This stopover took place during our honeymoon trip to the east coast. Keep in mind this was before I got really invested in travel hacking.
Why The Stopover in D.C.?
Our end goal was to get to New York city for our week-long Carnival cruise. I was trying to put my recently earned British Airways miles to good use. After paying for the wedding and other expenses, I had roughly 60,000 Avios. I knew it would cost us pretty much 25k round-trip, but I wasn’t able to find any availability from SEA to JFK/EWR/LGA. However, I was able to find availability from JFK to SEA (12.5k miles per person). What I ended up doing was booking SEA to DCA (12.5k miles per person) and then booking a separate flight DCA to LGA (4.5k miles per person). In total, the flight cost was 59k Avios plus taxes/fees.
Anyway, this meant we had roughly 22 hours in Washington D.C. We landed around 10pm and then our DCA>LGA flight left at 8pm the following day. We found a cheap airport hotel to stay at for the night. In the morning, we woke up and checked out of our room. We then left our bags with the concierge for the day.
Since it was just under 24 hours this is technically considered a layover. Stopovers are typically over 24 hours. However, I’ll call it a stopover since we were only 2 hours shy of the 24 hour mark.
We didn’t really have any particular plans for Washington D.C. except to see the White House as well as many of the other monuments. We took a bus from our hotel to the capital mall. In hindsight, I think it would have been easier to just use Uber. We started at the west end of the National Mall where the Lincoln Memorial sits.
From here, we walked to the White House and initially walked to the back of the White House. It wasn’t until we headed towards the Washington Monument that we realized the front of the White House faces south. There was a long queue to get same-day tickets to go to the top of the Washington Monument so we opted not to do that. I believe you can pay a fee to have advance ticket reservations.
By around 1pm or so, we finally made it to the area of the National Mall that houses all the museums. We ended up deciding to go into to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The museum is incredible and it’s free! Actually, pretty much all of the museums here are free. We could have spent hours in this breath-taking museum, but our time was limited to a couple hours.
We then continued to walk east and stopped in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. We were pretty excited to see this museum. However, after spending 20 minutes or so roaming the galleries, we were kind of underwhelmed. Maybe it was due to the fact that we had just been at the Holocaust Museum, which was rather intense and contemplative. Or maybe we were just really tired from all the walking. Either way, we weren’t all that impressed. We probably spent a total of 35 minutes before leaving and heading towards the United States Capitol Building.
More Time Needed
I completely underestimated the size of the National Mall. It’s huge! We are fairly active individuals, but by the end of the day we were exhausted. It probably didn’t help that it was pretty humid that day. We also noticed several on-demand bike rental stations that we thought about utilizing, but decided not to. This would probably be one of the easiest and best ways to get around.Overall, I would suggest spending one day exploring the monuments and buildings (i.e. Lincoln Memorial, White House, Washington Monument, etc) and then a second day exploring the museums. This will decrease the amount of walking you’ll have to do. Plus you’ll actually have time to enjoy the National Mall without feeling rushed.