our little one, as we walked into the various rooms to see the exhibits. One of the exhibits that they were the most intrigued with was of insects – especially the large spiders. That is not because they like them, but they did find them fascinating – just behind the glass. 🙂
We left that museum and went to get some dinner at a nearby Cosi. That took us to around 6:40PM which was getting closer to our only really schedule moment of the day. We left to go to see the outside of the White House (which was something they were really looking forward to). We then walked around the Old Executive Office Building towards the back of the White House and the South Lawn. President Obama was scheduled to leave on Marine One at 7:30PM for Andrews AFB for his trip to Europe, so we wanted to catch the chopper as it came in and left. After waiting for about 20 minutes, the chopper came in, picked him up, and left. The kids were really WOWed by Marine One as it flew right over our heads. It also created some very nice Kodak moments as it passed Washington Monument.
The Washington Monument was actually the next thing on our list, so we followed the chopper that way and had another great time walking around and taking pictures of the kids near the Monument. They had learned a bit about the Monument last year and had colored many pictures of it, so it was a favorite. We also got to watch some of the softball games that were going on in the grass near the Monument. That has to be the best place in the US for softball games!
We walked from there through the World War II Memorial and then on to the Lincoln Memorial. It was great to see their faces once again as they took in the enormity of the Lincoln statue. This and the World War II memorial were also things that they had been learning about so they finally got to put the images to the history lessons they had learned.
After that, we made our (long) way back to our hotel (the Hilton Garden Inn near the White House). We got in around 9PM and that concluded our very long day in DC!
The Next Day
In the morning, we went down for our complimentary buffet breakfast (complimentary because of my Hilton Gold status and the manager had included our two children in it as well). It was a very nice spread of food and filled us up before heading back upstairs to grab our stuff and begin making our way to Reagan National for our flight home. The trip to National was very easy as the Blue line on the metro has a stop right outside of the Hilton Garden Inn and it takes you right to DCA. Combine that with TSA PreCheck for all of us (yep, got it for the way home!) and it was a very quick move back to the airport.
So, there you have it! That was really Washington in a whirlwind, especially with little kids. But they loved it! They could not stop talking about it when we got home! On Monday, we were out in the city for a little over 9 hours and hit the six big things on our list – Capitol, Air and Space, Natural History, White House, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. Not to mention, we went by car, plane, bus, train, and metro. 🙂 Our oldest son put it perfectly as we took the bus from the terminal to our plane – “Dad, how many stops until we reach our stop?” He was thrilled to find it was only one stop. 🙂
Breaking Down the Numbers
In the end, our travel expenses were simply for the airline fee and the ground transportation. We “bought” 5 tickets on Southwest using our Rapid Reward points (most of them accrued by opening accounts for the kids and my ticket covered by the Companion Pass). For the hotel, we stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn on points. On the return trip, we flew our very first US Airways flight booked with Avios. So, the total was:
- Southwest points – 10,000 points + Companion Pass
- Hilton Garden Inn – 50,000 points (review coming)
- US Airways – 22,500 British Airways Avios
- Total airline fee (segment fee) – $25
Not too bad for a trip the kids loved and will remember for a long time! I am sure we could have done some things differently, but that was our whirlwind trip to Washington!