White House Tour Question(s)

We are going to DC in June and my understanding is that you can submit WH tour requests up to 3 months out but not further so waiting a bit longer, am I on the right track? Also read that you can submit through congressperson or senator, is one better than the other and/or should I do both to be safe?
Also…what do we do with our stuff for the tour?! I just read that no backpacks or even purses are allowed…glad I read up before hand but again, what to do?? We will be touring the city like most people for the whole day and don’t plan on going back to our hotel to drop stuff off, then back to WH then back to pickup stuff, just not practical. I can’t be the first person to ask this lol…we may have to do just “outside the WH” pics…we’ll have two kids with and can’t have NOTHING with us…

Depending on your state, congressional reps generally represent just a portion of the state so are often more responsive. I’d contact them IMMEDIATELY. If they aren’t responsive, then go the senator route. (Check their website to see if they have info posted,)

We went last June and were told that White House tours are very hard to get booked, so you want to have made contact well ahead of time to try to get one booked. (Ours had an online request form that was a fairly goofy, but it got us in email contact with the right person.).

We firmed up our dates too late to have any chance at White House tour, so I can’t speak to bag issue, but we did go to the White House visitors center which is a block over and has a more normalish security policy. It has a lot of neat displays and histories, so was a decent substitute for the actual tour.

We went in May a few years ago. Submitted request through rep. There are actually a couple of tours you can request through them. We did not get approved for White House tour so be prepared. The visitor center amvanhoose mentioned is really good. It was a great trip and my DS’s have asked to go back.

I live in the DC area and we’ve done “outside the WH” pics several times (but never the inside tour yet). A great place to do that is over by the Renwick museum. If you have any other questions for me I’ve done most of the museums and other attractions.

We went through our congressman (for the reason @amvanhoose mentioned). We did not get a WH tour, but we did do a Capitol tour and really enjoyed it.

We did the White Tour in 2014 and sent our request just to our congressman as soon as the window opened. I don’t remember why we only sent our tour request to our congressman. Our Congressman’s office did not confirm a tour time until a few weeks before our trip.

If you really want to do the White House tour, I suggest that you be as flexible as you can be. We listed a few available time slots ( i.e. June 1st AM, June 2nd PM, June 3rd all day). We were in DC for 10 nights.

We hardly ever go bagless. We normally each have a backpack but had to forego it on the day of the White House tour. We ended up with a 1 PM White House tour. So, we slept in that day and had a leisurely brunch at our hotel, Embassy Suites in Arlington, before heading to the White House. We had our camera without its case and each of us (at that time DD16, DS14, DH, and me) had a wallet and phone in our pocket as we headed out the door. We went to the White House Visitor Center first before the tour. After the tour, we took some pictures outside before returning to the Visitor Center to finish up and buy some stuff. We walked around the area before heading to an early dinner at Founding Farmers. We were backended by Washington Monument tickets to the top at 7:30 PM. Did we miss our bags? We missed not having our water bottles and snacks. After the tour, we just bought drinks. You are in the city. You can buy whatever drinks and snacks you need. Hope that answers your questions.

Additional Tips
To maximize control of our schedule and flexibility, we scheduled whatever tours we could and wanted ourselves. The White House tour was the only one we couldn’t schedule ourselves. We scheduled the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Capitol tours ourselves. That locks in specific reservation times without opening up so many timeslots to the Congressman’s office until the last minute.

At the time, we couldn’t bring bags into the Capitol either. We wanted to have our bags so we split up. We scheduled DH and DS for an AM Capitol tour, and DD and me for an afternoon Capitol tour. We met up for lunch outside the Capitol. Whoever was not on tour carried the bags, which included a picnic lunch. When not on the Capitol tour, we self toured the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the National Postal Museum.

There is so much to do and see in DC. We plan to return soon and see stuff we missed the first time around.

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Random tips.

We did brunch at Founding Fathers and it was outstanding. Let me know if you any other restaurant recommendations. It’s a fabulous food city.

There are food trucks EVERYWHERE but many are meh carnival food. The better food trucks are the ones just off the mall where the office buildings are because they get repeat business from capital workers. (There is a huge lottery system on which food trucks are where.). If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll look up the street names for the better ones.

We did most of the tours mentioned. There are genetic capital tours you can book, but by booking through our congressman our tour was just us and one other family from our district. It was led by our congressman’s intern and he did an excellent job, but YMMV.

We got this book to keep the kids engaged:
Mission Washington, D.C.: A Scavenger Hunt Adventure (Travel Guide For Kids) https://www.amazon.com/dp/0989226778/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apip_EOeAozMEfDTlc

In the Library of Congress, there is a super nice children’s reading room but it’s a little tucked away so be sure to ask after that if you go. I hung out there with the littles while my husband went and got a membership card so he could actually go out on the floor.

The Spy Museum and Museum of the Bible were both outstanding as well.

We stayed at One Washington Circle Hotel. It’s a 20 min walk off the mall, but super close to a subway station and for the same price as a hotel on the mall, we got a huge room with a separate bedroom and a kitchenette.

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I used to work for a Member of Congress and while we always submitted all White House tour requests, we rarely got them. They sometimes come through last minute.

Call me biased, but IMHO the tour of the Capitol is much more interesting and impressive and you can take your bags with you! The Capitol is truly spectacular.

If you go to any sites that are run by the National Park Service (the memorials on the Mall, the Frederick Douglass house etc.) You can get a junior ranger guide book for your kids and they can earn Jr. Ranger badges.

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We just went on a White House tour a at the beginning of February. We saw someone with a bag who was not allowed to enter. I searched everywhere for a place to put our bags, but could not find any, so we uber’ed back to our hotel after the tour to get our bags for meetings we had later in the day. I had thought about asking our Legislator who got us the tour if we could leave bags at their office, but our tour was at 8am, so it would have been a hassle to stop there and then metro or bus to the White House. I did hear there are lockers at Union Station, but I did not check that out.

I used the number provided on the link from the White House website to contact my Congressman’s office. A staffer there took our info and the dates we were available, and then we received an email with our time. I would call asap to get the ball rolling. When I first called, the staffer I needed to speak with was out of the office for a week, and I had to wait for them to get back to me.

When on the tour, stop at each area and ask every worker a question or just ask them what is interesting to them about the room. They have so much knowledge to share, but only seem to talk when asked questions. Also, when you get to a door that goes outside, do not go out until you are ready to be done with the tour. Once you go out, you cannot re-enter. We thought we were going out to look at something and would come back in, but it was the end! It’s a pretty short tour, but you can make it as long as you want based on how slow you go and you can back track or stay as long as you want until they close. They told us they always close by 10:30, and everyone is out by 11:00, so they can use all the areas for the rest of the day.

If you stop at the visitor center to use the bathroom before going into the White House, you cannot bring in any beverages. We saw people have to throw away their expensive full cups of coffee, so they could go in.

Let me know if you have any other questions!

The tour was nice, but quite short.

A couple other tips - check out websites on how to use the Metro system and the DC Circulator bus. You can get a card for 1 and then you put on it. Each person needs their own card. Card are good for the subway, bus and the DC Circulator. The Circulator is $1 each time you get on, and makes around 13 stops around the mall and monument areas. When I have stayed outside of the city, we parked near Union Station and rode it all day. When we stay in the city, we use the metro the whole time. If you fly into DCA the metro goes right to some of the hotels.

Also really enjoyed the Trolley tour of Moonlight monuments - bus ride that takes you to several monuments after dark - they are really beautiful at night. The bus is partially open, so it can be chilly, so dress warm if it’s not summer. They will pick you up at or near your hotel and drop you off after.

This is a valid idea. Our congressman’s office invited us to leave our stuff at the office while we did the capital tour. I’ll bet they’d allow it if you asked nicely. Depending on which office building your rep is in and how mass transit routes look, that might be best to Uber.

My husband told me to clarify that if you take White House selfies outside of the Renwick which I suggested it is the back of the WH…but, you will be surprised at just how close you can get. I will add to the others’ suggestions that two fantastic places to eat on the Mall are the National Gallery, with 3 cafes, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Both of these are Smithsonians and therefore free to get into. At the NGA there is one cafe next to an indoor waterfall.

We did the WH tour during spring break 2017. Looking back at old emails… we requested through our Senator’s office well in advance, but did not receive final confirmation until 8 days prior.