Frugal Travel Tips For Washington DC

You can not say you’ve seen the U.S. without seeing Washington D.C. Although hotels are costly and parking a challenge, the nation’s capital is full of free attractions and things to do.

The White House And The Pentagon

Entrance to President’s Park is free and gives the frugal traveler great views of the White House. The visitors center has some very nice permanent exhibits. Tours of the White House can be arranged for groups of 10 or more. However applications have to be received at least six months in advance.

Tours are also available of the Pentagon. These also have to be arranged well ahead of time.

Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument

The National Mall And Memorial Parks contain some of the U.S.’s most important monuments. These include The Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument within walking distances of each other. The Mall itself is a great place to picnic and people watch. Entrance is free

Smithsonian Castle

When I think of the Smithsonian, I think of the Smithsonian Castle, the first building. Entrance as with all of the 17 Smithsonian buildings and the National Zoo is free. There are also free tours available. The building itself is beautiful. The exhibits? It’s the Smithsonian.

National Museum of Natural History

Another Smithsonian Museum, the National Museum Of Natural History is a favorite with kids. They have tarantula feedings, dinosaurs, and preserved animals. As with all the Smithsonian Museums, the National Museum Of Natural History is free.

National Museum Of American History

Another free Smithsonian Museum, the National Museum Of American History showcases American culture and history. From Dorothy’s ruby red slippers to full sized locomotives, think of an American icon and you can likely find it in this museum.

Washington D.C. is full of free tourist attractions with American politics, history, and culture as the focus. The Smithsonian Museums alone, a great rainy day alternative, can take weeks to explore. The city is a must see for both American visitors and residents.

Backpacking and Camping Tent Selection

In order to choose the right tent for that hiking or camping trip, you will need to ask yourself the following questions:

Who will be using the tent? Adult, child, a couple, a family.

What do you need the shelter for? Backpacking, camping, back yard, family gathering.

When will you be using the tent? Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall.

Where will you be taking the tent? Desert, Mountains, Forest.

Why will you need a tent? Privacy, protection from weather, bugs.

How will the tent be used? Sleeping, storage, eating, living in?

How often will you be using the tent? Every week, once a month, a couple times a year.

If you are an avid outdoors person, you may need a variety of portable shelters.

Keeping the above questions in mind we will address a few of the considerations in selecting just the right tent for your camping trip. Any portable shelter will need to be a compromise of all the requirements.

Weight – If you plan to backpack the tent any distance then a lightweight tent becomes a prime consideration. Season – Tents tend to be labeled 1, 2, 3, or 4 season tents based on how they will stand up to the weather conditions.

1 season tents are light weight, small rain fly, designed for mild, summer weather. These tents can handle light rain and mild wind.

2 season tents are heavier with a larger rain fly, designed for late spring through early fall usage. These tents can deal with moderate rain, light winds, and cooler evenings.

3 season tents are a very good basic shelter for most camping and backpacking use. They have a rain fly that almost touches the ground with a small extension over the entrance to help keep the inside dry. Many have an extended entrance cover to allow the wet gear to be left protected but not in the main tent. This is usually an accessory. These tents can deal with moderate rain and winds and are suitable for late winter-early spring through late fall to early winter.

4 season tents are suitable for winter camping and deal well with snow and having to live inside the tent during inclement weather. The tent to be made from heavier fabric and use heavier poles.

Size – Typically choose a tent sized one person larger than the number of people you expect to be in the tent on a regular basis. This will generally allow room for your gear out of the weather and at hand for convenience. When backpacking often a 3 person tent is used with one person carrying the poles, stakes, ropes, and perhaps the fly while the other carries the tent body. Adding a vestibule can add a place for wet outer clothing during inclement weather. Food should never be stored in a tent as animals won’t always use the door.

Type – There are several basic designs, A-frame, dome, cabin, tarp.

The A-frame is the classic style needing to be staked out with or without a floor and having 2 poles, one at each end. Some will have extra space under flaps the extend beyond the

The dome tends to be heavier but doesn’t require staking making it much easier to move slightly if needed. The dome often has 3-4 poles. The dome tent gives more headroom and greater stability, a reasonable all round choice.

The cabin is used for larger groups, families, meeting areas longer term base camp providing the most headroom. The cabin often has 4-6 poles, some have a ridge beam, with lots of stakes and ropes.

Tarp – While the tarp is not a classic tent, they can be very effective in mild weather utilizing tarp clamps rather than grommets can make a tarp tent a very versatile shelter and for summer backpacking trips the tarp is very lightweight. Tarps can also be very effective if you select a hammock as part of your sleep system.

So, in summary, in selecting a tent, consider weight, expected conditions, usage, and quality. If you are an avid camper or backpacker quality is going to be a greater consideration than if you are an occasional car camper.

Owen King

Copyright (c) MarOak Designs 2010

33 Travel Safety Tips

Traveling to unfamiliar destinations can bring to you the sort of troubles you do not want to experience while on the road namely: robbery, rape, or murder. Tourists often fall prey to perpetrators because they do not prepare properly before embarking on a trip. Let’s examine some things you should do to prevent your travels from becoming a tragedy:

1. Never list your home address on the luggage tag. If on business, put the company’s address on the tag; if visiting friends you can list their address. Use covered luggage tags as well.

2. Stay with your luggage until the luggage is checked. If you must put your bag down, keep one foot on the handle.

3. Carry important papers with you; NEVER check anything that you simply cannot afford to lose. Photocopy your passport, driver’s license and credit cards.

4. Bring a small flashlight. You never know when you’ll suddenly be “in the dark” and find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. At night, keep your flashlight by your bed.

5. Make sure that your prescription medicines are filled properly and labeled accurately. In some countries certain prescription medicines are forbidden.

6. Never wear anything that projects affluence. No gold chains, expensive watches and rings, luggage, or other paraphernalia should be in easy view. Better yet: leave your jewelry at home.

7. If possible travel with only one or two credit cards.

8. Women particularly should never accept a drink from a stranger. Keep an eye on your drink at all times.

9. Vary your schedule; try not to come and go at the same time everyday.

10. Only stay in a hotel that uses cards to open room doors and make sure your room has a peephole and a deadbolt lock. Secure the chain and secure the door by pushing a rubber stop under it.

11. Stay in a room near a stairwell. Never take the elevator if a fire or smoke is detected. Always stay in a hotel where the doors enter the hallway and not directly from the outside.

12. Do not wear name tags in public.

13. Do not use unmarked taxi cabs.

14. Sit behind the driver so you can see him, but he cannot see you.

15. Pay the driver upon arriving at your destination and while you are still sitting in the vehicle.

16. If you must rent a car, rent only from a reputable company. Any operating problems that occur could signal sabotage.

17. Be aware of ‘staged’ car accidents meant to catch you off card.

18. Back into your parking spaces to facilitate a quick exit.

19. Park only in well lit and well traveled areas.

20. If your cell phone does not work outside of the country, consider renting one that does for the duration of your trip.

21. If detained for whatever reason by an official, ask for identification. If in doubt, tell them that you want to see his superior. Keep your emotions in check.

22. If traveling with children, bring along an updated photograph of each child in the event that you become separated from them.

23. Write your child’s name and your hotel number on each card; include a close friend’s or relative’s contact information on the card. Give a card to each child which they will carry with them as long as you are away. Destroy once home.

24. Discuss with your family what they would do in event of an emergency while away from home, e.g. whom to call, how to contact emergency personnel, etc.

25. Do not discuss travel plans, your room number or any other personal information in public within earshot of strangers.

26. Bring along a basic first aid kit with bandages, iodine, mosquito repellant, sunscreen, alcohol packets, dramamine, pepto bismol, diarrhea medicine, etc.

27. Familiarize yourself with train and bus schedules before traveling. Have an alternate plan in place in the event your transportation plans change.

28. Do not flash your passport in public. Discreetly show important documents to officials only.

29. Consider purchasing portable alarms that emit a loud sound.

30. Watch for scams on the street. Children working with adults are notorious as pickpockets.

31. Never flash your money in public. Exchange funds with reputable and recognized exchangers only.

32. Have tips ready in advance for service personnel.

33. Consider renting an escort [security] service if traveling in areas where crime is high.

The key to safe traveling in any area is situational awareness. Distractions because of luggage, children, hotel personnel, strangers, etc. can put you at risk. Know your surroundings and stay in control of every situation.