But how do you know which airport is the right choice for you? Although these airports are near each other, choosing the right place to fly into will save you time and money and improve your overall travel experience.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is in Arlington, Virginia, and 3 miles from the center of Washington, D.C. The smallest of the area airports, DCA is serviced by major airlines including US Airways, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines. DCA offers 84 nonstop flights to destinations within the United States and the Bahamas.
This airport has all the desired amenities, including a currency exchange, a duty-free shop, and ATMs. Travelers who arrive early can spend time browsing the pre-security shops, enjoying a massage, or getting a shoe shine.
Take a minute to visit the Gallery Walk, a rotating art exhibit that features three-dimensional pieces from the local area. As you collect your bags, you’ll also notice another exhibit highlighting creative works by local artists.
American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines have lounges reserved for their flight club members. The United Service Organizations, or USO lounge, is reserved for military personnel and their families.
If you’re taking an international flight from Reagan, give yourself extra travel time. International flights and Southwest Airlines* depart from a secondary terminal next to the main terminal. It takes an extra 15 minutes to reach these check-in counters if you’re walking from the main terminal.
Rental car facilities are inside the parking garage. A shuttle can take you there, or it's a 10-minute walk. At DCA you’ll find popular rental car brands including Enterprise, Budget, and Hertz.
Of all the D.C.-area airports, DCA offers the easiest and quickest route into the city. In addition to rental cars, guests can take the metro, shuttles, or taxis to their destination. Taxi Dispatchers are on-site to direct you to a taxi based on your destination and form of payment.
If you have arranged for a ride, your driver can park in the nearby cellphone waiting area until you have retrieved your bags and are ready to leave the airport. Cars cannot idle in front of the airport due to security measures, and the waiting area is a better option than driving in circles.
Flying into DCA is the best option for travelers with late and/or early flights who aren’t renting cars. The Ronald Reagan metro station connects to the airport, offering travelers easy access to the city. DCA also offers many transportation options and access to services like Uber and Lyft. For this convenience, fares into DCA are usually more expensive than those to the other local airports.
DCA is open around the clock, and past travelers have found it easy to spend a night sleeping there if needed.
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is 35 miles from Washington, D.C.’s city center. This airport offers over 250 nonstop domestic flights each day and is serviced by major airlines including United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. Plenty of shopping and dining options are available to departing or returning passengers.
If you’re hoping to get a quick workout between flights, BWI has two walking paths designated by the American Heart Association for a good cardio workout.
Adjacent to upper level checkpoints is the Marshall Observation Gallery dedicated to air and space travel. Visit this showcase to see exhibits on loan from NASA. Near the Observation Gallery is a tribute to Thurgood Marshall and his life as a civil rights advocate.
The Chesapeake Club Lounge is available to travelers with priority passes, while the Airspace Lounge is available to all passengers. The Airspace Lounge is open from 4:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and costs $20. A USO lounge serves military personnel and their families.
Passengers can get to Washington, D.C. using the D.C.-area public transportation system, the MARC train, taxis, and shuttles.
Rental facilities are available 10 minutes off-site and accessible using a free shuttle found on the terminal's lower level. Enterprise, Alamo, and Thrifty are among the companies servicing this airport.
BWI is your best bet if you’re looking for the cheapest flight from a domestic city.
If you aren’t renting a car, get a flight that lands by 9:00 p.m. The B30 bus connects passengers to Washington, D.C. via Greenbelt metro station, which is the last station on the Green line. This bus makes its last trip from BWI at 10:40 p.m. daily. The bus ride takes 40 minutes. The last train into D.C. leaves Greenbelt at 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and 2:30 a.m. on weekends. For your return trip, the first B30 leaves Greenbelt metro station at 6:10 a.m. on weekdays and 8:45 a.m. on weekends.
If your flight lands or departs outside the public transportation schedule, you can easily find transportation via taxis located outside of Greenbelt station and the airport. The fare for these trips can be quite high because of an extra fare charge between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Alternatively, because the airport is open 24 hours, you can crash inside for an early morning flight or until public transportation starts the next day.
IAD is in Sterling, Virginia, and 27 miles from the center of Washington, D.C. It's the largest of the three airports and offers over 80 nonstop flights within the United States and over 50 nonstop flights to destinations around the world. Airlines serving IAD include South African Airlines, Emirates, and Air China.
Travelers can take advantage of the on-site currency exchange and the duty-free shops. Enjoy your pick from more than 70 shops and restaurants while waiting to depart.
Travelers can purchase entry into the United Club or British Airways Galleries Lounges. The USO lounge is reserved for service personnel and family members.
This airport showcases several temporary and rotating exhibits that give resident artists a chance to show off their work.
At the Gateway Gallery, you’ll find photos from members of local photography associations. Another cool display is the “Hello and Welcome” self-portrait set completed by school children and hung along the arrival corridor for international flights. Several other art exhibits are inside the airport to give guests a preview of D.C. culture. During the summer Dulles Airport puts on a jazz concert series with live performances from D.C. singers and dancers.
Travelers can get to downtown D.C. using the public transportation system or a taxi or shuttle. IAD has on-site rental car facilities housing the top rental car brands, including Enterprise, Alamo, and Avis.
Ask your ride to wait in the cellphone waiting area to prevent them from having to circle the airport.
IAD usually offers the cheapest flights for those flying from international locations.
If you are relying on public transportation, be sure to get a flight that lands by 9:00 p.m. The Washington Flyer bus runs daily, every 15 to 20 minutes, and the last bus leaves Dulles at 10:40 p.m. The bus connects travelers to the Wiehle-Reston metro station, which is the last station on the silver line. Note that the last train going into D.C. leaves at 11:10 p.m. on weekdays and at 2:10 a.m. on weekends.
For your return trip, the first Washington Flyer picks up passengers from Wiehle-Reston at 6:00 a.m. on weekdays and 7:45 a.m. on weekends. If your flight is outside these public transportation hours, you should plan to pay more for a cab to IAD.
Although IAD isn’t best known for a good night’s sleep, it’s open 24 hours if you have an early flight and you’d rather forgo the hotel room.
When searching for a flight, enter WAS as your departure to get options for all three airports serving Washington, D.C.
For cheap flights, avoid booking your trip around holidays like the Fourth of July. Spring can also be an expensive time because families, school groups, and people hoping to see the cherry blossoms visit in droves. The best time to book a flight to D.C. is during the hot and muggy summer months when everyone else is flying to a beach.
The winter months between November and February are also good times to fly into D.C. While D.C. doesn’t have unbearably cold winters, snow events disable the city. Be ready for a fun day inside if it snows during your visit.
Using this guide, travelers have the information they need to make the best decision when choosing their destination airport. With three area airports, you are sure to find a flight that suits your needs.
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© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.