Travel Between Boston and DC: Pros and Cons of Options

We’ve become regular travelers between Boston and Washington D.C, making the trip many times over the course of a couple years. Bell’s company’s home office is located in Bethesda, Maryland which is conveniently connected to Washington, D.C. via a short 20 minute metro ride. The first two times we flew but this time I decided to shave some money off a last minute plane ticket and booked an Amtrak train instead. That turned out to be a disaster due to a February snow storm. Here’s some pros and cons of all travel options between Boston and Washington, D.C.


Flying Between Boston and Washington, DC

Washington, DC Airports and Nonstop Flights

There are a lot of flight options between Boston Logan Airport and Washington, DC. Washington, DC is served by three major airports. The three options to fly into are Reagan National Airport (DCA), Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Nonstop flights between Washington, DC and Boston are offered by Delta, jetBlue, American Airlines, United, Southwest and Spirit. National Airport is typically the best airport for flying into Washington, DC because it’s the closest airport to downtown Washington and easily accessible by metro.

If you fly between Boston and Washington, DC, jetBlue is a great choice as it often ranks as the nations best airline for customer service. Delta and jetBlue are the top two American airlines so those are your best choices.

We enjoy flying jetBlue between D.C. and Boston as they’re our favorite American airline for service, complimentary in-flight entertainment and gourmet snacks. They have direct flights to both Dulles, Reagan National Airport and Baltimore Airport, which is only around 30 miles from D.C. From Dulles you’ll need to catch a shuttle if you don’t want to fork out for a pricy Uber or cab ride. Baltimore airport is connected to Washington D.C. via train to Union Station.

We’ve seen jetBlue run $50 one way promotional fares between Boston and D.C. Obviously prices are usually quite a bit higher and last minute this can be an expensive route. So if the flight between Boston and Washington, DC is expensive, shoudl you catch the train?

Amtrak Train Between Washington, DC and Boston

If you’re booking relatively last minute and have the time, Amtrak is OK as one of the travel options between Boston and D.C. You can even use the time to work on the train. Amtrak’s dining car won’t blow your socks off, but it offers a break from what are already comfortable and spacious seats on the train. Unfortunately, the food isn’t very good so don’t board starving! Train travel in the US is generally not as good as western Europe or Japan. Boston’s South Station and D.C.’s Union Station both have better food options than what you can purchase aboard an Amtrak train (basically microwave food).

I had some bad luck taking the train from Boston to Washington, D.C last week. What should have been an 8 hour train ride took 13 hours because the train departed 2 and 1/2 hours late and the journey took an additional 2 and 1/2 hours due to a snow storm and a backlog of snow and ice chaos in Boston. So instead of arriving at 8:40pm, in time to catch the Washington metro to my hotel, I arrived at 1:40am, exhausted and frustrated. I then needed to wait over an hour for a taxi, part of which was outside in temperatures well below freezing at Union Station.

On the return, Bell joined me on Amtrak for the trip to Boston and we had much better luck. Several inches of snow had already fallen in D.C. before our train was meant to depart and many flights out of D.C were cancelled, leaving some of Bell’s colleagues stuck for another night. We were dubious about the train but it departed on time and while we arrived in Boston 1.5 hours late, weather conditions were bad enough that we were lucky just to get home.

The verdict on American train travel: It’s hit and miss, but when it’s a miss the delays can be major. Then again, you can experience major flight delays with flights too.

The White House surrounded by snow

Is Catching a Bus One of the Good Travel Options Between Boston and D.C.?

A lot of buses offer service between Boston and Washington, DC. But unless the flights are expensive and you’re a budget traveler, this is not an ideal option.

I considered buying a bus ticket from Boston to D.C. because the ticket was only $57 and the ride only took a little longer than the non-express train, clocking in at 9+ hours. We’ve traveled roundtrip from Boston to New York City by bus and would do it again, but that ride only takes 3.5 – 4.5 hours, depending on traffic. That’s a big difference compared to over 9 hours on a potentially packed bus. On the train you can move around more and there’s the dining car to escape to. If you’re sitting next to someone you don’t like on a bus, you might not have anywhere else to go! This is important to keep in mind when weighing your travel decision between a bus and a train.

All major buses have free WiFi so you can also work or play on the bus. Wanderu is a great site to check out to view many of the bus options between Boston and Washington, or anywhere else in the United States.

Driving Between Boston and Washington D.C.

Jefferson Memorial during Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC

If you own a car and are traveling for leisure, driving can be a good option, especially if you want to do some day trips to interesting Washington, DC area attractions like Mount Vernon or nearby wineries in Virginia. Renting a car could also be a good option, but it depends what your priorities are. If you’re visiting D.C for several days primarily to see museums, the US Capitol Building and White House, you might want to leave the car at home. Be careful with rental quotes because insuring a car can cost significantly more than the rate you found if you need to purchase insurance. You can buy third party insurance through third party sites like Hotwire, but you may not be covered for incidentals like loss of revenue for the rental car company while the car is being repaired.

Washington, DC also has some of the worst traffic in the country and you can encounter heavy traffic down along Interstate-95 as well. Another downside is high parking fees in Washington, DC – like many cities. But if you do drive you can stay outside Washington, DC, often for significantly less, and this would also offer free overnight parking.

Distance between Boston and Washington, DC

The distance from Boston to D.C. is 440 miles (708 km) and will take a minimum of around 7 hours with no traffic or stops at a sane driving speed. You also won’t be able to get any work done if you’re driving either. Though for some, the drive itself is an excuse not to be working!

What do you think of the travel options between Boston and D.C.? If you have stories to share, let us know in the comments!

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