Trip Results Washington DC

This past weekend I flew to Washington DC for the Star MegaDO Launch Party.  You can read about the party here and here.  I’m not going to write about the MegaDO or the launch party – at least, not today.  Today’s post is a different kind of trip report:  Frequent Miler Laboratory style…

Experiment 1: Buy flight to one airport, fly to another

The launch party was held at the Crystal City Hyatt, a stone’s throw from Washington National Airport (DCA).  From Detroit, flights to DCA were quite expensive, but flights to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) were cheap.  I had the crazy notion that I might be able to do a same day confirmed change so that I could fly to DCA instead of BWI (since the airports were in the same general area).  If I had bothered to do 10 minutes of FlyerTalk research ahead of time, I would have known the results…

  • Result: FAIL
    I have Platinum elite status with Delta, so on the day of the flight I called their Premium Service number.  The woman who answered was very nice and she even tried to make the change, but told me that the system wouldn’t allow it.

Experiment 2: Use iPhone GPS for driving directions

To get to DC from BWI, I rented a car.  I could have taken Amtrak (Marc doesn’t run on weekends) and then the metro, but the round trip combined costs would have been higher than the car rental.  I could have brought my old trusty Garmin GPS along, but I wanted to see how well my iPhone could do instead.  A while ago I had downloaded the free MapQuest app which gives spoken turn by turn directions.  Time to give it a spin!

  • Result: PARTIAL FAIL
    On the plus side, the MapQuest app had clear, loud, spoken directions.  However, there were a few big negatives: 1) It doesn’t show a driver’s perspective view of the upcoming turns (or I didn’t figure out how to make it do so).  Sometimes “make a slight right” is hard to interpret when there are multiple options; 2) I had no way of mounting it in the car so I could see it; 3) It routed me directly through the heart of DC instead of going around (as Google Maps would have routed me).  This last one was the real killer since it plopped me right into a mass of traffic and traffic lights.  In the end, I did get to my hotel, so it wasn’t a complete failure.

Experiment 3: Free parking

One downside of driving was that the hotel I had booked (the Radisson) charged $20 per night for parking.  Luckily, a friend on Milepoint told me that the nearby Crystal City Shops had free parking on the weekends.  I drove past the Radisson, turned left, and turned left into the free parking.  No hassle, no cost!

  • Result: SUCCESS

Experiment 4: Club Carlson Gold Status benefits

Last year, I asked Club Carlson for a status match based on my Priority Club Platinum status.  For that, they granted me Gold status.  In one prior stay at a Radisson, I didn’t get any special treatment for this status, but I was curious if this stay would be different.

  • Result: SUCCESS
    When I checked in, I was upgraded to their “Penthouse Suite”.  On the elevator, I pressed “P” to go to the penthouse level where there were a number of suites.  My suite had a living room, bedroom, two bathrooms, and separate shower and hot tub in the master bath.  Very nice.  On the other hand, it had the same crappy pillows presumably found in the rest of the hotel and I forgot to bring my travel pillow…

Here’s a grainy photo of the suite’s living room:

photo


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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. I also find iPhone GPS directions mostly ineffective. I use the GPS for general routing ideas and then for very specific narrowing in purposes (i.e., where am I or where is it?). Old school directions (follow the signs) usually works better than GPS.

    In the listed scenario, I would have found directions between the airport and hotel on the hotel’s website, asked the hotel when calling to confirm reservation (a chance to schmooze the staff), or at least from the car rental staff.

    Best wishes!

  2. Tom Tom app actually works pretty well.
    (FM….Jailbreak your i buddy….there’s another world out there)

    Mind writing up a blog on all the emails accounts for status matching?
    Ie priority club…..etc
    I know you’ve done one for Carlson

    We can probably do piggy backings, so right after A hotel gives Status, we start on B hotel

  3. For Iphone directions – try the “Waze” app.
    I started using it for turn by turn GPS directions around 2 months ago.
    It has a bit of a social networking aspect – other drivers using the app can report traffic/police/road work, etc, and it will recalculate the best route. Obviously, this works better the more people use it.

    You can also view various routes in mapview before selecting (like you can in google maps), so you could select a route that avoids a city center.

  4. I wish I knew! You can take the bus from BWI airport to the green line on the Metro and then take the metro straight to Crystal City.

  5. FM, keep one of the cameras from the next big double dip deal – between your camera and the decor it looks like you went back to the 70s and found that the room was still recovering from a ganja fest smoke-out the night before…

  6. Deja Vu

    I flew Buffalo-BWI on SouthWest last X’mas
    Took bus ($6/person?) to Green line metro and to Radisson Crystal City as well

    Got slight upgrade to a suite (1 bed + 1 sofa-bed) as CC Silver, and earned my 50K Big Night bonus 🙂

  7. I second the Tom Tom iPhone App, it has generally worked pretty well for me (I’ve been using it maybe close to 2 years now or so).

    @dealswelike Taking the metro from Greenbelt to Crystal City would be a very long ride on the metro, although there’s no transfers at least.

    One possiblity might’ve been transferring UR to amtrak points…but I’m not sure if they also charge 4k for a train ticket from BWI to Union Station, because that’s probably not worth it.

  8. The directions with the google maps app on the iPhone works perfect. Everywhere I have traveled it has been a life saver, I would never choose a 3rd party app, they are all garbage compared to google maps, but then again I don’t want a robot telling me where to turn, I just prefer to read and see where my turn is.

  9. I was at the DCA Radisson last Sat night too with the matched Gold status. They put my on the 7th floor with what they said was an upgrade but I couldn’t tell what that was from. What time did you check in? I should have gotten there earlier. Free breakfast and free drink at the bar was nice though.

  10. I second using the “Waze” app. I’ve been using it for a few months so far and it’s great (greatest part: FREE). Plus, it gives you a heads up about police and speed/red light cameras. It shows you a driving view (unlike Mapquest), and it has turn-by-turn (audible) directions.

  11. For those who use android, you can plot the best route in google maps desktop and e-mail the link to yourself. Then using Android, click the link and ask it to use Maps app. You can then select the same route using Navigation feature.

    I test drove this from BWI to Alexandria, VA near Crystal City and successfully avoided the default route through Washington DC. The car rental was only ~$20 + gas from BWI to DCA, completed in ~40 minutes thanks to early morning arrival on the weekend. Taking public transit would have been ~$8 on the weekend and 2+ hours.

  12. Parking in DC is always a hassle, let alone traffic, I normally take the buses from Chinatown to travel in/out of DC and Metro when staying in DC. The hotels in Alexandria are pretty cheap compared to DC.

  13. I do know that an unpublished benefit for Diamonds used to be the ability to SDC to a co-terminal airport. I imagine that BWI and DCA would work. I had only used it before for JFK and LGA. Since I am at Plat this year, I have missed that perk a couple of times! Love your blog!

  14. I do the DTW-DC route a few times a month. You were very close with your plan regarding BWI instead of DCA. They will never SDC you over the phone, but check the schedule, and you’ll see that there is almost always a flight departing to DCA within 10 minutes of the BWI flight. Just go to the gate and ask to be put on standby for the DCA flight… as a Plat, I’ve never had a gate agent turn me down. Thanks to wonderful Delta revenue management, the DCA flights usually fly with 20+ empty seats, so you’ll clear immediately, and off to DC you go! Doesn’t help for the return trip, you have to go to BWI for that, but it’s better than nothing.

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