Spring Break 2016: Washington, D.C. and New York City: Planning

The Plan

A few years ago, we commented on the fact that our kids had been to many capitals around the world, but they hadn’t yet been to their own nation’s capital. This motived our spring break trip of 2016.

We could have definitely spent a full week in Washington, D.C., with its many sites and museums. That said, given that we’d be coming from the West Coast, we decided to also visit New York City while on the trip. For simplicity, we ended up splitting the break between the two places – 4 nights in New York, followed by 4 nights in DC.

Using Miles and Points

This trip ended up being our last trip where we got reasonable value out of miles and points – both on our flights and hotels.

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Back in 2011, Jeremy had a coworker who pointed out how lucrative credit card mileage bonuses were then – and this worked out quite well for a few years. It largely got us our airfare for several summer Europe trips! But more recently, miles have gotten harder to use, credit card bonuses smaller, and airlines miles programs have shifted to being revenue based (e.g. in one itinerary, I got roughly 2,000 miles for 12,000 miles of flying). So we don’t count on points as much in our travel strategy anymore.

Flights Planning

When looking at flights, we had ~100k American Airlines miles from credit card bonuses that we wanted to use to get to the East Coast. Initially, we were hoping for “saver” round-trip availability (25k each), but alas, availability was elusive for spring break dates.

But, looking at the airline award site further, we discovered one-way First Class “Saver” availability, in one direction, which we did have enough points for. Coupled with a cheap one-way fare the other direction, we decided that this was a good way to use up our points. The boys really liked the idea of sitting in first class. We had to accept a layover for availability, but  it really was quite lovely.

Hotels

For hotels, we used Marriott points (some from credit card bonuses) to book 5 out of the 8 hotel nights. Hotel points seem to be more lucrative than airline miles, but hotel points haven’t meant as much to us lately. The main reason is because much of our recent travel has been overseas, where fewer hotels are part of the big chains, and where local hotels and Airbnbs seem to be better values anyway.

Ironically, given how prepared we were about using points & miles, we were somewhat less prepared about pre-booking activities. The main reason- a few months before the trip, I had a back injury, and we though that we might need to cancel the trip. A few weeks before the planned date, we decided to go as planned, but in the meantime, we missed some of the activity booking windows.

Itinerary for New York City

Leaving on a Saturday morning, we arrived in New York City in the evening.  Our itinerary included a ton of walking – most people will probably find this to be too much, but our kids are used to it. In retrospect, we could have easily filled a week.

This is what our time in NYC looked like:

Saturday Evening

  • Times Square

Sunday

  • Empire State Building
  • Long Walk to Central Park (Rockefeller Center, etc)
  • Time in Central Park
  • Afternoon rest time
  • Evening Service (Easter) at Redeemer Presbyterian Church

Monday

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Downtown
    • The Statue of Liberty
    • The 9/11 Memorial
    • Wall Street
    • The Charging Bull statue

Tuesday

  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty
    • Get reservations early if you want the real tour!
  • Long walk from Downtown to Times Square

Wednesday

  • Morning Train to Washington, D.C.

Itinerary for Washington, D.C.

Trying to figure out what to limit ourselves to in Washington, D.C. was quite a challenge.  There are so many amazing places to visit, and with only 4 days, we knew we would only scratch the surface.  The boys were in 2nd and 3rd grade, so they had learned some basic American History, but they hadn’t finished the entire elementary curriculum.

Again, we did way too much walking, but given some back problems that made sitting difficult, there weren’t a lot of alternatives.

Wednesday

  • Early afternoon arrival by train
  • Walked by the White House
    • Get reservations early if you want a tour!
  • Memorials and Monuments
    • Washington Monument
    • WWII Memorial
    • Abraham Lincoln Memorial
    • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
    • And many more!
  • Admired the cherry blossoms

Thursday

  • Air and Space Museum
  • Walked by the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and around the Penn District by Ford’s Theater
  • Walked by some of the embassies on Massachusetts Avenue

Friday

  • National Gallery of Art
  • Scheduled tour of Member of Congress’s office and the Capitol Building
  • Senate and House Galleries
  • American Indian Museum

Saturday

  • American History Museum
  • Cherry Blossom Kite Festival at the Washington Monument
  • Visited some friends in Virginia

Sunday

  • Very quick visit to the National Zoo
  • Flight Home

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