Stay in Virginia
Unless you like throwing away money, you can stay at a similar hotel in Arlington Virginia for a fraction of the cost. I recommend the Homewood Suites near the Rosslyn Metro station. They have a free shuttle to Rosslyn Metro which will connect you to the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines.
Use the Metro Rail
If you love driving around and seeing endless brake lights, then by all mean, hop in your automobile. Overcome your fear of confined underground metal bacteria tubes and use the Metro Rail. I’d suggest starting at $20 per rider and refilling it as needed. You can get to all the major sights by using this transportation method if you don’t mind a little walking to and from the Metro stations.
Contact your Senator
If you plan ahead you can contact your state Senator and book a White House, Capital, and Library of Congress Tour. The Capital tour was my favorite because it was a small group and our guide was very knowledgeable. We also got to ride the underground people mover from the Senator’s office to the Capital Building. Plus we got to go in rooms not available to the general public.
Pack Light (most of the time)
For Government buildings, you will be restricted to small purses or handbag. Don’t bring a backpack with everyone’s lunch or water bottles. If you take a capital tour with your Senator’s office, you can leave your backpack in the air-conditioned office and pick it up when you are done. You can take pictures and they will let you know with vigor when you can’t. Small point and shoot camera or your smartphone are fine. Do not attempt to bring your SLR with a 600mm lens.
Bring a reusable water bottle and snacks
For times you can bring a larger bag (museum days), fill a reusable water bottle with ice from your hotel. Most places have those filtered reusable water stations that remind you haven’t killed any sea turtles today. There aren’t many options to eat at the National Mall, so pack a few snacks so that you don’t have any hangry meltdowns.
Minimize your walking
Don’t try to do the National Mall in one day. Going from the Capital Building to the Lincoln Memorial is quite a haul. We did it, it is possible, but I regret it. Try to plan your museum visits based on your metro stops.
Use the DC Circular
To help minimize your walking there is a large red bus that will stop at all major spots in and around the National Mall. It’s only $1 for as long as you ride. Some drivers will let your kids on for free. Good for getting from one end of the National Mall to the other.
Suggested YouTube Channel: Trip Hacks DC