Cheap Quick Trip to Washington, DC

Cheap Quick Trip to Washington, DC

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Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool - Washington, DC
Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool – Washington, DC

Quick Trip to Washington DC from NYC

Week long vacations can be so exhausting. The week before you’re busy preparing, planning and packing. Then you go away for a week. Then when you come back you have so much catching up to. It’s usually not worth it to me. I much prefer long weekends or overnight trips. One of the great things about living in nyc is how easy it is to leave it!

There are cheap bus tickets and okay-priced train tickets that get you to most eastern seaboard places in a day. I decided to take advantage of this and found some cheap weekday bus tickets to DC. Instead of a long weekend, I just went overnight from Monday to Tuesday. Really I just wanted to take a cheap quick trip to Washington DC. It was actually nice to have a normal weekend, and then a bonus trip at the end. I got to spend Saturday at the beach, Sunday relaxing, then went away. I may do things like this more often. I always have extra vacation time at the end of the year; use it or lose it.


Vacation Splurges

For as much as I am money-conscious in real-life, I am not a discount traveler. Because I am so conscious of my spending day-to-day, I am able to splurge for travel. Or at least not have to penny pinch so much. Being away from home can be stressful for me at times, so I would rather pay a little more for comfort than get a ‘great deal’ that turns out to be awful.

Fortunately, without trying too hard I was able to get cheap bus tickets. The bus trip to DC is four hours and that is just about my max for the bus. The trip to Boston is a little longer so I usually take the train for that. The Bolt bus ticket was $14 going there on Monday, and $1 coming back on Tuesday. Yay!

The only other travel expense was a hotel. I am just starting to get to that point in my life where I can afford to get a hotel room when traveling, rather than sleeping on a friend’s couch. So I have little experience looking for hotels. If I’m going to pay for it, I don’t want to risk it being seedy or just uncomfortable in general. So I set a budget and booked a hotel based on reviews. It was $200/night (that was my max anyway). Let me say, it was definitely worth it!


Smithsonian Museums

I’ve learned by now to have an attack plan when it comes to visiting museums. You cannot see everything at once without your feet falling off and your eyes going blurry. It’s just not worth it. Instead, I immediately grab a museum map and pick 3-4 exhibits I really want to see. That will still take an hour or two. And your feet will likely just be beginning to hurt at that point. This is especially useful if you are doing more than one museum in a day.

Here’s a quick break-down of the exhibits I saw:

Air & Space Museum

  • The Wright Brothers
  • Exploring The Planets
  • Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air
  • Time and Navigation

Museum of Natural History

  • Bones
  • Live Insect Zoo (this was great!)
  • Hope Diamond
  • Mummies

American History Museum

  • Gunboat Philadelphia
  • Star-Spangled Banner
  • Americans at War


Capitol Hill from a distance
Capitol Hill from a distance

Cost Breakdown

  • Transportation: $15 total bus tickets
  • Hotel: $208 after taxes + fees
  • Metro: $10
  • Booze: $30
  • Food: breakfast $15, dinner $20, dinner $20, lunch $30
  • Dessert: $6
  • Attractions: Free museums
  • Gifts: none
  • Cabs: none
  • Total: $354

I definitely plan on going back again for another shorter stay. Would love to hear any recommendations you have for the city!

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6 Replies to “Cheap Quick Trip to Washington, DC”

  1. That’s awesome! I’m actually going on Thursday and Friday to visit a friend from the circus who lives there now. I feel like my numbers will not be as impressive as yours… but that’s also cause we drink a lot.

    I can’t believe you got there for $15. That’s impressive.

    1. I was a bit disappointed that the beer prices were pretty similar to nyc; about $7 for an average draft. I was hoping to pay under $5 so I drank a bit less instead. As for the bus tickets, it really helps to go on weekdays or during off-times. Definitely worth taking the day off just to get a cheap ticket and have some breathing room on the bus. Have fun on your trip!!

  2. DC is such a frugal destination. I think my megabus ticket was $17 one way! Then all those free museums once you get there, it’s pretty incredible. My aunt lives across the street from the National Zoo, so I get free housing and the occasional free meal when I’m in town :)

    1. Bus tickets are soooo cheap! Even on weekends the most you’ll pay is $25. To get to DC or Philly, that’s not so bad. That’s awesome you get free housing in DC! I didn’t make it out to the Zoo, maybe next time.

  3. I think Im like you with vacations. I don’t want to monitor every single penny I spend on vacation. Hopefully I put in all the hard work ahead of time in so I don’t have to. That’s why I’m trying to save aggressively for Croatia next year. DC is a fun city. I haven’t been there since I was a kid. I have a friend there so there is no reason I shouldn’t make a trip out there!

    1. Your trip to Croatia is going to be great! Vacations are supposed to be a time that we relax. That includes relaxing about being so frugal with our money. If you’re already a smart spender, it’s likely you won’t max out your credit card just by loosening up a little!

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