Weekend In: Washington DC, Part 1

Washington DC is one of my favorite places to visit. Despite having been quite a few times, there is always so much to see and do. There’s never enough time. Or leg energy.

The sights. The food. The people. The mobs of clueless tourists. Oh, wait…

In the next several posts I’m going to address each of those things, based on my previous experiences. I recently spent four days in the capital,¬†¬†fortunate to accompany a friend for a long weekend to celebrate her birthday. And she had never been.

In this post I’m going to cover the first two aspects of trips: airports and hotels.

While Reagan is right in town (alert – it feels like you’re going to land on the river), you can sometimes save a bit of money flying into Baltimore. If your schedule is more flexible than your budget, this may be a good option. You can take the train (I believe for as little as $9) into DC from BWI.

I’ve flown into both, and they have their advantages.¬†Detroit (my home airport) is a Delta hub. Say what you will, but I’ve always had great experiences on Delta. Delta flies to both DCA and BWI. I’ve gotten deals into both, and really chose the airport each time based on where I was going and what was the most convenient. Both have mass transit directly in the terminal.

Choosing your hotel will, most likely, be the most expensive part of your stay. Great news – a lot of stuff is cheap-to-free in DC. Bad news – the hotels seem to know this.

The most important factors in determining where to stay are location and budget. But together, not separately. If you get a great deal on a hotel which requires a $30 cab ride…. Your deal is decidedly less great. And forking out $60 a day to get to and from where you actually want to be will be more painful than just spending $60 extra per night on a hotel. DC has horrible traffic. All the time. Every day. Horrible. If you are comfortable jumping onto the train or a bus, and the hotel is seriously close to a stop, consider it.

Let’s use my trip as an example. We stayed at the Washington Hilton. The hotel was great. Clean, comfortable, quiet. It was also about $14 each way in a cab to the White House or, say, the Washington Monument. We got a smoking deal on the room, so that $30, give or take, was worth it. And even with cabbing around part of each day, I walked no less than 10 miles each day. Had the hotel been closer, would I have been forced to walk there too? Shudder….

With 660 hotels in the DC area (source), you will certainly be able to find a hotel in the right area, within your budget.