The worst thing that can happen to your vacation is something drastic. This could be anything from the wrong hotel booking, a bad restaurant experience, to sitting in traffic for hours getting to your next tour reservation.
If you and your family have plans on having an amazing getaway in Washington, D.C. but reluctant in making a mistake in booking, this article is going to help you avoid different problems! Sitting in traffic, eating up your vacation time is not the way you want to spend your trip, is it?
Not to fear, that is why we are here, to help you avoid all of these disastrous “what-if’s”!
Let’s get into the top mistakes to avoid when booking a Washington, D.C. tour.
Make sure to check out this site to find tours in Washington, D.C., and learn what COVID-19 restrictions are in place for traveling to and from the D.C. area. This information will also include what restaurants, tours, and other activities are currently opened or closed.
Table of Contents
1. Familiarize Yourself With the City
Getting the lay of the land is your first step in a successful Washington D.C. trip. If this is not accomplished in the beginning, a majority of your vacation in D.C. will be spent in a car sitting in traffic. We don’t want that to happen to you!
A lot of tour guides and agencies will recommend a bus tour for your very first day. This alleviates having to navigate an unfamiliar city, let the tour company do the work for you. The idea of a tour bus is not always the most exhilarating, but trust us, this is one of the best ways to get a feel for the city without having to worry about getting completely lost.
There are also plenty of different ways of exploring D.C. if tour buses aren’t your thing!
Tour the city on an electric golf cart. Upgraded from your regular golf cart, take an eCruiser around the city with friends and family. Big enough to fit six people plus a driver, these silent carts are an efficient way to tour the city.
Trollies, bikes, and segway’s are a few other less common options, but will usually have a much lesser group of people. So talking to the tour guide and asking in-depth questions is a possibility rather than with a large group of bustling people.
We suggest you explore these walking tours in Washington, D.C. that the whole family can enjoy. The kids will also enjoy exploring these museums in the place. Check out this website to book your tour of Washington D.C. for your first day so you are familiar with the city for the rest of your trip.
2. Choosing the Right Airport
Choosing the wrong airport could cost you both time and money. Make sure to map out which section of D.C. you are staying in, this way you can choose the airport that is most convenient for your trip. There is actually a multitude of options for airports in the surrounding area, but we will be looking at the main three airports near Washington D.C.
If you are staying in the heart of the downtown area, your best bet is going to be Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). This is the closest airport to downtown, which has easy access to several hotels. The airport has often been recognized as one of the most convenient airports in the United States.
Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is by far the busiest airport in the D.C. metro area. This is a good airport if you are flying internationally, which services some 57 nonstop flights to countries such as Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Plus another 87 nonstop routes throughout the United States. A quick forty-minute Uber ride will cost you around $60 to get to the heart of downtown. But if you are staying in one of the surrounding suburbs or cities near D.C., this would be the perfect choice for you.
Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) is the least chosen out of the three airports. It is, however, less busy than the other two airports listed above. For this reason, it is the top choice for some travelers going to D.C. If you are staying downtown, your best bet is going to be taking the Amtrak train to Union Station in D.C., this will cost you a mere $17 and takes about thirty minutes. (Do not eat on public transit in Washington D.C., you will be fined.) Otherwise, you are looking at a forty-minute Uber ride-without traffic. The trek to the city makes this the least chosen of the three airports, but if you don’t mind public transportation or a drive through the city; with cheaper flights and fewer crowds in the airport this could mean saving a bit of money in the long run.
Make sure to check out these airports near Washington D.C. for your convenience and easy travel.
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3. Wasting Time in Lines
This is a topic you will definitely want to avoid, especially during the summer or winter months when the temperatures are very hot or cold.
Spending two hours in a line to see one of the many memorials does not sound like the type of vacation I want to have.
Instead of choosing one of the more popular monuments, check out a few of the less popular options. These are almost guaranteed to have fewer crowds, and lesser wait times.
Save the trip to the Washington Memorial or the White House, many other options are just as impactful as the popular choices.
Check out the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument. These memorials all have significant value and are much less crowded, and do not have the usual line times at the Washington Memorial or White House.
Check this tour out to avoid lines altogether and visit some of Washington D.C.’s most famous memorials.
4. The Right Restaurants
This is an important section of the article, especially if you’re a foodie like me! Without scouting local, hidden gems, your taste buds will be subjected to the normalcy of big chain restaurants…boring! Don’t let you or your palate suffer from a lack of variety on vacation.
You will want to make sure you avoid the high-trafficked, big chain restaurants, as they have thousands of customers in a single week. A high-quality meal and pleasing your refined taste is not something that is on the top of their priority list.
Washington D.C. is home to quite a few different local food spots, each unique with its own charm.
Busboys and Poets: This quaint establishment is described as a community gathering place. Andy Shallal, an artist, activist, and restauranteur, wanted to open a restaurant that was open and accessible to all people. This is a safe place to eat good food where artists, activists, writers, thinkers, and dreamers can all come together in a single space. The food and atmosphere must be good, seeing as how Shallal has now opened seven different spots in the D.C. metro area. After eating at Busboys and Poets, head down to the wharf in Washington D.C, to experience more of what the city has to offer and take in the scenic views that overlook the beautiful marina.
Little Red Fox: Need a nice breakfast plate before heading off on your adventure in D.C.? Look no further, depending on where you are in D.C. if you are anywhere near the Little Red Fox, according to the locals you must go. Serving seasonal dishes year-round, this establishment offers a constantly rotating menu. With rustic decor and a friendly atmosphere, it feels as if you are having lunch at an acquaintance’s house. This is one of the locals’ favorite for many reasons. Little Red Fox holds the importance of serving their community, which they actively participate in.
Duccini’s: Do you have a hankering for a midnight snack after a night on the town? Located conveniently between U Street and Adam Morgans, this pizza spot will never leave your belly unsatisfied. If you’re at all familiar with D.C., then you know I’m talking about the jumbo slice! With many jumbo pizza slice places popping up in the Adam Morgans area, there is no shortage of massive pizza slices twice the size of your head. But Duccini’s is the standout, go-to option for both locals and visitors. Their jumbo slice is truly jumbo, with massive amounts of cheese, sauce, and whatever toppings you prefer. The atmosphere, the ingredients, and the sheer size of the slice will leave your taste buds and soul truly satisfied.
5. Finding the Perfect Hotel for You
Finding the right hotel can be a very tricky process when looking for places to stay in D.C. But don’t let this deter you from finding the perfect choice. There are loads of beautiful, vintage hotels in the surrounding downtown area. If you do a little research you could end up staying in a gorgeous hotel for a minimal price. But beware, not all hotels are going to be up to par as some.
The hardest part is going to be the location. If you don’t need every amenity there is under the sun and a “fancy” stay with five-star room service, then you can find minimally priced options that are close to downtown.
But the fancy five-star hotels can be a bit of a hassle when trying to book the perfect stay. They are almost always advertised as “fifteen minutes” from downtown, but a majority of the time this is simply untrue. Some of the “fancy” hotels are located in the suburbs outside of D.C. and require a trek to get back to downtown, most of the time taking much longer than fifteen minutes with traffic.
Always research before booking a hotel room. You want to make sure the rooms are as advertised. One picture could look very enticing, but once you get there it could be completely different than what was actually pictured. Make sure to read reviews of people who have actually stayed at the hotel before. This will be a true testament to what your hotel stay will actually be like. If most of the reviews are negative, you most likely want to listen to those reviews and avoid that option for a hotel.
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Especially in today’s world, reservations are everything. No matter if it is for food, tours, hotels, or whatever the situation may be; make sure to plan ahead and make reservations.
Due to COVID-19, many establishments have increased measures of precaution. This means social distancing measures, and limited amounts of people are allowed.
If you are looking to get into the White House for an actual tour, you will be sorely disappointed if you try and pop in for a quick tour. For a successful tour of the White House, you must submit a request to a member of congress, no less than 21 days before your proposed tour.
Other tours might not be as long of a process to make said reservation… but it doesn’t mean planning isn’t important! Most tours in D.C. do require some sort of time slot reservation.
Make sure to take advantage of the free museums and monuments in D.C. This will save you tons of money in the long run if you are looking to save as much as possible. Besides money for food, transportation, and your hotel accommodations, Washington D.C. can actually be done for quite cheap.
All Smithsonian museums are free, along with the National Zoo. Many other art museums and galleries are free as well. These options include the National Gallery, the Hirshorn, the Freer Gallery, and the Sackler Gallery.
Along with many of the parks and luscious green lawn areas surrounding the metro area, D.C. has plenty of free options to enjoy the scenery and maybe have a picnic on one of the sprawling lawns. Make sure to bring a lot of water if you plan to walk, the city is quite spread out!
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Washington D.C. is known to be quite hot and sticky in the summer, so make sure you plan accordingly! You don’t want your vacation to be running frantically from one place to another, making sure you pack as much as you can in a single day. D.C. is a huge city, and there are so many options for things to do, that trying to fit it all in one vacation is nearly impossible.
It is recommended to stick with less than five activities in a day. And that is quite a lot for some people. Especially if booking a lot of tours, if you don’t get to a tour on time most of them will leave anyways, and most of the time are non-refundable.
Always make sure to check the weather as well. D.C. has very mild spring and fall, but the summers are hot and humid and the winters can be very wet. Plan your trip around the weather, and whether or not you want to spend your vacation indoors or outside.
If you don’t mind walking outside, then spring and fall are the perfect times for you. Fall is especially nice since most kids are back in school, so the tours are much less likely to be as crowded. But if you aren’t planning on walking, and will use an Uber or public transportation to get from destination to destination, then both summer and winter trips could be viable options.
So don’t wait any longer and come visit the nation’s capital city. There is so much to see and learn! If you can’t fit it all in the first trip that just means you’ll have to come back again to enjoy the people, food, culture, and history.
Follow these tips to ensure you don’t make any mistakes booking your adventure through Washington D.C.