Travel Money Diaries: Amanda in Washington, D.C.

My cousin Jackie, two years my senior, used to drive me to and from the University of Maryland -- where we both attended from 2012 to 2014 -- for the holidays. I would sit in the car while she ran into Starbucks before we began our glorious four-hour drive back to New Jersey and New York, during which we sang along to The Lumineers and complained about boys. But then she graduated, and I had to get home on the least glamorous mode of transportation: a bus. These bus lines always promised the possibility of $1 rides; alas, I never secured the first spot on my trip. 

It wasn’t until Alicia texted me in July that Megabus had uploaded its fall schedule, with plenty of $1 rides available, that I booked my trip for Sept. 22 to Sept. 24. Finally, I wouldn’t have to pay $50 or $60 for two crappy bus rides. Although I had scheduled the trip to visit my friends who stayed in Washington, D.C., after graduation (hypothetically), it was mostly for the $1 bus ride from New York to Union Station.

I left Friday at noon, so I spent the morning working remotely at the High Line, an elevated outdoor park on the west side of New York City. Rather than schlep my bags across the city to get lunch, I ordered Seamless to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, where I was waiting for my bus. With the tip (this man walked to bring me a salad and he was rewarded for doing so), delivery fee, taxes and cost of my spicy shrimp salad, my lunch cost $18. Similarly, my bus dinner home -- Chop’t ruins budgets -- also cost $18.

My friends met me for happy hour on U Street Friday evening, which led to a few of us paying for the others’ drinks. I spent $20 at happy hour, which was more than I should have paid, but I was a little too drunk to care. Hopefully, our waitress was happy with the hefty tip. We walked over to Ben’s Chili Bowl, an iconic D.C. spot, where I paid $5 for a hotdog and shared a friend’s fries. We reconvened at a bar on 14th Street later that evening, where I stuck to water rather than liquor.

Throughout the weekend, my friends and I took cabs across the District. Between that and the $10 I added to my Metro card, I spent $50 on transportation. Although it was more than expected, the convenience made the cost worth it.

I attended another friend’s birthday brunch on Saturday morning, which cost me $32. I also bought her a birthday pie; my former roommate, who was in London for the Ravens game, and I split the bill, so the gift only cost me $6.

Later in the day, five of my friends and I saw Marjorie Prime at the Angelika Film Center pop-up, just a block away from Union Market. The matinee ticket was $8, and I had a $2 scoop of gelato prior to the show. For dinner, we walked around the market; I ordered $10 pasta with bolognese sauce, which I obviously spilled on my dress.

My friends and I went to two house parties Saturday night, so we didn’t spend money on anything but cabs. The next morning, a friend and I walked to an El Salvadorian restaurant adjacent to Eastern Market, where I bought a tilapia sandwich for $10. We then visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I changed my bus from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to see the museum, which required me to pay an additional $30 -- negating my $1 ride to the District. Considering how hard it is to get museum tickets, I didn’t mind spending the extra money to change my bus. I also got to meet Jemma in real life! She happened to be at the museum that day as well.

Overall, I spent $239 for a really great weekend. Completely worth it.

-Amanda 👡 

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