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Elected officials, civil servants, and lobbyists may get all sorts of sweet deals in Washington, D.C., but those of us on a budget sometimes need to get creative. The good news is that there are plenty of thrifty ways to enjoy your time in D.C. without busting the bank. Are you planning a trip just to visit? Or maybe you’re getting ready to start a new semester at one of the many colleges in the D.C. area? Check out these five life hacks to help make your stay a memorable one!

1. Travel is All About Timing

Washington D.C. is notorious for its traffic jams. The most common advice newcomers to the city often receive is to start planning every outing with extra time allotted for travel, regardless of the time of day. Many commuters in the area would rather take the bus or the metro than invest in owning a car. Locals recommend getting a metro card. You’ll want to make sure it’s set up to auto-reload—that way you’ll never miss a train because you were stuck adding funds to your card. Make sure you download a transportation tracking app such as BusTrackDC or DC Metro and Bus app. Other thrifty travel options include walking tours and the capital bike share, so if you’re not afraid of a little physical effort, these are great options for seeing the sights and staying on-budget.

Marine Corps Memorial at Night 

Another pro-timing tip for your travels: Residents of the capital agree—all of the monuments are better at night.


2. Some Monuments Are Just Too Mainstream

While the primary museums, such as the Air & Space, Natural History, and American History museums get most of the attention (and crowds) there are actually a total of eleven museums and galleries in the National Mall area. Plus, there are an additional six museums, as well as the National Zoo all within the D.C. area. Each has its own special history, exhibits, and focus, from the African American Museum to the Archives of American Art, to the Postal Museum. If you have free time and want some cultural stimulation without being crammed in with the tourists, it could take months, if not longer, to adequately explore each one.


3. Find a Place to Chill

Ready to sit down and grab a moment of quiet solitude? Seeking a place where you can study in peace? D.C. boasts a variety of scenic areas where you can get a break from all the noise. There are plenty of small green spaces that aren’t mentioned in the major “must do” tourism books.

Students moving to the capital for college should consider getting a library card. Though advice like “go to the library” might sound a little outdated, the D. C. library has more to offer beyond just books. They also give you access to DVDs (including TV shows) and e-books. Plus, a library is guaranteed to provide you with the quietude you need to focus.

Washington DC Public Library


4. The Best Entertainment is Free

 Washington D.C. isn’t just monuments, museums, and politicians. There are plenty of fun activities to try that won’t empty your wallet. The Smithsonian and other museums offer frequent, free activities that you can find listed on their websites. Additionally, the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center offers free shows every single day at 6pm. You might also want to check out the E Street Cinema. It’s right off of metro, offers student discounts, and you can kick back with a beer while you watch the big screen!

Whether you’re just dropping by for a visit, or planning to stay for a while, Peter Pan Bus Lines can get you to and from Washington D.C. at the lowest possible price—guaranteed. Purchase tickets via our mobile app, and start your journey today!


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