Weekend In: Washington DC, Part 3

Previously, I posted on making travel arrangements and finding accommodations and staying on budget by taking advantage of the huge list of free attractions in DC. Now let’s talk about staying on budget AND spending money. This post is about the bells and the whistles.

The most important part to staying on budget is actually knowing your budget. This may seem condescending or elementary, but this important detail is easily over-looked. This is particularly important if you are not traveling alone, as unplanned expenses wrack up exponentially.

When you consider your budget, there are two common ways to organize your information: by day or by trip. (You can also sub-categorize by expense type, food, transportation, etc, but for simplification I will not go that far.) There are pros and cons to each method, and you should use the one that works best for you. How are you comfortable thinking about money? Whatever your answer, that’s the way you should use. Because you have to be comfortable with your budget, and know how to work it.

I have used both methods and, generally, use both for each trip. What is my trip budget, and what does that mean for each day. I try to alternate which kind of activity takes the majority of my budget each day. One day may be dinner at the restaurant of a Top Chef finalist; the next a private tour at the Newseum. A river-tour brunch or a segway tour. (Disclosure: I’ve not done the segway tour, but I’d love to!)

On this trip, I toured the Newseum. Itself one of only a handful of museums which charge admission, the private tour was an additional charge. And it was amazing. But I’m a newsy person. I’d been to the museum before, each time taking advantage of the “free second day” with paid admission. I was pleased to have the insights into some of the exhibits I’d seen before. I still cried at the 9/11 monument. The wall of newspapers was still overwhelming.

We took a river cruise for lunch to celebrate my friend’s birthday. We had the best hamburger I’ve ever had. Shout to to Plan B, across from the DoJ on Pennsylvania. (We actually ate there twice!) We walked a lot. We laughed a lot. We got lost. But only once.

As in life, vacation spending is all about balance. Have fun. Wear comfortable shoes. Only eat what you won’t/can’t make at home. Don’t rush through it. Spend your money on moments, not things. Take – and print – your pictures.

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