DCA is now known as Ronald Regan Washington National Airport, and coming from another part of the US, this was the most convenient airport for me to work with. The airport is smaller than BWI, and has tighter security as it's right across the river from the Capitol itself! This made landing and take offs quite interesting as you got to see so many sights from the air :)
I didn't find shopping there very special, but enjoyed the shorter security lines, and shhhhhh - there is ONE smoking area in the entire airport! It's off in the Continental terminal - gate 14ish I believe ... I found it by mistake, but was able to munch, smoke, and visit w/ other travelers while waiting for my boarding begin - right across the hall - aaahhhhh feeding my addiction AND convenience! Who could ask for more? So if you are an addict of nicotine, look for Foggy Botton Brew Pub inside the airport!
I do have to say coming back through here after visiting Toronto was a security trial :) I went through luggage hand searches, Xrays and got into the airport. At my gate to board, another hand search and wanding was conducted. According the the workers at the Toronto airport, since they are considered an international flight, they have to comply with these extra screening proceedures to be able to land at DCA - otherwise they can't continue to service this particular airport! So be aware, with this airport so close to DC, you just might find out you have to got through the mill to get there :)
Before you start to look for cheap air fares keep in mind that:
1. low cost airlines sometimes go bancrupt; next airlines are founded each year; the oldest and best known low-cost airlines in Europe are EasyJet and Rynair; I suggest to check first up-to-date low-cost airlines in European Budget Airlines (Europe only) and in LowCostAirlines.org (worldwide).
2. the cheapest tickets are for mid week flights. They are almost non-existent at Holiday periods such as for example Easter or Christmas where those holidays are widely celebrated.
3. the cheapest tickets are mainly sold on a first come, first served basis. You will need to look for tickets as soon as they are released. Get on the mailing lists for the airlines.
4. tickets are always electronic, there are no meals onboard, no frequent fliers programs and the airports are often far from downtown.
5. your final air fare (with airport taxes) is higher than that one seen in advertisements.
6. check exactly which airport you fly to/from (use 3-letter abbrevations).
7. Some of the more established airlines offer good discounts as well. In Europe for sure British Airways and Air France.
SEARCHING FOR GOOD DEAL
Looking for good air-fare I used to check first four multi-search engines:
1. WhichBudget.com - great portal and Europe's largest directory of budget airlines in 16 languages :-)
2. Openjet.com - virtual airline when I can compare, combine and book low-cost tickets with the low-cost airlines (in Europe only)
3. SearchLowestFares.com - multi search engine which gives quite good results
4. Virtual Tourist sponsored links and search for flight tool (click on "Flight" above on this page, please).
Good luck :-)
While I usually fly into gigantic Dulles Airport in Washington DC, I have occasionally been lucky enough to book a flight through cozy little Reagan National Airport nestled snugly on the banks of the Potomac alongside Crystal City in Alexandria, VA.
National Airport opened in 1941 and now handles about 18 million passengers per year. Dulles opened in 1962, and it handles just a few million more passengers at around 24 million per year.
Reagan's benefits over Dulles are primarily proximity to the city and available public transportation options. From downtown DC you can be at Reagan in 10 or 15 minutes compared to 30-45 minutes at Dulles (or more with traffic). From Dulles your only transportation choices are a few buses and taxis; Regan is connected to the city by the Metro, numerous buses, taxis, and even a jogging/biking trail.
Dulles is a major hub of United Airlines which uses over 60 percent of the airport's gates. IAD is the 15th busiest airport in the US and one of the 30 busiest in the world. The airport has a big main terminal as well as two midfield terminals. Currently the only way to get to the midfield terminals is via a bus-like vehicle that drives across the airport... this is due to be replaced soon by an underground train.
Transportation to and from Dulles can be problematic. The Washington Flyer buses will take you directly to the Tysons Corner Metro station for $10. The city's MetroBus express route 5A will take you to any of five stops for only $3.10; the stops are Herndon-Monroe park and ride, the Tyson-Westpark transfer station, the Rosslyn Metro Station, and L'Enfant Plaza downtown. Other than those options you are stuck with taxis, rental cars, or having someone pick you up. There are plans to extend the Metro to the airport, but it won't be ready until 2016.
The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles hosts the National Air and Space Museum.
DCA is a pleasant airport to land in, indeed. Not only can you walk across a covered walkway to a modern, clean metro system taking you anywhere around the metropolitan area safely, quickly, and inexpensively....but the airport building is a rather pleasant place to be. There are seating areas with loads of daylight windows, a masseuse on duty, restaurants and kiosks that have healthy foods included in their offerings. I've travelled thru DC numerous times over the years and the improvements to their facility and infrastructure of the city continue to intrigue and delight me. These folks know how to move crowds...for sure.
I recommend DC airport highly.
DCA - Regan National Airport is easy to access by auto, metro or shuttle. This is a bit suprising in that DC itself is difficult to get around in by auto.
There are a few Hotels within a mile or two that will not only shuttle you to and from DCA but you can leave your car parked in their lot if you Fly to another destination and return to DCA. We were able to park our car in a protected Holiday Inn Lot for 10 days for the cost of 1 nights stay!
If for some reason you can't fly directly into Washington D.C. or want to use one of the cheaper airlines, fly into Baltimore's BWI airport.
You can then take a free shuttle to BWI Rail Station to get on a train to Washington D.C. You can choose between the more expensive Amtrack train or the cheap but comfortable MARC train (Penn Line, $6).
Within half an hour you'll find yourself in Washington D.C.'s Union Station, right in the heart of the city, within walking distance to Capitol Hill.
It is not at all easy to get between Reagan National and Dulles. If you must do so, I strongly recommend you allow at least 5-6 hours between flights. But if you must, here are my three recommended options, from cheapest to most expensive:
1: Go to the airport Metro station, buy a ticket to Rosslyn, take a free "Metrobus Transfer" from the push-button machine just inside the fare gates. Take the Blue Line (direction: Largo Town Center) to Rosslyn. Exit Rosslyn and ask the Metro attendant how to get to the "5A" Bus. Go to the bus stop and board Bus 5A to Dulles Airport. Fare ranges from $1.60-$2.35 for the Metro to Rosslyn, then $6 for the bus ride from Rosslyn to Dulles Airport. If you have a Smartrip Card, you get about a 75 cent discount.
2: Go to the airport Metro station, buy a ticket to West Falls Church. Take the Blue Line (direction: Largo Town Center) to Rosslyn. At Rosslyn, take the escalator downstairs and change for the Orange Line (direction: Vienna-Fairfax) to West Falls Church. At West Falls Church, follow the signs to the Washington Flyer bus. Metro fare to West Falls Church is between $2.15 and $4.10, depending on time of day You get a 25 cent discount if you use a Smartrip Card. One-way fare on the Washington Flyer from West Falls Church to Dulles is $10.
3: Arrange for a shuttle van to drive you from Reagan to Dulles. A good choice is SuperShuttle. They are offering a private van between the two airports for up to 7 people for $150. Take a look at http://www.supershuttle.com for details if interested.
Washington DC has no airports within its tiny territory, but there are three airports in the surroundings that offer access to DC from either Virginia or Maryland. Reagan Airport is located in Arlington, Virginia, and it's the closest one to DC from all the three, plus you can access this airport by metro (either the blue line or yellow line can take you there). Both international and national flights arrive and depart from there. Its closeness to the city has raised more than one complaint to the inhabitants, due to its proximity to the neighborhoods and the constant roaring of airplanes going to and coming from this place.
If you prefer to take a taxi from Reagan Airport to DC, instead of using the metro, the fare would go around US$11- 20.
You didn't say which day, but there is a 4:50am 5A bus Monday-Fri and the earliest on the weekend is 5:30 from your location (L'Enfant Plaza). As the other poster has said, you will be cutting it really close using the the 5:30 bus to catch a 7am flight at Dulles. I live by Dulles and go out there regularly. You have to also figure in checking in your bags and getting to your gate in your timing and if there are a lot of people at your airline counter. Depending on airline gate location, you may be running through the terminal. Alternative is to take a taxi or arrange a limo service from your hotel. With the distance being traveled from DC to Dulles, both are going to cost about the same.
Please be aware, ground transport from Dulles is not always easy. Please verify your shuttle or metro bus & rail schedule before you depart.
This link may be of help, please note metrorail does not go all the way from Dulles to DC. You must take a bus, walk and change trains. With luggage this can be uncomfortable at best.
SAA flies daily to Dulles, Washington DC from South Africa. The flight makes a stop over at Dakar. It is a very long time on the aeroplane, but you don’t have to catch a connection flight. Flights leave from OR Thambo Int Airport, Johannesburg.
Another option is to fly with Delta, via Atlanta.
3 airports - Reagan National, Dulles, and Baltimore/Washington International all serve the DC metropolitan area.
Amtrak trains connect DC with the rest of the country if you prefer train rides.
Interstate 95, the north/south interstate highway runs around the capital.
Transportation within Washington DC is best and easiest by using the metro rail system. Contact metro at 202-637-700, or see their website, www.metroopensdoors.com
Such a convenient way to enter DC! The airport is modern and has wonderful restaurants and shopping inside, and there is a Metro stop just outside (just cross the bridge from the airport terminal), which makes transportation into the city or surrounding areas so easy!
This is the airport that I fly out of most often, and it is the largest airport in the Washington DC region. Dulles Airport is about 25 miles west of Washington DC, and is most easily accessible if you take the I-495 Beltway and then the Airport Access Road. Dulles' main terminal has some quite interesting and famous architecture. The airport has the main terminal, and then four further out. The A and B terminals (connected) can be reached from the main terminal by taking an underground passageway; there used to be shuttle buses that connected it to the main terminal, but I'm not sure if those are still available. To reach the farthest terminals (C and D, which are connected), you must take an airport shuttle.
The largest and most prominent airline at Washington Dulles is United, which has a hub here. A good portion of gates in the C and D terminals are all United. Most major American airports can be reached by flights from Dulles; internationally, a good number of European cities have direct flights to the airport. Also, there are now direct flights from Washington to Johannesburg and Tokyo.
Since Dulles Airport is quite far out from Washington DC proper, you must take a bus or taxi to reach the city. However, the Orange Vienna Metro Line may (or may not) soon be extended out to Dulles, making access much simpler.