This holiday season, in between braving crowded shopping malls and whipping up some eggnog, you’ll likely be making a trip to one of our area’s airports. Whether you’re picking up relatives or flying out yourself, Deal Hunter will help get you to the terminal on time — and under budget. Whether you decide to use public transportation, take a shuttle or taxi, or drive yourself, be aware that each option has trade-offs. Balance cost against convenience to figure out what’s best for you.
TAXI/LIMO: From Reagan National, it’s a $10-to-$20 cab ride to most locations in Northern Virginia and the District, and about $50 to Rockville. Drivers add $2.50 for any trip that begins at National. If you want to wow your 13-year-old nephew, hire a car service to pick him up at the airport. Prices from Reagan vary, but for trips to the District, expect to pay about $50, to Bethesda about $60, and to Reston or Alexandria about $70.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: The Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines will deliver you (and your presents) just a quick escalator or elevator ride from the terminal. From Gallery Place, expect to pay $2.50 per person during peak travel. From Silver Spring, it will cost you $4.55.
SHUTTLE: Super Shuttle (which runs those blue vans you see everywhere) offers shared ride service for $14 if you live in the District or Virginia. That fare doubles for many areas in Maryland. Additional passenger are $10 each. Book at www.supershuttle.com.
PARKING: The airport’s hourly lot charges $4 per hour, so take advantage of the free cellphone waiting area while waiting for Aunt Mary to call and tell you she landed. If you’re the one traveling, the economy parking lot is $12 per day. You can check online to see how many spots are free at www.metwashairports.com/reagan.
TAXI/LIMO: While you can get a taxi from Dulles to Vienna for about $35, it can cost twice that much to get to downtown Washington. A car service will cost $50 to Reston and $80 to Washington, Bethesda or Alexandria.
SHUTTLE: Super Shuttle offers service to Dulles from McLean for $22 and from D.C. locations for $29.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: While you wait for the Dulles Corridor Metro to open in 2013, you can take the 5A express bus, which stops outside the Rosslyn Metro station in Virginia and the L’Enfant Metro stop in the District. Remind out-of-towners to bring exact change for the $6 fare. The bus drops people off as far as two blocks from the Metro stations, so it isn’t the best option if Cousin Lulu wants to bring all three of her cats.
For $10 per person, the Washington Flyer coach service runs from Dulles to the West Falls Church station on the Orange Line.
PARKING: If you want an extra present under your tree or menorah, pick your relatives up at the airport yourself. Take advantage of Dulles’s free cellphone waiting area, or park in the hourly lot for $4 an hour. For longer trips, Dulles’s economy lot is $10 per day with a free shuttle to the terminal. Check in with the Post’s Dr. Gridlock to avoid traffic: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/
TAXI/LIMO: A taxi from BWI to downtown Washington will set you back about $90. Add $10 to $15 to get to Arlington or Alexandria. Car services cost about $90 to Bethesda and Downtown Washington and $110 to Alexandria or Reston.
SHUTTLE: Super Shuttle offers service to BWI for $33 from Bowie, $37 from the District, and $51 from some locations in Virginia.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Convenient train service makes BWI an easy trip for the carless. For only $6, Maryland’s commuter rail, MARC, promises to whisk you from Union Station to BWI in only 36 minutes. You can also take MARC from New Carrollton. (The elevator at the train station is notorious for being out of service, so this option isn’t a good one if Grandma has trouble with escalators.) You can wind up waiting as long as 25 minutes for the free shuttle from the train station to the terminal. MARC only runs weekdays, but Amtrak runs from Union Station to BWI every day. Fares range from the affordable $14 to the pricey $47, so book early if you’re heading to BWI on a weekend.
PARKING: For quick pickups, park in BWI’s hourly lot for $4 per hour. If you’re leaving town, the cheapest long-term lots charge $8 a day and offer shuttle service to the terminals.
THE BOTTOM LINE
To figure out the best transportation option for your holiday needs, take into account the needs of the traveler. While public transportation will always be the cheapest option, it won’t work for relatives with mobility issues or lots of luggage. Taxi, limo and shuttle services take more money or time but are often the most convenient way to go.