I just returned from a week-long east coast trip. Our group of five (my wife and I, our kid and my in-laws) had an amazing time in New York and DC -- this is our first visit to the New England area and I certainly have lots of observations to share:
The Good: TripAdvisor is the hidden gem for online hotel booking. For all major hotels, TripAdvisor keeps a series of comments from people who lived in the premises before. You can still use other sites for booking, but TripAdvisor helps you to know the places you will stay much better than the rating systems at Expedia and Travelocity.
The Good: Homewood Suites by Hilton is a great place to stay, especially for a large group like us. The DC Homewood Suites exceeded all our expectations: the suite is roomy for five; free breakfast and dinner (a.k.a "evening manager reception") saved us at least $50 a day; two TVs and complimentary broadband Internet provide great pastime during our free time. It only costs us $129/night + tax.
The Bad: My usually practice when it comes to hotel booking is to search Expedia and TripAdvisor for the best deal, then go to the website of the hotel operators (like hilton.com) trying to get a better deal. Unfortunately, in both occasions, hotel operators refused to give me a better rate so I have to go with Expedia. (The good of the bad: by clicking through Upromise.com, I saved 1% for all Expedia bookings.)
The Good: Calling a taxi in NYC is so easy, and the fare is reasonable -- almost anywhere in Manhatten is between $5-$10. Actually it is cheaper than taking the Metro when you have five people travelling together.
The Bad: Lots of traffic jams! The 5th and 6th Ave at Manhatten is crowded even during non-peak hours.
The Bad: Too many toll roads between NYC and DC. Almost every state and every bridge ask for more money. Sometimes a $2 toll causes a two-mile congestion. Driving in the Pacific Northwest is much more pleasant.
The Good: Flying with JetBlue is a great experience. The 30+ channel DirectTV programming fills most of our time for the five-hour coast-to-coast flight. Free wireless hotspot at the NYC terminal is a plus too.
The Bad: Delta Air Lines' customer service sucks. I have to stay on the phone for two hours to change a flight. Honestly, I don't want to fly with Delta again.
More to come for sightseeing and shopping post mortems...