Author Topic: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back  (Read 6732 times)

Offline Marco Polo

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A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« on: September 08, 2015, 10:23:42 AM »
    Like many others, we decided to take a quick trip over the holiday weekend and bump up or flight counts and places visited. Having a nice stash of points essentially opens the world, but with the relative short amount of time and my wife not wanting to subject my kid to more time changes, we “limited” ourselves to within a few hours of East Coast. Since we only decided to take a trip relatively close to Labor Day and flying on Labor Weekend, finding roundtrip flights with award space in both directions was a little difficult. Miami, Orlando, San Juan, Saint Thomas, Nashville and many others did not end up working out, but we decided to do Washington DC and have Chicago as a fall back. There was plenty of space using Avios out of LGA to DCA and there were even flights back for us. At 9,000 Avios a person roundtrip, and the kid free, this was a pretty good deal.

     We (I) decided to wait until after the weekend to book, and much to my dismay, there were no flights back from DCA available and there was only a 7:00 AM flight on Friday morning. With this new development, I quickly went to check Amtrak to see if they had any space available to redeem some UR on. Luckily, there were plenty of options and I transferred 8,000 UR into Amtrak, enough for two tickets and my kid free again. I was then able to convince my wife to agree to a 7:00 AM flight from LGA so we could use Avios and get to see the Centurion lounge. Once I had that in place, I booked the flights with BA and called Amtrak to book our train tickets home on Monday. The first Amtrak agent I spoke with before transferring the UR confirmed there were seats on the Monday train, but this new agent unapologetically explained how Monday was a black out day and I could not use miles. Armed with this new information, I went to the next best option of leaving Sunday night. Thinking I was all good now, I went to tell my wife the good news and book our hotel for the stay when she decided that 7:00 AM was going to be too early and that she saw flights leaving from EWR around 9:00 AM (at this point I’m questioning why I taught her to search for flights). Me being the sport I am and having a decent point balance, called up SQ (I know, they are even more than UA for this flight) and booked us for the 9:00 AM flight and then cancelled our BA tickets. Once that was done, we found the hotel we were looking into went down $50 a night, so we called and got that booked before anything else changed. Now we were finally set to go. Our flight was EWR-DCA on UA booked with SQ for 12,500 a person, staying at the Washington Hilton for $99 a night and then taking Amtrak back Sunday night for 4,000 UR a person.

    Friday morning we were out of the house by 7:00 AM and on our way to Newark. Cruising along the highway (uneventfully) we were at the long-term parking lot about 30 minutes later. About ten minutes later we were walking into the United Club to grab a snack and a seat before our flight. Once checked in, we spent about ten minutes trying to find a seat in the packed lounge. While the lounge is nothing to write home about, it is always nice to have a place to hide from the riff-raff when flying. Around five minutes before boarding, we walked over to the gate and got in line for Priority Access (although, when travelling with a kid, you always get on relatively quick). Flying a nice small plane in Economy was not bad, especially since we were preparing for arrival not too soon after getting up in the air. Once off the plane we were off to get our two bags and get on the Metro.

    The Metro is right across from the airport and has a bridge connecting it. From our baggage carousel, it was a two minute journey into the station. The Metro was as expected and we were heading out the Dupont Circle exit and up what may be the longest escalator ever. Once street level, we had a fifteen minute walk to our hotel and check-in. At check-in we were offered a room on the club floor, or a room lower down, but a bigger room. We opted for the bigger room and headed up to check out our room. On our past trip, we had always gotten nice upgrade being Diamond members, but were not sure what to expect here. Turns out, our “bigger” room was not really too big and had what may be the worst setup. The room was shaped like a lowercase “n” with the entrance on the lower left with the bathroom and a closet right there, the long part of the room had a chair and led straight to the bed and there was a little writing desk on the lower right corner. While what I just wrote may not make much sense and is leaving you more confused than when you started reading, which was essentially what the room felt like as well.

    Once we finished settling in, we went to see the lounge and grab some drinks for the day. We started out walking through and around Dupont Circle and towards the White House. Being that we were only going to be here a couple of days, we wanted to walk through and see as much as we could. There was something going on by the White House so they had the street in front blocked off, so we took a couple of pictures and headed off towards the Washington Monument. While things may see close, it is a nice long walk to get from place to place. We were not planning on going into the monument, so we walked around and headed over towards the Lincoln Memorial. We arrived at the WWII Memorial just in time to get a walking tour with a park ranger who was very knowledgeable and explained the setup and imagery depicted there. From there we walked to the Lincoln Memorial along the Reflecting Pool, had lunch and then went over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

White House:


Washington Monument:


Lincoln Memorial from WWII Memorial:


View from Lincoln Memorial:


    The Air and Space Museum being part of the Smithsonian was free and very informative and surprisingly fun for my kid as well. He ran around for 20 minutes just pointing and yelling “I see plane, I see plane” and then every so often after, he would do it again. After spending a couple of hours walking through the exhibits, we went back over to the hotel. The rest of the day was spent in the pool and relaxing.

    The next day we walked over to the National Zoo (also free) and spent the day there. They have a very nice setup with lots of animals, though we seemed to have caught them all while they were sleeping and not in public view (conspiracy?). They also had a panda exhibit which looked nice, but again, they were all sleeping and not in view. They did have a screen showing one of the pandas, but who knows if it was real or not.  One thing to note is that walking from one side of the zoo to the other is all downhill. Save some energy for when you leave, because it is a very long uphill to get back out.

    Sunday we started out with the Ford’s Theatre, compliments of Amex. You first start out going through the museum and then get to sit in the theatre and hear a talk from one of the employees. Very informative and I would recommend it even if you don’t make money when going. While waiting in line, I offered some extra tickets to someone. Never thought I would get such looks for giving away tickets, but they eventually took them. From there we headed back over to the White House for some better pictures, and then went to see the National Archives. We got to see a lot of the exhibits and spend some time out of the heat. This may not be for everyone, as it is very history oriented and not really staring and gawking like at the Air and Space Museum.  From there we went to lunch at Char Bar which was a fifteen minute walk or so. We got The Lamar (a grilled chicken type sandwich) and some salad with pulled brisket and pastrami. The sandwich was nothing special and really unimpressive. The salad seemed very sad with the meats in one corner of the plate and some lettuce and cucumber on the other. If there would be other options in the area, I would not recommend it, but being that you don’t really have any options, it is nice to get some hot food. Once done with lunch, we went back to the hotel to check out and head over to Union Station.

Thank You Amex:


Theatre:


National Archives:


    Union Station is a really impressive building and has some great architecture as well. They are in middle of a renovation and had just finished putting gold leaf all over the ceilings. We went right over to our gate and had a ten minute wait before they started boarding. I was able to show my ticket confirmation on my phone and then we headed to one of the middle cars. The train was relatively empty so we chose the seats that faced each other so we would have a little more room. The train ride was very enjoyable and was about the same amount of time if we would have flown (all together). The train has a stop for Newark Airport where you can get the AirTran to the terminals. From getting off the train and to our car took twenty minutes, which was incredible. Overall, it was a very short trip, but we were happy with what we got to see and especially with our first Amtrak redemption. Now we need to figure out when we can book the Amtrak bedrooms and go on a longer trip.

Train:


Bulkhead Seat:

« Last Edit: September 08, 2015, 10:32:03 AM by Marco Polo »
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Offline Tom Brady

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2015, 10:49:43 AM »
Thanks! Great TR!
Awesome how by the only attraction that you did that costs money (other than the walking tour guide?), you actually made money buying the tickets. Gotta love this game ;D

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2015, 10:52:25 AM »
Thanks! Great TR!
Awesome how by the only attraction that you did that costs money (other than the walking tour guide?), you actually made money buying the tickets. Gotta love this game ;D
That "tour" was actually a free thing that goes on at the Memorial at designated times. I didn't pay for it :).
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Offline beeweegee

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2015, 10:52:37 AM »
Very cool! My favorite part:

 "(at this point I’m questioning why I taught her to search for flights)".

 :D :D

Offline Tom Brady

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2015, 11:02:40 AM »
That "tour" was actually a free thing that goes on at the Memorial at designated times. I didn't pay for it :).
Nice! Are you saying that the park ranger didn't even linger for a tip?

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2015, 11:06:20 AM »
Nice! Are you saying that the park ranger didn't even linger for a tip?
Nope. Don't even think that is a thing. Aside from that, he was busy yelling at people to get out of the water by the memorial.
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Offline @Yehuda

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2015, 11:09:51 AM »
Nice! But you left Shabbos out of the TR - any insights on meals or shul options?

I have to agree with your wife, though. A 7AM flight out of LGA versus 9AM out of EWR just to see a lounge is not my thing. PS Centurion is just a quieter atmosphere than the gate with a bunch of food you can't eat like most lounges. :P

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2015, 11:15:23 AM »
Nice! But you left Shabbos out of the TR - any insights on meals or shul options?

I have to agree with your wife, though. A 7AM flight out of LGA versus 9AM out of EWR just to see a lounge is not my thing. PS Centurion is just a quieter atmosphere than the gate with a bunch of food you can't eat like most lounges. :P
We brought food from home and had it at the hotel. Friday night we got them to warm some things up after going all the way up the "food-chain" and getting approval. For lunch we had deli. Aside from walking around and seeing the zoo, we just hung around.

I wasn't going just for the Centurion lounge, rather to use Avios. Though as i mentioned, i have the points, so wasn't a big deal.
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Offline Yaalili

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2015, 11:22:14 AM »
Nice TR.

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2015, 11:22:21 AM »
We brought food from home and had it at the hotel. Friday night we got them to warm some things up after going all the way up the "food-chain" and getting approval. For lunch we had deli. Aside from walking around and seeing the zoo, we just hung around.

I wasn't going just for the Centurion lounge, rather to use Avios. Though as i mentioned, i have the points, so wasn't a big deal.
Thanks. Sheesh, sorry they were tough with warming things up.
Ah, missed the part of Avios vs SQ. Gotcha.

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2015, 11:23:15 AM »
Thanks. Sheesh, sorry they were tough with warming things up.
Ah, missed the part of Avios vs SQ. Gotcha.
It happens more often than not, but as long as they warm it up, i consider it a win.
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Offline Tom Brady

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2015, 11:25:33 AM »
Nope. Don't even think that is a thing. Aside from that, he was busy yelling at people to get out of the water by the memorial.
Nice, good to know. I don't know much about tipping etiquettes, and especially not in America where I do not think I have ever done anything that would warrant a tip. I guess I'm just used to the minimum wage (indentured servant?) employees in the middle eastern arab countries, who were big tip lingerers :P

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2015, 11:28:17 AM »
Nice, good to know. I don't know much about tipping etiquettes, and especially not in America where I do not think I have ever done anything that would warrant a tip. I guess I'm just used to the minimum wage (indentured servant?) employees in the middle eastern arab countries, who were big tip lingerers :P
Yes, a Park Ranger and someone "indentured servant" in the ME are very different.
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Offline benjie1305

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2015, 12:26:54 PM »
Cute. But when oh when will you part take in the non-plus ultra of domestic flying by hitting up the Centurion lounge?
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Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2015, 12:28:44 PM »
Cute. But when oh when will you part take in the non-plus ultra of domestic flying by hitting up the Centurion lounge?
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Offline zow

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2015, 01:23:07 PM »
MP, nice TR.  I'm enjoying these weekend-getaway-type TR's as a complement to the mega-international excursions.

DC is a fun, accessible city.  The free museums are nice for Shabbat.

Sorry your Char Bar experience wasn't as good as our previous times there.


Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2015, 01:58:24 PM »
MP, nice TR.  I'm enjoying these weekend-getaway-type TR's as a complement to the mega-international excursions.

DC is a fun, accessible city.  The free museums are nice for Shabbat.

Sorry your Char Bar experience wasn't as good as our previous times there.
While i wasn't being nosy. it seemed the table we were sitting on top of had their ribs show up luke warm/cold on ths inside. Did not seem like they were on their game.
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Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2015, 03:10:57 PM »
I wanted to add that when booking the flight with SQ, i did not get the infant added and the hold times for UA were very long. I have this app called Native (now called Pana) which is a concierge type service. I got a promo code a little bit ago for a free couple month trial. You can use them for whatever you want. like finding flights, lounges etc. I was able to message them and have them get in touch with United for me to add my kid. Very little to no effort on my part and they came back with a confirmation an hour later. While the app is great, i could not justify paying their fees, so i will try and get as much out of it the next few weeks.
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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2015, 03:17:18 PM »
What was the reason to use Sq vs UA? Was it just based on your point balances?

Offline Marco Polo

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Re: A Holiday Weekend Jump to D.C. and Back
« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2015, 03:17:48 PM »
What was the reason to use Sq vs UA? Was it just based on your point balances?
Yes. Have lots of SQ and no UA at the moment.
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