In case you missed the first few posts in this series, we will be chronicling our family trip to Washington D.C. over the course of the next couple months. The first post in the series is here. You can find the rest under the travel menu on our main page. Last week’s post focused on how we decided when to travel.
Now that we had our travel dates selected it was time to get down to other decisions about the trip. The largest two items were where to stay while in D.C., and how to get there. We will discuss the first topic in today’s post, and the latter in next week’s.
We stayed in a vacation rental home in Florida on a previous trip, so we wanted to check those out on this vacation, too. We also wanted to see if there were any good package deals on hotels for a week. Since there are five of us, whatever hotel room we chose would almost certainly need to be a suite in order to follow the hotel’s fire code. No surprise, there are a large number of hotels in D.C. and most of them had rooms large enough for our family. Like any other town with abundant lodging options, the prices ranged greatly.
The same could be said for the selection of vacation rental properties. We used VRBO.com in the past with great success, so we figured we would check them out for this trip as well. Once again, the site did not disappoint. The number of properties available was almost mind-boggling.
We narrowed down our search by selecting a few filtering features. Enough beds for everyone, a full kitchen, and a space to sit and relax were important to us. Even after filtering, the housing was still abundant. After taking this quick look at our options, we discovered we had plenty of choices no matter which way we went. Then it was down to cost and convenience.
Digging into the numbers deeper showed us that the cost of a hotel room close to public transportation would be about the same cost as many rental units. Once you factor in the cost of having to eat all or most meals at a restaurant if we stayed in a hotel, the vacation rental became the clear choice for our family.
The decision to focus on rental houses was a good first step, but there were many more lodging decisions to make. We still had to decide on a location, the amenities desired, and if we wanted an apartment style or standalone house. We did know that it would keep us more sane if we did not have to drive in the city and fight for the 2-hour parking spots everywhere we went.
Finding a place within walking distance to a metro rail station was a must. Having enough room for the kids to roam and have some personal quiet space was also important to us. Melissa and I also wanted enough room to relax (and plan for the next day) after the kids were in bed.
Once we had all our criteria in place, it was down to selecting places we thought would work best for us. We narrowed the choices down to a list of about 10 houses that fit our needs. We wanted a list in case any of them were booked by the time we were ready to finalize our dates. We also wanted some extra houses on the list in case there were any strange items we found in the contract or any other communication with the owners. We did not want to be scrambling when we were trying to book our dates. Boy Scout motto: always be prepared!
As it turns out, it was a good thing we were prepared with a list of options. Once we had determined our travel dates and finalized the nights we would be staying in D.C., we started to check on the availability of the houses we liked. A couple of them were booked for all, or part, of our desired dates so they were crossed off the list. We sent inquiries to a few favorites on our list to see if we could get some basic questions answered. Two of the places we never heard back from. That was a red flag in our book, so those were removed from the list as well.
We did hear back from a couple, which was exciting. One of them answered some of our questions, but not all. After a couple follow up emails that still did not answer all our questions, we removed that one as well. If communication was difficult early in the process, we feared it would be just as bad when we were there.
That left us with a couple good options that we felt comfortable with. The owners were polite and answered all our questions in a timely manner. We had no concerns. Now it was time to make the final decision. Since we had vetted the rentals earlier in our process, we really did have a couple good choices.We finally decided on a two-bedroom garden apartment that was only a few block from a rail station. The owners lived in the house above, so they would be close if any issues arose. As it was, we had no issues and the apartment had more than enough space for all of us for the week we spent in it.
It was so nice to come back to a house, instead of a hotel, at the end of our long days walking through the city. Not having to worry as much about the noise the kids created was also a big plus. Often they were so excited about something we had seen or done they struggled to use their indoor voices. It was wonderful to be able to relax in comfort in the evenings.