5 Tips For Visiting Washington D.C. On A Budget

Washington, D.C. is a fabulous place for a family vacation, even if you’re on a budget. We spent a few days there this summer and I have some great tips to share with you that will have you saving lots of money on your family travel.

Washington, D.C. can be an expensive vacation if you stay at a fancy hotel, eat at all those five-star restaurants, and use those costly tours and buses. But it’s possible to still have a great vacation on a budget. Here are my tips for saving money on your family trip to Washington, D.C.

Stay Outside The City

It’s very expensive to stay right in D.C. so my solution was to choose a location just outside the city center (that was still accessible by Metro). I found a fabulous hotel just a 5-minute drive from the city. The Americana Hotel in Arlington, Virginia is a perfect place to stay.

It includes free parking (many hotels in D.C. charge for parking your car – sometimes up to $60 a night!), continental breakfast, and free WiFi, as well as free shuttle service. The closest Metro stop is a block away, making a trip into the city very convenient. It’s the perfect place to stay for families on a budget. You can also find the Americana on Facebook & Twitter.

Use The Metro

Traffic and parking are something to watch out for while you’re staying in D.C. It’s much easier to use the Metro system for your travel needs. Purchase a SmartTrip card at the beginning of your trip (one for each person in your group) and you’ll save even more over the regular fare tickets.

Even better, you can use the card for the local Circulator buses – we used the buses to visit monuments and museums along the National Mall.

One tip – try to avoid the rush hour traffic between 4:30-6 PM. 

Visit The Landmarks

Did you know that there are 19 museums, galleries (and the zoo!) that are part of the Smithsonian Institution? And they are all FREE! We had three full days in the area and barely had time to fit in all that we wanted to do – and we didn’t pay for anything. We visited museums, monuments, and the zoo, and it didn’t cost a dime.

Don’t forget to visit the many memorials and monuments while you’re there – those are all free to visit as well (though you may need tickets for things like the Washington Monument).

Pack Your Lunch

To keep our costs down we purchased food to pack lunch each day. I had a backpack that we used to pack ice cold water (in a ziploc bag to keep everything else from getting wet) and our lunches. There are plenty of places to eat lunch outdoors and it was a great time to give our feet a break.

I also checked out some coupon and discount places for savings on dinner and scored some good deals. We found some great places to eat that we wouldn’t have discovered on our own.

Skip The Expensive Tour Buses

As fun as those big tour buses and trolleys look, they add up quickly when you are purchasing tickets for a family. The Circulator bus is a great inexpensive alternative when you want a break from the heat or to rest your feet for awhile. Best of all, you can use your Metro SmartTrip card to pay your fare.

Washington, D.C. can be an expensive vacation but it doesn’t have to be. You can have a great family trip without spending a lot of money.

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