Trip Planning: D.C. Long Weekend

This is the first post in a hopefully long series detailing the framework that goes into planning a trip. These write-ups should act as guidelines, and are not a promise that you can find these exact trips; however, I hope they are close enough to show that you can really do “expensive” trips for much less than you think. With that out of the way, let’s head off to Washington, D.C.!


April is one of my favorite times to go to Washington, D.C., as the cherry blossoms are in full swing and make the entire Tidal Basin come alive in a burst of color. In this edition of trip planning, I’ll show you how to take a long weekend trip to our nation’s capitol in early April.

Note:  People go crazy over the cherry blossoms, and hotel rooms fill up insanely quickly. This is one of those times you definitely want to plan ahead in order to use your hotel rewards.


First off, getting there. On such a short trip like New York-Washington, I highly recommend taking Amtrak. It’s quick and both stations (Penn and Union) are close to their respective city centers. On Thursday, leave work and head to Penn Station and catch the 6:25pm train. You should arrive in Washington, D.C. around 10pm. The entire roundtrip for two people will set you back 12,144 points. Bonus:  by having the Amtrak card, you get a 5% rebate on all points used, so your travel works out to 11,537 miles.

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Amtrak points required to get two people to Washington, D.C.

This schedule gives you three full days to explore D.C., as you don’t head back to NYC until 5:20pm on Sunday.

Your hotel for this trip is the Holiday Inn – Washington Capitol, where you’ll be paying with a mixture of points and cash. In this case, the room is a standard room (again, people LOVE those cherry blossoms, so beggars can’t be choosers during this time of the year) and it will set you back 25,000 points a night plus $59.50 a night. Total cost:  75,000 points and $178.50. Bonus:  by having the Chase IHG card, you get a 10% rebate on all points used, so your hotel stay actually works out to 67,500 points + $178.50.

This hotel is definitely within walking distance of some of the sights you might want to see, such as the cherry blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial (~1 mile), the Air and Space Museum (.1 mile), or the Capitol (.7 miles). D.C. also has a great metro system, and getting to farther out places like Arlington National Cemetery and the National Zoo couldn’t be easier.

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Holiday Inn – Washington Capitol rate

On Sunday, head back to Union Station and board the Northeast Regional back to NYC. These trains are usually equipped with wi-fi and for the most part it works! Generally, I like to grab a window seat and a good book and watch the scenery roll by. Surprisingly, Amtrak also has a few good beers for sale in the Café Car–who knew?! In my opinion, Amtrak is much more relaxing than either driving or the bus–well worth the money or points.

Items Points Used Cash Value of Points Cash Spent
2x Amtrak tickets NYP-WAS-NYP 11,537 Amtrak Guest Rewards miles

(12,144-607 rebate for having the Amtrak card)

$334.40 $0.00
3 nights Holiday Inn – Washington Capitol 67,500 IHG Rewards points

(75,000-7,500 rebate for having the IHG Rewards card)

$1,029.37 $178.50

Cost of trip:  79,037 points and $178.50 ($257.50 if you include the Amtrak card annual fee)

Cost of trip without miles/points:  $1,373.77

Savings:  $1,195.27, or 87% off

So which cards make this possible? You’ll need two cards:

Card Annual Fee Spending Requirement Bonus Points Notes
Bank of America Amtrak Guest Rewards World $79 $1,000 in 90 days 20,000 points You will still have 8,463 points for another trip.
Chase IHG Rewards Club Select $0 for the first year, $49 every year after that $1,000 in 90 days 80,000 points This bonus comes around a few times a year, so make sure to wait for it!

So there you have it–a weekend trip to Washington, D.C. during one of the busiest times of the year, all for only two credit cards and $178.50. Who knew it could be so easy? Happy travels!


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