Welcome to JetSetting Fools, here you will find our best travel tips for destinations worldwide. Some of the links on this site are Affiliate Links and if you use them to make a purchase, we may earn a commission. For more information, read our Disclosure Policy.
Teeming with magnificent monuments, iconic sights, incredible districts and marvelous museums, the United States capital is a fabulous destination. However, planning a Washington DC trip can feel overwhelming – there is simply so much to see and do.
In order to make the most of a Washington DC vacation, it is essential to have a good trip plan. To help fellow travelers planning a trip to DC, we are sharing our succinct Washington DC Itinerary that showcases the absolute best of the city.
Plan a Trip to Washington DC
Anyone planning a trip to Washington DC will quickly learn that there are an astounding number of things to do! When we first started our Washington DC vacation planning, there were so many attractions we wanted to include that we could have easily spent a month seeing the sights. However, like most visitors, we didn’t have a month…we were limited to just 3 days in DC.
Determined to make the most of our time, we carefully planned a long weekend trip to DC that included the must-see sights and essential activities.
We were traveling as a couple, but whether you are organizing a Washington DC weekend trip with friends or planning a trip to Washington DC for family, you can use our detailed trip plan to help create your itinerary.
Pro Tip: Get (and stay) organized for your DC Trip by using our Travel Planning Printables!
About Our Washington DC Itinerary 3 Days
We think spending 3 days in Washington DC allows just enough time to see the highlights. In our 3-Day Washington DC Itinerary, we feature the top attractions that are most appealing to us. That said, some of our favorite things to do in DC might not be of interest to other travelers – so we offer suggestions for alternate activities throughout our trip plan as well.
Furthermore, because we understand not everyone is planning a visit to Washington DC in 3 days, we offer suggested Washington DC itineraries for more (and less) time at the end of the article. If you only have 2 days in DC or are creating a 5-Day Washington DC Itinerary, you can use our suggestions to plan your perfect trip!
FAQs for Planning Trip to Washington DC
Before we jump into our detailed 3-Day Trip Planner Washington DC Itinerary, let’s cover some of the most frequently asked questions about planning a vacation to Washington DC.
How Much Should I Budget for a Trip to Washington DC?
When you plan a visit to Washington DC, you will need to create a trip budget. Costs to consider for your Trip to DC Itinerary include accommodations, transportation, food and activities.
Want our best tips for traveling on a budget? Get our free Vacation Budget Planner – plus our step-by-step guide for booking a budget trip!
The good news is that many of the must-dos in DC – like Smithsonian museums, grand monuments and some tours – are absolutely free!
Because we are budget-conscious travelers, our Washington DC planner features top tips for free activities, affordable food, cheap transportation and budget accommodations.
How Many Days Do You Need to Visit Washington DC?
One of the biggest considerations for Washington DC trip planning is how many days to spend in the city. Your decision should be based on a combination of your interests, budget and allowable time.
We think it is possible to squeeze the top things to see in Washington DC into a long weekend itinerary – which is why we created a 3-Day Washington DC Vacation Planning Guide. That said, there are so many incredible places to visit in DC that visitors could easily spend 5 days in Washington DC or longer.
Review our 3 Day Itinerary Washington DC – then decide what sights are most interesting to you and adjust your trip plan according to your interests, time and budget. If you plan to spend more or less time in the city, take a look at our helpful alternate Washington DC itineraries at the end of the post.
What is the Best Month to Visit Washington DC?
To be honest, there are pros and cons for travel to Washington DC in every season.
Summers tend to be the busiest…and also the hottest. If you plan your trip to Washington DC in June, July or August, expect hot, humid weather and big crowds (which means long lines and difficulty obtaining entry tickets for some sights).
Winters, on the other hand, can be cold and snowy, which can be unfavorable for long days of sightseeing outdoors. However, there are far fewer tourists to contend with when visiting DC attractions in winter – plus it is a great time of year to visit the many free museums.
Spring is a popular time to plan trip to Washington DC – especially when the cherry blossoms reach their peak. That said, springtime weather can be wet and chilly – and the city sees an influx of tourists at cherry blossom season.
We think autumn is an ideal time to plan a DC trip. The temperatures tend to be most comfortable for sightseeing and the crowds are lighter. The weather, however, can be unpredictable…so make sure you are prepared for the elements.
What is the Best Way to Tour Washington DC?
Washington DC is a big city and the top attractions and must-see neighborhoods are spread throughout. It is essential that you have a good Washington DC touring plan for your trip!
We like to explore on foot – and we have arranged our 3 Days in DC Itinerary for an easy flowing – and easy-to-follow – tour of the city. We have done all the planning, you just need to do is get yourself around!
WASHINGTON DC ITINERARY
Our Washington DC 3-Day Itinerary includes everything you need to plan your trip. Formatted in a day-by-day outline, our Itinerary for DC is easy to follow.
Not only does our Washington DC Sightseeing Itinerary feature top attractions and experiences, but we also share tips on how to get there, where to stay and what to pack. We have made planning a vacation to DC as easy as possible!
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Washington DC trip planner so that you can access it during your DC trip!
DAY 1 of Your Itinerary for Washington DC
On the first day of your Washington DC Three-Day Itinerary, kick off your trip by visiting the most iconic attractions: The White House and the National Mall. After taking in the sights, end your first day at one of DC’s best events.
The White House
Seeing the White House is absolutely essential on your Washington DC tour itinerary! The stately building has served as the home and office of every sitting president of the United States since John Adams in the year 1800. The White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is an icon of America and a symbol of freedom and democracy in the United States.
How To Visit The White House on your Washington DC 3 Day Itinerary
White House tours are free, but they are offered on a very limited basis and need to be booked through your state congressman or embassy in advance. It is required to book your tour at least 21 days in advance, but to ensure a spot, it is recommended to request the tour 3 months prior to your trip.
Best Views of the White House
If you exclude the White House tour from your Washington DC vacation planner, you should still get a look at the iconic building. It is possible – through gates – to see both the front and back of the White House.
When you approach the White House from the north, you will have a view of the front of the building from Pennsylvania Avenue. Then, walk around the White House complex on the east side, taking 15th Street (and passing the US Treasury Building) to E Street. Walk along E Street to the back of the White House, visitors have a view of the south-facing portico across the White House South Lawn.
Pro Tip: Before you set off for the White House, carve out enough time in your Washington DC itinerary for breakfast. We recommend starting your day with a hearty breakfast at Wicked Waffle, then walk through Lafayette Park to the White House.
The National Mall, Washington DC
Spending time on the National Mall is an absolute must for your Washington DC travel itinerary!
Stretching nearly 2 miles from the Capitol steps to the Lincoln Memorial, the National Mall features a myriad of monuments, museums and must-see sights. The Washington Monument stands at the center of the Mall and tree-lined paths through the park enable visitors to route their way to top destinations.
National Mall Museums for Your DC Trip Planner
There are more than 20 museums and galleries located on the Mall – 11 of which are world-class Smithsonian Museums. Visitors could easily spend a few days at the museums on the National Mall – but that would leave little time for other sightseeing.
Instead, we suggest picking just one or two National Mall museums to visit on Day 1 of your 3-Day DC trip. The Air and Space Museum, Natural History Museum, and Holocaust Memorial Museum get our vote for top places to visit. As a bonus, all three of these museums are absolutely free!
The Best Washington DC Memorials and Monuments
When planning a trip to DC, there are dozens of monuments and memorials you could include in your Washington DC vacation itinerary. While you will certainly stumble on several, there are a few Memorials on the National Mall that you will want to make a point to see.
The famed Washington Monument is a top attraction to be included on your itinerary for Washington DC.
Proudly standing in the center of the National Mall almost directly south of the White House, the Washington Monument reaches a height of 555 feet (making it the tallest obelisk in the world). Built in the 1800s to honor the first president of the United States, the stone structure is circled by fifty American flags.
Pro Tip: If planning to visit the Washington Monument on your DC Itinerary, there are a few things to know. Tours of the Washington Monument are free – including the observation deck – so you won’t want to miss it! That said, it is essential to make advance recommendations online (which incurs a small fee).
West End National Mall Monuments and Memorials
The west end of the National Mall is peppered with some of the most stunning and poignant memorials in DC (all of which are free to visit). Among the many, a few to specifically seek out are the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veteran Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
Tidal Basin Monuments and Shoreline Walk
On the south side of the west end of the National Mall is the picturesque Tidal Basin. The small body of water is encircled by a 2-mile shoreline loop trail – and is peppered with memorials and scenic nature.
Washington DC Cherry Blossom Trees line the paths (a spectacular sight in spring, but pretty in autumn, too!). Must-see memorials along the Tidal Basin route include the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Tips for Sightseeing the National Mall in DC
We have outlined what to do in Washington DC on the National Mall – but we have a few tips to make your sightseeing a little more enjoyable, too.
Lunch on the National Mall
If you are spending the entire first day of your Washington DC Three Day Itinerary on the National Mall, you will need to have a plan for eating lunch.
For a quick, uncomplicated lunch, consider grabbing local fare from a food truck (7th Street, 14th Street and Maryland Avenue are good places to find multiple food trucks). For visitors planning a trip to Washington DC on a budget, consider picking up picnic foods from a local grocer and eating somewhere along the Mall with an epic view of DC landmarks.
Another option is eating at one of the government building cafeterias or museum restaurants. Eating lunch at a government building cafeteria might seem an odd choice for your Washington DC trip planer, but the USDA Food Court is an exception.
The building food court features an array of healthy dining options – including everything from a salad bar to sushi. Plus, the space is air conditioned and has clean restrooms! (Note that the food court is accessed by non-employees via Wing 3.)
Getting Around the National Mall and Washington DC Sights
Day 1 of our 3 Day Washington DC Itinerary is packed with sightseeing – all of which is done in the style of a self-guided walking tour. Travelers with weary feet have a few Washington DC sightseeing options.
Travelers visiting sights can rest their feet by utilizing the DC Circulator bus, which makes stops at top attractions on the National Mall. Rides are just $1 per trip and buses arrive about every 10 minutes! Find more info on the official DC Circulator website.
Alternatively, visitors can rent a bicycle to see the sights on the Mall and around DC.
Plan Washington DC Trip with Guided Tour
Rather than plan a DIY route and walking tour to top Washington DC tourist attractions, upgrade your sightseeing experience with a full-day guided tour of the sights – Find out more here!
Plan a Night Out in Washington DC
On the first evening of your Washington DC tourist itinerary, plan a fun night of entertainment! We recommend attending one of DC’s best events – either a game or a performance – but you could also plan for an epic night of eating and drinking in DC.
As a sports-loving duo, we opted to go to a Washington Nationals baseball game (because is there anything more American than watching America’s game in the country’s capital city?). Make it a real DC experience and get a famous Half Smoke from Ben’s Chili Bowl (located inside the ballpark) for dinner.
If the Nats are not playing, DC also hosts the Wizards (NBA), Washington Football (NFL), Capitals (NHL) and DC United (MLS Soccer).
Washington DC Theater Events
If attending a theatrical performance is of more interest, you have plenty of options! Check what is playing at one of the famous theaters in Washington DC. Top picks are the National Theater (one of the longest operating theaters in the US), Ford’s Theater (where President Lincoln was assassinated) or the Kennedy Center (where they offer free daily performances, as well).
DC Nightlife at The Wharf
Alternatively (or in addition to a DC event), spend the first evening of your Washington DC weekend itinerary at The Wharf – one of the hippest entertainment districts in DC. Set along the Potomac waterfront, the district is an eating, drinking and shopping mecca.
Pro Tip: Another fun way to spend the evening is on a craft brewery tour. Sample suds from DC brewers and eat dinner on a guided tour of the Washington DC craft beer scene. Get the details!
DAY 2 of Your Washington DC Trip Itinerary
On Day 2 of your Three Days in Washington DC Itinerary, explore a few of the best districts, including Capitol Hill, Arlington and Georgetown. Plan on using public transportation to get between these DC destinations.
Capitol Hill Neighborhood
Washington DC vacation planning would not be complete without exploring Capitol Hill. The center of US politics, the Capitol Hill District features major attractions and top foodie spots.
The United States Capitol
Visiting the United States Capitol Building is essential when planning a trip to Washington DC!
The Capitol Building stands in the center of the Federal District – and is home to the United States Congress (which is comprised of both the Senate and the House of Representatives). The landmark building features a massive dome, which is topped by the Statue of Freedom.
From the steps of the US Capitol Building, the view west encompasses the length of the Washington Mall, with the Washington Monument standing tall in the middle and the Lincoln Memorial beyond it.
Tour the Capitol Building on Your Washington DC Trip Itinerary
When you plan a trip to Washington DC, we highly recommend taking a tour of the Capitol Building – and that is how we start Day 2 of your Washington DC in 3 Days Itinerary.
The guided tours of the US Capitol Building are free and sometimes you can even watch Congress in session. However, advance reservations are required, and guests must adhere to strict rules.
More Things To Do in Capitol Hill
Continue your exploration of the Capitol Hill district at Eastern Market, where you can enjoy tasty food and peruse local goods. Then, stroll through the historic Barracks Row – once part of the Navy Yard and one of the oldest commercial districts, dating to 1801.
In addition to visiting the United States Capitol, there are other iconic buildings that you can tour on Day 2 of your 3 day trip to Washington DC.
For example, you can also visit the US Supreme Court building (open Monday through Friday), take a tour of the Library of Congress (closed Sundays) or explore the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument that details the history of Women’s Rights in America (closed Monday and Tuesday).
Lunch in Capitol Hill
For lunch, dine at one of the iconic Capitol Hill eateries. For something quick and inexpensive, go to Good Stuff Eatery, a fast food joint with amazing burgers. We recommend getting the Prez Burger and Spike’s Village Fries!
Other lunch options are Mangiarlardo’s (a family-owned Italian sandwich shop dating to 1953) or Rose’s Luxury (which will likely have a line down the street).
Arlington National Cemetery
The next stop on Day 2 of your 3 Days in Washington DC Itinerary is the famous Arlington National Cemetery. From Capitol Hill, hop on the Metro (Blue Line) to Arlington.
Arlington National Cemetery is a 624-acre military cemetery. Established in 1864 during the Civil War, the cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. US Presidents Taft and Kennedy are buried alongside 400,000 American soldiers at Arlington.
What to See at Arlington Cemetery
Although visiting a cemetery may seem like an odd thing to do on your vacation to Washington DC, it is a must-see.
In addition to the president and soldier grave sites, there are many monuments and memorials on the cemetery grounds. Most notable is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater. The tomb houses the remains of servicemen from WWI, WWII, the Korea War and the Vietnam War.
US Army soldiers guard the tomb 24 hours a day and there is a ceremonious Changing of the Guard every hour yearlong (and every half hour in the summertime).
Anyone planning a trip to DC should make the time to visit Georgetown – and a short Metro ride to Rosslyn Station and then the cheap DC Circulator bus will get you there from Arlington Cemetery.
Located along the Potomac River, Georgetown was established as a trading post long before Washington DC existed. In fact, the entire district is now labeled as a National Historic Landmark.
Things To Do in Georgetown DC
Over the decades, many DC elites have called Georgetown home – and the neighborhood is known for its posh boutique shops and high-end fashion stores. However, shopping is just one of the many reasons to visit Georgetown.
Active travelers can go to Key Bridge Boathouse to rent equipment for a river adventure – like kayaking or stand up paddle boarding. However, all visitors will enjoy a leisurely walk along the Georgetown Waterfront Promenade.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath is also terrific for picturesque treks. Exploring the Georgetown University campus is an excellent way to ease into the evening.
Other places of interest in Georgetown are the Old Stone House, Tudor Place Historic House, the Dumbarton Oaks Museum and Park and the National Cathedral.
Dinner in Georgetown
Stay in Georgetown on the second night of your DC Trip Itinerary for an entertaining evening. For something upscale, dine at the legendary Martin’s Tavern, a family-run restaurant serving classic American fare since 1933 – then sip after-dinner drinks overlooking the river at The Graham.
Visitors looking for something a little more casual should go to Church Hall for local craft beer, pub grub and arcade games – then toss a few back at Mr. Smith’s, a fun piano bar. Or, if the campus crowd is more your scene, go underground to The Tombs for burgers and pitchers of beer.
Pro Tip: Get a guided introduction to Georgetown on a Food and History Tour! Participants are led to locally-owned and historic spots while learning about the area’s intriguing past. Get the details!
DAY 3 of Your Itinerary for Washington DC Trip
On the last day of your Itinerary for Washington DC in Three Days, head into the Penn Quarter District (or travel to a nature park or the zoo) and end the night with a divine dinner.
Delve deep into the Penn Quarter District, one of the most interesting districts in DC. The once small and historic neighborhood that is just east of the White House has turned into entertainment hub.
Things To Do in Washington DC Penn Quarter
Start with a coffee and croissant from Dolcezzo, a locals’ favorite coffee and gelato shop in the CityCenter DC shopping district – then navigate on foot to the best sights in the neighborhood.
Once properly caffeinated, check out the other sophisticated shops before making your way east into Chinatown. If you walk along H Street, you stumble onto the Friendship Arch – an ornamental Chinese gate.
Walking along the diagonal Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the United States Capitol Building is a classic stroll to include in your DC itinerary.
The 1.2-mile stretch between the two government buildings is dubbed “America’s Main Street” and was one of the first planned streets in DC. The street is used for parades and protests – but is most notably known as the walking route that newly inaugurated presidents take to the White House after being sworn in at the Capitol.
Pro Tip: Visitors planning a Washington DC One Day Itinerary can include Pennsylvania Avenue in their trip plan by using the street to walk from the White House to Capitol Hill and then exploring the National Mall.
Penn Quarter Museums
Penn Quarter boasts some of the best museums in Washington DC.
Our top pick is the National Archives (which houses America’s most treasured documents – like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights). Other top museums in Penn Quarter are the National Portrait Gallery (a free Smithsonian Museum, which includes the American President Gallery) and Ford’s Theater (which can be toured with a guide).
Lunch in Penn Quarter
Lunch in the Penn Quarter poses a problem…only because there are so many incredible eateries to choose from! Famed Chef Jose Andres has three restaurants in Penn (Oyamel, Jaleo and Zaytinya). Additionally, there are a slew of fantastic Asian restaurants in Chinatown (Daikaya gets rave reviews) and numerous American dining options, too (like ChopHouse).
Washington DC Parks and the National Zoo
In the afternoon of the third day of your Washington DC trip itinerary, explore one of the best attractions featuring nature.
The famous Smithsonian National Zoological Park is one of the top sights in Washington DC. The zoo is free to enter – and highlights are the Giant Pandas, American Bison, Great Apes and the carousel.
One of our favorite parks is Meridian Hill Park, which features fountains, statues and great views – and is also a favored picnic spot for locals.
Further north is Rock Creek Park, which is a true natural gem. Hikers can wander the miles of trails that wind through the park – and there are other attractions, like horseback riding, playgrounds and historic forts.
Downtown DC Dinner and Drinks
Complete your Long Weekend in DC Itinerary with an epic meal at a historic restaurant where many presidents and most politicians have once dined.
Two fine establishments are Old Ebbitt Grill and The Tabard Inn. The Old Ebbitt Grill, which was opened in 1856, is one of the most famous spots to eat in DC and known for their oysters. The Tabard Inn Restaurant, located near Dupont Circle, dates to 1922 and is located in a restored rowhouse.
For a more casual DC mainstay, make your way to the U Street Corridor for a meal at Ben’s Chili Bowl (for a chili dog) or Ben’s Next Door (for an array of comfort food), both of which have been frequented by heaps of celebrities – and former US Presidents.
Monuments at Night
After dinner, end your 3 Days in Washington DC Itinerary with an evening walk. The White House and the National Mall landmarks look spectacular lit up at night!
Or give your feet a well deserved rest and join a coach tour of the sights at night. Get the details!
DC Day Trip Ideas
While we think there are ample sights to fill your Washington DC travel itinerary, some travelers may instead opt to also take a Washington DC Day Trip.
Mount Vernon and Old Town Alexandria
Embark on a journey into America’s past on a half-day tour from Washington DC. Visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, tour his mansion and visit his tomb. Then travel by bus through Old Town Alexandria, where you will see additional famous historical sights. Reserve your spot!
Visit some of the most iconic sights in American history on a tour of Gettysburg. Top attractions on the tour include the Gettysburg Battlefield and Gettysburg Town. Learn more here!
Virginia Wine Tour
Travel into Virginia wine country and visit multiple wineries for tastings and snacks. The tour includes transportation from Washington DC. Book it here!
How Many Days in Washington DC?
Deciding how many days to visit Washington DC is one of the toughest parts about planning a trip to the city. We think a Washington DC 3-day trip is the perfect amount of time to get an introduction – which is why we outlined the perfect 3-Day DC Itinerary.
That said, it would be easy to plan to spend a week in Washington DC – or longer – without ever getting bored (especially if you love museums and US History!).
How many days you need to visit Washington DC will depend on many factors, including your interests, budget and overall time-frame.
More Washington DC Itineraries
If you are planning a trip to Washington DC for 3 days, our above outline DC Itinerary is all that you need! That said, if you are trying to plan a trip to DC with more (or fewer) days, we have some suggestions to make your Washington DC vacation planning a breeze!
1-Day Washington DC Itinerary
Planning a 1 Day in Washington DC Itinerary is an immense task…but not impossible! In order to maximize your time, you will want to take some time to carefully plan your trip.
How To Plan a One Day Trip to Washington DC
For first time visitors to the city, we think the best way to create a Washington DC 1-Day Itinerary is to simply follow our outline for Day 1 of our 3-Day Washington DC Itinerary planner. In addition to attending an event in the evening, we would suggest spending time in the Penn Quarter and dining at a historic city establishment.
Washington DC Itinerary 2 Days
Planning a Washington DC 2-Day Itinerary is a little bit easier – it’s just enough time to see the highlights, without feeling too overwhelmed. If you are going to plan a trip to DC for two days, you can really cover some ground.
How To Plan 2 Days in Washington DC
With two days in Washington DC, we recommend following Days 1 and 2 of our outlined Washington DC travel planner. This allows travelers to see the best sights in the city and surrounding area. Again, we would recommend squeezing in some time in Penn Quarter, so perhaps dine there on Day 2 rather than eating in Georgetown.
Another Washington DC 2 Day Itinerary
Alternatively, visitors could create a Washington DC in 2 Days itinerary that stays completely in the heart of the city by using Days 1 and 3 of our 3 perfect days in Washington DC outline. This 2-Day Washington DC Itinerary is ideal for people most interested in museums – and those who like best to discover sights on foot (rather than hassling with public transportation or taxicabs).
Washington DC Itinerary 4 Days
With 4 days in Washington DC, visitors can really get a feel for the city. Planning a DC trip for 4 days is relatively easy – especially when using our outlined 3-Day Washington DC Itinerary as a base.
How to See Washington DC in 4 Days
To create a 4-Day Washington DC Itinerary, we recommend using our 3-Day Washington DC Suggested Itinerary as it is written – then, on the last day, explore the city parks and zoo (or Penn Quarter if you spend Day 3 in nature). In the evening, go to the U Street Corridor (or historic restaurant, if you went to Ben’s Chili Bowl on Day 3) for dinner.
Another Washington DC 4-Day Itinerary
Another way to spend Day 4 of a Washington DC 4-Day Itinerary is on a DC Day Trip – either a historic trip to Gettysburg or Mount Vernon or on a carefree tour of Virginia wineries.
Washington DC Itinerary 5 Days
Visitors creating a Washington DC 5-Day Itinerary can fit a lot of sightseeing into a DIY Washington DC tour!
How To Plan a 5 Day Itinerary Washington DC
With five days in DC, we recommend using all of our suggestions listed in the above Washington DC Itinerary 4 Days – including Penn Quarter, City Parks and Zoo and a Day Trip from DC.
New York, Boston, Washington Itinerary
Due to close proximity, it is possible to create a multiple East Coast city trip plan. Whether flying, driving or taking the train, with at least a week, visitors could easily see New York City, Boston and Washington DC. For tips on how to plan a trip to DC, Boston and NYC, use our helpful guides: Weekend in Boston Itinerary and 4 Day New York Itinerary. Considering a stop in Philadelphia as well? Great! Check out our Top Tips for a Day in Philly!
Washington DC Trip Planner Tips
We want to help make planning a trip to DC a breeze – which starts with creating the best itinerary for Washington DC. However, we know there is more to your Washington DC vacation itinerary, than the sights to see. To help, we are sharing our top tips for your trip – like how to get there, where to stay and what to pack.
Make Advanced Attraction Ticket Reservations
We have shared our best tips for how to plan a trip to Washington DC – but we have one golden piece of advice that we think is essential.
Our top Washington DC vacation tip is this: Reserve tickets in advance…especially in the summertime!
The city’s top attractions see a flood of visitors every year. While many sights are free, there are often long lines to get in due to overcrowding. However, many tourist sights now allow visitors to reserve time slots in advance – with a small reservation fee (which is about $1 USD). We think it is well worth the price to reserve tickets online, so that you don’t waste your precious vacation time standing in line!
How To Get To Washington DC
Washington DC can be reached by plane, train, bus or car. Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying – we are JetSetting Fools, after all! When we need to buy plane tickets, we start our search for the best airfare on SkyScanner.
Find our best tips for booking affordable flights in our blog post, How To Book The Best Flights.
There are three major airports near Washington DC: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).
Of the 3 Washington DC Airports, we prefer flying into Reagan National, as it is by far the most convenient. To get from DCA Airport to downtown DC, visitors can book a Private Transfer, hop on a Metro, grab a taxi or order an Uber.
Bus and Train Travel To DC
Both buses and trains terminate at Washington DC Union Station. Greyhound and Bolt both offer bus services and regional trains are operated by Amtrak. DC is connected to several destinations by train – including New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore.
Where To Stay In Washington DC
Deciding where to stay is a major part of planning a trip to DC! With only three days in DC, we think it is best to stay in the heart of the city center so that you can easily access sights and transportation (when necessary).
One of our favorite places to stay in DC is Club Quarters Hotel. Although the rooms are small, the location – just down the street from the White House – is superb! The hotel is also just steps from the Metro, which is extremely convenient when traveling to districts outside of the downtown. Best of all, however, is that the hotel is affordable – especially as compared to nearby options. Check rates and availability!
What To Pack For Your 3-Day Trip To Washington DC
Comfortable Shoes for Your DC Trip
One of our top Washington DC sightseeing tips is to pack comfortable travel shoes! We cover some ground in our DC Itinerary – and you don’t want your feet hurting along the route. I like to wear lightweight shoes for women by Columbia – and Kris prefers wearing men’s Merrell trail shoes.
Of course, if the distances are too far for your liking, you can always buy tickets on the Hop On Hop Off Big Bus Tour that makes stops at all of the DC tourist attractions. Get tickets here!
Weather Gear for your Trip to Washington DC
Washington DC experiences all four seasons – with hot and humid summers and cold winters…and rain all year long.
Summer travelers should bring clothing that is breathable and lightweight – sunglasses, good sunscreen and a wide-brimmed travel hat are also highly recommended. Wintertime visitors will need to pack a coat, hat and gloves; and layers are recommended if traveling to DC in the spring or autumn.
Travel Camera for Your Trip to DC
Washington DC is decorated with historic sights and grand monuments – all of which begged to be photographed. Rather than trying to capture the beauty of the city with your cell phone, we recommend using an actual camera. We travel with a DSLR Canon Rebel and use an everyday 18-135mm lens, which provides decent zoom capabilities. The camera is easy to use and comes bundled with heaps of accessories, making it perfect for beginner photographers.
Day Bag for Washington DC Sightseeing
Whether you travel with a suitcase of backpack, you will also want a great day pack to organize and secure all of your essential, everyday travel items. Just be aware that certain sights and monuments require bag screening (and, perhaps, research what items are not allowed before packing your day bag).
Washington DC Travel Guide
On our most recent Washington DC trip, we used the DK Eyewitness pocket book for Top 10 DC Travel – which was a great accompaniment for sightseeing! The book provided helpful information about the history of Washington DC, facts about sights and information regarding attractions. Plus, the small book easily fit into my day pack!
We Want To Know: What would you add to our Washington DC Itinerary? Do you have any tips for spending 3 days in Washington DC? Tell us in the comments!
Visiting More Top Cities In The USA?
Pin it! See all of our travel pins on our JetSetting Fools Pinterest Board.