5 for $500: Washington D.C.

The second destination for the 5 for $500 Challenge is Washington, D.C. DC offers a glimpse into our nations history as well as a lot of free attractions. This makes DC an ideal location for this challenge.

Washington Monument

The Dates

Plan this trip for June 8-June 10 to match our prices. Prices are very time-sensitive for this trip. You can save $10/nt at the hotel just by the day you stay so when planning your own trip, make sure to be flexible and test options.

The Hotel

Three-Star Hotel

You’ll find the best rates if you avoid staying in DC proper and stay on the outskirts of the city. When I last stayed in DC I stayed on the Virginia side and found it very agreeable. For this trip, I’m recommending the Americana Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Your hotel room will cost an average of $100/nt and offers a mini-fridge, continental breakfast and free parking if you choose to drive into town. Budget $220.50 for your hotel room.


DC Metro

DC is not a very car-friendly town. There may be plenty of places to drive but there are limited parking spots and what parking there is does cost and may require feeding a meter. You can opt to park around town, though it’s hard to estimate pricing. For the purposes of this trip, we’ve planned and budgeted taking the Metro Rail around town. This will require extra walking, so consider your families needs before choosing this option. You’ll want to fill each family member’s metro pass with $13.50 in credits for $54 total.

Locals would like me to mention that there is escalator etiquette in DC: Stand to the right, Walk to the left. Pay attention, stay out of the way of commuters and you’ll be just fine.

The Food

Chop't Salad Lunch

Breakfast Day 1: Grab a bagel or a pastry at Open City. The menu does contain sit-down options but they come at a high price. Just grab a croissant, danish, bagel, scone, or muffin, add on some juice and coffee and chow down with your family for $25.

Lunch Day 1: Eat inside the zoo at the Mane Restaurant. Grab everyone an age-appropriate combo meal of burgers or chicken and eat in the great outdoors so you don’t miss out on any of the fun. Budget $40 for the family.

Dinner Day 1: After chowing down on junk food all day, you’ll appreciate dinner at Chop’t. The focus here is on eating healthy and their slogan is Better Tastes Better. Everything here is farm-fresh with nothing prepared ahead of time or filled with trans fats. They even took Michelle Obama’s platform of healthy eating for kids in school and made it part of their mission. It’s hard to be more DC than that. Their menu features creative salad and sandwich choices that even the pickiest eater will have a hard time resisting. Budget $48 for this experience.

Breakfast Day 2: Stay near your hotel and grab breakfast at the Corner Bakery Cafe. Fill your family up with breakfast paninis, scramblers, oatmeals, and fruits. You’ll spend around $35 at this spot.

Lunch Day 2: You’ll be grabbing lunch inside the National Air & Space Museum at the Wright Place Food Court. Inside you’ll find McDonald’s, Boston Market and Donatos Pizzeria. Everyone can pick and choose what works for them, though we like Boston Market for the more homestyle meal and veggies. You’ll spend around $35 at this spot.

Dinner Day 2: After a lot of walking around, fill yourself up at Good Stuff Eatery. The menu is full of burger options and if you have any change left, you can splurge on a shake. Pre-shake, your meal should run you $40 if you split 2 orders of their fries. Since fries run large you’ll still end up stuffed.

The Fun

Mei Xiang

Day 1: Spend the day at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. In this zoo, you’ll find kangaroos, monkeys, apes, cheetahs, leopards, lions, tigers, seals, zebras, and elephants. On top of all that, this is one of the few zoos in the country to feature giant pandas. You’ll want to stay until closing time in order to avoid the Metro crowds and increased prices for rush-hour. Best of all? The zoo is free!

Day 2: Spend this day on the National Mall. The morning can be spent exploring the many monuments including the World War II Memorial, The Washington Monument, The DC War Memorial to World War I, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and the Lincoln Memorial. Spend the afternoon at the kid-friendly Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. All of these activities are absolutely FREE.

The Itinerary

Early Age of Air Travel

Day One

  1. Travel from Hotel to Open City
    • Walk from your hotel to the Crystal City Station
    • Take Crystal City Station Blue Line to Metro Center Station
    • Transfer at Metro Center to the Red Line
    • Take the Red Line to Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station
    • Walk from the station to Open City
  2. Eat at Open City for breakfast
  3. Walk to the Zoo, Stay until close; Eat lunch in the Zoo at the Mane Restaurant
  4. Travel from Zoo to Chop’t
    • Take the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station Red Line to Metro Center Station
    • Walk from the station to Chop’t
  5. Eat dinner at Chop’t
  6. Travel from Chop’t to Hotel
    • Take the Blue Line from Metro Center Station to Crystal City Station
    • Walk from the station to your hotel
Day Two

  1. Walk from Hotel to Corner Bakery
  2. Travel from Corner Bakery to the National Mall
    • Take Crystal City Station Blue Line to Smithsonian Station
    • Walk to the National Mall
  3. Explore the National Mall monuments
  4. Walk to the Air & Space Museum, Stay until close; Eat lunch at the Wright Place Food Court
  5. Travel from the Museum to Good Stuff Eatery
    • Walk to the Federal Center Southwest Station
    • Take either the Blue line or the Orange line to the Capitol South Station
    • Walk from the station to Good Stuff Eatery
  6. Eat dinner at Good Stuff Eatery
  7. Travel from Good Stuff Eatery to Hotel
    • Take the Blue Line from Capitol South Station to Crystal City Station
    • Walk from the station to your hotel

The Total

View 5 for $500 DC in a larger map

Hotel: ……………$220.50
Food: ……………$223.00
Activities: ………….FREE
Transportation: ….$54.00

TOTAL: ………….$497.50

We came in under $500 with pocket change to spare. If you’re looking for ways to save even more, consider taking advantage of the continental breakfast at your hotel, cutting down on Metro rides with closer food choices, or choosing price over convenience by searching for food outside of your attractions.

Check back tomorrow for the next 5 for $500 challenge!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tags: , , , , ,


I'm Julie, I love to travel, I'm very hyper and I like to "hype" things and from that, TravelHyper was born. I'm a Missouri native and I cover St. Louis travel ideas as well as my own travels. I also like to focus on places I want to visit and budget travel ideas by creating trip plans. There's so much world out there and I hope you'll find that it's worth seeing and that vacation doesn't have to be out of reach to you.

Subscribe to Travel Hyper

Follow for the latest updates and exclusive content on these sites