Airports, Tips and Tricks, Washington, DC

How to get to and from Washington, D.C. airports

 

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Washington, D.C. is an international destination year-round. The city is constantly overrun by tourists who attend conventions, political affairs, and vacations. The DMV area is very fortunate to have 3 major airports: DCA/Reagan National, Dulles, and BWI/Baltimore-Washington International. BWI is actually closer to Baltimore which is a 45 minute drive north of D.C. The other two airports are in Virginia. Dulles is the farthest out and is about 45 minutes outside of D.C. to the south. My preferred airport is DCA which is directly accessible by Metro. Below I will give you the pros and cons of each mode of transportation to and from Dulles and National. You can read about my unfortunate travel snafu where I had to change airports on the fly by clicking here.

Uber

While there are several different ride share companies in the market the two most popular ones in DMV area are Uber and Lyft. As a matter of fact, most drivers are signed up to work for both companies in tandem. I happened to sign up for Uber first so that is the company that I use most when I need to use a ride sharing service. I used Uber to go out to Dulles airport when I was traveling to New Mexico last month and was able to secure a SUV using the new express pool for $35.00. The express pool requires you to walk to a nearby location to get picked up. Fortunately my pick up area is right in front of my building so I still got door to door service for a lower price. We also did not need to make additional stops for other passengers. The con is that my driver took all of the back roads as he waited to see if he could pick up more passengers. We could have been to the airport sooner if he had taken the direct route and I probably wouldn’t have missed my flight.

My recommendation: If you take Uber to the airport you should definitely find the option that works best for you.  You can get a free Uber ride and I will automatically get a ride for free! Use my code damaabui.

Supershuttle

Years ago SuperShuttle was the best way to get to the airport, but over the years their rates have increased and their competition has grown. My return flight from New Mexico was going to land after midnight so rather than call an Uber I opted to schedule a SuperShuttle. Like Uber Pool, SuperShuttle is a shared ride service. The pro was that I would be able to secure a confirmed rate which was pretty much the same as what my Uber was getting to the airport. The con was that we had to wait for all of the other passengers to arrive before we leave the airport. And, since it is a pool you have to drop off other passengers before you finally get home. I was fortunate that I was the second passenger dropped off but I still didn’t arrive home until close to 2:00 A.M. on a work day.

My recommendation: Use only if you are not in a hurry to get to your destination. One of the reasons that I prefer to not use ride sharing pools is because I like to go straight from point A to point B. 

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Metro

One of the most cost effective ways to travel to and from the airport is by using Metro. The main reason that DCA is my favorite airport to fly out of is the close proximity to D.C. The Metro literally stops right at the airport. Once you exit the Metro station you are pretty much in the airport.

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However, taking the Metro to Dulles is a bit more complimented. If you are taking the Metro from the airport you will need to purchase a $5.00 ticket for a shuttle bus that will take you to the Reston Metro station. You will then need to walk from the drop off location to the station to catch the Silver line.

My recommendation: Unless you are going to DCA I would skip the Metro option. Taking Metro from D.C. into Dulles requires too much time and energy. 

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Taxi

I intentionally listed taxi’s last. They are probably the worst possible way to travel in D.C. When I first moved to D.C. to attend graduate school they weren’t even metered so the drivers would charge you by the zone. It always felt like we were getting ripped off. Now the cabs are metered and you can use one of the online taxi calculators to estimate your fare at Taxi Wiz or Taxi Calculator.

What are the best ways to get to and from the airport in your city? Share below in the comments section. 

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Airports, Destinations, New Mexico, Spas and resorts, Washington, DC

Day 3: Unavoidable Travel Delays

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Sunrise over the southwest

There is something about living in major cities that causes people to become harsh, detached, and abrupt toward one another. It is most noticeable when you visit places that operate at a slower pace. This was my experience when I traveled back to Washington, D.C. from Albuquerque, New Mexico. TSA is typically the worst part of traveling for me because I tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes. I eventually plan to purchase the TSA pre-check for future travels. I posted earlier about how on the way to New Mexico I was subjected to a body search – twice. Read about that experience here. While I know that Albuquerque isn’t as busy as the airports in D.C. I didn’t want to risk being held up at security yet again. So I woke up early to pack and drive back into Albuquerque.

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Porch of the historic hotel at Ojo Caliente

Once everything was packed I headed into the lobby for my morning cup of coffee. It was quite early so there was only a group of four elderly guests lounging around, presumably for the restaurant to start serving breakfast. After getting my coffee, I headed outside to sit on the porch and sip my coffee.

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Fire pit still lit

The fire from the previous night was still burning and the intoxicating scent of piñon wood hung heavily in the air. I decided to get one last set of pictures of the property.  While snapping my photos I heard a low meow. I thought I was hearing things because I hadn’t seen any animals around the property during my stay. Sure enough, an adorable cat managed to sidle up beside me,  hopeful that I would have something for it to eat. I petted the cat then went back to taking pictures. The cat eventually lost interest and sauntered towards the parking lot.

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My new feline friend

The front desk didn’t open until 8:00 A.M.  I was anxious to get on the road so a helpful staff member offered to see if they could check me out early. They were and I was on the road to Albuquerque by 8:00 A.M.

I arrived in Albuquerque about 2 hours later and pulled into the rental car drop off area. I was greeted by a friendly guy named Harold who informed me that the car would be checked in then he would drop me off at the airport. He caught me off guard since I was expecting to catch the shuttle back to the airport. During the short drive to the airport Harold informed me that he had moved to Albuquerque about 5 years earlier from Los Angeles after he got divorced. He said he enjoyed the change of pace in the New Mexico. He asked if I was considering moving to the area and I gave him a firm, no. We parted ways and I made my way into the  airport terminal.

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I ordered the Ranchito with organge juice

I ate a bland breakfast at the first restaurant that I saw before entering the security gate called Tia Juanitas. I can not recommend it. While it is pretty hard to mess up breakfast the food was basically just edible an overpriced at $15. I got the same breakfast at the resort the day before for a couple of bucks less. The server managed to upcharge me by asking if I wanted avocados. She never mentioned that it was an extra charge and I didn’t think ask if it would cost extra. Well it was an extra $1.50. I didn’t even eat them. The meal did the job though which was to keep my stomach from growling.

The Albuquerque airport is pretty small so there was no need to catch a shuttle and jog along a moving walkway to get from point A to point B. There was a sign at the security checkpoint that stated that no gate is more than 5 minutes away. I decided to dress in loose comfortable work out clothes and I was able to breeze through the body scanner this time. Unfortunately my carry-ons needed to be searched. Never mind the fact that my bags were packed exactly the same as they were on the way into New Mexico. I was glad that I had loads of extra time which kept me from stressing out about the hold up.

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Looking a bit travel worn

Since the charging port in the rental car didn’t work (read more about that here) I needed to find a place to charge my phone. I found a corner nook table with wall outlets behind it in the food court, plugged in, and began tapping out my blog series. If you haven’t yet read the previous two posts go here and here.

My flight to Denver from Albuquerque was bumpy but otherwise uneventful. However, upon arrival in Denver I learned that my flight into D.C. was delayed. I tried to talk the airline staff into getting me on a earlier flight that will land at National airport, to no avail. To top it off, all of the sit down restaurants in the concourse had lines. I wandered to the end of the C concourse and found a table at Vino Volo where a well deserved glass of wine was poured. I also had a delicious warm roasted chicken salad to accompany it.

20180416_163141My flight boarded a little early and we actually made it into D.C. on time. I had booked a Super Shuttle since I was flying back into Dulles. Unfortunately there was a lot of confusion about which exit passengers were to meet at and we spent nearly an hour rounding up the other passengers – all women – all going to different parts of the city. Fortunately, I was the second passenger to be dropped off and I was able to make it home before 2:00 A.M. While it was nice to be home, I really enjoyed my stay in the Southwest and I look forward to going again soon. If you are looking for an amazing spa resort experience I highly recommend checking out Ojo Caliente as a perfect rustic desert retreat.

Missed part 1 and part 2? Click on the links.

Airports, Destinations, Hotels, New Mexico, Spas and resorts, Washington, DC

Day 1: A missed flight and an armrest fight

 

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What do you do when you get a bonus 3 day weekend off of work? You book a trip of course! I had a couple of unused Luv vouchers from Southwest Airlines that were going to expire soon and I needed to get out of town to shake off the deep winter funk that I had fallen into. While scrolling through Facebook one night I saw pictures that a member of a Facebook travel group had posted and I instantly knew I had to go there. In all of my wildest dreams I would not have considered taking a vacation in New Mexico yet I was surprisingly drawn to the natural beauty of the rugged landscape and the tranquility of the natural mineral hot springs. I checked air fares and locked in a fare that was exactly the right price for the 2 Southwest Airline Luv vouchers that I had acquired. I then made a reservation for the hotel and resort and pretty much forgot about the trip until it was almost time to go. I told about 2 people at the most that I was going on this unusual adventure.

I normally get a bit jittery about travel (since the events of September 11) which I wrote about in another post, but I felt really good about this trip. No nerves, no jitters, just pure excitement about embarking on a new adventure. It had been about 4 years since I had been on a “real” vacation, so I was long overdue.

Saturday morning I woke up excited about my first trip to the Southwestern part of the United States. While I hadn’t fixated on it, I had been looking forward to getting out of town for weeks! I got up early, cleaned my apartment, then called an Uber to drive me to Dulles Airport. Well, like I said before it had been years since I last flew so I couldn’t remember which airport was the closest when I booked my ticket. I was a few minutes behind schedule but I was hopeful that it wouldn’t have a big impact on my quest to get out of town. Well it did make an impact but thank God I didn’t try to catch Metro because Metro does not go all the way out to Dulles  so that was travel faux pas number 1 on this trip.

The Uber driver dropped me off in front of the airline and everything seemed to be going well until I got to the security line. It slowly snaked along and at least 5 wheelchairs jumped to the front of the sluggish line. Had I been able to go through the security line without a hitch maybe this post would have a different ending. Alas, it was not be be and as you have probably guessed by now I missed my flight due to security stopping me to give me a full pat down. As you can imagine I was not only annoyed but I felt quite violated.

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I finally made it to my departing gate and it was empty. The plane was sitting on the tarmac, but the doors had been secured. I asked the lone gate agent what I could do and she was able to find another flight at the same price but leaving from DCA. I just had to make my way from Dulles to DCA in time. So, I had to catch a $5 shuttle to the Metro Silver line which would take me directly to DCA.

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When I finally got to DCA I was really short on time and to add insult to injury I entered the wrong security area, walked all the way to the end of it hoping it would lead to the gate that I needed. It didn’t so I had to walk all the way back out of that security area,  down a long corridor and enter security…again. If you are keeping count this was my 3rd security check of the day and I had been stopped at each one. After finally getting through this final security check I didn’t bother putting my shoes on and I half skated, half hobbled to the gate as they were announcing my name for the final boarding call. The gate agent checked me in while I attempting to catch my breath and put on my shoes.

The first leg of flight was pleasant. I had a short layover in Dallas where I ate a light dinner before boarding the second leg of my flight. The second leg from Dallas to ABQ was an hour and some change long but it was an absolute nightmare. Between my hostile seat mate and the turbulence I couldn’t wait to get off of the plane. I was going to share what happened in this post but I decided against it since I eventually reported it to the airline. After the airline investigated the situation they issued me a $150 Luv Voucher. You know what that means…another trip to plan!IMG_20180414_161718_061

Well, you would think that would be the end of my travel whoas, right? Wrong! I still had a 2 hour drive from ABQ to Santa Fe! I didn’t realize that the resort would be so far out. As I drove the sky became blanketed in darkness…on an unfamiliar road…in a state I had never visited before…by myself! I hoped that the car that rented from Dollar would have a GPS. It did not so I had to use Waze. I almost brought my car charger on the trip but then decided against it. I did have the USB cord, but for some reason the USB outlet in the rental would not charge the phone enough to keep Waze going. So I was out on a long, dark, lonely road with no GPS trying to figure out how to get to a resort that was tucked back into the hills of the New Mexico desert. Good times!  I will say that I was mesmerized by the clear black sky that was filled with stars. I hadn’t seen such a clear sky in years. God’s artwork!

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I finally pulled into the parking lot of Ojo Caliente at exactly 9:00 P.M. and checked into my room. Since there are no showers in the historic hotel, I took a shower in the shower room and I still had enough time before closing for a relaxing soak and steam in the bathhouse. I could feel the tension of the day’s travel snaffus melting away. I took another shower and knew that I would have an amazing night’s sleep.

…continue day 2

Budget Travel, Destinations, Tips and Tricks, Washington, DC

What to do when you can’t get tickets to the National Museum of African American History

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Photo credit: Stock photo

Almost two years after opening, The Museum of African American History and Culture still has visitors itching to get their hands on a limited supply of timed tickets. Scoring tickets to the NMAAHC museum is the equivalent of finding the golden ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So what do you do when you have a trip planned to Washington, D.C. but you are unable to get hold of one of the elusive tickets? Below are a couple of alternative African American historical sites in Washington, D.C. that you might consider visiting.

Frederick Douglass National Historical Site Visit the home of Frederick Douglass located on Cedar Hill in the historic neighborhood of Anacostia. Douglass lived in the house from 1878 until his death in 1895. The house is perched atop of a hill at 1411 W Street SE Washington, D.C. Reservations are strongly recommended since only guided tours are offered at the site. Hours are 9-5 seven days a week except major holidays. Visit the website for detailed information and directions: www.nps.gov/frdo/index.htm

Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum The predecessor to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American Museum of African American History and Culture, the Anacostia Community Museum was opened in 1967 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. For the past 50 years the museum has offered free educational programs, exhibits, and tours. For detailed information about visiting the museum click onto anacostia.si.edu
African American Civil War Memorial and Museum Located near the historic U Street Corridor and within walking distance of Howard University, The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum is often an overlooked museum. The museum opened in 1999 and it honors the legacy of Colored soldiers that fought during the Civil War. The museum is located at 1925 Vermont Ave, NW Washington DC, directly across the street from the African American Civil War Memorial, located at 13th and U Streets, NW Washington DC. across from the U Street Cardozo Metro Station. For more information about hours and tours, visit their website at www.afroamcivilwar.org
Washington, DC

A Cherry Blossom Brunch

 

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Photo credit: Stock photo

Spring is fast approaching. As the weather begins to warm up, hoards of tourist from around the world are preparing to descend upon Washington, D.C. to witness the lavish beauty of the pink and white cherry blossoms along the tidal basin.

Watch: A Cherry Blossom Brunch

This year the peak of the season was predicted to be about the middle of March, but with a series of relentless nor’easters pushing through the region the date has been pushed back to April 8-12. Buds started protruding through the branches early this month, however experts agree that the extended winter weather will not impact the health of the forthcoming blossoms.

If you are planning to come to Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms at their their peak then you should come during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival which has it’s opening ceremony pushed back to March 25, 2018. For a full list of events, including the annual Kite Festival, visit the official website.

Make a full day of it and eat a wonderful brunch at a local restaurant like Busboys & Poets. Then you can catch the Circulator which has a Blossom Bus to the National Mall where you can walk off your meal and enjoy the blossoms at their peak.

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Have you been to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C.? What was your favorite part of the experience? Share your tips down in the comments.