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1st time DC-NYC for family of 5 - Need itinerary advice

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1st time DC-NYC for family of 5 - Need itinerary advice

Old Jan 25th, 2015, 08:16 PM
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1st time DC-NYC for family of 5 - Need itinerary advice

Hi - I'm planning a family vacation end of May/first of June -- 3 nights in DC and then 3 nights in NYC. ( First time to both for everyone but Mom) Just wanted your thoughts and experience to help guide me as we make a reasonable itinerary. My dates are set -- airline tickets are bought. We want to see as much as we can in both areas, even though our budget only allows these 6 nights. Family traveling together are Mom & Dad and 3 sons -- ages 19, 18, and 12. My crew generally doesn't like to rush and go from one thing to the next....so we usually just go to the beach for vacation where you can relax. However, this trip will be very different....moving along with a schedule of activities so we can see as much as we can in the short time we are there. Thanks for sharing any advice or tips you have! There are various questions below:

Wed, May 27
* 5:00 am Take hotel shuttle to airport
* Depart Dallas and arrive DCA at 10:30am
* Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Old Town South Alexandria (I chose this hotel b/c I needed 2 queen beds, plus a sofa bed in the one room. Total price for all 3 nights = $600)
* Take the Metro (Yellow line?) to Huntington stop and have Hotel shuttle pick us up there
* Leave bags at hotel and head back to Metro to head into the city for the day/evening
* Sights in DC
* Some things we'd like to do in DC: Air and Space Museum, most all of the monuments (prob at night), tour capitol, but only take pics of the white house and Washington monuments, Arlington cemetery and Tomb of Unknown Soldier, maybe the Newseum, maybe the Spy Museum, Museum of Natural History..
* Questions: Should we buy a SmartPass card? I went to wmata.com and haven't figured out what exactly I'm looking at....so I just need to know what exactly we will need for the 3 days we will be there... Also, how much money should I expect to budget for all 5 of us traveling to and from Alexandria hotel to the City and also all around each day going from sight to sight?

Thu, May 28 and Fri, May 29
* All day in DC

Sat, May 30
* Check out of Hampton Inn in Alexandria at 12 noon and head to train station (We will all taking carry-on luggage the entire trip.)
* Take a train to NYC --- I haven't booked this yet, but it looks like it should be about $250 plus taxes for 5 coach tickets... What train should we take?? Acela?? I don't know the difference, if any. It's about a 3 hour ride, and I think this will be a neat experience.
* Arrive in Penn station in NYC and make our way to the hotel to check in and leave luggage
* I'm planning to book the Bed and Breakfast on Central Park. They have a family room that will sleep all 5 of us for about $750 for all 3 nights. We really want to be in the city, as opposed to N. Bergen, NJ and anywhere else with longer commutes late at night, but it's been extremely difficult finding a place that fits my required sleeping arrangements and budget.(Budget is $250/night max incl. taxes and must be able to sleep all 5 in one room. We do best with 2 doubles and a sleeper sofa(and then we travel with a small air mattress for the 12yo).
* Evening in NYC
* Some things we'd like to do in NYC: a Broadway show (maybe Wicked? if tickets are good price), Met, 9/11 museum, Freedom, Staten Island ferry, Top of the Rock, Chinatown, etc.
* Questions: I have no idea where you take families to eat or even how much to budget for that. Don't want to eat super expensive every night ($100+) but one really nice meal one evening would be fine. Would love to take them to John's pizza once and also maybe a meal in Little Italy somewhere.... Where else?? And I think my boys would actually like the HOHO bus tour...plus could be a good transportation feature for us. How much is that and is it worth it? And again, the Subway passes --- what do we need for the time we will be there?

Sun May 31
* Maybe worship at the Brooklyn Tabernacle that morning?
* Day in NYC

Mon Jun 1
* Day in NYC

Tue Jun 2
* Head to LGA to depart on 11:00am flight back to Dallas and then travel home

I know this looks like a lot to try and do in such a short time period, but we have to make the best of it and make some wonderful memories. My older boys will be grown & gone soon, so this is probably one of our family's last big trips together...gotta make it a good one. Thanks again for any input you may have!
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Old Jan 25th, 2015, 08:33 PM
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I apologize for the super long post! ��
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Old Jan 25th, 2015, 09:16 PM
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I had to change user names. I will be checking back frequently. Thanks!
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 03:40 AM
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For the DC portion of your trip:

If you can up the hotel portion of your budget just a bit ($35-50/night) I strongly suggest you look at the following hotels where you can almost certainly get two rooms to accommodate your family of five. I think they all include some sort of free breakfast.

Americana Hotel (Crystal City) (near restaurants, grocery & metro)
Best Western Iwo Jima (Arlington) (restaurant on site, walk to metro)
Best Western Colony Inn Alexandria (near restaurants & grocery, shuttle to metro)

Nothing wrong with the hotel you selected except its location is off of a heavily trafficked highway and not realistically walkable to anywhere. Probably no restaurant on site. Not the best choice w/o a car.

Metro: Yes, you want to purchase a Metro SmarTrip card for each member of your family. Each person will need a card b/c you swipe as you enter and exit the system. The cards can be purchased ahead of time on line or at any metro station for $10 each ($2 dollars for the card and $8 in fare). You can add $ as you go. The alternative is paper tickets for each ride which will have a $1 surcharge added. I'm pretty sure if you purchase & register the cards on line you can have any money not used refunded to you by mail.

Your metro costs will be $2 and change per person per ride if you stay at the hotels I mentioned ($3 and change at the HI you've booked). Much of what you've listed to see in on or in the vicinity of the National Mall and you could conceivably arrange your day to not need another metro ride except back to the hotel. It's all walkable, although over the course of a day it's a lot of walking. Do your homework ahead of time to figure out which metro station is closest to the museums or memorials you want to see. Otherwise I would think no more than one or two more metro rides per day.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 03:50 AM
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For NYC, I like www.menupages.com to search for restaurants by price, cuisine, location and to read reviews & menus.
On 9th Ave in the 40s, there are lots of inexpensive ethnic restaurants. Your boys might also like Shake Shack or a food cart like The Halal Guys.
Wicked is never discounted, so you'll be paying full price. If you'd consider another show, the websites for playbill, broadway box, and theatermania offer discounts. With such a short trip, I wouldn't recommend spending time waiting in the TKTS line.
HOHO bus tours are popular, but not good for transportation; the subway is better for that.
Please double check to make sure that your lodging is legal; many places that call themselves B&Bs in NYC are not.
Buy your train tickes in advance; the price gets higher as you get closer to your travel dates.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 04:11 AM
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As mentioned I wouldn't delay buying those train tickets to NYC once your plans are certain. The $50 ones sell out way in advance and the price will double, triple or more closer to the date. You won't need the Acela. Also note that the DC metro doesn't open before 7 am on Saturday if you're tempted to take a crack of dawn train.

The Bolt bus or one of its ilk will be much cheaper than the train. The train is a more pleasant trip.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 04:33 AM
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I'm sorry but putting 5 people in a hotel room in NYC is illegal - it's against fire laws. There are many hotels that have suites that will hold 5 people - but I'm not aware of any in your price range. Radio city Apartments is probably the cheapest place for suites - but they often sell out months in advance. I would check them out right away to see if they have availability - and they have a very central location. (It looks like their suite for 5 is already booked but it might be worth checking.)

There are few B&Bs in NYC - although many people operate them illegally - and don't follow fire and other safety codes. You can tell based on their charging tax. If they don't charge tax on top of the rate quoted they are no a legal property. They might either be a scam - and not exist at all or they may be people illegally renting rooms in their own home.

I have never heard of The Bed and Breakfast on Central Park - and cannot tell if it is legal or not. They show only flat rates - not rates including taxes - which are about 18%. They also do not show rooms for 5 people on one site wile another site seems to indicate this is possible. I would make sure you contact them by phone to be sure they have a room that can accommodate 5 adults (12 and up is adult in NYC.). Also there is no private bath - they indicate a shared bath (but not how many baths for their 12 rooms). The location is in Harlem on the north end of Central Park, safe enough but not very convenient to most sightseeing.

As you know your budget is extremely low for NYC

I would call and ask a lot of questions before counting on staying here.

There are many other hotels with suites available but the price will be above your budget.

Rather than going to NJ I would stay in Long Island City - only 10 minutes on the subway from midtown Manhattan - so much more convenient. Not sure if any have a suite for 5 people but you might get a deal on one double plus a triple for the kids. Start with the Country Inn and suites - but make sure anyplace you look at is close to the subway.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 05:44 AM
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I am not sure Wicked would appeal to teenage boys.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 06:12 AM
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I hope the OP listens to nytraveler. There are very few legal B&B's in NYC. She should take a look at the hotels in Long Island City (not Long Island) as suggested.

Thank you nytraveler for being on top of this!
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 11:17 AM
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This is the OP and I am definitely listening to every piece of advice and help on here. Thank you all so much! I will definitely look into Long Island City now for lodging instead of the B&B, even if I have to bump my budget up a little.

Maybe Wicked isn't a good idea. Which one then? Even an off-Broadway show would be a great experience for them if it's the right one.

I'm totally open to suggestions.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 03:59 PM
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A Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder (netflix Kind Hearts and Coronets with Alec Guiness and you will get the idea) or On the Town which is a very New York musical about 3 sailors in town for just one day - The Ensemble Cast is terrific - You don't need Frank sinatra or Gene Kelly to make this work on stage.

A Guide Named Sue
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 04:57 PM
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Why not have the guys look at playbill.com which has brief summaries of the shows and lt them pick some choices?

Agree that Wicked might be kind of girly - but I don;t know these kids or what would entertain them.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 06:43 PM
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You might also look at the Skyline hotel, which has some particularly large rooms with 2 doubles and room for a rollaway. It's far west but in a pretty decent location otherwise.

But you may be able to get 2 connecting rooms at the Country Inn & Suites for just a bit more than $250 per night, including free Wi-Fi and continental breakfast. So that's a good deal, but it's pretty far from Penn Station, so you'd have to schlep out there on arrival.
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Old Jan 26th, 2015, 09:02 PM
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I'm so thankful for your responses and input. I have listened to your advice and have rebooked better hotels in better locations. I now have booked rooms at the Cambria Suites in DC, and at the Marriott's Fairfield Inn & Suites in Long Island City for NY!! Does that sound better?

I also purchased my 5 Amtrak tickets tonight and got a great deal for $274 total with travel insurance.
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Old Jan 27th, 2015, 10:38 AM
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When in D.C., you might also consider using bike share. It's such a great way to see the monuments day or night. NYC has bike share too, but it's safer to not have the kids use it.

Since it's your first time, definitely hit-up the touristy stuff! For example:

DC: Museums during the day, monuments at night, maybe a guided tour here and there;

NYC: Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Times Sq, High Line, Museums, etc, etc....if you're not into guided tours, go to Ximligan and click "explore" and hand-pick the points-of-interest that might appeal to you and your family.

Have a great trip! So much fun!
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Old Jan 27th, 2015, 10:41 AM
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Good call on purchasing amtrak tickets now. There are few guarentees in life, but one I've found is when it comes to amtrak, as time passes the fares always go up.
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Old Jan 27th, 2015, 03:18 PM
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Good call on biking in DC - it's great. We've done it twice, once we rented near the mall, and rode to Capitol Hill, then over to the Jefferson Memorial, back through Georgetown (lunch at Pizzeria Paradiso was excellent - highly recommended, there are several other locations too) and returned. Second time, we rented in Georgetown and rode the Capitol Trail up to Bethesda (about 10 miles).
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Old Jan 27th, 2015, 03:26 PM
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If interested in the Statue of LIberty understand that you must get tickets far in advance (national park service - which runs the island and the only ferry allowed there) and even tiwth tickets there is a 45 minute line or so (think airline security measure) to get on the ferry. The whole trip - including waiting in line, ferries to and from Liberty and Ellis Islands and visiting islands is about 5 hours.

You can get a reasonably good distant view from the free Staten Island ferry (runs every 20 minutes or so and takes about 1.5 hours back and forth across the harbor). You can get a closer view from one of the Circle line cruises (with commentary) harbor tour is about 2 hours.

I also reco spending a little time in Central Park if you get decent weather. Go to the web site of the Central Park Conservancy to get a detailed map, detailed info on sights and a list of tours.
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