After many years of parking in Washington D.C.—and at conventions in general—I have my developed my favorite ways to deal with the limited spaces and high cost of parking in the District.
First, the easiest method to save money for those parking for the whole weekend or for those at least parking long enough to be departing over the weekend, is to use the D.C. Metro. Metro parking garages are free to park as long as you depart anytime after Metro closes on Friday night and before Metro garages open fee collection on Monday morning. Knowing this, you can choose to park at one of the larger Metro garages and take the train indirectly.
However, if your like me and are traveling with a considerable amount of gear, you will need drive to the hotel first, pull to the front valet area, tell them that you need to check-in (this will give you about 45 minutes) and leave your car at the front while you unload. Then, once your done, drive back to one of the larger Metro garages, park (for the weekend) and use Metro to get back to the hotel—and back to your car when you leave. This isn’t completely free as you will need a Metro ticket to Woodley Park Metro station (the hotel’s Metro stop on the red line), and the return trip fee from which ever garage you choose to park. If you plan on at coming to D.C. more than one time in your life, consider purchasing a SmarTrip® card; this will make using the Metro considerably easier. Although I have never had a problem with any of the other larger Metro garages (while parking over multiple days), only 3 Metro garages are designated for multi-day parking: Huntington, Franconia-Springfield, and Greenbelt, so keep that in mind if you want to play it safe.
This other alternative option is also risky, but if you play it right, you may have both a close parking spot and save money doing it: street parking. Street parking is either controlled by meters or by zone passes. Both are only in effect at particular times of particular days. If you do enough exploring and a little research, and have a bit of luck, then you can find a sweet deal. Many of the streets around the hotel area have availability, albeit limited, just be careful to properly read all signs around the area to make sure that you will be OK for the time that you are planning to park and that you know how much and what form of payment is required. If you want a guaranteed street parking, garage parking, or other alternative parking spot, check out Parking Panda.
The last option, if you want lower cost (than our $22 a day special hotel rate), or if the parking at the hotel is full, is to use a parking app—we recommend Parking Panda. Many of you probably have a smartphone or a tablet. Downloading an app for parking, especially one that caters to the D.C. market, will be indispensable if you want something concrete closer to the hotel and for whatever reason other options are not available (or affordable). I’ve used a parking app for Android when I am looking for a garage near my destination (in D.C proper). If you don’t mind walking and/or taking a short ride, there are plenty of lower cost garages within approximately a mile of the hotel (just not so much on the closer side of that).
There is also an overflow lot at UDC which is only one stop away on the Metro red line ($20 a day), which is already listed in our Parking options.
Check out this comprehensive guide with information about the Metro and Union Station (in PDF form)
See you soon!
Convention Chair, 2013, 2014