Trip Review: DC & Philadelphia (Part One)

Trip Review: DC & Philadelphia (Part One)
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A couple weeks ago, I shared my plan to visit Washington, DC and Philadelphia for a grand total of $15. I’m just back from the trip, so I figured I’d let you know how it went!

US Airways – JAX to DCA

I wrote about using Avios to book award flights on US Airways a few weeks ago, and that’s exactly what I did for this flight. Jacksonville is just within the shortest distance threshold for flights to US Air’s hub at Washington Reagan, meaning award flights can be booked for a mere 4,500 Avios.

Compare that to the 12,500 miles needed in US Air’s own program, then tack on the further restriction that US Air awards can only be booked as roundtrips, with a fee to boot! That makes this flight one of the best deals bookable using Avios.

Unfortunately, a travel deal’s only as good as the plane taking you, and ours apparently wasn’t too great: the flight was cancelled about 30 minutes after the initial planned departure time due to maintenance issues. This meant waking up extra early that morning for nothing, and put into jeopardy a tour of the Capitol building I’d arranged with our congressman’s office weeks prior.

We were rebooked onto a flight leaving a few hours later that would arrive shortly after our tour was set to begin. I sent a quick email to our contact at the congressman’s office and was happily surprised when they gladly rebooked the tour for later that afternoon.

Earning Miles On An Award Flight!

After a few more uneventful hours in Jacksonville, we finally set off for Washington. There would be an unexpected consolation prize for the hassle waiting for me a few days later. During the check-in process, I swapped out my British Airways Executive Club number for my AAdvantage number, on the hopes that perhaps this US Air flight might accidentally credit miles to my account.

While this is highly unlikely to occur on an award ticket, it’s very likely to occur if you have to be rebooked for any reason, such as with a cancelled flight. Sure enough, mileage posted to my account equal to what would’ve been earned on a Full Fare Y Economy ticket:

That makes this flight the first time I’ve earned miles on a free flight! Not too shabby.

The flight was fine, but thoroughly unremarkable. This E170 was much nicer than the last USAir flight I took, which was many years prior. I had such a bad experience I didn’t plan to fly with them again, until this opportunity came up. I’m still soured by the flight cancellation and the way it was handled by the gate agents, but it’s hard to peg that on a flight crew that did a fine job on the next ride out of town.

Hyatt Regency Washington On Capitol Hill

They aren’t kidding about the “On Capitol Hill” part. The Capitol building is maybe a five minute walk away from this Hyatt and close enough that it’s the go-to location for all manner of lobbying events and conferences. On entry, you take a short escalator down to the lobby, which is on a below-ground level. The lounge and restaurant make for a nice view on the ride down:

Image courtesy: Hyatt Hotels
 

I was dumb and forgot to take pictures of our room. Forgive me! It was very much your standard Hyatt bedroom; the only thing that stood out was the service. Oftentimes, it seems like turndown service is forgotten, but our room was refreshed each afternoon with chocolates waiting on the pillows when we got back.

I’d definitely stay at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill again. While not a particular standout as a property, its location is phenomenal and it has everything you’d need or expect from a mid-tier Hyatt property. Of course, knowing that the total price at checkout was literally $0.00 made it feel all the better:

Washington: Day One

It was a gorgeous day in Washington on Tuesday, as you can see from this picture of the Capitol building:

On our tour, we learned that the Capitol rotunda is about to undergo several years’ worth of structural maintenance. In the next couple of weeks, it will be mostly covered up with scaffolding until just before the next presidential inauguration, so we unknowingly made our trip just in the nick of time to get to enjoy it!

Because we scheduled a tour through our congressman’s office instead of by simply getting a regular tour ticket, we were able to see a number of things inside the Capitol off the beaten path. This included the old meeting place of the Supreme Court, a number of old relics and additional statues not kept in one of the more public rooms and the old Senate chambers, seen below:

We also got to ride on the underground tram that connects the Capitol to the various congressional office buildings and the Library Of Congress:

It’s a short ride, but fun to see!

After dinner, we made it over to the White House:

A few years earlier, I’d stayed at the W Washington DC, just across the street from the Treasury Department which is adjacent to the White House. It has a rooftop bar that offers a great view of the White House and Washington Monument. We tried to head up there for a drink, but it was quite crowded with a party. Tired from waking up at 5:30 that morning in vain for our cancelled flight, we packed it in for the night, planning to see much the next day.

Washington: Day Two

The next day, we walked much of the National Mall and made our way through as many museums as we could. We caught an Uber to the other side of the Mall, starting at the Lincoln Memorial:

From there, we worked our way past the Vietnam Memorial and up the Mall a ways until arriving at the World War II Memorial, by far my favorite in the city:

That afternoon, we spent an extensive amount of time in the Natural History and American History wings of the Smithsonian.

We made it to the Air & Space Museum around 3PM that afternoon, well before its 5PM closing time, but I encountered the same issue there as I did last time I was in town: more popular as an event space than the other museums, it seems, Air & Space is notorious for shutting down exhibits hours before closing in order to roll out banquet tables and catering stands for events happening in the evening. Though we arrived well before closing and made a beeline to the rockets exhibit, patrons were already being shoved out so they could begin preparing for some event that night. A word of advice: Go to Air & Space early in the day so that you can really see everything it has to offer!

That evening, we ate at Charlie Palmer Steakhouse, a short walk from the Hyatt and from the Capitol. The ribeye was easily one of the Top 5 steaks I’ve ever had, and the twice baked potato I ordered with it was equally phenomenal. It was an expensive treat, but worth the splurge. I’ll be heading right back there the next time I’m looking for a legendary meal in DC.

Off To Philadelphia

The next morning, our train to Philadelphia was scheduled to leave at 11AM. We made our way to Union Station, where we’ll pick up with part two!

Head on to Part 2 of our trip review here!

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About PointsAway
Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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