If you’re looking for Washington, DC hotel tips you are in the right place! In this podcast episode you’ll learn about a great areas to stay (and avoid) on your DC trip. Plus what to look for in a hotel, how to do your research, and a few tips for finding the best hotel deals.
Chris Raney from Yellow Productions joins Rob for this conversation. On Chris’s YouTube channel, he produces travel videos that are fun, informative and entertaining. You can also keep up with Yellow Productions on Instagram and Facebook.
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DC Hotel Tips Show Notes:
There are hundreds of hotels in the Washington, DC Metro area. With so many choices it can feel overwhelming to narrow down the list and choose a hotel that’s best for you. Fortunately, Chris is a Marriott lifetime elite traveler and breaks down his own strategies from years of experience.
What to look for in a DC Hotel
There are a lot of important things to look for in a hotel. Some people prioritize some of these over the others. It’s all about what matters most to you! Chris says he looks for seven things when choosing a DC hotel.
- Location. Chris looks for hotels that are, most importantly, close to the places he wants to go. Beyond that, he looks for hotels close to Metro, places to buy groceries or drug stores for picking up small conveniences like bottled water and snacks.
- Parking. If Chris is picking up a rental car at the airport he looks for a hotel with a self-parking option (rather than valet parking). While valet sounds convenient, it sometimes takes a really long time for the attendants to get your car. But if Chris is traveling without a rental car he doesn’t prioritize parking at all!
- Quiet rooms. Chris searches for words like “loud” and “noisy” on websites like TripAdvisor to make sure there aren’t many complaints about noise. If you’re a light sleeper you’ll want to make sure to find a quiet room.
- Good air conditioning. Every hotel in Washington, DC will have air conditioning (the city couldn’t function without it). But some hotels use central AC while others have a unit near the window. Chris prefers central AC as it’s quiet and usually cools better.
- Cleanliness. Nobody wants to stay in a dirty hotel. Chris checks reviews to see if there are complains. He also looks at traveler submitted photos on review sites to if there are stains on the walls or carpet or furniture.
- Solid breakfast. Many hotels offer a free continental breakfast. Sometimes they are great! Other times they are grab-and-go with limited options. Chris doesn’t mind paying a reasonable fee for a good breakfast. He doesn’t want to spend time trying to worry about what to eat for the first meal of the day.
- Lounges. Some hotels offer a lounge for members of their rewards program or for anyone who books a room that includes lounge access. These lounges usually include snacks and bottled waters. Chris says they are very nice to have available after full day of sightseeing.
How to Research a DC Hotel
Narrowing down the huge list of hotels in Washington DC can be daunting. Chris has four tools that he uses to help navigate the options.
- Google Maps. Chris starts his hotel search here. He simply types “hotels” in the Google Maps search and then zooms in to the areas where he wants to stay. If you don’t know the areas of DC well, check out our Where to Stay guide for some information about recommended areas.
- TripAdvisor. Once he identified his ‘short list’ of hotels, Chris looks them up on TripAdvisor. There are typically the most reviews here, as well as traveler submitted photos. Chris warns that the TripAdvisor rankings are questionable and he doesn’t use the website to look for the ‘best’ hotels.
- YouTube. Has anyone done a video review of the hotel? Chris has done many video reviews on the Yellow Productions channel. For his own travels he searches to see if anyone else has done any room reviews for hotels on his short list.
- FlyerTalk. This is a forum used by frequent travelers. Chris says he sometimes trusts their judgement more than the opinion of casual travelers because they have more experience.
How to Find Deals on a DC Hotel
There are few better feelings while traveling than finding a sweet deal. Chris shares his tips for saving money when you travel.
- Sign up for reward accounts. Hotels want guests to book direct, and they want you to be a member of their reward program. Signing up for each brand’s program and then searching directly on their website often yields the best deals. Plus, Chris points out it’s not just about price. Members of rewards programs get better rooms than those not in programs. It doesn’t even matter how many nights you’ve stayed!
- Use your AAA membership. If you are a AAA member, make sure to check the AAA membership rate box when you search. Sometimes AAA rates are the lowest that the hotel offers.
- Look for a “specials” page on the hotel’s website. This is the easiest and most frequently overlooked tip. Head over to the hotel’s own website and look for a link to a page called “specials” or “deals” or “offers” or anything similar. Many times you will find special rates here, or deals like “stay 3 nights, get the 4th free”, that aren’t visible if you do a generic room search.
What About Hotwire or Priceline?
Before Covid, many travelers discovered Hotwire Mystery Rates or naming your own price on Priceline. Can these yield amazing deals? Yes. Does Chris use them? No. Chris’s reason is simple: he doesn’t want to commit to staying at a mystery hotel.
Ultimately, this comes down to personal preference. Some travelers are not-at-all picky about their hotel. They just want a bed to sleep on and roof over their head. Other travelers, like Chris, have specific criteria he looks for. Folks who book on Hotwire or Priceline or similar websites will also likely get assigned the worst rooms in the hotel. After all, the premise behind these websites is that they let hotels sell “leftover” rooms rather than have them sit vacant.
Refundable vs. Pre-Paid Hotel Rates
Another choice travelers must make is whether to commit to a nonrefundable hotel rate or pay extra for flexibility. Airlines typically offer nonrefundable rates for significantly less than flexible rates. Hotels offer discounts too, but they are smaller.
Chris almost always books refundable rates. He gives two reasons. First is that sometimes life changes, and if you have a refundable rate you have the flexibility to change or cancel your reservation. The other reason is because hotel rates fluctuate. Booking a refundable rate gives you the ability to re-book at your hotel if they offer a lower rate closer to your trip. Or to switch to a different hotel that’s offering an amazing deal.
Chris’s Favorite Washington DC Hotels
When a world traveler comes to Washington, DC, where does he like to stay? Chris has a few favorites, depending on the circumstances of the trip.
- Park Hyatt Washington DC. This is a luxury hotel that’s not for every traveler or every occasion. If you’re willing to splurge, Chris thinks this is one of the best hotels in the city. Or if you can find a great rate, take advantage! Chris stayed here for around $150 per night, which is much less than their typical room rate.
- The Mayflower Hotel. This is a historic hotel in every sense of the word. Former presidents, world leaders, and other celebrities have slept under the roof of the Mayflower. Chris likes that this hotel has a great location near Dupont Circle and is in walking distance to many sites and conveniences and Metro. He stays here if he is traveling without a rental car.
- Marriott Crystal Gateway. This is a grand hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Chris likes the location between Reagan National Airport and downtown DC. It is only 3 stops on the Yellow line to get to the National Mall. Chris also likes that it is connected directly to Metro via underground tunnel. He likes to stay here when he is traveling with a rental car because they have a self-parking garage.