When planning a trip to Washington DC, it can be difficult to decide which airport to fly to. There are three airports that serve the Washington D. C. metropolitan area: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD) in Northern Virginia, and Marshall Airport (BWI) just outside Baltimore, Maryland.
In this article, I'll discuss the pros and cons of each airport and provide some tips on what to consider before booking your next flight. Generally speaking, most travelers will prefer to fly to DCA because it's the closest to the National Mall in Arlington and downtown Washington, DC. The DCA's proximity to the city center also means that it is more closely watched by the U. S., making security for both passengers and airlines more stringent than at other airports in the region.
This is good as their strict security policies, combined with the use of DCA (mostly) for business trips, mean that going through security is efficient and the airport itself has good services. The biggest disadvantages of DCA are that it only has domestic flights (plus a couple to Canada) and it tends to be more expensive than IAD or BWI. Dulles International Airport (IAD) is a great airport in every other way. Although the IAD is huge and post-security shuttles can be a little confusing for first-time visitors, getting from the check-in counter to the boarding gate is surprisingly efficient.
Getting through both security and customs control is fairly quick, especially since the IAD has all of the accelerated customs programs Global Entry, CLEAR and Mobile Passport. Although technically an international airport, most of the IAD routes are domestic. Only eight international destinations have non-stop flights. Marshall Airport (BWI) is worth considering if you're looking for affordability. Flights from BWI tend to be cheaper than those from Reagan or Dulles, and Southwest Airlines operates the most flights to and from BWI.
Two other low-cost airlines, Spirit and the Icelandic WOW Air, also have direct flights, while the larger airlines such as United, American and Delta also offer good deals on their fares. When traveling to Washington DC, Reagan National Airport (DCA) is generally the best airport to fly to for domestic flights. It's the closest airport to DC right (although technically it's in Virginia), small and easy to navigate, and has easy access to D. C. For international flights, Dulles International Airport (IAD) is generally better as it offers more nonstop routes to international destinations. Before leaving for your trip, make sure you pack a backpack that meets your needs without having to check in a suitcase.
The Turtle travel backpack is designed specifically to maximize the usability of airline hand luggage allowances while being water resistant and very durable. If you're looking for a day backpack to explore the city, check out the Outbreaker laptop backpack. My wife and I have been offering advice on which airport is best for flying in and out of Washington DC for years now. We can help you evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using DCA, BWI or Dulles International Airport so you can make an informed decision about which airport is best for your trip.