Washington D.C. on a Budget - Getting There

So you are thinking about visiting Washington D.C. but have heard how expensive it is to visit? The rumors are true, however, with a little forethought and this blog you can visit Washington D.C. and NOT break the bank. I travelled with my family in June of 2011 for 8 days, which is not the cheapest time to visit but because of school schedules we were stuck. In this blog I hope to help you travel to DC affordably. Getting to Washington D.C.

If you plan to fly to Washington D.C. you have 3 airports from which to choose:

  1. Washington Dulles International Airport located in Chantilly, VA which is about 26 miles from downtown DC.

  2. Reagan National Airport located in Arlington, VA just across the Potomac River from DC. This airport is the closest to Old Town Alexandria, VA, it is only 2 stops south of the airport on the Metro. (See my other posts with information about hotels in Old Town Alexandria.)

  3. Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) located Baltimore, MD which is about 40 miles from DC.

I used Baltimore International Airport because Air Tran flies into that airport. I chose Air Tran because it was the least expensive option and I had a previous positive experience flying Air Tran. When I say less expensive I mean about $200 less expensive (for the entire family) than any other airline I could find using Fare Compare, Expedia, etc. I paid $726 for 3 round trip nonstop tickets on Air Tran. When I started planning the trip we planned to drive 22 hours to get to DC until I determined it cost the same to fly and my vehicle would not have all the mileage placed on it. I am glad we did not drive as parking and driving in the DC area is a nightmare.

If you choose to fly into Baltimore Airport you will have to travel to DC. You can get to DC by:

  1. Rent a car and drive. When I checked rates the cost to rent a car was about $45 per weekday for an economy car. If you rent a car you will most likely have to pay for parking at your hotel and destinations in and around DC which could cost a fortune. We opted NOT to rent a car because of the expense.

  2. Hiring a taxi. The day our plane landed we could have taken a cab to DC for $20 per person with a minimum of 3 people. The cab driver said it would take 30 minutes to get to DC. We opted NOT to hire a taxi because of the cost.

  3. Take Amtrak or MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter) train service. You can catch a FREE shuttle bus from the airport to the BWI train station. You can purchase tickets for Amtrak or MARC at this station to DC. However Amtrak was almost twice as expensive as using the MARC train. We took the MARC on the Penn Line to Union Station in DC. The train was very nice and clean and we did not regret choosing it. It took about 25 minutes to get to Union Station. NOTE: At the time of my travel the last MARC train left BWI train station for DC at 9:20 PM so if you are arriving later than that you might consider taking a taxi. Once you arrive at Union Station you can then catch the Metro to the area where your hotel is located.