My absolute favorite part of the digital nomad lifestyle? Planning last minute adventures.
That’s exactly what my January trip to Washington, D.C. was. My little brother LOVES D.C. Even though he had only been to the city a few times back in high school during his debate team days, it’s his favorite spot in the whole world. So when I found out that he would have a short gap between when he quit his last job and started his new one, I jumped at the chance to take him back and to visit Washington, D.C. for the first time myself.
So just days after finding out that he had a short break, we found ourselves sitting at the Amtrak station in downtown Cincinnati, waiting for a train that was already almost eight hours behind schedule. Little bro and I had both always talked about taking a cross-country train trip, and the tickets were cheaper than any flights at that time. But it wasn’t meant to be.
We were originally supposed to leave Cinci at 2 am. I got a call at midnight that our train was stuck in Chicago.
We arrived at the station at 8 am. At 9, the train was stuck in Indianapolis. With the bomb cyclone rapidly approaching the east coast, we knew that even if our train did make it to Cincinnati, we’d be looking at even more lengthy delays.
So while the little bro booked us an Uber, I got on my cellphone, signed up for United Airlines credit card to get a $100 credit, and booked us both a one-way flight leaving at 10:30 am. We made it to the airport, breezed through security, hopped our plane, and landed in D.C. less than two hours later. When I turned my phone off of airplane mode after our flight, I had a notification that our train had been delayed again. We had actually made it to D.C. before our Amtrak ever arrived in Cinci. From the airport, we hopped a bus to take us to a Metro station, then three more trains to get to our hotel in the Navy Yard district.
We called it our “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” Adventure: in just a few hours, we’d been in a car, a train station, a taxi, a plane, a shuttle at the airport, a bus, and several Metro trains.
The rest of our trip went very smoothly. We spent our first day wandering the monuments. In fact, we walked to every single on in the sub-freezing weather. While I would love to go back when I wouldn’t have to wear layer upon layer of clothing, the gray skies and dusting of snow made the monuments look even more regal. We ended up being very grateful for the unexpected extra day that we got after booking a flight instead. The fabled bomb cyclone hit the east coast our first night, and while D.C. didn’t get a heavy snowfall, it did get incredible winds and sub-zero temperatures.
We spent the next three days exploring several of the Smithsonian museums. Having never had to chance to visit Washington, D.C. before, I naively thought that with three full days, we’d be able to see all of them. If you’ve been to Washington, D.C., you know why that’s so funny. If you haven’t, I’ll let you in on a secret; these museums are massive. As in, so massive that you’d really need two or three days to see EACH MUSEUM. And there are seventeen of them.
We started at the National Museum of American History.
The sheer amount of artifacts and exhibits is almost overwhelming. My brother and I aren’t the types to pass by a sign without reading it, which meant that we moved very slowly, and ended up having to rush to finish in whatever museum we were in at the end of the day.
My favorite exhibit in this museum was the First Lady section, which, among other artifacts and information, housed a collection of dresses worn by these women at different events.
The next day we visited my favorite Smithsonian (so far at least), the National Museum of Natural History.
Half the museum is full of taxidermied animals of every species you can think of. There are also sections dedicated to early human development, the oceans, bugs, Africa, and more. If you visit Washington, D.C., this is definitely a museum to budget an entire day for. There really wasn’t a part of the museum that I would have wanted to skip.
On our last full day in D.C., we visited the National Air and Space Museum.
This one was pretty incredible, but as a proud Ohio-native, I have to say that I still prefer the National Museum of the USAF at Wright Patterson Air Base in Dayton, Ohio. But the National Air and Space Museum was very impressive. It’s packed full of shuttles, planes, and various other vehicles, each a larger-than-life piece of history that you can see and sometimes even touch.
Since launching my digital nomad lifestyle, I’ve developed an obsession with flying, so my favorite part of this museum was learning about the history of air travel. It’s incredible to think about how much commercial aircraft have changed in such a short amount of time. Just decades ago, flying was financially out of reach for most people. Those who could afford it spent hundreds of dollars to fly in cramped, cold quarters that shook and rattled so much that you wouldn’t have been able to eat or drink comfortably, let alone work. Now, I regularly fly roundtrip for under $100, and sit in a cushioned seat in a warm plane, sipping a coffee and writing on my laptop.
Usually, when I travel, I try to pack as much exploring in as possible.
But the frigid temperatures and crazy winds made doing anything outdoors impossible. We didn’t rent a car for this visit so we couldn’t stray far from the city. My brother is a huge movie aficionado and has a Movie Pass, so we actually ended up going to see movies two of our evenings after the Smithsonian museums closed. We got back to our hotel earlier than I would have normally liked. But thanks to my digital nomad lifestyle, this also meant a chance to make some extra cash by spending my evenings working!
On our last night, we spotted a Car-2-Go. It’s a short-term car rental program where you use an app to find a vehicle in your area to rent for your chosen amount of time. You aren’t allowed to leave a certain area, but its a great way to get around quick. The only downside is that you have to get to wherever the available vehicles are, which is wherever the last renter left it. But D.C. had a lot of these cars, and we had no problem finding one. We used it to take a drive through downtown D.C. and around the monuments one last time.
On the last day of our visit to Washington, D.C., we had another transportation adventure.
I had booked us a flight out of Maryland because none of the D.C. area airports had service from budget airlines. So we had to take a Metro to the train station, where we [finally] took our first Amtrak trip. It was less than an hour, but it was still cool, and it has me dreaming of my next train trip. The Amtrak dropped us at a shuttle station, and a bus delivered us to our terminal where we caught our Allegiant flight home.
It was an exciting, sometimes frustrating, chilly trip, but I fell in love with the city and already can’t wait to visit Washington, D.C. again soon!
Want to be able to plan last-minute visits to Washington, D.C. or anywhere else you’re dreaming of? Join my mailing list below to receive all the latest blog updates packed with tips on living the digital nomad lifestyle and traveling for less!