I posted this on a previous forum and on my facebook page. I have heard great feedback from many...so I am making a separate post for this.
PLEASE ADD ANY INFO YOU HAVE ALSO....I AM SURE THERE ARE MANY MORE TIPS FOR NEW (& RETURNING TRAVELERS) TO DC!!!!! :)
We have been to DC 3 times over the past 5 years with 2 boys (now ages 13 & 10). Here are some tips and things I have learned over our visits…might not apply to everybody…but worked for us.. I am NOT an expert, just a mom with 2 boys and likes to plan trips :). We have stayed pretty much near the city and visited in the spring.
1. Bring LOTS of snacks and sandwich baggies from home. DC is not a city where you can drive to Wal-Mart and purchase snacks. :) I have even washed grapes and put them in plastic baggies ready to go!
2. Eat a big breakfast! I have learned to eat big at breakfast time, eat your snacks during the day and then eat an early dinner. You save time and money. HINT-ask your hotel if there are any room specials with free breakfasts. If there aren’t, ask if there are any other specials for breakfast.
3. Plan, plan, plan and plan early! To maximize your time there, you must do some planning. Search the forums…see what other people suggest doing and get some tips. Decide what you would like to do and mark those things on a big DC map. Do some research on what it takes to get in there (is it free and open anytime…or do you need a ticket?). Start organizing your schedules around the things that need a ticket (& when they are available) and the location of preferred activities.
4. Pay attention to what needs an advance ticket or representatives approval/letter to even get in (see above). Also, some attractions have timed tickets so you don’t have to wait in line (Archives). Others you get advance tickets for timed entry, but there are tickets given out every morning too (Holocaust, BEP). Even if you don’t get a ticket in advance to go in something, still go see it…you never know what will happen. One year, I was disappointed we didn’t get tickets to go up the Monument (okay…it was my first year to go to DC..I didn’t know all the tricks/tips!)…but a nice tour operator had extra tickets and gave them to us :).
5. Plan for a rainy day. Not kidding, it has rained at least 1 day for our last 3 spring trips to DC. Pack a rainy outfit (including lightweight rain jacket), nylon pants, umbrella and go on with your day! Don’t forget to bring an extra pair of tennis shoes for the next day, if needed.
6. Plan to WALK! I love DC because of all the walking, but you must be prepared for it. Take a good pair of walking, running, tennis shoes. And dress in layers.
7. On the flip side, do some research about the Metro…and get familiar with the metro map. It’s a great mode of transportation, but can be intimidating if you don’t know what it is about. By our 3rd trip, my boys and I conquered the metro in rush hour with changing trains! :)
8. See what the weather is going to be like…and pack your clothes accordingly. This seems like a no-brainer, but the weather in DC fluctuates.
9. Print off all your tickets, maps, trip notes, etc and put them in a 3-ring binder/folder by day and take it with you everywhere! It’s so much easier to have all this stuff done before you leave, and then you can just enjoy your time there.
10. Bring sports equipment for the Mall area (small soccer ball, football, Frisbee, etc). It’s great to have some play/down time for the kiddos and how iconic to do it on the Mall! Also, great place to have a snack break.
11. Pray. I prayed over every aspect of this trip…praying that God would guide the planning and give us wisdom on our choices there! There will always be hiccups, but having a grace-filled and thankful attitude goes a long way on a vacation. :)
Blessings on your trip!!