You can never fully plan a vacation, as much as I had list and ideas and more list and checked items off…nothing is every what you plan. But if you are planning to take a family trip to Washington DC this is what I recommend:
1) Contact your state representative or senator and have them do tickets for the White House and Capitol. These are both free activities, but you must contact them at least six weeks to three months prior to your travel date.
— Being able to say we went through the White House is something a lot of people cannot say. This tour was a lot different than when I went when I was ten and Ronald Reagan was in office (we saw the back of his head). We were able to actually walk into the separate rooms and had a tour guide. This time we walked through and was able to just look into the room, and no guide. But we can say we were in the White House.
— The personal tour of the Capitol is amazing. We are not fighting to see things among 40 different members of a group, we were bumped to the front of the line a lot and was able to take different exits due to being with an aide of our representative Jason Smith. The whole experience was a lot better for the kids because they could ask questions and not have to wear headphones to get information about what we were seeing.
2) Big Bus Tour — you can purchase 24 or 48 hour passes. This is a system where you can see the whole city from the top of a bus, get on-off at will, and save some wear and tear on your feet. We spent $176 on two adult and two child tickets; but we also got tickets to the Madame Trousseau’s Wax Museum and the Crime and Punishment Museum. It also included a river boat ride (we did not do this). So we had two days worth of bus riding and two museums for the price of the tickets. (Well worth it, and this can be budgeted in when planning the trip).
3) Park at Union Station — if you are driving up or rent a car, use the car garage at Union Station. It is easy to get in/out of, everything is there (the tour buses, metro). We found other parking that was five dollars cheaper, but it was on a side street and down underground…a little scary. The parking garage here is open and with security guards, the most they charge is $22/day. Yes, that’s a lot of money…but safety and ease of getting in/out of the city was a bonus; and I spent $14 on one trip on the Metro during peak business hours (which we traveled during the week, so it would always be peak hours). So the Metro could be expensive, there is parking on the streets and at the monument areas that are by coin meters and some are free. So if you have a large family the Metro could get expensive.
4) Stay outside the city. Yes it would be cool to be on a busy city street and just walk out your door and be next to a neat building. We had a motel with free Wifi, a pool, a large breakfast, and free parking. In the city the internet connection and parking cost and very few of them have a free breakfast.
That’s all I can think of for now…it was a great experience, and I am glad I was able to take my nieces and nephew to see the Capitol of the US.