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.

Gadling take FIVE: Week of Dec. 6-12

Humor is a great travel tool, particularly if you’ve had a bit of bad luck like I did when I was pickpocketed this week in Copenhagen–or if the tide is high and the streets have flooded, such as what has happened in Venice. In Venice’s situation, as Jeffery points out, there’s hope in boots.

Or, perhaps that travel companion you thought you were in love with has turned out to be a bust. Brenda has a few tips to prevent that from happening. But just in case you are stuck with Ms. or Mr. Dreadful, a laugh can help.

Whether you’ve had some bad luck, or you just want a reason to smile, here are some of the stories this week that have a humorous edge.

  • Scott’s post on learning British accents in 7 minutes may help you speak like a Brit, or not. The guy in the video does present various sayings you may not have considered before.
  • Aaron’s post on Steven Colbert’s chat with TSA critic Jeffrey Goldberg provides a humorous look at how airplane security is currently a waste of time.
  • Although air rage is not a funny matter, particularly when it’s happening to you, the behaviors Abha describes in her post on what happens when people do get surly on board have a certain chuckle factor. Plus, reading about how badly other people have behaved makes me feel better about my own tense moments. At least I’m not that bad.
  • The picture alone in Mike’s post on the Babykeeper Basic made me smile. When I read his description of how the contraption also keeps a child from absconding with belongings while you pee, I laughed.
  • Then there’s Annie’s post with the video of a slowed down version of an in-flight safety video. Smoooooookinggggg is noooooooottt allooooowed. Clever.

Here’s hoping there’s fun in your life this weekend.

Stephen Colbert chats with TSA critic Jeffrey Goldberg

In case you missed it this past week, Stephen Colbert sat down with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, author of a recent article called “The Things He Carried,” a scathing criticism of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). In the interview, Goldberg echoes many of the points he made in his provocative article, including the fact that airport security is designed to give passengers the appearance of security, not actual security.

Goldberg says: “When you walk into the airport, you become a bit player in a federally-funded theatrical performance.” Then he goes on to show Stephen that, on his flight to New York, he managed to sneak two box cutters onto the plane, as well as a Hezbollah flag and an “World Hero: Osama bin Laden” t-shirt. (You probably shouldn’t try that at home.)

After Colbert mentions that he’ll probably find himself on the No-Fly List after the episode airs, Goldberg says that he’s been trying to get on it for two years, but with no luck.

Read Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic here, which Gadling first reported on here.

Gadling Take FIVE – August 9–August 15

Yesterday afternoon I was on a WiFi quest with no luck, so here’s the
Take FIVE a day later.

While I was on my WiFi quest with no luck, Gadling welcomed a new blogger. Meg Massie has an interesting way to get around the world. Her husband is a professional bridge player. Meg travels for other reasons too. Bridge is just one of them.

Along with the welcome addition of Meg, there have been a mix of culture related posts from entertainment to food, plus, there is a new feature thread called Gadling Covers the Olympics.

From the humor angle: If you missed Jerry’s post on Stephen Colbert’s tour of the Cantons of America, here it is. Along with poking fun at Canton, Ohio (on the list of the top five cities that are dying in the United States), Colbert also pokes fun at other towns called Canton.

  • From the gastronomic angle:Jefferey lamented the absence of his beloved döner, Turkish kebabs from Concierge.com’s list of the world’s best street foods
  • From the cinematical angle: Josh pointed out the popularity of Indian musical movies in Africa and wonders how much Bollywood will take over Hollywood’s place here.
  • From the musical angle: Aaron pointed us in the direction of Asian music that has gained a following
  • And, from a capturing an aspect of culture yourself angle: Scott posted on great price on a Fuji camera.