One of the most important decisions during your trip planning is to decide where to stay. You want to pick a place that’s convenient but affordable. You need accommodation that’s safe and comfortable. Is renting an Airbnb apartment a better and cheaper than booking a hotel? Before you book an Airbnb in Washington, DC, here are a few important questions to consider.
What are the best hotels in Washington, DC? Where is the best area in Washington, DC to stay when you visit? With over 100 hotels in DC and hundreds more in the suburbs, there is no simple answer to this question.
However, you should not despair! We created this guide to help you figure out where to stay in Washington, DC. We identified the best hotels in DC based on location, reputation and prioritized hotels near DC Metro. Furthermore, we included all of the major hotel brands (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG) and some independent properties. Also, we marked any freebies the hotel offers. For instance, free breakfast or happy hour are including links to reviews on TripAdvisor and other reputable websites.
Are you thinking of coming to Washington, DC? Be sure to get our Washington DC Trip Planning guide. Buy this book if you’re a modern traveler and want insider tips and travel hacks to help plan your trip. This book is not your grandfather’s travel guide. It’s not even designed to replace those dusty old books. Honestly, the value of traditional travel guides for today’s traveler is debatable. In the pre-smartphone days, travel books gave you colorful fold-out maps, big directories with phone numbers for hotels and restaurants so that you could keep all this vital information at your fingertips. Although, today there is Citymapper, TripAdvisor and Yelp all just a tap away. You can Google search to find the phone number for any business and have them on the phone in seconds. Why lug around travel directories when everything you need is already inside your smartphone?
Trip Hacks DC is all about tips and travel hacks. Everyone needs a plan. So, we wrote this book with the modern traveler in mind. Washington DC trip planning is very crucial. The content that follows is curated to focus on the things we think are most important for planning and enjoying your trip. We cut out all the fluff and the long lists. Also, we cut out the maps, because you can use Google Maps or Citymapper once you’re here. Although, We are not the tourism board and are not trying to sell you on the city. You are considering this book because you want to come to Washington well-informed and equipped with insider guidance. We are excited to share the honest realities of what it’s like to visit Washington, DC.
If you’re coming to Washington, DC and want to know what you need to pack in your suitcase for the trip, we are here to help. Don’t forget to download your free packing checklist as well. Here is what you should be packing for you Washington DC Trip.
Below are some of our personal reccomendations. There are a lot of great products out there in all of these categories, so don’t feel like you need to get these exact items. However, we picked them in order to help give an example of what you should be looking for.
There are three Washington, DC Airports – which is the best? Well, it depends. Read on to learn more.
The three airports in the Washington DC area are: Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), Washington Dulles International (IAD) , and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). There are pros and cons to each of these airports. Reagan National is by far the closest, just across the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial. Dulles is considerably farther, about 25 miles from the National Mall and BWI is the farthest, about 35 miles away.
Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA)
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is the preferred DC airport by most locals. We love it because of the sheer convenience. In fact, this is probably one of the most convenient airports in the entire country. The airport is so close to the city that you can actually see Washington DC landmarks from your seat on the plane.
The airport is so close that you could potentially get from your gate to your hotel downtown in less than 20 minutes. Since the distance is so short cabs are really cheap. A ride downtown should cost you less than $20, even with tip. You can use Uber and Lyft here, which will probably cost around the same as a cab. However, be warned that you can spend more time just waiting for your Uber driver to pull around than the actual ride into the city. This is also the only airport with a Metro station right at the terminal and a ride downtown will cost less than $3 per person, even during rush hour.
Cost to fly to DCA
Historically you paid for the convenience of DCA in the form of higher flight fares. A lot of locals used to brag that they would happily pay higher fares to fly out of DCA rather than make a long haul out to one of the other two airports.
However a few years ago something interesting happened. For most of the 2000s, U.S. Airways was the dominant carrier at DCA. Then in 2013, they merged with American Airlines. The Justice Department ruled that as part of the merger, they had to give up some of their slots at DCA. 3 airlines: Southwest, JetBlue and Virgin America (now Alaska Air) picked up those slots. The routes that they chose to operate on them often competed directly with the new American Airlines.
In the airline industry, there is nothing better for fares than a little healthy competition. So today if you’re lucky enough to live in a city that has two or more airlines competing for your business to DCAl, it might actually be the least expensive of all of the airports! Bottom line is that if the price and the times work out, prefer flying here over the other airports.
Washington Dulles International (IAD)
The second of the DC Airports is Washington Dulles International. While many people love Reagan National for its convenience, those same people often hate Dulles for its inconvenience. Dulles isn’t just far away from the city, it’s also hard to get to. The trip here from the National Mall is about five times as far as from Reagan National!
A taxi downtown will cost you about $60 – $70 plus tip. You can use Uber and Lyft at Dulles but the prices fluctuate. So, you can’t really know for sure until you arrive.
You can also consider SuperShuttle which right now costs $30 for the first person in your group and then $10 for each additional person. But make sure to do the math because if you’re a group of four you might not actually achieve any savings over a taxi.
Eventually, Metro’s Silver Line will have a direct connection to Dulles and that will be great, but unfortunately it’s still not ready.
You take the Silver Line Express bus, which connects between the airport terminal and the Wiehle–Reston East station, which is the current end of the Silver Line. That trip will take you about an hour and a half depending on how long you have to wait for your bus and for your train. It will cost between about $9 and $11 for the two fares depending on whether you ride during rush hour or not.
Another option is to take the 5A Metrobus which is a one-seat ride from the Dulles terminal to L’Enfant Plaza in downtown DC, and from there you can take the Metro to your final destination. For now the 5A runs at 40 minute intervals during weekdays and one-hour intervals on the weekend. The bus costs $7.50 to ride, plus the Metro fare to get to your final destination. And be careful because every year it seems like Metro proposes cutting this route, so make sure to double-check before your trip to make sure that it’s still running.
International Flights to IAD
United is the biggest domestic carrier at Dulles. There are also a handful of other domestic airlines and a good number of international airlines. The biggest benefit to Dulles is the number of international non-stop destinations. So if you are traveling internationally from Washington, DC you don’t have to make an extra stop before continuing on. If you do find a cheap flight to Dulles, double check and do the math. Make sure that with the ground transportation, it actually is a good deal.
Baltimore Washington International (BWI)
Baltimore Washington International or BWI is technically the airport for Baltimore. In 1973 they decided to rename it to Baltimore-Washington in order to attract people who live in or traveling to Washington, DC. It is the biggest of the three airports by passenger count, which makes sense since it is an airport that’s serving two major cities.
A cab ride from BWI will cost you about $90 plus tip. Uber and Lyft is available here as well. If you hire a ride, it will take you about 40 minutes to an hour to get downtown in ideal conditions. However, during rush hour it could take much longer because traffic on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway can be brutal. SuperShuttle is available here but to get to DC it costs $41 per person. So, it is really only economical if you’re a solo traveler.
One big benefit of BWI over Dulles is that even though they’re both far away, there’s a train station at BWI. There is a free shuttle to take you to the train. From the BWI train station, you can take the MARC commuter train into DC for about $8. You can also take an Amtrak train for about $16. There’s also a metro bus called The B30. This will take you to the Greenbelt station at the end of the Green Line. Then,you can ride Metro to get into the city. The B30 costs $7.50 plus your Metro fare, so the total cost will be somewhere between $11 and $13.
The B30 is more useful for airport employees than travelers. It winds up costing more than the MARC train. It is also slower and less convenient. However, if your final destination is somewhere on the Green Line then it could actually make more sense. Metro frequently proposes cutting this bus route. So, please double check before your trip to make sure that it’s still running.
Cost to fly to BWI
BWI historically had a reputation for being the cheapest airport in the area. That is because its primary carrier is Southwest. So there’s a lot of advice floating around on the internet that says to fly to BWI because you can get cheap Southwest flights. However, these days that advice might not hold anymore. Southwest has approximately 75% of the total domestic market share at BWI. That means that most of their routes are operating with zero competition.
Now, there are some routes like Boston, Atlanta, or Las Vegas where you can get some amazingly cheap fares. In other cases, it might actually be cheaper to fly on Southwest into DCA since they are competing directly with American Airlines. Bottom line is: always just check all three airports when you’re planning your trip. Make sure to confirm for yourself that you are getting the best deal. BWI might still be your best option, just don’t blindly assume that it is.
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