24 hours in Washington DC: Part 1- Planning


(Click to see full size, Google link http://goo.gl/maps/Ntb7n)


Airfare: Portland to Baltimore (~$200 roundtrip)
Hotel: Willard Intercontinental. Free with Chase Priority Club Visa
Car Rental: $13
Parking $45 (ouch!)

Average cost per person~$230 per person+ hotel

Why DC?

Most of my travel consists of whirlwind, crazy, weekend itineraries. To give you a taste of it, let me start with this weekend’s trip. The idea was to treat my parents to the vibe and feel of some east coast city in 24 hours. My parents have been to US twice for about 3 months each. I had taken them on several of my crazy trips throughout west coast. However, they hadn’t stepped on the east coast. This fact was unsettling enough for me to start planning on a possible 24 hour trip from west to east coast.


The first problem was to find a decent airfare. I can’t really afford a $500 fare for three people, that too for a 24 hour trip. Luckily, a $200 fare from Portland to Baltimore sprung up and I pounced on it. DC it would be. I had never visited DC myself so that was an added attraction for me. The timing was perfect. The flights started at ~10:30Pm from Portland on Friday, reached Baltimore at ~10Am on Saturday. The return was ~430PM on Sunday from Baltimore. Baltimore to DC is about a 40 min drive.


I wanted to stay close to the heart of DC. Earlier experiences have taught me that to make most of a 24 hour trip, it is imperative to stay as close to the main attractions as possible. For a longer trip, I tend to stay on the outskirts of a city to get free parking and lower hotel rates. However, doing so on a 24 hour trip may save you money but you lose on precious time. Remember, you paid a fortune in other travel expenses for those 24 hours. In my case, I had to spend ~$700 in airfare, car rental, gas and food. So each hour costs ~$30. Anyway, hotels in central DC ran about $200. The cheaper ones in Arlington (20 min drive) were ~$100+tax. Instead I scored a $1050 (yes that is not a typo) room in Intercontinental Willard, next to White house for free. It was Priority club card free night; more on that in a later blog post.

The Plan

I meticulously planned my trip to make most of the 24 hours. However, on Sep 30, Congress dropped the bombshell on my plans. The government had shut down, which meant that all the Smithsonian Museums and major DC attractions would be closed when I was planning to visit. I frantically researched on how to make the most of my trip. My final plan looked somewhat like this:


11AM pick up rental car, drive to Franciscan Monastery. Spend some more time at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
2PM- drive to Willard and check in.
3PM: Visit Newseum.
5PM: Visit Madame Tussaud’s.
8PM: Drive around the national monuments, roughly following the route listed by Old Trolley Tours http://www.trolleytours.com/washington-dc/washington-dc-map.html


Morning: stroll around National Mall/ Capitol Hill. See it by day.
10AM- check out and visit National Cathedral, drive by Georgetown, Philips collection if time permits (Free with Bank of America Museums program)
12noon: Visit Arlington national Cemetery.
1PM start from Cemetery.

Notice how I have budgeted time at each location? I tend to over-plan and under-travel. This ensures that I give enough time to each attraction I visit; yet there wouldn’t be free time to kill. Of course, traveling with a set plan makes no sense; the plan has to evolve depending on the situation. Ours evolved into an amazing 24 hours. Stay tuned for the next post, hopefully with pictures.



3 thoughts on “24 hours in Washington DC: Part 1- Planning

  1. Pingback: 24 hours in Washington DC Part 2: A trip during government shutdown | Weekend Adventurer

  2. Pingback: Why travel in a weekend? | Weekend Adventurer

  3. Pingback: 36 hours in New York: Without a definite plan | Weekend Adventurer

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