We Love to Travel – But Waking Up At 3:30 am? Get Serious.

Plane taking off in the morning...

I’m a big fan of traveling.  And when I go on vacation, or just away for work, I usually end up traveling out of Dulles airport.  That’s because I live in Arlington, so the two closest airports to me are Dulles and National.  And although I take National any time I can, Dulles still ends up being the most often used.

But, with airfare prices (and FEES, don’t get me started) going up all over the place, being flexible on travel times can save me and my company a lot of cash.  But some times that means flying out at 6:00 am.  Or some equally absurd time in the morning.

Now, do the math.  If you have to be at the airport for a 6:00 am flight, you need to be there an hour early.  That’s 5:00 am.  Earlier, if you want to check luggage for that great Hawaii vacation.  For anyone who lives near DC, in DC, or anywhere other than Reston, that means at least a 30 minute trip.  Fortunately the roads are pretty clear at 4:30 am, and the toll road helps.  Now, if I’ve done my math correctly, that means getting up at 3:30 am to get ready to leave.  At that point, why even go to sleep?

I, for one, don’t want to wake up at 3:30 am for a flight.  So is there a better solution?

Now, before I continue, I should make a quick overview of your options on getting to Dulles at 4:30 am.  Taxi: about $65.00 from the district.  Shared Ride van: $25.00 – and add about an hour.  Metro – um, metro isn’t open at 4:30 am.  Drive your own car:  $17.00/day for the daily lot, or $10.00/day for economy.  For economy, add 30 minutes for the bus.

The cheapest option gets you to the airport for $25.00, but requires an additional hour advanced notice, so now you are getting up at 2:30 am.  Cabs are an option – especially if you are on an expense account.  Or you can park, and for a week pay $60.00.

So a few weeks ago I tried another alternative.  I rented a room at the Dulles Airport Marriott.  They have a package, called Stay and Park, that for $125.00 that gives you an overnight room and two weeks of parking.  The hotel is less than a mile from the airport – heck, it’s basically on a runway – which means the shuttle takes 5 minutes to get there.  Take off the parking fees and the rate is $65.00.  For that, you get to sleep until 4:00 or 4:30 am, and still get to the airport in plenty of time.

Even better, your car is parked in the Marriott parking lot.  So instead of waiting 30 minutes for a bus to pick you up from your car, and 30 more minutes to get back to your car, you travel in a van and take 5 minutes to get your car and drive away.

If you’re headed out on vacation in the next few months (especially if you are lucky enough to take more than a week off) it’s worth looking at the park & stay options.  Several other hotels in the area offer the same thing – so there is some price shopping available.  And the hotel shuttles beat the Economy lot bus any day.

Alternatively, you can try to sleep on the plane.  The cost for a pillow will be $5.00, please.


We love to travel (from DC) will be published every  other Wednesday (except when the author is on the road and can’t get the internet connection to work). Please email suggestions to jonebaker at we love dc dot com.

Jonathan Baker

came to DC, left for San Francisco, and then realized he couldn’t live without a daily fix of politics and came back. When not traveling to crazy locations, he speaks and writes for a major software house in CA.

4 thoughts on “We Love to Travel – But Waking Up At 3:30 am? Get Serious.

  1. Wow, great tip Jonathan. I too ma a frequent 6am flyer and will consider the hotel option the next time the wife and I jet away. Sadly, work will not cover hotel, so if its just me, like on Monday, I have to deal. Thankfully, they do cover the taxi fare.

  2. I have found staying at one of the airport hotels, with the free parking and a free shuttle to and from the terminal is a lot easier and less stressful than driving and parking at 3:30 AM. If you call the hotel directly (we have stayed at the Dulles Hyatt) you can get a good rate. On some trips, the hotel was cheaper than economy parking.

  3. Hi Jonathon – I work for Marriott and was super excited to read your post. Thanks for the shout out! If anyone else wants to take advantage of this package you can enter PROMOTIONAL CODE: PKF for any Marriott hotels to see if they have this special package available. Thanks again – safe travels.