A Family Trip to Washington, D.C., Part 2: Timeline Planning

Once we decided that Washington D.C was going to be the destination of our next family vacation, we spent considerable time researching D.C. itself online as a family hotspot. Reading blogs and articles about traveling D.C. with kids became a nightly pastime for us. We wanted to determine what attractions our family would enjoy, and which ones we could skip.

Our family has a variety of interests. As a result, our wish list of places to see was long. Some of us like history, some science, others the arts, and some like to be loud and free to run. Not all those things go well together so we had to be mindful of how we scheduled activities.

DC with kids attractions

After we compiled an exhaustive list of things to do in D.C., we made a chart and hung it on the wall. Click here for a copy of our chart. Everyone voted on every item on the list. The chart included a column for each person to cast their vote. The three vote choices were “definite yes,” “maybe,” or “definite no.” The list hung on the wall for a week or two so everyone had time to decide what they wanted to do.

When the kids had questions about what a certain attraction was on the list Melissa, and I would explain it to all of them; that way they could make an informed decision. Most often, this came during our family dinners, where we have some uninterrupted family time.

Once we had the family’s votes, we compiled them and made corresponding lists. We had a list for the items that everyone had voted “definitely yes” on. There was another list for the things that received all “definite no” votes. A few items received all “maybe” votes, but a majority of the attractions received some of each vote. These went on another list, ranked by the number of yes, no, and maybe votes. Did I mention that spreadsheets and charts are my friend?

DC with kids things to see

After a month or so of planning, we finally had decided what we wanted to see and do in Washington D.C. Ten more months of planning, and it would be time to enjoy our hard work.

The next few weeks were consumed by researching how much time we should plan to spend on each activity. We found a lot of good advice online as well as in some travel guides we got from the library. One nice thing about D.C., it is well-traveled and very little changes over time. Even blogs and guides that were a couple years old were still helpful to us.

Armed with all this information it was time to create another chart. This one was full of activities (with times), travel times between them, and the amount of time we figured we could successfully be tourists in a given day. We knew the kids would eventually rebel against walking or being quiet, maybe both. We wanted the girls to have the most fun possible, so pushing them too far was not something we wanted to do.

dc with kids travel schedule

We mixed and matched items on our chart until we found what we felt was the optimum itinerary. We added in some extra time to account for the inevitable issues that would arise so we would have sufficient time in Washington. It turns out that roughly a week seemed like enough time for us in D.C.

We had seen this time frame in other places, but we wanted to make sure that it would work for us. We don’t travel like the normal family, so we often don’t fit in the normal time frame either. If you are curious, here is a copy of our list. Now that we had the duration of the trip, we needed to work on the itinerary for it to occur.

Due to my vacation schedule at work we needed our trip to be sometime in the late winter/early spring. We started looking to see if there were any special things to see or do during this time-period in Washington D.C. It turns out that the Cherry Blossom Festival is typically in late March or early April. Perfect!

DC Cherry blossoms

We planned our time in D.C. around the festival and corresponding parade. We planned our date to return home as late as possible so we could see the blossoms, but still make it home in time for Easter. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and the blossoms were only starting to appear when we were there. Nevertheless, the trees we saw were beautiful, and the weather was perfect for a week of walking around the nation’s capital city.

How do you plan your vacations? Are you a grab a suitcase and go type of traveler, or do you research every detail?