Washington DC/New York City - Family Summer Vacation 2013

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Travel' started by SuperW2, Nov 21, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    I've decided it's never TOO early to start thinking about planning for our summer vacation next year. I have twin 7 year old girls (will be 8 next March) that we've talked about wanting to do Washington DC and a hopeful add-on to NYC (train from DC to NYC possibly). My wife and kids (and I guess me too) are kind of Museum/history geeks, so expect the family of Smithsonian museums and the monuments will be the big draw in DC (so want to stay as close as possible). NYC will be mostly Manhattan/Statue Liberty/Time Square, typical tourist stuff with Kids, etc, but expect to hop Subway to most places.

    I was in DC maybe 15 years ago or so on business and stayed at the Holiday Inn just a couple blocks off the mall and Air/Space Museum, that looks like is still in business on "C" St.. I don't remember it being awesome, but the location was hard to beat for a bit of walking around.

    I guess I'm looking for recommendations for hotels for both DC and NYC. I have a few Hilton and Hyatt Points and a small Starwood balance, but pretty good AMEX MR and Chase UR Points that I could move around. Also looking for recommendations if train might be an interesting option instead of flying from DC to NYC, and any recommendations for Family friendly hotels in good areas in NYC. We don't often stay at the top end places on points, but have enjoyed some of the Hyatt/Grand Hyatt and Embassy Suites, etc.

    It's pretty early still but thinking 5/6 days in DC and maybe 3/4/5 in NYC depending on what we decide to do and hope to do most if not all on FF points! I figure the sooner I target properties the more I can target my point spend/allocations to those programs over the next several months.

    Thanks in advance!
    SW2
     
  2. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    If you're planning for March, I don't think it's all that early to start planning.

    I personally think the train is overrated. It is expensive and it's not that picturesque countryside ride you'd get in Europe.

    As far as hotels go, stay in the city no matter what. Where would depend on how big those balances are, since some of the redemption options can get pricey point-wise.
     
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  3. mommypoints

    mommypoints Gold Member

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    If you want a family friendly Hyatt in NYC it is most likely the Grand Hyatt NYC as they have the most rooms with two beds. There is a Hyatt Place that will be opening as well, but I can't remember off hand if it will be before or after your trip. It would certainly require fewer points. Hyatt 48 Lex is also a tremendous value on points currently, but it is much harder to get rooms with two beds.
     
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  4. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks... I've been happy with most of the Hyatt's we've been too (Regency Chicago on Whacker was just OK, but good location). Staying at Grand Hyatt in SF for a couple days over Xmas break! Could focus on the Hyatt's in DC and NYC so I know where I need to focus my Points and Transfers!
     
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  5. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    It doesn't have to be all that expensive if you take the NE Regional and buy in advance. I'm seeing it price at <$150 a/i for the 4 tickets and that's without trying to find any discount codes. The scenery just outside of DC headed north pretty much through to Philly is pretty nice IMO.

    Besides that, there aren't many other good options. Flying is a PITA for a route that short and likely won't be any cheaper. Renting a car means dealing with driving I95 which is fine if you can time it to avoid traffic but it still will be expensive and not all that fun. The bus options are going to be cheapest but not really all that comfortable and with a couple kids I'd value the space and amenities on the train.
     
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  6. mommypoints

    mommypoints Gold Member

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    Grand Hyatt in SF is great! I'm personally a Hyatt junkie, and am taking my own family to two different NYC Hyatts in the very near future. ;)
     
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  7. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Silver Member

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    We stayed at the Affinia on New Jersey Avenue in Capitol Hill in May and found it to be nice. The room was very nice, and the area is good. Metro stops are within easy walking distance, and you can even walk to Union Station to take the train to New York if you want (we took the train to Baltimore on a day trip, and then to Philadelphia for leg two of our trip). I'd stay there again.
     
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  8. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks, I hadn't yet looked into any of the specifics options either way (Need to get dates/flights from Cali to East Coast and Main Hotel's planned first)... Even with the Scenery not being all that amazing, I think the 7 year old kids might enjoy a different traveling experience from the typical flights, and it is kind of a hassle with security and stuff for such a short trip.

    I'm NOT planning on a rental car in either DC or NYC if I can at all help it!
     
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  9. philatravelgirl

    philatravelgirl Silver Member

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    I'd like to suggest a day/two in Philly -great history, museums, art (new Barnes museum is a must!) and fantastic restaurants -we are the oft neglected city on the trek from DC to NYC and yet surprising when you visit.
    Amtrak is best option as Seth suggests above and advanced purchase tickets are reasonable priced -my nieces (7 and 10) love the train and with free wi-fi are kept busy.
    In DC and NY, the Kimpton chain has many properties w/various packages for families. in DC, the Monaco is in a restored post office and near the Spy Museum. in Philly, the new Monaco is across from independence hall/liberty bell and two blocks from The Mint and Constitution Center. while they don't partner w/programs I'm not sure the MR value if booking via Amex
    in Philly, the Sheraton Society Hill is also in historic district.
     
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  10. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks, I hadn't really thought of that and Philly is one of these 3 places I've never been.

    Since I'm planning so early, we don't really have a set # of days that we are thinking...

    I was initially thinking 4 or 5 days in DC, 3 or 4 in NYC... another day or two in PHI, might be nice.I'm pretty open, and have yet to look at the specific can't miss stuff.

    I figure I need to get the kids to all the US History stuff I can, when I can... they are talking about wanting to goto Italy and France in 2014! :)
     
  11. AJTrenkle

    AJTrenkle Active Member

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    I have been to DC more than any place else (other than my home city of Chicago, of course) and I take students there so we do touristy things every year. A couple of things I can recommend that may not be as obvious:

    1. See if you can contact your Congressional and Senate offices and see if the rep is having any kind of breakfast or lunch with constituents. You would be surprised how accommodating Hill staffers would be. Say stuff like your kids are interested in meeting the Congressman. I think your kids are probably just about old enough to find this pretty cool.

    2. It is not a free museum, but do try and see the Newseum. It is all about free speech and press freedom and has the most modern, interactive experiences for people. I would think it would be good for kids as it is more hip.

    3. The Supreme Court is undervisited and has a nice little museumy experience in the lower level. You can then wander upstairs and actually peek in the chamber. If you are going in early-mid June you might actually get there while they are announcing the major cases for the year.

    4. A lot of the monuments are kind of grouped together so plan accordingly. For example, you can do ML King, FDR, and Jefferson together as they are all around the tidal basin. Lincoln, Korea, Vietnam, and WWII are similarly nearby and can be walked to (although down to WW2 is a bit of a hike for younger kids) in order.
     
  12. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks Much, will look into all of these!!! We also love taking our kids to Chicago, have been twice with the girls and was there last year for vacation (plus a week in the Dells). I grew up in Nebraska, so Chicago was the "big-city" trip I made as a kid!
     
  13. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Looking at my points, and after my last Churn of the year earlier this week, I think I'm going to have a lot more Hilton Points that I will Hyatt, although I am expecting the 4 Free Nights from the Chase Hyatt Card (for the Wife and I). I'll probably be looking at 150K Hilton in my Account and 100K in my wife's with another 100Kish that I could transfer in from Amex MR points if I wanted. So I might very well split the Hyatt and Hilton and stay at one in DC and another in NYC.

    Just glancing, there appears to be a lot of Hilton Offerings at 30-37.5 (Waldorf) in NYC. I havn't checked DC yet, but guessing similar at the Hyatt Offerings too.

    Sw2
     
  14. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    With four people in the room I'd be looking to the DoubleTree in Times Square or the Embassy Suites over the Waldorf if you want to actually be comfortable in addition to paying with points.
     
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  15. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Continuing planning, looking at flight options and will figure out hotels after. Considering 5 Days (6 Nights) in DC, 2 Days/3 Nights in Philadelphia and 4 Days/5 Nights in NYC... Wonder if anyone has opinions if that is too much/too little time...Still thinking Train from DC to PHI to NYC.
     
  16. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Silver Member

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    That schedule should work. We had already spent a week in New York 4 years ago, so what we did was:

    Saturday - fly to Washington (I flew YFC-YYZ-DCA; my wife flew YQR-DEN-DCA - why make it simple? :) )
    Washington - Saturday to Friday; day trip to Baltimore (National Aquarium, Camden Yards, Babe Ruth Museum, Fort McHenry) on Wednesday
    Friday night - Amtrak to Philadelphia
    Philadelphia - Friday night to Tuesday night (we spent all day Tuesday in Philadelphia, dined and then got on the train about 8:30 or 9 pm)
    Tuesday night - train to New York
    Wednesday to Saturday - New York City
    Saturday - EWR-DEN-YQR :)

    We could have spent more time in Washington but we did enough to be very satisfied. We visited the classic major Smithsonian museums plus the Newseum, the Spy Museum and the National Cathedral, plus the monuments. I recommend the two-day hop-on/hop-off bus service (I can look up what provider we used if you care). We used it one day to get the lay of the land, and the second day as transportation to some of the major sites like the National Cathedral and Georgetown that are slightly awkward to get to on the Metro.

    The day trip to Baltimore was fun. I recommend the National Aquarium in particular if you have kids. Be there as soon as it opens; it gets busy fast.

    Philadelphia was fun as well. We stayed at The Independent on Locust Street and just walked where we needed to go (we never ended up using public transit or taxis, except to/from the train station). We did Independence Hall and all the standard historical sites (including the cemetery where Ben Franklin is interred - pay the couple of dollars to go in and see it up close instead of pressing your nose against the wrought iron fence). We also visited the Mutter Museum, which is a macabre medical museum that is probably not good for young kids, but would be great for older children, particularly boys. (My wife and I have no kids and she thought it was a little macabre, but I enjoyed it.) The Reading Terminal Market is worth visiting too. We also rented a car and did a day trip to Lancaster County, which is a well-known Amish area. This area invites more time so we'll return, but it was still a fun day. (There is a fantastic railroad museum in one of the towns nearby, and they have a train ride you can take using a steam engine - very cool even for adults.)

    New York is, well, New York. If you've been before, do some of the things you haven't done before. One thing new that we did was to take the subway to Brooklyn, have some pizza there (there's a great pizza restaurant on Water Street right by the footings of the Brooklyn Bridge), and then walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge. You get fantastic views of Lower Manhattan.
     
  17. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks PhotoJim, I was in DC, by myself, pre-kids almost 15-16 years ago, so it was just a lot of walking, the Smithsonian's and the monuments, little else. So with Kids and family this time, I suspect there is a lot we want to see and do (including the museums and monuments and little else). I am going to see about a White House Tour if possible as well. My kids are pretty little (7 year old twin girls). I've picked up a couple "DC with Kids" kinds of books that we'll review here over the next little while. The hop-on/hop-off bus sounds like to good tip, we did that this last trip to Chicago and enjoyed it.

    I've only been to NY only once for business with a bit a free time in the evenings for a couple days. Didn't see a ton (Times Sq, Grand Central, A bit of Central Park and Empire State). Will probably want to see all of that with the kiddo's too and they absolutely want to see the Statue of Liberty. I'm sure there is a ton that I missed the fist time and rather enjoyed the little bit of time that I got to spend there. My kids are picky eaters, but with Bagel's and Pizza and a trip to Juniors (and maybe Katz's) we should be good!

    The Amish trip in PA sounds interesting but with 2 Days, I'm guessing there will be enough stuff we will want to see around PA... I'd really like to also try both Geno's and Pat's Kind of Steaks Cheesesteaks, but that's probably from spending too much time watching The Travel Channel and FoodTV!

    One thing I've found with my kids is that if we try to pack TOO MUCH stuff into our days, things start to fall apart. I try to get some "no-planned" or 'light-planned" days with trip to the Pool (if available), or just a stroll without having to be at a certain place at a certain time. Probably less so the older they get, but we've been trying to do at least 1 good trip with them a year since they were little and we generally know how far we can push before the melt-downs occur.
     
  18. LAM

    LAM Silver Member

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  19. LAM

    LAM Silver Member

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    Sorry about the double posts

    I am from the DC area. Hilton has a lot of options in the city. Look at a map and see how far you are from the Metro or walking distance to what you want to do. The Holiday Inn on C is in a dead area after office hours or on the weekend so you will have to travel to find dinner etc. The Grand Hyatt is a little out of the way for tourists but you can walk to the Metro or get buses to the tourist areas. The Hyatt Regency is well located near Union Station where you will be leaving from to go to NYC. I would suggest the Courtyard Marriott on 9th St if you have Marriott points. Make sure if you want a White House tour to request the tickets as early as possible. Also ask your representative for a tour of the Capitol if you want one. Also understand June can be very hot and humid so with younger ones you may not be able to do as much as you expect. Also buy your train tickets to NYC at least a month to three weeks out from your travel to get better prices. The prices go up significantly the closer you are to your date. Look at NE trains and don't bother with the cost of the Acela trains or the named trains like the Cardinal.
     
  20. cguizlo

    cguizlo Silver Member

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    Just like LAM I am from the DC area and I would say don't be afraid to branch out a little from the Mall for a Hotel. There are some great hotels in Northern Virginia that are just a short 20 min Metro ride into the city. (I ride in every morning from that area). That way you avoid the area around the Mall being dead after 6 pm and you have a few more options for dinner in the evening.

    But, there are also so great hotels in the Metro Center and Farragut/Dupont area that would be another short Metro ride to the Mall (10 min or so). Just another option I thought I would throw out there.

    As everyone else has said, make sure to put in for a White House tour now if you are interested, the earlier the better. As for the museums, try to look and see which ones you are interested in and which you can skip so you can prioritize your time. As museum buffs I would say budget at least two to three hours for the museums you really want to visit. That way you aren't rushing trying to cram everything in.

    Though they are museums you have to pay for the Spy Museum and the Newseum are some of the best that I have been to and are well worth the price.

    If you need any more suggestions or food recommendations let me know! Good luck. :)
     
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  21. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Silver Member

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    One more hint - if you want to tour the inside of the Statue of Liberty (and you do), get a ticket as soon as possible. We bought our tickets for this the day we arrived in New York (on our first trip there in '08) and went a couple of days later. At that time you couldn't buy the pass online, but it's possible that that has changed. Buying this extra tour pass the day of your tour will be impossible in most cases as it sells out fast.
     
  22. Tad's Broiled Steaks

    Tad's Broiled Steaks Silver Member

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    Not that it's as pleasant a walk as the Brooklyn Bridge, but walking across the Manhattan Bridge gets you shots of both the more famous crossing plus Lower Manhattan. Maybe it's better to do without kids in tow...
     
  23. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Just got back from a last minute trip for family funeral (paid Flight/Hotel/Car by FF miles!), and continuing trip planning. Have the flights taken care of. Have contacted my US Rep for White House Visit request. Need to get Hotel and Train tickets care of now.

    There are 2 DoubleTree's in TS. One on 42nd in TS and the other on 38th (Times Sq. South). Both are 40K HH Points a night. Which would be recommended for family of 4 for 5 nights?

    The only Embassy Suites that shows up on HH Search for NYC is in the Meadowlands.
     
  24. Miss Staunton

    Miss Staunton Silver Member

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    As a former elementary teacher in Northern VA we would go into DC quite a bit for field trips. What we found is that there is so much to see that sometimes kids are overloaded. Make time for the National Zoo - a free zoo that is a fun day. At Rock Creek Park, there is also a planetarium which our kids enjoyed. If you are going to be there the Monday after Easter, make sure you get tickets ahead of time for the White House Egg Rolling. The kids also loved Natural History Museum particularly the insect area and the IMAX movies. Take a tour bus to Mount Vernon and do the tour there - I'm sure the kids have all heard about it. Another suggestion is a boat cruise on the Potomac and/or take the boat to Mt. Vernon on either the Dandy or the Spirit of Washington.

    I will say that I am concerned about 7 year olds spending a week doing a museum tour

    There is security at the museums and they will inspect your backpack, etc.
     
  25. SuperW2
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    SuperW2 Silver Member

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    Thanks for the reply... We are considering the Zoo for a day somewhere in the middle of the week to break up the Museum/Monument visits. We are working with House Representative on White House and Capital visits, so will depend on if/when that gets scheduled. Expect that Natural History and Air and Space will be more time spent than the Art Museums, but my kids enjoy those too.

    The kids will be 8 next year when we go in July and they really enjoy History/Art etc and are surprisingly good when we've visited Art/Science/Museums in SF, LA, Chicago, etc. I hadn't thought of Mt Vernon, but might also be a good option for something different to do, thanks for the suggestion.
     

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