So you’re going away for the weekend and are forced to pack lightly to follow today’s airline rules. Unless you want to check your luggage, which usually requires a fee, you're limited to one carry-on and one personal item.
And with strict dimensions set for your carry-on—22 x 14 x 9 inches on American, United and Delta Airlines—you don’t have a lot to work with: You have to fold, stuff, and squeeze everything you need into a bag the size of a briefcase. You must be prepared to leave certain items behind.
Obviously you want to take only essentials—it's always a bummer to come back from a trip and realize you didn’t wear half of the clothes you packed, brought too many reading options for the flight, or packed a bulky hair dryer that you didn’t need.
Everyone has different things that they can’t live without on a trip. For some, toiletries take up the most space in a suitcase. For others, it is shoes. Yes, you think you want options, but they will weigh you down. It could force you to check your bag if it’s unable to fit or is too heavy to lift into the overhead bin.
Here are some tips on how to efficiently pack what’s the most important to you in one carry-on suitcase:
Put shoes on the bottom.
Lay clothing flat to guarantee less wrinkles.
Bring fewer cosmetics and toiletries than you need and in small sizes. You can always buy things at a drugstore, too.
If you have a makeup routine, downsize it to the essentials (foundation, mascara, done). Or bring multi-functional makeup (BB cream, cream blush).
Plan your outfits. If you don’t like planning ahead, limit yourself to three outfit choices for the two days. Pack neutral-colored clothing so you can mix and layer pieces.
Wear your travel clothes on the way there and back. Make it comfy.
Use your other plane-approved item (purse or backpack) as a last-resort place to put extra things.
~65 miles from Washington, D.C.
Cunningham Falls offers two unique areas for campers: the William Houck Area centers around a 43-acre lake, with access to boat rentals and swimming. The Manor Area sits three miles out from an aviary and the historic Catoctin Iron Furnace in Frederick County. This state park has tent, RV, and cabin sites available for Sunday and Monday night. Pets are allowed with proof of vaccinations, but alcohol isn't without a permit obtained in advance. Electricity and showers are available. 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, MD 21788; call (301)271-7574 or book reservations online.
~12 miles from Washington, D.C.
This Maryland campground doesn't offer water or electric hookups, but if you're seeking an escape from modern conveniences, that may be ideal. It does offer 10 miles of trails, as well as easy access to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens and the Goddard Space Flight Center. This campground has availability for RVs and tents from Thursday through Monday night, at $16 per night. Pets are allowed on a short leash. Showers are available. 6565 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, MD 20770; call (301)344-3948 or book reservations online.
~29 miles from Washington, D.C.
This Maryland campground offers over 25 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails, and is located nearby the Hyattstown Mill Arts Project and Splash Playground & Mini-Golf. About a dozen tent sites are still open for Friday night, although no electricity is available. Showers and water spigots are available. 23701 Frederick Road, Clarksburg, MD 20871; call (301) 528-3430 to book reservations.
~23 miles from Washington, D.C.
This family campground is full of fun, offering everything from hayrides and pools to the basics like showers and laundry facilities. It's located only 12 miles from Six Flags America and 13 miles from Chesapeake Beach Water Park, which opens for the season this Saturday. Only tent sites are available for the weekend, but they have water access and pets are allowed. 5381 Sands Road, Lothian, Md. 20711; call (410) 741-9558 or book reservations online.
~142 miles from Washington, D.C.
This Maryland campground offers two camping areas: Shad Landing and Milburn Landing. Shad Landing offers more amenities to campers, such as electric hookups and a centrally-located washhouse. Although the Milburn area has limited amenities, pets are allowed. Rowboats, electric boats, canoes and kayaks are available to rent, and fishing, hiking, and hunting are common outdoor activities here. Local attractions include the NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the Delmarva Discovery Center. Both RV and tent sites are still available. Shad: 3461 Worcester Highway, Snow Hill, MD 21863; Milburn: 3036 Nassawango Road, Pocomoke City MD, 21851. Call (888) 432-2267 or book reservations online.
~37 miles from Washington, D.C.
As part of the Prince William Forest Park, this campground offers access to 37 miles of foot trails, 21 miles of paved road (great for cyclists), and 18 miles of streams for fishing. The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and the Manassas National Battlefield Park are nearby. Tent sites are available through the weekend. 6975 Oak Ridge Road, Triangle, VA 22172; call (703) 221-7181 or book reservations online.
This national park offers four campgrounds with walk-in availability for the holiday weekend, along with backcountry camping. Try an earthcache or view the Blue Ridge Mountains from the Skyline Drive. Pets are allowed on most nearby trails with a leash. Call (877) 444-6777 or book reservations online.
You Want to Picnic Like an Heiress . . .
Shortly after Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal heiress, bought her Northwest DC mansion, she decided that someday the property would be open to the public. And open it is: Hillwood, with 25 acres of spectacular gardens and woodlands, not only welcomes picnickers, but the visitor center will lend you a blanket and a picnic map. You can bring in outside food (though not alcohol); beer, wine, and other beverages and food are for sale at the Hillwood Café.
Insider tidbit: The suggested admission fee also gets you into the mansion—gleaming with Fabergé eggs and thousands of other treasures Post collected—where, starting June 6, the exhibit “Ingenue to Icon” is displaying many of her gowns and other couture.
4155 Linnean Ave., NW; 202-686-5807. Suggested donation: $15; seniors, $12; college students, $10; ages 6 through 18, $5; under age 6, free.
The official kickoff to summer may be Memorial Day weekend, but nothing says summer like a festival—and there are plenty going on this weekend. Here are four good ones, for example:
In Reston Town Center, more than 200 artists from across the country will display and sell their art and crafts—including paintings, jewelry, sculpture, and photography—at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, now in its 24th year and one of the largest independent outdoor art shows on the East Coast. The festival runs on Saturday, May 16, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, May 17, from 10 to 5. Our advice: Get there early to get a parking spot, because the festival tends to draw more than 30,000 visitors. New this year are hands-on art activities for children at the Reston Town Center Pavilion. There will also be live dance performances at Town Square Park. A festival entry donation of $5 is requested for everyone over age 18; the money supports the Greater Reston Arts Center. Or you can buy tickets ahead of time online for $4.
The written word more your thing? Head to the Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday, 10 to 6, at the Gaithersburg City Hall grounds. This year, more than 90 local, national, and international authors will present and sign their works, including David Axelrod, Susan Coll, Jeffery Deaver, James Grady, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Michelle Knudsen, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Clarence Page, and local chefs Bryan Voltaggio, Cathal Armstrong, and Nora Pouillon.
If music is what soothes your soul, check out the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Saturday from 11 to 9 and Sunday 11 to 8. A premiere blues showcase (the festival is more than 17 years old), this year's lineup features headliners Gregg Allman and Buddy Guy. Advance-purchase tickets are $65 for one day, $115 for both (if bought by May 15); tickets at the gate are $80 or $140; children under 12 are free. Proceeds go to local charities. You can bring low-back lawn or beach chairs, and blankets; there will be food and drink for sale.
Have a taste for strawberries? The 25th annual Potomac United Methodist Church Strawberry Festival is Saturday from 10 to 4. Along with quarts of berries and all manner of strawberry desserts, there will be children's games, a silent auction, and more than 25 vendors selling everything from jewelry to chocolate.
Although the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail is a work-in-progress, 15 of the planned 28 miles are complete, so I took the Green Line south to check out the waterfront. I started on the south side of the river, worked my way through Anacostia, went across the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, and around Yards Park. The views were both breathtaking and surprising. Take a Sunday to explore Southeast DC, have lunch at Osteria Morini, or just snag a lounge chair to nap by the river.
Snag a lounge chair in the park and relax a while.
From the south side of the Anacostia River, I could see Nationals Park, the futuristic-looking footbridge heading the Navy Yard side of the trail, and a smoky-colored battle ship that blended into the water.
This footbridge had an intriguing design and opened into an airy courtyard. On the spring day I visited, brilliant red flora contrasted against greenery, and the blue-sky backdrop cast the structure into even sharper relief.
Crossing the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge by foot was a bit nerve-racking. The narrow walkway (shared by speedy bikers and acrophobic pedestrians like myself) is wedged between a busy road that trembles as cars pass and an open-faced railing with shadowy currents beckoning below.
Photographing this wooden structure was a must, even though it meant hanging my camera over the railing for an angle that captured its majestic size.
Nationals Park is within walking distance of the trail, but on this particular day, the stadium was eerily silent. All the action was further down the trail at a kids' carnival outside of Osteria Morini.
Although I'd heard numerous jokes about the filth that flooded the Anacostia, I didn't expect to see trash floating in plain sight along the otherwise beautiful river. You can also see litter bordering the ropes around the ship in the photo below.
The USS Barry sits on the north side of the Anacostia River, in front of Washington Navy Yard. The ship is set to be towed and scrapped this year before construction on the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge shuts down the drawbridge and landlocks this Forrest Sherman-class destroyer.
Faded-neon kayaks and lightly dressed athletes overtook this floating dock, home of Ballpark Boathouse. The company rents out kayaks, paddleboats, and canoes, and it also offers lessons.
Edited by Sherri Dalphonse
Washington is a city that loves to walk, and can you blame us? Our region offers scenic urban strolls, lovely waterfront rambles, rocky mountain hikes, and lots of other panoramic paths.
Lake Needwood in Rockville offers miles of shady hiking trails, secluded picnic areas, and scenic views of the 75-acre lake. (15700 Needwood Lake Cir.; 301-948-5053).
This article appears in our May 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
At Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station, a scenic walking trail nearly five miles long circumnavigates the gorgeous 218-acre lake surrounded by woods and open fields. Free admission for county residents, $10 a car for nonresidents on weekends and holidays. (7315 Ox Rd.; 703-323-6600).
This article appears in our May 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
Named for the famous conservationist and onetime Silver Spring resident, Rachel Carson Conservation Park in Brookeville offers six miles of trails through a landscape of forest, ponds, streams, and fields. Hikers should look out for orchids (the park has several species) and aquatic animals such as newts and salamanders. (22201 Zion Rd.; no drinking water or restrooms).
This article appears in our May 2015 issue of Washingtonian.