9 Important Things to Know When Traveling to DC

Washington, DC is a great vacation destination. In anticipation for your trip, we compiled nine important things you should know before traveling to DC.

9 Important Things to Know Before Visiting Washington DC

1. Walk left, stand right

When riding the Metro, you should always walk on the left and stand on the right side of any escalator. Never stand on the left side of a Metro escalator. Nothing infuriates makes locals more than tourists who come to town and do not know about this rule. If you’re a Metro rookie, check out our Metro beginners guide to start learning.

2. Stay downtown when traveling to DC

With over a hundred hotels in Washington DC and hundreds more in the suburbs, there is an almost overwhelming number of accommodations choices. The question “where is the best place to stay” is an important one. The answer for general sightseeing is downtown. Most visitors will find the area around the White House the ideal location. That area puts you in walking distance of the National Mall, the museums and Metro for getting around. That said, we have a hotel guide with eleven perfectly nice areas for visitors to stay.

3. Pack correctly

Washington DC has four seasons so depending on when you come you want to make sure that you’re prepared. Regardless of the time of year, the number one essential thing that needs to be in your suitcase is a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Whether you are walking around outside around the city or inside around the museums you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. Check out our blog post for more details about what to pack.

4. Plan ahead, but don’t overdo it

When you are traveling to DC there are some things that require advance planning. If you want to visit the White House, you need to put in a request to your member of Congress as soon as possible. During peak season in the spring and summer, it is also a good idea to make a reservation for a Capitol tour in advance.

Things that require tickets, such as a concert at the Kennedy Center or a sports game are good to think about in advance. On the other hand, it is not advisable to plan your trip down to the minute. Some activities will take longer than you expect and sometimes you get here and discover something new that you want to be able to spend some time doing. If your itinerary is planned down to the minute it doesn’t give you any flexibility.

5. Choose your dates wisely

When it comes to saving money on a hotel, the dates that you are traveling to DC matters most. The reason is that big conferences and conventions drive hotel rates up. Believe it or not, weekends and dates around holidays are actually some of the cheapest times to visit. Conference organizers try to avoid scheduling on those dates.

6. See the monuments at night

There is no bad time to see the monuments and memorials. Trip Hacks DC runs tours at all times of day.

However, seeing the monuments in the evening does have benefits. During the hottest days of summer, seeing the monuments and memorials in the evening means that it’s a little cooler and you don’t have to battle the hot sun. Some of the monuments, such as the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial are absolutely great to see at dusk or after dark.  

7. See museums that interest you

People who are traveling to DC always ask “what is the best museum”. There is no single answer to that question. However, the most popular museums are the Air and Space, Natural History and American History museums. But, you should not just go to a museum because it’s popular. You should pick museums because it interests you. Check out our museum tips blog post for more info.

8. Don’t over rely on Metro

There are a lot of ways of getting around these days. Metro is one of the most popular. Most tourists appreciate how it is relatively inexpensive and efficient Metro is for seeing the major sights. However, in a lot of cases, Metro is not the best option.

On the National Mall, the Metro does not get close to the sites, but the Circulator bus does. For short distance trips, Capital Bikeshare is a great way of getting around too. To make sure that you are not overly relying on Metro, use Google Maps or Citymapper. These apps will tell you all of your options from getting from point A to point B. In a lot of cases, it will show the Metro isn’t the best one.

9. Don’t stress about where to eat

For a lot of people, trying new restaurants is the best part about traveling. There are hundreds of great restaurants in DC and most visitors will only get to try a handful. For our best tips about where to eat check out our podcast episode on this topic.

Did you know we can show you around once you’re here?

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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