Best Airport for Flying Into Washington, D.C.

If you are visiting Washington, DC for the first and flying there are 3 airport options. This guide will help you weigh the pros and cons of utilizing DCA, Dulles, or Reagan National Airport. Below are common questions most travelers have about the Washington, DC airports.

Q: How many airports are there in DC?

A: There are three major airports near DC: Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Arlington Virginia, Dulles International Airport (IAD) in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC and Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) in south eastern suburbs of Baltimore.

Q: Which airport is accessible to the DC metro system?

A: Reagan National Airport is the most accessible and has a metro stop at the airport itself. Dulles airport will have Metro station that connects directly with the terminal in 2018, but for now Dulles and the Metro is connected via the Silverline Connector. This is a bus that runs continuously between the Reston Metro station on the Silver line and Dulles airport. BWI does not connect with the Metro system.

Q: How do I get to Downtown DC from BWI?

A: You can get to Downtown DC from BWI through a few options. The most efficient method is taking the MARC commuter trains into Union Station. This method is affordable and allows you to avoid much of the DC traffic. Another option is to take the metrobus from BWI to Greenbelt metro station, and then taking the Metro to Downtown DC. Anticipate spending at least one and a half hours to commute from the BWI airport into downtown DC.

How long does it take to get from Dulles to downtown Washington, DC

Anticipate spending between 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes to get from Dulles to downtown DC. You can utilze the express bus routes, or use the Silver line bus connector that will take you to the Reston Metro station. Anticipate spending 45 minutes on the Metro to get from Reston to downtown DC. If traffic is heavy the buses can get backed up on I-66 and this will make for a commute that could last about 45 minutes to an hour.

Q: How should I choose which airport to fly into?

A: Assuming plane tickets are all the same flying into any of the three airports, we suggest flying into Reagan National Airport (DCA) under almost all circumstances. If you’re staying in Northeastern DC suburbs, flying into Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) is more convenient. For travelers who will be staying in western Virginia suburbs Dulles International Airport (IAD) isn’t a bad option.

Q: Which airport is the most convenient to the National Mall & Downtown?

A: Reagan National Airport is the most convenient and closest airport to DC, residing in the Arlington/Alexandria area, just across the Potomac River from Downtown DC and the National Mall. This airport also has its own metro station on the blue and yellow line, making it easy to get to the National Mall within 10-15 minutes.

Q: Can I store my luggage at any of these airports?

A: No, due to stricter TSA guidelines airports no longer have designated luggage storage areas.

When is the best time to fly in to avoid traffic?

A: The heaviest traffic is typically from 7am-9am and 4pm-7pm, so I suggest trying to get a flight that arrives between 11am-2pm to avoid the most traffic. Although flying in late is an option, travelers should be aware that the metro stops running at midnight, which could make the travel in difficult.

Which airport has the longest security screenings?

A: Interestingly, BWI tends to have the longer security screening process. The Department of Homeland Security uses BWI as a test site to try out different and new screening methods, which can cause a delay. In contrast, Dulles security screenings are typically faster thanks to their time estimate system that displays calculated wait times at security checkpoints.

Which airports fly internationally?

A: BWI and Dulles offer and receive international flights. Reagan National Airport, due to its short runway size, only offers domestic flights and flights to Canada and the Caribbean.