Washington, D.C. is one of my very favorite places in the world and having lived there, I know first-hand how pricey it can be to explore. But never fear! DC is actually much more affordable than you might at first think. For the next four weeks I’ll take you through how to make DC really affordable, whether you are headed there on business or for pleasure. So let’s begin!

Week 1: Stay cheap.

Hands down the fastest way to spend your money in the nation’s capitol is on hotels. Like any major city, a place to sleep doesn’t come cheap in DC. Obviously if you are on business you likely don’t have to pay for your travel but for the rest of us finding a good place to crash is key. The number of people in your party will greatly impact where you choose to stay, as well as your plans for your time in the city. Here are my recommendations for where to stay (generally speaking):

If you have…

1 person (just you!):

Hostel it, all the way! Hostels in DC are price comparable to any major city, which means that unfortunately they aren’t going to be cheap. They don’t have to break the bank, either, though, so as long as you are willing to put in a little legwork you can find somewhere reasonable. The last time I was in DC I stayed in a hostel for around $23/ night which given DC prices is not too shabby. However, I had to put in some work to get the rates: because the 8-bunk room was not available both nights, I had to book two separate reservations, one night in a 6-bunk and one night in an 8-bunk, where the price was slightly less. Every penny counts! Keep in mind that hostels in DC levy a “hotel tax” which will usually be in addition to your quoted nightly price.

2 people:

It depends. What do you want to do while you are in DC? Where do you want to go? Will you take public transportation or have a car? All these factors will help you determine whether a hostel in the city center is right for you, or a budget hotel in the ‘burbs. Typically I would recommend hosteling, because it is so much more convenient, but if you have a car parking will be much easier in a hotel or outside the city. Hotels are really not price-friendly for just two people, but if you are looking for a more upscale place to stay some sort of hotel might be a better option. When you combine your hosteling costs ($23 each or $46 total) that doesn’t give you much money to find a hotel room if you want to stay in that budget, and remember that hotels in the city don’t come cheap.

3+ people:

Again, it depends. The more people you are traveling with the higher your combined price to stay at a hostel will be, so it might make more sense for you to stay in a hotel. Be sure to factor in hotel tax and parking costs ($20 night minimum) when you plan. Hotel costs vary widely in DC depending on the company, quality and location, but generally speaking go from a minimum of $100/ night… and quickly go up from there. You could very easily spend $400/ night on a hotel room. It really depends on your preferences, and is also greatly impacted by the season. During the Inauguration, for example, rooms went for about four times their usual rate. During Cherry Blossom Festival, rooms again soar in price, so plan accordingly. If you have them, DC is also a great place to use hotel points.

Just a little bit of planning can save you a lot of money when traveling to the city. I love the Cherry Blossoms and highly recommend visiting to see them, but there are so many amazing things to see in DC that you can really come any time of year. Just know that your entire visit will be impacted, both financially and just everyday in how many people are around and about. By carefully choosing your time to visit, considering how much you want to spend on housing and booking in advance you can start off your DC trip with money in the bank.

Check back next Friday for part 2: getting around for cheap.

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