|Washington D.C. is one of those trips everyone needs to take at least every third or fourth year. Kids growing up need to see their seat of government first hand so they establish some identification with it, and adults need to revisit these sights periodically. Washington was for a century a standard school trip, either through social studies class or as a class trip, usually in the sixth, ninth and 12th grade. Budget cutbacks and overemphasis on testing have eliminated most of these school trips, so families and Scout troops will have to fill in the gaps. Organizing a Washington trip does require some thought and advance planning, because while everyone is guaranteed the right to tour every building and see their government at work, the number of visitors has forced some regulations, and security concerns have established certain safeguards. You have to contact your senator or representative at least three months in advance to guarantee tickets for the White House, Washington Monument or Congress, and you need at least a month's advance to guarantee a reservation at one of the Mall hotels. You should also think carefully about when to go. Witnessing a Fourth of July on The National Mall is a tremendous experience, but the crowds are overwhelming. Every fourth year the Boy Scouts hold their Jamboree at nearby Camp Hill, and for 10 straight days busloads of boys from all over the nation will flood The Mall. The Eastern Mall is much less crowded when Congress is in recess, but of course you also do not see them debating bills on the floor when you tour the Capitol Building. The Western Mall is crowded on the Memorial Day weekend and on other military related holidays like Veterans Day. Weather is also a factor. School is out in the Summer, so it seems an obvious time for kids to go. But July and August are so oppressive in Washington that Congress adjourns then. The heat and humidity are worse in DC in those two months than in Florida or New Orleans. A Spring Break trip would be much more pleasant, especially if it coincided with cherry blossom time, when the Western Mall is at its most beautiful.