How to Travel to Washington, D.C., on Points and Miles
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Washington, D.C., is not only the U.S. capital, it’s also home to a large variety of popular tourist attractions. D.C. boasts rich cultural and historical sites, a booming restaurant scene and a diverse selection of activities. So it makes sense that millions of travelers flock there each year.
Among the most popular places to visit in Washington, D.C., are the Smithsonian Institution, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall, to name a few. If you’re thinking about planning a budget trip, here's how to get to Washington, D.C., with points and miles.
Getting to Washington, D.C.
The District of Columbia has three centrally located airports offering a large variety of flight and airline options. Oddly enough, none of these airports are actually located in the district.
The airports serving the D.C. area include:
Of the three airports, IAD is the largest international airport and offers, by far, the most airline options, flights and lounges. But there are two big drawbacks to flying into or out of IAD: It’s the farthest from the city (at over 25 miles), and there’s no public transportation option, aside from car services and private airport shuttles. The lack of metro service to IAD is a bummer since Washington, D.C., generally has an extensive metro system.
DCA is a convenient airport since it’s only 5 miles from the city center and easily accessible via the metro and bus lines. The major downside is that it services mostly shorter domestic flights. It doesn't often offer longer direct flights within the U.S.
BWI is a bit farther than DCA from D.C., and services many airlines and international routes. It is accessible on the city metro via a short bus ride.
Major airlines flying to Washington, D.C.
BWI serves as an operating base for Southwest, which offers nonstops to nearly 70 cities. IAD is a United Airlines hub but is also served by over 30 airlines (including all of the major carriers).
Flying to Washington, D.C., with points and miles
Because there are three airport options and service from almost every airline with a rewards program, the opportunities to get to Washington, D.C., with points and miles are seemingly endless. Even so, a few programs stand out for those looking to get maximum value from their miles.
American Airlines AAdvantage Web Special awards
AAdvantage miles are among the best points and miles for cheap flights to Washington, D.C. For example, the Web Special awards start at only 6,000 miles for transcontinental flights from Baltimore-Washington to Los Angeles.
In the spring of 2021, we found Web Special awards available on several routes from Washington, D.C., for 7,000 miles in economy and 10,000 in business.
Southwest, JetBlue and Delta
Southwest, JetBlue and Delta offer multiple flight options, with award ticket prices roughly mirroring the cash price of the ticket. We found economy flights on all three of these airlines from Washington, D.C., to airports all over the country in August for less than $100.
Here are a few examples:
Baltimore-Washington to Charleston, South Carolina, on Delta: The cash price is $80 and the award ticket price is 4,500 miles, plus $6 in taxes.
Washington-National to Orlando, Florida, on JetBlue: The cash price is $99 and the price in TrueBlue points is 8,400 points, plus $5.60 in taxes.
» Learn more: Our writers draft their favorite airlines
Hotels to book with points in Washington, D.C.
Now that you have your flights squared away, let's take a closer look at hotels you can book with points in the capital city.
Washington, D.C., Marriott hotels
St. Regis Washington, D.C.
A century-old and extremely luxurious property, the St. Regis Washington, D.C., is perfectly located near the city’s top tourist attractions, including the National Mall and the White House.
Cost to book in points: The price at the St. Regis Washington, D.C., can be 52,000 to 72,000 points per night. While there are several less expensive Marriott properties in the area, the St. Regis is a great opportunity to treat yourself.
How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points: The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card offers a Free Night Award every year after your card renewal month for a night valued up to 85,000 points, enough to book a night at the St. Regis any night of the year. Terms apply.
If you don’t want to commit to a Marriott Bonvoy-branded credit card but you want Gold status in the Marriott Bonvoy program, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which comes with automatic Marriott Gold Status. Plus, the card is currently offering this welcome bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.
Those points can typically be transferred to the Bonvoy program at a 1:1 ratio.
Washington, D.C., Hilton hotels
Conrad Washington, D.C.
Conrad Washington, D.C., is a pet-friendly luxury hotel close to all the city’s popular attractions. As an added bonus, Michael Voltaggio’s restaurant, Estuary, is on the premises (you might recognize the name from "Top Chef").
Cost to book in points: Hilton doesn’t have set award pricing, but rooms tend to start at around 80,000 points per night. NerdWallet values Hilton points at 0.6 cent per point. Cash rates are often as high as $450 a night. So 80,000 points are worth about $320 — making this redemption a great value compared to the cash price.
How to earn Hilton Honors points: Both the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card let you earn a weekend free night certificate, which can come in handy on expensive weekend nights in the spring and summer. Terms apply.
If you want Gold status in the Hilton Honors program but don’t want to commit to a Hilton Bonvoy-branded credit card, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express, which also comes with automatic Hilton Gold status.
Those points can typically be transferred to the Hilton Honors program at a 1:2 ratio, which means 1 American Express point can be turned into 2 Hilton points.
» Learn more: Your guide to hotel bonus point promotions
Washington, D.C., Hyatt hotels
Park Hyatt Washington, D.C.
The Park Hyatt Washington, D.C., is a favorite among points and miles enthusiasts for its central location, and especially for its Michelin-starred restaurant, Blue Duck Tavern. World of Hyatt members who have Globalist status are entitled to free breakfast at this awesome restaurant — this alone could be what keeps them coming back.
Cost to book in points: Rooms start at 20,000 points per night at this Category 5 World of Hyatt hotel. NerdWallet values Hyatt points at 2.8 cents each.
How to earn Hyatt points: You can earn World of Hyatt points by spending at participating properties. Basic members earn 5 points per dollar on qualifying hotel charges, while elite members earn bonus points of up to 30% on those stays.
But the fastest way to earn points is with the World of Hyatt Credit Card, which piles on more points for every dollar spent, plus comes with a welcome bonus: Earn 30,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Plus, up to 30,000 More Bonus Points by earning 2 Bonus Points total per $1 spent in the first 6 months from account opening on purchases that normally earn 1 Bonus Point, on up to $15,000 spent. The card also comes with an annual free night.
If you visit Washington, D.C., with points and miles
The U.S. capital is practically a must-visit, and using points and miles to book an affordable Washington, D.C., trip can save you a lot of cash. The wide selection of airlines and hotels means more opportunities to find deals.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card