Answers from Our Experts (2)
Renting a car on a visit to Washington, D.C. is a personal choice, and it often depends on your unique itinerary. If your visit to the D.C. area keeps you in the city proper, it is often easiest to leave the car at home and use public transportation like Metro or cabs to get around. Parking is expensive at most hotels – between $30 and $40 per day – and on-street parking is both limited and highly restricted based on time of day.
If your trip takes you outside the Beltway or beyond Washington, D.C. proper into Virginia and Maryland, a car might be a good idea. Getting to many popular day trip locations like Annapolis, Baltimore, Charlottesville and Tyson’s Corner require four wheels of your own.
If you do need to rent a car while on a day trip, skip the standard rental agencies – we’d suggest ZipCar.
I know plenty of people who live in the city who don't own cars — and some of them even have kids. Cabs are plentiful and if you haven't downloaded a smartphone app called Uber, allow me to change your life. Uber calls a town car (read: clean, roomy, comfortable, and classy) to your exact location just by tapping on your smartphone. No calls to taxi dispatches, no 30-minute waits if you're in an off-the-beaten-path location. Capital Bikeshares are available all over town; for a small fee, grab a bike for as long as you need and return it to any bikeshare location. The metro is fantastic too, inexpensive with many stops all over town.
If you must rent, parking has become much easier with dial-in paying at meters (no more rolls of quarters), but 25 cents buys you just 8 minutes at a downtown meter, so be prepared. There are plenty of garages downtown but some fill up around lunchtime and there's nothing worse than searching for a spot at 12:45 when your reservation was for 12:30.