In 2009, Washington, DC, played host to over 16 million visitors, with the average visit lasting three nights. At peak times, such as during the cherry blossom season, the 4th of July, or inaugurations, DC is swarming with tourists, and hotels can be extremely difficult to find. With careful planning and preparation, however, you should be able to find the perfect DC hotel for your needs, even during these difficult periods.
Washington, DC hotels fill up quickly in the spring and summer months.
Step 1Book your Washington, DC, hotel as much as a year in advance, especially for popular time periods such as the cherry blossom festival in the spring and for the 4th of July. Spring is an especially popular period for tourists as the weather is usually mild, and many out-of-state schools bring large groups of students to DC during their spring breaks.
Step 2Call the hotels to check on cancellations. If there is a hotel you are interested in booking, but it is sold out, call and talk to the hotel staff. They may be able to tell you if there is a certain time period when last-minute cancellations may start occurring. For instance, a school may have a block of rooms on reserve for its spring break period, but then release some of the rooms once they know how many they will actually need.
Step 3Look in areas that are away from the National Mall section of D.C. Most tourists look for hotels in the area surrounding the National Mall, where the White House, Smithsonians, memorials and other attractions are located. By looking outside this area, you are more likely to find a room during popular time periods. DC’s convenient Metro system can then transport you to the mall and other popular tourist areas. See Resources for a guide on the various DC neighborhoods.
Step 4Search for independent hotels. Many people book rooms in chain hotels because they offer a known product. By searching out independent hotels, you may turn up a small gem that other tourists might not find, such as the AAA Four Diamond Hotel Monaco, which is a boutique hotel located in DC’s Penn Quarter.
Step 5Ask hotel staff of a full hotel if they have any recommendations or sister chain hotel locations they might recommend. Often, hotel staff know the availability of rooms in surrounding hotels and will be willing to give you ideas of alternate hotels.
Step 6Consider booking in a DC bed and breakfast. Tourists used to staying at larger chain hotels sometimes forget to check on available rooms in bed and breakfast locations. DC has a number of these cozy establishments available throughout the city.
Step 7Book off-season. Hotel room prices fall and availability rises during DC’s fall and winter months, but both seasons offer many pluses to tourists who can travel during those seasons. DC’s weather in autumn is some of its best. Gone is the omnipresent summer heat and humidity. The area’s leaf color changing can be spectacular, as well. In the winter, the White House dresses up for the holidays and tourists can enjoy the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
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