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My 2019 Plan for Chasing Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

I’m fortunate because for the most part, my husband finds my various personality quirks to be delightful. But there is one thing that seriously drives him  bananas, and that is the fact that I always have four or five trips lined up in advance. When I ask him for his opinion, he just gets this annoyed look on his face and says: “Can we please get through all the stuff we have planned so far before discussing yet another vacation?”  

But my busy (OCD?) brain refuses to operate in such manner and I need a hustle of some sort in order to keep it occupied at all times. Originally, my plan for spring of 2019 was to drive to Orlando and spend four nights in Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort using points. Cue the usual family vacation cliches: swimming in pools, partaking in resort activities and visiting Disney.

The thing is, I told my husband that I wouldn’t plan any flights for couple of years after going on our South Pacific adventure. He isn’t opposed to me taking the kids  somewhere by myself. But if you ever met my son, you would know why I’m not eager to go this route. Talk about a busy bee!  Plus, I like doing things as a family.

Dreaming about a quick trip to Washington DC

My kids are finally old enough to appreciate the Smithsonian museums plus, I really would like to see the famous cherry blossoms in the spring.

Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

The direct  flight from Tampa (our preferred airport) to DCA  takes only two hours, so it’s relatively painless. We wouldn’t rent a car and simply use Uber or Lyft to get around. Would my husband be up for it? I picked a time when he was in a good mood and approached the subject. To my surprise, he didn’t put up too much of a resistance.

And then it dawned on me. He has been talking for years about going to Japan in order to see cherry blossoms. This is a poor (American) man’s equivalent of that. Plus, my husband really enjoys museums in DC. Bingo! Just incorporate things your spouse  actually wants to do, and he will be much more receptive to travel ideas.

There was one wrinkle. I promised my daughter I would take her to Disney in 2019. However, as it turns out, her school will be having a filed trip to Animal Kingdom in May of this year. My husband and I will go with her as chaperones. I have been wanting to check out new Avatar ride anyway.

In few years we will probably have to go again with my son when he is in 4th grade and after that, sayonara, Disney! I know many of my readers are Disney fanatics, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Though like I said, Avatar ride looks pretty cool. I talked to my daughter and she was happy with the new plan. And both of my kids were ecstatic about the prospect of seeing dinosaur bones in Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 

One of the reasons I want to go in 2019 is because it will be my daughter’s last year in elementary school. The Spring Break in our district usually takes place at the beginning of March, and that’s too early for cherry blossoms. So, in all likelihood, I will have to take the kids out of classes for two days. It will be much easier to do it while they are still in elementary school.

Covering the cost with miles and points

Flights

I’m supposed to get a huge stash of Jet Blue points in a week or two (speaking of, the 60k offer link for Jet Blue card is still working). Jet Blue happens to fly non-stop from Tampa to DCA airport, so it seems like a perfect option. But! The peak of cherry blossoms blooming period is tough to predict in advance. The time varies each year, which makes a trip to DC tough to plan.

It’s not so bad when you live within driving distance, but if you have to change flights, the penalties will add up. Jet Blue does offer Blue Flex fare which allows free changes, but it costs considerably  more via points:Usually, cherry blossoms in DC area are at their peak at the beginning of April, so I would like to have flights lined up few months in advance, if at all possible. If our timing is significantly off, I will consider rebooking. Hmm, if only there was an airline that would let you make unlimited free changes…

Cough, Southwest, cough.

About a month ago I wrote an article where I’ve mentioned my plan to cash out Southwest points towards gift cards.  I was in the process of doing just that, and redeemed 30,000 points so far. I still had  60,000 points left and planned to burn them on $600 in Walmart gift cards. But since this new plan has hatched in my brain, I was debating on whether it was still a good idea.

I thought about it and decided Nope. But, what about putting money into an IRA? I still plan on doing  it and will possibly move some savings out of emergency fund. I’ve also recently signed up for several cash back offers and should have $1k coming my way shortly.

Sometimes plans change and we have to adapt accordingly. I don’t have any UR points, and due to 5/24 rule  can’t get approved for any cards that will give me access to Rapid Rewards. Read this post on why you may want to start out with Chase credit cards if you are new to this hobby.

I also would like to hang on to all of my Jet Blue points for a possible trip to Costa Rica (more on that in another post). Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents towards Wanna Get Away fare, so cashing them out at 1 cent is obviously  not ideal.

Hotels

I have several options. Since we will need to spend three nights, I could use two IHG renewal certificates from credit cards and burn points towards the third night. Ditto for Hyatt, since Washington DC has several Category 2-4 properties. However, I’ve discovered something interesting, and may end up going with Points+Cash rate at a new Hyatt House Washington DC/The Wharf

It’s a category 2 and is located within  walking distance to Tidal Basin, which is apparently considered to be a prime spot for viewing cherry blossoms:

Here is the most interesting part. While regular rooms cost 8,000 points per night, if you choose Points+Cash rate, you can book a 1-bedroom suite. I called the hotel to inquire about rollaways, and they said they don’t provide any. So, my kids would  have to share a sofa sleeper in the living room. Not ideal, but we’ll survive. You can read more details on Hyatt credit card here

I have a feeling that it’s a mistake that will eventually be corrected, but I hope this info helps some of you plan your own trip to DC. Send me some photos of cherry blossoms, OK?

Bottom line

Travel isn’t free. By foregoing Southwest gift card redemption option, I’ll be missing out on  $600 worth of groceries. If I go with Points+Cash rate at the Hyatt hotel, I will be once again spending real cash. However, to me travel is worth it. People spend their money on various things, I choose to invest it in experiences. Besides, I’ll be saving a ton of cash by not buying Disney passes next year, so it will probably be a wash in terms of overall cost.

I’ve seen this quote  from a dad who loves to take his family on trips in one of the magazines, and I could totally relate: “Our house may be small, but with some planning and a little gumption our lives can be big through travel.” Amen to that. I would also add “miles and points” after the “gumption” part.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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17 thoughts on “My 2019 Plan for Chasing Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

  1. We went to DC in May, and had a great time! We stayed at a Marriott in Arlington right on the Metro, and flew Southwest on points. We are a family of 5, and hotels get trickier for us.

    For our Metro fare, I put it on our CSR which was then reimbursed.

    There is a bus that loops around the Mall and the Hill, and it costs $1 per person to ride, with on off privileges. Very convenient!

    • @Kacie Thanks for sharing! I like the idea of using public transportation. It’s been a long time since I visited DC, but I thought Metro was fairly simple to figure out.

  2. Ah, cherry blossoms. I grew up in northern Virginia and took many, many day trips to DC. I also took my husband there during our US-crossing honeymoon in 2016. So many memories… the Air and Space Museum, National Gallery, majestic monuments, and yes, cherry blossoms! I only made it there a few days during the actual blossoming, but it was lovely. The downside is they are quite unpredictable and the “schedule” can change at the last minute, it just all depends on weather in the months leading up to them! I hope you can catch them, but DC is fun regardless. I fondly remember a double date with my high school best friend and the guys we were seeing at the time, the blossoms were out and we had a picnic on the tidal basin and rented paddleboats to take it all in–highly recommended.

    • @Debra That sounds lovely! It’s neat that you were able to catch the peak of cherry blossoms. I know the timing is very iffy. I really hope it works out, and Southwest is a perfect choice in this respect.
      Normally, I like to have the dates set well in advance. However, in this case, I’m willing to adjust a bit. As long as we only have to take two days off, we should be OK. It’s definitely easier to do it while both kids are in elementary school, so it’s next year or bust!

  3. I’m struggling to understand why you’d consider cashing out RapidRewards for gift cards. With a family, 60,000 points is 1 or 2 trips for all of you!!

    • @Ian I can understand why you are confused! I recommend you read my post for explanation. This is a very unusual year for us. We have already spent a fortune on the upcoming trip to South Pacific, not to mention, I’m struggling to put money into an IRA. This is something I make sure to do each year.
      I viewed cashing out Southwest points as a way to ease the strain on our finances, since we are a middle-class family. Plus, I never dreamed my husband would agree to go to DC next year. But he did! So, in light of this new development, I have decided to hang on to the remainder of my Southwest stash.

  4. We live about 2 and a half hours away from DC. We did the Smithsonian museums twice last year-the Air and Space and Natural History and they are WORTH IT. We stayed at the Fairmont Georgetown on a GDGR rate of $139.00 a night for Fairmont PC member (via CC). It was a greta time.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your Dad and with you. “Our house may be small (1450 SQ FT) but our world can be made big through travel” :).

    • @ Natasha We pan to visit both Natural History and Air and Space museums. The second one is mostly for my husband, since he loves aviation. I don’t know how all of this will work out, but I feel confident that we will be able to pull it off with the help of miles and hotel points.
      My house is 1400 square feet, so I can relate! I actually grew up in a home that is only 950 square feet, so my place feels like a palace by comparison.

  5. We visited DC during Spring Break 2017 (3/25 – 4/1) and we timed it perfectly — Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom (that was a huge bonus). We visited: National Archives (get there before 10AM or it gets crowded during Spring Break – Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights & Constitution all displayed here), Holocaust Museum (we got timed tickets online), Ford Theatre (got timed tickets), Arlington Cemetary, Air & Space, Natural History Museum (butterfly exhibit is an extra $6/person & we loved it), Portrait Gallery was one of my favorites as well as Library of Congress, and we got a tour of the White House (must plan 3 months before visit and fill out a request on your Senator’s website).

    We also bought $10 Smartrip Cards ($2 fee for the card and preloaded with $8), and we really enjoyed taking the subway everywhere; once we used these up, we just added money at their kiosks at the Metro stations (super easy). We took Uber to and from our hotel and a few out of the way places.

    I think everyone should take their kids to DC. Honestly, my kids are actually enjoying their American History discussions in school because of this visit.

    • @Stephanie That’s a LOT of sightseeing! I hope to do at least a few of these things during our visit. I’m on the fence on Holocaust museum. They took us there when I was an exchange student and I was depressed for days thinking about it. I kind of want my kids to be a bit older for that one.
      My daughter actually looked up Natural History museum online and saw a link to butterfly exhibit info. She got really excited since she loves butterflies, so we’ll absolutely have to add that one to the list. That’s why I don’t mind taking the kids out of school for something like that. It’s a hands-on education they can’t get in class.

  6. Our husbands really do think alike! Since we booked a cruise for January 2019, he said we won’t be going on a Spring Break trip that year. WHAT?!?! That is killing me. Hopefully I can change his mind.

    How lucky that your kids get to go to Animal Kingdom for a school field trip!

    The D.C. trip sounds nice. Maybe you could take Amtrak one way?

    • @Nancy Our husbands do sound alike! They are probably the normal ones, it’s you and me who are the crazy ones. :))
      I would love to take Amtrak, but we really won’t have enough time. It will be a quick getaway and I don’t want to complicate it further. But maybe in the future.

  7. We stayed at the Hyatt Place K street–close to the metro, walking distance to White House / Smithsonian. We were very happy with it.

    The Museum of Natural History is my favorite Smiithsonian museum, I’ve been there too many times to count and it never gets old. The butterfly exhibit there was neat, our kids loved it. Air & Space is always a hit with the kids, and we all enjoyed the U.S. Botanical Garden. And if you’re at Air & Space or the Botanical Garden, have lunch at the Museum of the American Indian–good food there!

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