As part of my recent mileage runs to China, instead of only going to Beijing as others had, I mixed it up and found flights to Shanghai (the Beijing fares were disappearing fast). This is stay was the night before a flight departing Washington Dulles – IAD.
“You should fire your travel agent”
Those were the sage words from a fellow traveler when I asked another person near him, a local from DC, how long of a car ride it is to Washington Dulles from Washington National Airport. She had asked why I would be staying near Dulles if I was flying into National, a valid question. I told her that it was a sort of connection, that my arrival into DCA was really only to position me for the next morning’s departure from Dulles to Shanghai via Dallas. It turns out it takes about 40 minutes.
The gentleman piped in as teased before:
“You should fire your travel agent”
To which I replied: “I am my travel agent.” He looked away and we did not speak again as the bus moved us from the parking stand on the tarmac to the terminal at DCA.
I was already pulling up Lyft, after having a bad experience with Uber in the city. An Uber driver my wife and I were using at the time was issued a citation as a result of picking us up and after the tone the city had taken towards Lyft (though I am sure the same extends to any similar service companies) I just didn’t want to use them again in Washington DC specifically.
I had flown into Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) the night before because I was able to secure the tickets for just 4,500 British Airways Avios points and $5.60 in taxes. I learned long ago not to tinker with a mistake fare and so once I had the trip in my “cart” I was not going to hunt for a more convenient flight and risk missing the deal. Just book it and be done with it. So I did and the inconvenience of the 49 minute transfer was minor in the grand scheme of things.
My driver arrived quickly, payment was of course handled over the app. At times when I chose to speak he was great to carry on a conversation, though for much of the ride I was reading and returning emails and was left alone to do so.
I like Uber, I like Lyft and depending on where I am changes which of the two services I use. If you don’t use them yet or want a promotional credit you can use mine here (Lyft Free $20 Signup – Uber Free $20 Sign Up). You get an incentive and so do I. But this post isn’t about either of those services.
I pulled up to the hotel just before 11PM and checkin was a breeze. There were breakfast instructions and while I just wanted to skip the charade and walk to the elevator, it would take longer and probably come off as curt so I endured. She asked about a wake up call, I told her it would be for 3AM. She looked at me as to say, “Why even pay to stay the night” with which I admittedly at first agreed. I revised to 3:30 in favor of the 4AM shuttle – live a little, right?
There are theories in the frequent traveler community that favorable treatment can be procured if a special requirement is added to your plans. For example, it’s no secret that most coach meals are barely edible, but many will select the Vegetarian option and claim it is far better than the standard “beef” or “pasta” options.
I didn’t ask for the Hypoallergenic room and because I do not believe that selecting this is necessarily better than what I would get as a Diamond member with Hyatt, I never select it but on this occasion – it selected me.
There was a large humidifier in the room, and for most guests, they could easily consider the room a junior suite. Walking in, there was a desk and chair to the left, straight ahead was a couch and sitting area (with the humidifier), a large dresser with a mini-fridge to one side and the television rotating on top separated the sitting area from the bed. The windows faced the airport area generally, though there was no direct view of the runways, just approach and departure traffic which in the middle of the night was pretty limited.
The bathroom was the standard American variety with the vanity and sink outside of the bathroom and the toilet and bathtub with shower over tub in the bathroom. It was fine, but not exceptional by any means.
The Taxi or the Free Shuttle
I wasn’t really sure what to do. My flight was to depart at 5:30AM, the hotel was purportedly 10 minutes away. The first shuttle was at 4:00AM arriving at departures at 4:10-4:15. I know from the reports of others (though I had not yet used the airport myself) that the terminal is separate from the checkin counters. I would have to stop at the checkin desk to obtain my boarding passes as they were international and American isn’t great at a digital boarding pass for tickets to China.
I would also have to hope that I was the first one dropped off, that there was no one else leaving before me, that the shuttle was on time and that it would be quick and easy to get to my departure gate. But in exchange for playing it a little tighter on time, I could save myself the $10-15 taxi charge and sleep in a shade longer.
If you have an early morning departure like me, don’t sweat it. I had plenty of time. Too much time really. The shuttle left on time, I happened to be the first dropped off (of two on the bus), there was no wait for any of the checkin lines at American. The longest part of my journey involved me convincing TSA that though I had TSA Precheck on my boarding pass, I did not want to wait another 15 minutes for them to open instead of going through normal security which was open and had no line.
Will I stay there again?
Sure, the hotel offered a great value for the money, and I will stay there again in the future, hopefully next time it won’t be such a late night and such an early morning.