Although there are always risks with PL, for me, the savings way outweigh the risks, so I always prepare myself for worst-case scenario before I bid... Problem 1: We get one room with one bed for 4 people. Solution: We purchased an inflatable queen-sized bed and pump at Wal-mart for about $25 as well as 400 tc cotton sheets at Ross for $18. They are always on the packing list and in the van if necessary (only used once when we turned down 2 doubles in order to get a king!). Note: most hotels have extra pillows and don't charge for them as they might for a rollaway, so I don't bother packing pillows. Also, this problem is highly unlikely in an area that has many single, business-type travelers... most room requests are FOR single beds! Problem 2: We get two rooms, but they're not connecting, adjoining, or even on the same floor. Solution: If rejected for all three requests here (I think very rare), my hubby and I would split the kids between us... in your case, one adult plus 2 kids in one room, and one adult plus 1 kid in the other. There are many benefits to having 2 rooms besides the bed issue; remember you'll get 2 Tvs, and especially, 2 BATHROOMS which will cut your shower time for everyone in half. As for your DC-specific questions, I think the most convenient area to the Smithsonians is CC/CH. You will probably pay a small fortune ($20+) just to self-park at a hotel in DC, so make sure you include that in your budget. You will usually find lower accepted bids with lower parking rates in areas like Arlington and Crystal City. Keep in mind that you may get a hotel without a pool. I let my kids know that up front and remind them of the purpose for this trip... we'll be having lots of fun seeing all the stuff in the museums, etc., so we probably won't miss having the pool. Keep in mind that DC is an urban area, and there are shady-looking characters everywhere.... if this concerns you, again, consider the business-area suburbs included in the zone such as Arlington and Crystal City. The one zone I would avoid is Dupont/Woodley Park/Adams Morgan due to several factors. However, if that was the only area I could get a successful bid in, I wouldn't let it keep me from going either! DC requires a ton of walking. Metro (subway) helps, but pace yourselves carefully. Prioritize the sites as you can't see them all. Consider splitting up the walking-intensive part of your vacation with a side trip to the National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. Call the office of your representative or one of your senators YESTERDAY so that they can help you plan, sign up for WH tour if you like... definitely accept their offer of a tour of the Capitol. Cheap eats: Potbelly's (cool sandwich and milkshake chain) and anywhere Congress eats (I like the variety and prices at Longworth Office Building Cafeteria-- it'll be the best cafeteria food you've ever eaten; also, the Senate Dining Room at Dirksen Office Building is fabulous and includes yummy ice cream for dessert). Make sure you check tripadvisor for ideas on sites and restaurants. The DC on Foot tour used to be #1 and it's free (tips only); we went and highly recommend it, esp. for the kids! One more tip: I always try to keep cheapo breakfast and snack foods in the room: cereal bars, individual applesauce cups with plastic spoons, bread, peanut butter, Pringles, a case or two of bottled water, etc. If driving, stock up at a Wal-mart or something well outside of DC. I'll end my manifesto here. Happy travels!