Planning a Trip to Washington, D.C.

My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. Though we planned many details of the trip beforehand, there were some things we didn’t anticipate.

Where to Go

On one of our days on the National Mall, we had to rearrange some of our plans. We found out that we needed timed-entry tickets for a couple of museums but couldn’t obtain any for the day of. We visited somewhere else and tried again in the morning to get tickets. It worked, but we wouldn’t do that again. Get timed-entry tickets a month ahead of time, and don’t wait till you’re outside the museum. If you’re wanting to tour the White House, start planning 3 months ahead since you need to schedule through your representative.

When deciding where to go, we consulted this book and TripAdvisor to get ideas. My husband and I made a list and then put things in order of priority, not knowing how long it would take to do each item. I’d generally recommend 2-3 museums per day, assuming you can walk all day. The museums open around 10 and close by 5 or 5:30, and each one we visited took a few hours. We also tried to plan things that were close to each other and spent 2 days on the National Mall, 1 on Capitol Hill, and another half day looking at memorials and monuments. We could’ve filled another 3 days!



We knew beforehand that we’d be walking a lot, and we sure did! According to my watch, we walked 80,000 steps in 5 days, which is the equivalent of about 35 miles. We both took the best shoes we own to minimize discomfort at the end of the day. Our feet were sore, but we didn’t have any lasting issues from all the walking. We made sure to take little breaks every few hours to rest our feet, hydrate, and eat snacks. All the museums we visited (minus the Capitol) allowed water bottles inside but not snacks, so we made to sure to eat outside.

We checked the forecast beforehand and saw that it was going to be cool and rainy, so we took hoodies with us. They were great for all days but one, when it poured and got us pretty wet. We wish we’d taken some ponchos, even disposable ones. We got stuck carrying wet hoodies around the rest of the rainiest day. Thankfully, they were dry by the next day!


Using Scooters

On the day we visited the monuments and memorials, we used scooters. We absolutely recommend planning a few minutes to figure out how to ride them and then buy a ride pass. It saves a TON of money to do so. We’re really glad we used scooters that day, but the biggest downfall was figuring out where to park them. Despite that, they were worth it.

Getting Around Town on the Metro

My husband chose a hotel in Alexandria that was close to the metro stop, and I’m so glad he did. It was a fun experience to ride on the metro for the first time. We used the metro to get to and from our hotel into D.C. and to and from the airport. It was clean, comfortable, and pretty easy to figure out.

Google Maps has an option for public transportation that we didn’t realize was there, but we didn’t use it most of the time since maps are posted everywhere. We used SmarTrip to pay for it, which just required a tap from our phones at the gate. For the amount of time we were there, a metro pass wouldn’t have been worth it, but we were also left with a little money on the digital card by the end since it required us to load at least 10 dollars each time. Maybe next time we’ll pay for the last few trips out of pocket.


Food and Gifts

We’re grateful that we didn’t skimp on food during this trip. Our hotel served breakfast, but we ate lunch and dinner at restaurants, which provided us with a fun, cultural experience that we couldn’t get in rural Utah. We made sure to get enough to eat since we were walking all day. I think spending a little more money on our meals gave us the rest and nutrition we needed to keep our energy up.

Museum gift shops were both more and less expensive than I thought they’d be. There were lots of vendors outside with great deals on shirts, hats, and other items, but we didn’t have cash and wished we had.


Overall, our trip to Washington, D.C., was well-planned, grueling, and incredibly exciting. The minor setbacks were not enough to ruin anything, but it was good to be flexible all the same. If we could visit D.C. again next week, we’d definitely do it!

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