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Emily and I decided to use our Priority Club Sweet Dilemma free nights and my United bump vouchers (I get $400 every time I volunteer and United uses my confirmed seat on an oversold flight) for a weekend getaway to Washington, DC. This trip had a retail price of $ 1392 ($ 752 for 2 nights at The Willard and $640 for 2 air tickets). But we paid $0 for the trip – thanks to taking advantage of the right miles and points promotions!
You can learn how to have similar trips by regularly reading Million Mile Secrets!
We’d had a busy month and 2 days in Washington, DC was just what we needed! The Willard is 2 blocks from the White House and the National Mall so it was a great base from which to explore DC. The hotel has a lot of history, and every US President since Abraham Lincoln has stayed or attended an event at the Willard. Mark Twain, Neil Simon, and Placido Domingo are just a few of the famous people who have stayed at The Willard.
We chose the Willard InterContinental to redeem our points because it was a great use of our free nights! The regular room rate for the King Bed Deluxe room was $329 + $47 in taxes for a total of $376 per night.
And, as a Platinum Ambassador with Priority Club, I would also get a room upgrade, free mineral water and fruit, and a late check-out up to 4:00 pm!
We arrived in DC at 9:30 pm and picked up our card from Dollar Express. Renting a car for the weekend together with parking and gas was cheaper than taking a cab from Dulles airport to The Willard and back to the airport! Incredible, huh?!
I paid only $41 for the weekend rental and also earned 600 Southwest Rapid Reward points which will inch me closer toward a free ticket (I need to earn another 1200 points to get my 16th credit for a free domestic ticket on Southwest).
We went for dinner at an ethnic restaurant recommended in Tyler Cohen’s Ethnic Dining Guide. After dinner we arrived at the Willard at 12:30 am and parked in a garage 1 block away for $23 to avoid paying the $39 valet fee at the hotel.
The lobby was very grand and was dimly lit at night with very tasteful decoration. There were marble pillars and ornate lamps on the ceiling.
Just off the lobby was Peacock Alley – so named because it used to be the place to be seen in Washington, DC and where you were expected to preen like a peacock!
The check-in clerk was friendly and asked us about our flight. He mentioned that I was upgraded to a King Deluxe Room with a view because I was an Ambassador elite member. He also gave me a letter which welcomed me to the Willard and listed my Ambassador benefits. The Willard honored all Ambassador benefits (which they did not have to since this was a free night) except for the free movie.
We took the elevator to the 8th floor and entered our room. Since we were upgraded, our room faced the Washington Monument and Pennsylvania avenue!
The room was 450 sq feet and very tastefully decorated. Next to the bed was a comfortable chair and a floor lamp.
Opposite the bed was a desk with a comfortable leather chair, a chest of drawers, and a flat-screen TV.
On the desk was my Ambassador welcome gift – a fruit platter. I particularly liked the Rambutan – that’s the fruit with the spikes!
Between the bedroom and the room door was a large space for the mini-bar, closet and the entrance to the bathroom.
Next to the bed were 2 nightstands with lamps. Surprisingly, there were no electric outlets to plug in my phone or laptop charger!
In the entrance way to the bedroom was the closet, bathroom, and mini-bar.
Inside the clothes closet were 2 bathrobes, an ironing board, iron, safe, slippers, and a blanket. The luggage stand was in the closet, but the closet did not close when the luggage stand was opened! We had to move the ironing board to get the closet to close, which wasn’t what we wanted to do at 1:00 am at night!
Across from the closet was the mini-bar. It was stocked with all the usual overpriced snacks and drinks. There was a note on the fridge explaining that there were sensors below each item, and removing an item would cause a charge to appear on your room bill.
The note went on to explain that you could request housekeeping to remove the items from the fridge (so that you could store your personal items), but that there would be a “small fee” for the service. This was the first for me! I understand the need to drum up revenue, but I still don’t take kindly to this fee – especially when 1 night in the hotel runs at $400!
The bathroom was decorated in white decor, with white marble floors, vanity counter top, and shower area. However, the rest of the walls were covered with wallpaper.
The counter had the usual amenities including mouthwash, tissue, cotton, Floris moisturizing cream and a nail file.
On the wall was a rather old-looking phone – but I suspect it does the trick during emergencies!
There were Floris amenities (shampoo, conditioner, and body wash) in the shower.
We were exhausted from the long day and went to sleep very quickly. The mattress was comfortable and fortunately our bed did not shake like it did when the Loyalty Traveler visited The Willard!
Seriously – if you want to learn more about Hotel points, you should read The Loyalty Traveler by Ric Garrido. It’s the best source for detailed hotel loyalty promotion reviews!
In the morning we opened the curtains and saw the Washington Monument from our window!
It was a beautiful view and reminded me why I play the miles and point game!
Internet access at The Willard, Intercontinental was $10.95 (even for Ambassador elites). I used tether.com, which is a cool piece of software which allows you to use your smartphone’s internet access on your laptop. Read my review of tether.com here if you don’t want to pay internet access fees at hotels.
We stepped out of the the hotel to go to The Corner Bakery for breakfast, since breakfast in the hotel was $23.95 per person and we wanted to save time. The Corner Bakery was understaffed and was struggling to serve its patrons. But with a little persistence we got our food and were soon on our way.
The Willard is very well situated in DC. As always, Location, Location, Location is very important and The Willard gets an A+! Across the street from The Willard was a view of the US Capitol.
The entrance of the hotel had a covered walkway.
The architecture was in the Beaux Arts style.
Did I mention that the hotel is just 2 blocks from the White House!
Here’s the view of the hotel that featured in the Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report.
Cafe du Parc on the sidewalk
We walked to Bike and Roll, where we used our Groupons to rent bikes to tour the National Mall. We got each bike for $17 – i.e. a 50% discount over the regular price and we earned miles for buying the Groupon through the American Airlines mall. Nothing makes me happier than when I save money AND earn miles! You can read my post on how to earn miles while buying Groupons here.
We biked to the Washington Memorial, and then to the White House.
Our next stop was at the World War 2 memorial, where we saw a group of WWII veterans remembering their fallen colleagues.
After visiting the WWII memorial, we went to the Vietnam memorial. This was personal for us because Emily’s uncle died in Vietnam when he was only 19 years old. We found his name on the memorial and traced it onto a sheet of paper.
Our next stops was the Lincoln memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial before we stopped for ice-cream and returned our bikes.
Back at The Willard we took a few pictures in the lobby
And by the seating area in the lobby.
We learned more about the Willard in the hotel’s History Gallery. The Willard has a history gallery which explains the history of the hotel.
We learned that Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed at The Willard.
So did Abraham Lincoln.
We went back to our room and noticed that even though housekeeping had visited the room , they had not cleared our dirty plates, nor had they replenished our body wash! This wouldn’t be a big deal in a normal hotel, but when you charge $400 a night, I do expect a higher level of attention to detail!
Before meeting-up with friends at night, we stopped by the front desk to let them know about the dirty dishes an replenished body wash. They apologized and promised to take care of it.
When we returned we had a clean room, and turndown service was provided. The breakfast menu was thoughtfully left on our bed along with 2 miniature chocolates. But they had not replaced the soiled napkin which was left on the desk!
On Sunday, we left our bags at the concierge and went for breakfast. After breakfast we went to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. We had only an hour in the museum and saw the original Star Spangled Banner.
After we left the museum we went to Cafe Mozart for an Austrian lunch (we used a restaurant.com coupon) to get $25 off our lunch. After lunch, we went back to the Willard, picked-up our bags and drove to the airport.
I would definitely return to the Willard – it was classy, comfortable, and very well located in Washington, DC! If you are sight-seeing in DC it is very hard to beat the Willard’s location!
Bottom line: We had a fantastic trip in Washington DC, and we most certainly had Big Travel with Small Money. Thanks to our miles and points, we had a $1392 holiday ($752 for 2 nights at The Willard and $640 for 2 air tickets) for FREE.
Was this trip report too long? Was there too much detail? Or not enough detail? This is my first trip report, so please let me know in the comments below!