Washington, D.C. hotel booking tips for the Oct. 30 rally

Like thousands of people who are either fans of Jon Stewart and/or Stephen Colbert, I’ll be D.C.-bound for the Oct. 30 rally. And like so many travelers, I intend to keep costs low for the spontaneous trip. Or at least I’ll try to.

Here are 3 strategies to help you (and me) stay on a budget:

Tip #1: Cash in any frequent-flyer points, hotel loyalty points, or other rewards that you’ve accrued.

The day after Stewart announced the rally, I checked the meager balance of my Starwood Preferred Guest account and was thrilled to see that I had actually earned a free night from a previous promotion. (Spending two nights at the Element Hotel near Houston earlier this summer had qualified me for a free weekend night.) I was skeptical about my chances of redeeming the points but called the 800 number anyway. I could hardly believe it when I found out that yes, I could redeem the points and better yet, I had enough to nab one of the last rooms at the W Hotel (the going rate at the time about $300; that hotel has since sold out).

Tip #2: Check B&Bs, but expect a two-night minimum.

Before I could crow too loudly about my free night, I learned that the rally would start at noon. My plan to take an early Amtrak train down to D.C. was derailed when I saw that all the morning train tickets from New York City had sold out. The only tickets left meant that I would arrive at Union Station well after the rally started.

Because I’d dawdled when it came to booking, I’m now forced to head down on Friday night and pay for an extra night’s hotel. And that’s when I ended up with the same problem that many travelers are facing: many D.C. hotels in convenient locations are already sold out, or the only remaining rooms are well over $300 per night. So much for traveling on a budget.

I did manage to find some $150 rooms at www.bedandbreakfast.com, but was disappointed to see that many required a minimum stay of two nights. I wasn’t about to cancel my existing hotel reservation in order to book two nights at a B&B… which leads me to Tip #3.

Tip #3: Book prepaid, non-refundable hotels.

Though I try to avoid booking non-refundable rates, this event is one of the few times where I figure that the prepaid rate is worth the gamble. My total price at the Westin Washington D.C. — $185 with taxes — is definitely not the cheapest rate out there, but it’s close enough to the action that it’ll do.

Other tips & strategies:
1. Alexandria, Va., is a 25-minute Metro ride away.

2. Check www.busjunction.com for affordable bus tickets to D.C. For travel on Friday, Oct. 29, I found one-way BoltBus tickets from New York’s Penn Station to D.C.’s Union Station for $23, which includes free Wi-Fi. I wish I could say the same about Amtrak.

3. After reserving my hotel, I checked in with the Washington, D.C. tourism board for other booking tips. I was reminded that Oct. 31 is the Marine Corps Marathon so hotels in Arlington will likely be busy.

4. There’s always Priceline, Hotwire, Craigslist — or crashing on someone’s couch.

Have you found a great D.C. hotel deal that’s valid for the Oct. 30 rally? Feel free to brag.

[Photo by Amy Chen]

March on Washington with Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert

Miss the Glenn Beck / Sarah Palin rally in DC a few weeks back? Here’s your chance to march on Washington – with a significantly more fun crowd. Last week, Jon Stewart began spreading the word that he planned to hold the “Rally to Restore Sanity” in Washington, D.C. on October 30th with “all reasonable people welcome.”

“Think of our event as Woodstock, but with the nudity and drugs replaced by respectful disagreement; the Million Man March, only a lot smaller, and a bit less of a sausage fest; or the Gathering of the Juggalos, but instead of throwing our feces at Tila Tequila, we’ll be actively *not* throwing our feces at Tila Tequila,” said Stewart.

“Join us in the shadow of the Washington Monument. And bring your indoor voice. Or don’t. If you’d rather stay home, go to work, or drive your kids to soccer practice… Actually, please come anyway. Ask the sitter if she can stay a few extra hours, just this once. We’ll make it worth your while.”

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” will be in Washington, DC to broadcast “When Grizzlies Attack: The Daily Show Midterm Teapartyganza,” a week of shows as part of its ongoing “Indecision 2010” coverage of the fiercely contested midterm elections. The special episodes will feature news and analysis on heated races across the country from host Jon Stewart as well as reports from “The Daily Show” News Team.

Never one to be outdone, comedian Stephen Colbert announced that he will also be in the city on October 30 to host an opposition rally, aptly titled the “March to Keep Fear Alive.”

“America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear – that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty. But now, there are dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our Fear – forces with salt and pepper hair and way more Emmys than they need,” said Colbert.

“They want to replace our Fear with reason. But never forget – “Reason” is just one letter away from “Treason.” Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can’t afford to take that chance.”

In preparation, Gadling will be posting away in the next few weeks with new content about this hotbed of political activism, including guides to the best places to visit, sleep, dine, and of course, get your fill of blue coats and red power ties.

Where the Hell is Matt video used on the Daily Show to show Obama election celebrations

First I recognized the music, and then I saw him. Matt Harding dancing on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

In a segment to show the world’s reaction to Barck Obama’s election win, The Daily Show wove snippets of Harding’s video Where the Hell is Matt? with footage shot in various countries of people celebrating. The song played throughout, and location names flashed with each scene change just like in Harding’s original.

In Daily Show fashion, there was a bit of fun mixed in. Sure there were the shots of real people dancing on Tuesday night woven in with the original video, but there was more. There was Jennifer Grey jumping into Patrick Swayze’s arms in Dirty Dancing in Catskill, New York, Jimmy Stewart dancing in a movie party scene I couldn’t place in Bedford, NY, a Star Wars dance scene at Third Moon, Endor, and Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf in Beacontown, Pennsylvania.

Although I couldn’t find that video by itself, you can see it on the Daily Show web site in the November 6 episode. You’ll find it at the 9:53 marker, but start watching at 9:46 to get the lead in.

Because we’ve been longtime fans of Harding’s work (see posts), it was a pleasant surprise to see it surface in another form.