Podcast Ep 11: Mistakes Washington, DC Travelers Make

Nobody is perfect. Don’t stress! In this episode, Rob is joined by Ali Zeller, a world traveler and Washington, DC tour guide. They’ve rounded up the top mistakes Washington, DC travelers make. More importantly, they have some tips to help make sure you don’t make these mistakes when you visit. 

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Mistake: Over planning the trip

The first of the mistakes Washington, DC travelers make is overplanning. It is important to set realistic expectations and to not think that you’re going to fit in everything on a single trip. Squeezing in every single site or Smithsonian museums is not realistic. So, the more days that you can budget, the more likely that you are going to be able to see the things that you want to do.

Mistake: Underestimating distances and traffic

Another of the big mistakes Washington, DC travelers make is thinking you can get from one side of town to the complete other side in a short drive. This is just not realistic, especially if you are trying to go anywhere during rush hour. Even when you are driving you’re in the back of a cab or the back of an Uber it can take forever to get across downtown when everybody else is trying to do it.

Mistake: Staying too far from downtown

We have a guide on where to stay in Washington, DC feautring 11 great areas for visitors. Most are in the city and a few are in Virginia. They are all close to sites and to Metro.

Staying in the far flung suburbs means you will spend a lot of time in transportation. Metro is not free. The farther you travel the the more expensive it is. The average fare for a typical visitor staying downtown is roughly 2.50; but the maximum fare is currently six dollars. So if you’re staying way at the end of the line and you’re traveling during the morning or the evening rush hours you are looking at a substantial round-trip fare.

Mistake: Getting sticker shock

Washington, DC is a city with a high cost of living. Visitors frequently notice this when they arrive and try to park their care. Instead of getting a rental car, walk, bike or use public transit. Most museums and federal sites are free, which means money can be spent on more expensive meals once you’re finished with the day.

If you want to keep to a budget and still go out for meals, a top tip is to move yourself away from the tourist center and get into the neighborhoods. You will find some lower cost options. DC has a fantastic scene for fast casual grab and go restaurants.

Mistake: Never leaving the National Mall

If you’re here for the sites and for the history there is no shortage of that around in the city. Check out Dupont Circle where there are off-the-beaten path museums, historic sites and world embassies. By leaving the Mall you get more of a flavor of the city as well as great food options and great cultural experiences.

Mistake: Packing Incorrectly

People tend to pack the wrong shoes. You will do a ton of walking when you visit so make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes. Also, make sure your bag is not too heavy. Unfortunately, bringing an umbrella is a win/lose situation. It’s a burden to carry around but if you don’t have one chances are good you will get wet.

Mistake: Overestimating the accuracy of weather forecasts

Right off the bat: ten day forecasts are not accurate, at least as far as specific details go. Try not to stress about the weather too much. It is easier to predict weather in the winter, since it is normally cold and gray. However, in the summer, it is unpredictable and make sure to pack more shirts than the number of days in your trip. Summers in DC are hot and sticky and you will be happy to have clean clothes to change into.

Mistake: Standing to the left

Never stand on the left side of a Metro escalator. Ever. If you stand, you’re welcome to do that on the right side of the escalator. The reason why it’s such a big faux pas is because this is a city where people have jobs and go to work and everybody’s always in a hurry. If you’re the person who is standing on the left side of an escalator you should expect to get a comment about getting out of the way.

Mistake: Over-relying on Uber and Lyft

As far as transportation goes, this is a new one of the mistakes Washington, DC Travelers Make. Uber and Lyft are great services and they helped clean up the taxi industry. However, they are not always the best option. Sometimes it’s faster to walk, especially if the distance is not far or it’s rush hour. And while rides may individually seem cheap, it really ads up if you call and Uber for every single ride during the day.

Mistake: Wandering aimlessly around the National Mall

This is a reason to opt for a guided tour. However, if you decide not to you’re more than welcome to see the monuments memorials on your own. But if you don’t have a plan you’re just kind of you’re going to find yourself wandering around looking at them and not really know why or what you’re looking at.

Mistake: Going to museums that don’t interest you

Go see the museums that interest you. Don’t feel like travel is a checklist and that you must check every site off of a list. The sites are here so that you can learn and so that you can enjoy.

DC has a lot of museums and they’re huge. They cover a wide range of topics. In every museum, be sure to know what exhibits are there and optimize your time based on them. Museum websites are pretty helpful and they’re especially necessary when you’re trying to find temporary or rotating exhibits. Some of the exhibits that museums are there all the time. While others are there only for a limited amount of time.

Mistake: Treating DC Like It’s Disney World or Las Vegas

Washington, DC is not an amusement park. Everything here is not strictly for your entertainment or amusement like it is when you travel to Disney World or Las Vegas. A lot of people live here and work here. Another thing to consider is that a lot of the sites are educational, but it’s not necessarily entertaining. Some of the museums and memorials are very powerful and touching, but not necessarily “fun”.

Mistake: Skipping the “touristy things”

If you skip the “touristy things” you are missing out on some some really important pieces of our American history. Fortunately, DC does not have a lot of tourist traps the way that other cities do. There’s really no equivalent to Times Square in DC.

Coming to Washington, DC and want to sign up for a tour?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions.

About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

Everyone wants to get the most out of travel experience; we know that planning a trip can be fun but sometimes stressful. The tips and travel hacks offered here will help you make the most of your trip and avoid missing out on the best things the city has to offer. Our trip planning e-book is the perfect resource for every first-time Washington, DC visitor.

If you're looking for a guided experience once you arrive, Trip Hacks DC specializes in private tours; but has public tours options as well. Visit the Guided Tours section to learn about some of the suggested tours and the trip planning resources section for help preparing for your trip. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

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