Help - elderly traveller needs help with D.C. trip

Travel Forums North America Help - elderly traveller needs help with D.C. trip

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1. Posted by athena97 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hello everyone,

My grandfather has just been notified that he has won an award called America's Outstanding Older Worker award (he is 76 and still works full time!). If he accepts, he would be honored in Washington, D.C. during the week of September 22nd at Capitol Hill. FYI - my grandfather (as well as most of our family) is from the Boston, MA area.

His trip is offered to him with all expenses paid - the organization would pay up front for his hotel stay, and they would reimburse him for his flight upon his arrival in D.C. They also will provide him with 2 meals per day at the award events and would also give him a $60 per day stipend to pay for other meals, snacks, etc. Although my grandmother could stay in the hotel room with my grandfather at no additional cost, she would have to pay for her own travel and she would also have to pay to attend some of the events.

Two problems we've run into:

  1. 1 - My grandfather seems to think that it will financially put out some of my family if he were to attend (specifically, he's worried about my grandmother's cost of travel and attendance). I know the costs of the events are non-negotiable, but I didn't know if anyone out there knew about any special tricks of the trade to snag my grandma a cheap mid-week flight or even train ticket to D.C. I'm not that worried about my own costs but I'm trying to show my grandpa that I can find a cheap means for my grandma to travel and that I would pay for it myself. If the price is high, he wouldn't even allow me to pay it for her.

  1. 2 - The award events are taking place on Tuesday 9/23 through Thursday, 9/26. My grandfather had already booked tickets for 9/26 (departing from Boston) to visit relatives in Wisconsin. He actually doesn't need to be in Wisconsin until 9/27, but my grandmother accidentally booked his tickets for the wrong day. I had explained to him that since the organization giving him the award is willing to pay for his round trip accomodations that he could actually SAVE money if he accepts the award because he could charge his trip from D.C. to Wisconsin back to the organization and would only end up paying for his return leg of the trip from WI to MA. He said that my grandmother had tried to call and change his Wisconsin tickets (before she even knew about this award) when she realized she booked them for the wrong date and that they would have charged more than the value of the ticket itself to make the change, something in the neighborhood of $200.

My grandfather is trying to turn down the award and pretend that he's not interested, but the reality is that I know he's excited, I saw him looking over the information and he was looking really pleased until he realized that there would be a cost for family to attend. My family is so proud of him and we're trying to make it work financially so that he will attend.

If anyone can help with tips on cheap flights, any senior citizen deals, or ways to help me get my grandfather's tickets changed with minimal fees, it would be greatly appreciated. Also, if anyone has hotel recommendations that are fairly close to the Gaylord Hotel (8 miles south of DC), I'd love to hear them. Even with the group block discount, the rooms are over $200 per night so my family would probably consider staying at cheaper closeby hotels to save some cash. Also, is D.C. a crazy place to try to drive through and better visited by mass transit, or is a car rental recommended?

Any help or tips you can offer would be warmly welcomed and appreciated!!!!

2. Posted by avf136 (Budding Member 22 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

first of all, congrats to your grandfather! i def think he should attend the ceremony - talk about a memory!
not sure i can help you with flight options, i've never been one of those people who finds their way around all the red tape of the airlines... i can tell you that taking a the train from boston to DC might end up costing as much as a flight, depending on the time of day you travel. plus, i don't know about your grandmother, but neither of mine would be able to handle that long of a train ride...

as far as hotels, i can tell you that the gaylord is over on the maryland side of the potomac - there are only a few hotels in that area that i can think of: Red Roof Inns, Oxon Hil; Best Western, Potomac View; Comfort Inn, Oxon Hill. none of these are "next door" to the gaylord though...

as far as transport in DC, i've lived in DC for four years, and i only drive when i have no other choice. if you know the area well, renting a car might be a fine idea for you, but the public transportation is cheap, easy, and accessible. in my opinion, metro is a MUCH less stressful option. now for the bad news: there is no metro stop at the gaylord hotel resort. there is a bus that runs (according to the gaylord website) every half hour, with limited stops, from the gaylord to the southern ave metro station.

hope that helps you out a little bit! have a great trip!!!

3. Posted by Wonkerer (Respected Member 592 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

So I've done a bit of hunting around and here are my thoughts: Jet Blue or United look to have a variety of flights around that time for under $175 RT from Boston to D.C. As avatar said the closest hotels seem to be in the Oxon Hill area. As far as getting around I would just use the metro and then cabs when you need to. Parking in D.C. can be a big pain, as can driving. Supposedly D.C. streets were constructed so that a crooked politician couldn't get out of town too easily. Which means that a lot of streets run at odd angles, and navigation can be a bit difficult. A metro pass, or even individual tickets, are relatively cheap, and a cab fare here and there won't be bad either. As well, D.C. metro stops are generally very well equipped as far as escalators and such. Best of luck!

4. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2007 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Call up the AARP office in either Boston or Washington, D.C. and explain the situation. I would be amazed if they didn't either pick up the cost of your mom's airfare or else arrange for your parent's transportation once you've arrived in town.
Also, you might consider contacting your Congressman or Congresswoman (or your state's US senators). They might have an idea on how to help you out considering the situation.

If this doesn't work out, consider purchasing a United companion ticket voucher from United directly off their website.

As far as where you want your parents to stay, the Gaylord was in a terrible part of town, but they just remodeled this entire area, and put in a gigantic new "National Harbor" with the Gaylord, Westin, and Wyndam Resorts as the major hotels, and a bunch of new restaurants (like McCormick & Schmick's, Foster's Clambake, and Sauciety).
Check here for info:

The cheapest hotel in the immediate area (near the National Harbor) would be the Hampton Inn & Suites, which is currently running $179 a night (put in Oxon Hill, Maryland on the Hampton's site). Note that it's right next to the other hotels, including the Gaylord.

There is a Comfort Inn about a mile or two away, which only runs $90 a night, but it's in a somewhat dangerous part of town.

Good luck and congratulations to your parents.

5. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2007 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Oh, and make sure your parents fly into Washington--Dulles airport or Washington--Reagan airport, and not into Baltimore-Washington airport (BWI). There is easy transport from the first two (although Dulles is much farther away), but the transportation from BWI is horrendous, expensive, and takes forever (like at least 2 hours).

For this reason, I suggest your parents get a Jet Blue flight into Washington-Dulles (currently $184 RT) and not into Baltimore-Washington airport (currently $175 to $178). If you can afford it, the flight to Washington--Reagan, (which is currently $246), would be much more convenient for them.


P.S. Consider searching using sites like Momondo or Kayak. They will show you all the options.

6. Posted by BryanG (Full Member 19 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Hey there - current DC resident here. Congratulations to your Dad, and do encourage him to come - it is important to show up for this kind of thing! If the room rate at the Gaylord is $200 a night, I am not sure you are going to do much better than that without going out into the suburbs and then you would need a car... Also, the Gaylord is a fantastic property, but hard to get to with public transportation. My advice, pay the $200 and enjoy the convenience to being just steps from the event...

That said, you could stay in an inexpensive hotel elsewhere for say, $150 a night, but then you would eat up the difference in transportation costs...

As far as air travel - Baltimore and Dulles are pretty much the same distance from the Gaylord, and a blue van shuttle will cost pretty much the same. Taxi's in Maryland are more expensive than Virginia though. The cheapest way to get from Boston to DC is to take Southwest from Providence to Baltimore. If you can afford to fly into National Airport, it is just over the river from the Gaylord - a $13 cab ride.

Unfortunately, DC is an expensive place, and the end of September is a popular time, but the memories of attending such an event are priceless!

Good luck.


7. Posted by Ham Radio (Respected Member 286 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Don't forget about Amtrak.

The train runs from Boston (near South Station) right to Washington DC near the Capitol. There is a light rail connection right there, or a convenient cab ride to anything near the Mall. AMTRAK has discounts.

Tell him congratulations.

8. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2007 posts) 15y Star this if you like it!

Good advice from everyone on here--although I should point out that the Hampton I mentioned is directly across the street from the Gaylord. So you can save the extra $21 per night without worrying about being far from the event.

And thinking things over, I realize you can probably save money in the long run (and enjoy your time more) by either flying into Reagan airport, or else taking the Amtrak train down to Washington, D.C.

P.S. In my opinion, the single most impressive building in all of Washington is the train station! Amazing as this may sound, it ranks right up there and I think it actually surpasses the US Capital, the Supreme Court Building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial and the White House!!!

It is located only 2 blocks north of the US Capital building--right in the heart of the city.

Here's a picture:

[ Edit: Edited on Aug 4, 2008, at 12:53 PM by Calcruzer ]