The ultimate weekend in Washington D.C.

Your mentors, Carly and Mike, shine the spotlight on the nation's capital.

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This week, I’m taking a break from featuring someone else. It’s been a big couple weeks for our family. Adelaide Grace, our first child, was born on May 7. This week, Carly, Adelaide, and I are your travel mentors.

Carly and I went a lot of places during our first 4 years of marriage. We’ve been all over the United States and abroad to places like Greece, Belize, and Aruba. In 2019 we took our first long-term trip, two months with a backpack around Southeast Asia.

The idea for Your Travel Mentors was born on that trip. Meeting long-term travelers from all over the world, I learned that your average travel advice is missing something. Visiting a destination for a week or two can give you a taste of what it’s like, but stay there a month and you’ll make a deeper connection to the people and culture. I learned that long-term travelers have a wealth of knowledge that isn’t often found on traditional sites used for travel-planning, such as TripAdvisor. My goal is to help you connect with these travelers, learn from them, and as a result be more confident when planning your next trip.

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Travel tips from Carly and Mike

“Shoulder seasons” are the best seasons

This is the time period between the peak and off-peak travel seasons. For much of the United States and Europe, summer is the most expensive and busiest travel season. Kids are out of school and the weather is great. Off-peak season is in the winter when the weather is cold and days are short.

If you can swing it, travel in between those two seasons, in months like April/May or September/October. The weather in most of the U.S. and Europe is mild, and prices are cheaper due to the decreased travel demand.

Shoulder season varies depending on where you’re headed. This post provides a list of shoulder seasons around the world.

Plan your trip, but be flexible

This might seem impossible, but there’s a framework we use for this. We compile a list of hotels and transportation options for the duration of our trip, but we sometimes don’t book any of them. Instead, we save links to all of these options in a document for easy access. Then, as we travel we can easily reference the links we saved to make our bookings when we’re ready to commit. This strategy doesn’t work all the time (think peak seasons when hotels are often sold out months in advance), but combine this tip with “shoulder season” travel and you’ll end up with a flexible trip.

You’ll feel prepared but still have the option to change your plans at a moment’s notice.

Destination spotlight: Washington D.C.

Carly and I lived in Arlington, Virginia, a city just across the river from Washington D.C. for 5 years. Why did we love living in the nation’s capital?

  • A transient population results in a melting pot of cultures and a diversity. Every neighborhood is different and restaurants feature food from all over the world.

  • There’s an endless amount of free and cheap activities. This is one major city that does not have to be expensive to visit!

Read on for our DC travel guide and an opportunity to receive some exclusive content!

Washington D.C. Trip Itinerary

Tour the monuments and memorials

Visit the most famous monuments in the city, including the Washington Monument and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. They are all incredible works of art and an ode to the country’s history. We also recommend a visit to two of our favorite, lesser-known memorials. The FDR Memorial is a walk through the presidents 4 terms, the only president to ever serve longer than 8 years. The Air Force Memorial has one of the best views of the DC skyline from the other side of the river in Virginia.

Get outside at Great Falls Park

Located just 15 miles outside of the city, the park features a section of the Potomac River with waterfalls and raging rapids. The water puts on an incredible show, especially after a heavy rain. You can enter the park on either side of the river in Virginia or Maryland, and both sides have hiking trails and incredible views of the falls.

Visit the Smithsonian Museums

Rainy day got ya down? The Smithsonian Institution museums located throughout the city are all free to visit and most are indoors. There are 11 located on the National Mall, all within walking distance of each other. Our favorite is the National Archives, where original versions of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are on display.

Travel tip

DC is full of bike lanes and off-road bike paths which make it easy to visit the above sites by bicycle. You can sign up for a 24-hour Capital Bikeshare pass which offers unlimited 30-minute bike rentals and over 500 stations to pick-up and drop-off the bikes in the city.

Planning advice

Hotels in DC are expensive. Stay just across the river in Crystal City, VA, where the hotels are cheaper and downtown DC is just a short metro ride away. You’ll be right next to the airport (DCA) and most hotels provide free shuttle service.

Use this search to get you started.

👋 Share this post, get exclusive content

We spent our 5 years in Washington D.C. finding the best food spots and narrowed it down to our 17 favorites. Want the list? Just do the following!

  1. Share this post with at least one friend.

  2. Shoot me an email at and let me know that you shared it.

  3. I’ll send you the list!

It’s that easy. And you’ll be helping this newsletter grow! Here’s a sneak peek of a place you’ll find on the list!

Follow Carly & Mike

Follow our family on Instagram @togetherexploringlife.

You’re more adaptable than you think. You don’t need much. Travel forces you to practice being adaptable, which becomes so valuable in everyday life.

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Marlaina is traveling and working abroad in Cambodia. Read her story and travel tips in last week’s post.

👉 Follow me on Twitter, where I provide even more travel advice that doesn’t make it into these posts.

🏝 Interested in becoming a travel mentor? Contact me.