Is it a fool's game to travel to D.C. right before the election?
August 7, 2012 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Travel filter regarding D.C., near election time...Has anyone ever traveled to D.C. say a week or two before the election? Mrs. Nash and I are headed to a wedding in Charlottesville the weekend of 10/27, and thought we'd make a short vacation trip down to D.C. before the wedding, but hotel prices seem to skyrocket in mid to late October, which got me thinking that there are probably all kinds of political types headed to the area in the two or three weeks leading up to the election on 11/4. Has anyone ever visited D.C. during this timeframe? If so, what was your experience like? Was it insane and best tackled on another trip?
posted by doogan nash to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (18 answers total)
I don't think you're going to run into any election-related traffic or crowding. Not in DC and not in Virginia. The action, as much as there is any, is in swing states (which may or may not include VA). You'll likely see an enormous amount of political advertising on TV in Virginia, but I don't think that's what's causing the hotel rooms to go up in price. It's more likely large conventions or conferences.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:50 PM on August 7, 2012

Yeah, having lived there for 12 years I never saw anything crazy in October. Now cherry blossom season is another story;)
posted by bananafish at 8:55 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lived here for 20 years, people don't typically travel here for the election. Even our local political types are very very busy out in the swing states (of which DC is assuredly not one) until literally the last minute!
posted by nkknkk at 9:05 PM on August 7, 2012

Yeah, the election headquarters are generally wherever the networks have their biggest operations (i.e. New York), the swing states (whatever those turn out to be), and the candidates home turf (Romney: Massachusetts or New Hampshire; Obama: Chicago).
posted by Jahaza at 9:31 PM on August 7, 2012

You'll see no difference in Virginia, either, swing state or no. Maybe at the Richmond Marriott and the Omni, where the two state parties are liable to hold their respective election night parties, but here in Charlottesville, no problem. (Not what you asked, but I'm just picking up on gingerbeer's point.)
posted by waldo at 10:16 PM on August 7, 2012

In my experience DC actually gets pretty dead around election time. The Hill staff get shipped out to work on their boss's campaigns and everyone else who works in politics is either out where the action is or in a holding pattern waiting to see what happens. If you're a political person DC is definitely NOT the most exciting place to be on election night.
posted by fancypants at 4:48 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I live in DC, and the crazy time is the Inauguration, not election night.
posted by procrastination at 5:17 AM on August 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

October is the best time to be here!
posted by jgirl at 5:30 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I lived in Northern Virginia, inside the Beltway, and within Metro-riding distance of DC from February 2008 through August 2009. This included the 2008 election and Obama's inauguration in January 2009. The crazier time was the inauguration. Everyone and their brother seemed to come to town for that. The actual election time seemed fairly normal.
posted by tckma at 5:33 AM on August 8, 2012

I want to add that I think the 2009 inauguration was probably crazier/busier than a "normal" inauguration since there was so much nationwide interest and excitement for Obama that just didn't exist for any other President I can remember. However, I have nothing to compare it to since I only lived that close to DC for that particular year and a half, i.e. for that inauguration only.
posted by tckma at 5:36 AM on August 8, 2012

October is a gorgeous time to be here! Never noticed any election-related uptick in traffic or tourism. Not sure what's up with the hotel prices.
posted by JoanArkham at 5:41 AM on August 8, 2012

I wonder if hotel prices skyrocket because people do not want to visit DC in the summer? You'd think that would be priced in by mid-October, though.
posted by breakin' the law at 5:48 AM on August 8, 2012

If the prices of the hotels are getting you down, stay in a Metro connected suburb. Much cheaper and you were going to ride the train to get around anyway.

Try Northern Virginia, Vienna, Tysons Corners, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:50 AM on August 8, 2012

I'd agree with others. I think that the spike in hotel prices that you are seeing is because it is a much more pleasant time of year to visit DC. The prices at my fave cheap hotel in NYC go up about 25% from right after Labor Day through most of December.
posted by kaybdc at 6:45 AM on August 8, 2012

You definitely won't have any election related crowding - tourist DC is very different from political DC. The hotel price issue is because it is actually nice in DC that time of year! I recommend priceline's name your own price feature - just be careful in selecting the neighborhood and star level and you should be able to find something really nice at a decent rate.
posted by cessair at 6:47 AM on August 8, 2012

There could be a large conference or two in town driving up prices - that's much more likely than election season stuff.
posted by ersatzkat at 9:53 AM on August 8, 2012

As a lifelong DC-area resident, I've never seen a particular spike in crowds around election time. Summer and holiday weekends tend to be the worst, since that's when the tourists tend to be in town.

If you do make the trip, be sure to look into the area you will be staying if you stay in DC proper. Some neighborhoods are perfectly safe, others are "don't walk around after dark, and even in daylight keep an eye out" type areas.

There's always the option to stay in a Metro-connected suburb, of course. Be aware that Metro is AWFUL if you go that route. Allow yourself 30+ minutes more than Metro's trip planner states for any given trip, and do your absolute best to avoid rush hour if you're there on a weekday. Unfortunately, driving into DC (and parking in DC) is no picnic either, so Metro is still the lesser of two evils a lot of the time.
posted by RealBorg at 2:22 PM on August 8, 2012

Oh yeah...elections or no, Metro closes down stations and/or portions of the line on weekends pretty much all year long these days. Check for scheduled maintenance before booking a room that's only accessible via Metro.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:16 AM on August 9, 2012

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