How to Fly for Free to Washington, D.C. (almost)!

Okay, so I spent $18 one way to D.C. from Jacksonville, Florida, or $36 round trip. Not too shabby! I also got free WiFi on the plane and good coffee!

How Did I Do It?

  1. Southwest points!  I absolutely love traveling with Southwest! Free bags, happy jokes, good service and lots of smiles… what else could I want from an airline? Oh, and good prices help!  I have their credit card so I earn points when I pay for my monthly bills.  No matter what airlines you use, you have to pay the 9/11 Security fee of $11, so my round trip flight was technically $22 while using points.  Tip: Even if you buy using points, buy your tickets when flights are on sale! I used 18,964 points for a round trip ticket from JAX to BWI.  I flew Paul, Dad, and I round trip to Fort Lauderdale for 20,541 plus $33!  These are great prices, but of course the further you’re flying, the higher the cost in points or in cash.
  2. To get a non-stop flight to the region with Southwest, I flew to BWI Thurgood Marshall International airport.  That meant a short train ride (the process is described below) via a MARC regional train into the core of DC. A one-way ticket was $7, purchased easily from an electronic kiosk.  So, $11 flight fee plus a $7 train ticket brings my one-way total to $18!  Not a bad price, if I do say so myself (and apparently, I do)!
  3. While I was waiting in JAX, I sent a Tweet to Southwest about how much I love flying with them, which is true! They Tweeted a response back and gave me free WiFi for the flight.  Very cool!  Tip: Because Southwest Airlines really is amazing, their in-flight WiFi is normally only $8!  That’s a great deal compared to other airlines’ WiFi prices, and the connection was good!

The Trip From BWI to D.C.

This part is surprisingly easy!  I got out of the baggage pick-up area of BWI, and followed clearly marked signs just a few feet to the MARC/AMTRAK shuttle bus (which is free).  I didn’t have to wait and there were only a few others on the shuttle with me, plenty of storage for luggage (the shuttle is a full sized city bus), and in 10 minutes, I was at the train station.  The train station is pretty much on airport property but definitely you’d want to take the shuttle.

I walked up to a MARC digital kiosk that had no line, selected Washington Union Station as my destination (the biggest and prominent option in the screen), selected 1 way, and 1 passenger. The screen showed $7 and prompted me to pay with a card, which went very smoothly, and then printed my ticket. Done!

There are 2 platforms available, clearly marked, and only one heads toward DC so I made my way over to wait the 20 minutes or so for my train.  I got on, found plenty of seats, gave my ticket to the conductor, and was settled.  This train is a double decker, which is cool!

You also could take the AMTRAK train from this station to Union Terminal, but the tickets are more expensive.  The train is quicker, though, and I believe it makes fewer stops.  Still, to save probably $26-$50 and take a tick longer to get there with the regional train is no bother to me. Thankfully, I’m not in a rush!

For the way back, I’ll get my ticket at a union Terminal, get the shuttle bus that picks up at the train station and shuttles me to BWI, and head home.  Easy, affordable, and that’s how I (almost) was able to fly for free to Washington, D.C.!

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