Updated: Dec 25, 2021
We loved our trip to Washington DC not only because it is great for history connoisseurs like us, but because it was relatively inexpensive. Most of the attractions are 100% free and with some other careful planning, the rest of your trip can also be enjoyable without breaking the bank. Here are our 5 tips for planning a great, budget-friendly trip to Washington DC.
1. Book Free Tours With Your Congressperson. Each member of the U.S. House of Representatives offers booking free tours of the White House, U.S. Capitol Building, US Supreme Court, Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. We booked all six tours with our Congressman ahead of our visit. Most will organize your tours no earlier than 90 days in advance of your visit, but check with your representative to be sure. Note that these tours book quickly so it will pay to plan ahead. To find out who your representative is, click here. All tours are free of charge.
2. All Smithsonian Museums Are Free. Washington DC is the home of several Smithsonian Museums, all of which are free. There are so many that we, in fact, did not get a chance to visit them all. We did visit the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of Natural History. We will have to return again to see the others as there was so much more to see.
3. Rent an AirBnB Outside of the City Center. Central Washington DC is quite pricey. We saved money by renting an Air BnB in one of the area's neighborhoods. Public transportation in this City is cheap and easy to use. There are also plenty of ride-share users so apart from peak demand periods, this is another good option. Another bonus is eating in neighborhood restaurants that are much cheaper than those centrally located.
4. Take a Free Walking Tour. There are several free walking tour options in the Washington DC area. We took this one of Georgetown with Free Tours by Foot. Tour operators earn their living on tips but as a whole, this is an inexpensive activity. We also love doing these walking tours since we always learn some unique facts about the place we are visiting. Sometimes we also hear tips on other things to do in the area or restaurants to visit as well.
5. Day Pack and Meals/Snacks On the Go. It goes without saying but you pay for convenience. We save a ton of money by packing a lunch to go and bringing snacks for the day. It avoids spontaneously dropping $50 or more for a lunch you didn't even care to eat (why do all cafeterias have cardboard pizza?). Instead, eat your packed lunch and then enjoy dinner in your AirBnB or at your neighborhood restaurant. Our "go to" lunches are simple such as crackers, cheese, pretzels, jerky, carrots, celery, cucumber, apples, and other similar healthy choices. If the weather is mild like during our visit to Washington DC, we also pack homemade turkey sandwiches.