Category Archives: TRAVEL

Travel: Washington D.C. a Tale of 3 Airports

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Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 10.05.59 AMIf you are considering a trip to our nation’s capital. Let me give you a local’s perspective on the pros and cons of your airport options.

The price difference between the three airports can be big depending on what airline you take. However, if you are traveling to DC for just a weekend you may want to splurge a little on DCA so you don’t waste a lot of transit time.

DCA: Reagan National Airport

Directly on the DC Blue Metro line. Very easy to hop on the DC Metro and get to DC in about 20 minutes. Cost is less than $5 a person. The metro is very easy to use. Just purchase a ticket at the machine and swipe when you enter and exit at your destination.

BWI: Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport 

From the airport you take a free 15 minute shuttle to the BWI train station. Both Amtrak and the regional Marc train lines run through the BWI station and get you to DCs Union Station in about 25 minutes. The downside is depending on when you land at BWI you could wait up to an hour for a train if you arrive at an off time. Both train lines schedules are available online. (Timetables:  Amtrak and Marc) I think it would be safe to assume you could deplane, get your luggage and be at the train station an hour after you land. Amtrak train tickets are between $12 and $20 if you book two weeks in advance. The  Marc train takes a little longer but is only $6. I’ve also taken the SuperShuttle to BWI and it’s about $37 a person, $12 for each additional person in your party. However the airport is  about 50 miles from DC and traffic can get pretty bad around rush hour. The train is really the best way to go.

IAD: Dulles International Airport

There is a 5A metro bus that leaves from Washington DC and Rosslyn, VA that takes about 45 minutes and costs about $6.  Since the airport is about 30 miles from Washington DC, leave lots of time for traffic hang ups.

The DC Metro system is really easy to use, and as long as you aren’t traveling during rush hour, getting around with your luggage should be pretty easy. DC traffic can be unpredictable so the DC Metro is really the best way to get around. Having a car is more of an inconvenience because you will need to pay to park it. Bring some change because not all of the meters accept credit cards. Street parking is free on Sundays and Holidays. You can usually get free 2 hour parking in Georgetown or some other neighborhoods. But be prepared to move you car to a paid spot after 2 hours. The DC Parking Enforcement have a pretty sophisticated system using your license plate number so you can’t just move your car to the next street.

Unique Things to Do and See in Washington DC

Tour of the Capital:  You can request a tour of the Capital building from your congress rep. Approval might have a 4-6 week turn around time so you have to make the request early.

Tour the White House: I believe there is a 3 month lead time for tickets to tour part of the White House. Be prepared to give a lot of personal information so they can screen you!

See DC on a Double Decker: I’ve done the night tour on  the Big Bus Tours.  It’s a great way to see the city in 2.5 hours. If you have a couple of days it might be fun to get the full city tour. It’s also a great way to rest your feet after seeing all those museums!

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Visit another  country without leaving DC: Things to Do DC organizing everything from Embassy events, pub crawls to cooking classes. It’s a great way to mix with the locals and see a different side of DC beyond the historical stuff.

Local Art Events: Check out the Pinkline Project for interesting art and theater events.

Discounted Events and Activities: Visit Goldstar.com for discounted activity and theater tickets. Check back often, the list is always changing.

Try out New Restaurants: One of my favorite apps is Scoutmob or Scoutmob.com. Unlike Groupon or Living Social, Scoutmob doesn’t require you to purchase the deal ahead of time. Once you locate a participating restaurant you want to visit, just show the 50% off discount on your smart phone or print out a coupon from the web. It’s a great way to try new places!

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I promise to write-up a full DC uncovered posting in the future. These are just a few highlights.

My Online Shopping Arsenal

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Wendy’s Random fact : Online shopping transactions are expected to rise by 13% this year. (Which probably means more discounts for us!)

I’m a self-proclaimed professional shopper. To pay full price for anything seems like a bit of a failure. I’m always on the watch for good deals and new sites to increase my savings. Here are some links and tricks to supercharge your online shopping savings.

Shopping for clothes, shoes, cosmetics and household stuff

My first stop is Ebates.com. Once you sign up for an account you can start earning money on each online purchase you make. It’s super easy and all you have to do is search for the store you want to purchase from and click “Shop Now”. Ebates.com also lists coupon codes to help you save more money on your purchase. The website keeps track of the money you have earned by clicking through Ebates.com before you make your purchase and send you a quarterly “Big Fat Check” (Yup. That’s what it’s really called!) I’ve been shopping through Ebates.com for 2.5 years and so far I’ve received over $900.00 for just going to Ebates.com before I make my purchase. After checking out a washer and dryer in the store, I got online and saved even more money with Ebates.com and discount codes. By not making the purchase on the spot with the salesperson, I saved at least $400 dollars by comparison shopping online. It’s hard to walk away from what seems like a great deal at the time, but I figured I could always drive back to the store the next day if I didn’t find what I was looking for online.

My second stop is Retailmenot.com. This site doesn’t require an account, just search for the store you want to purchase from and check out the online discount codes. Sometimes there are different discounts than Ebates.com so I usually check both sites.

If I’m heading out to the mall I usually check printable-coupons.blogspot.com before I leave the house. This website lists loads of printable coupons, everything from Micheal’s coupons, Lord & Taylor, Kohl’s and Macy’s are just a couple of the printable coupons I use on a regular basis. Also check out their restaurant section, there are frequently coupons for fast food and chain restaurants.

Travel discounts

Most people know about the travel discounts offered by orbitz.com, hotwire.com or travelocity.com. However, sometimes it’s time-consuming to check each and every site.  At some point you actually need to leave for that vacation! So here is your new favorite travel buddy kayak.com! This site checks nearly all the other discount travel websites in addition to the airline webpages. Kayak makes it super easy to shop for flights, hotels and car rentals. Don’t forget to click-through Ebates.com before you book to save even more.

My parents have been AAA members since I was a kid. I  remember them going to the AAA office before a vacation to get trip directions and maps. Until a couple of months ago I didn’t even look to AAA.com for travel discounts, in the age of digital directions I didn’t think they could do much for me. Let me say I have left money on the table by not being a member! Marriott is my hotel of choice when travelling and I’ve been missing out on at least a 5% discount off the published rates. Live and learn. Needless to say I’m a member now! I also used AAA to save more money on my home insurance, prescriptions and 10% off my Sprint phone bill. I’ve gotten so into it I even installed an app on my iPhone that will notify me when a AAA discount is available nearby.  More about my favorite apps in another post!

If you are travelling to a major city be sure to stop in at the customer service desk of any Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. They offer out-of-state visitors an additional discount shopping pass. The discounts ranges from 10-15%. They also will store your luggage or any packages for free. This is a life saver if you are trying to squeeze in some last-minute fun before your flight home.

Hope this posting will help you save on your future purchases and travels! Leave a comment on the page if you are looking for a specific item and I’ll try to suggest a couple options that could save you money.