Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, if you’re a patriot, any presidential inauguration is an exciting event. The inauguration of Barak Obama is a momentous occasion. The 2008 presidential campaign was one of the most polarizing and gripping campaigns that the country has witnessed. Obama is taking the reins during a very difficult—and very critical—time in both American and world history. Obama’s entrance into the oval office represents the ending of an era… and the beginning of a new one.
The inauguration itself will be unique—according to the Presidential Inauguration Committee website, “For the first time ever, the length of the National Mall will be open to those wishing to attend the swearing-in ceremony.” Gone is the exclusivity of past inaugurations. You don’t have to be a politician, you don’t have to be rich. You can go to Obama’s inauguration for free.
(Now for the part that, unfortunately, isn’t free– travel and accommodations. But we’ll do our best to give you some money-saving tips):
If you’ve not yet made plans to attend the festivities, it’s not too late—you don’t have to miss out on this once in a lifetime event. If you don’t live within driving distance of Washington DC, check out Kayak.com for last-minute flight deals.
Yes, hotels in Washington DC will be full to bursting or, if you can find a room, it will be shockingly expensive in the days around the inauguration. However, Tripbase did some research and found that there are rooms left in nearby cities—some for as low as 69 dollars a night. Assuming a check-in date of January 19 and a check-out date of January 21, you should be able to find hotel rooms in the following cities (listed in order of proximity to Washington DC):
OK, so there are rooms available in nearby cities. That’s just one part. What about the expense– to both your wallet and your time?
We researched exactly how far these cities are from Washington DC and approximated how much time it will take you to drive to the capitol from them. (Remember, these are approximate times—give yourself plenty of wiggle room for traffic or delays. Inauguration events kick of at 10 AM on January 19). We also figured out how much gas money it would cost you. Assuming that your car gets 25 miles per gallon:
Setting aside the price of plane tickets– which don’t apply to everyone– what will attending this extraordinary event cost you? Let’s say that you go it alone– you spend 40 dollars round-trip to drive to and from Philadelphia. There you stay at a mid-range hotel, paying about 100 dollars a night (x two nights=200 dollars). You’ll pay another $20.46 round-trip in gas from Philadelphia to DC (and back again). Let’s say that you end up paying $20 for parking once you’re in Washington DC. For food, we’ll budget $50 a day, for a total of $100– which is on the high end (realistically, you could spend half that amount and still eat very well. See this guide on delicious but dirt cheap eats in DC).
The grand total? $390, and that’s probably an overestimation.
OK, so it’s not exactly chump change, and you definitely won’t find it beneath your couch cushions, but it’s a small price to pay to participate in something that will never happen again– Obama’s inauguration.
Are you planning on throwing an inauguration party? Reconsider. You’d probably spend at least $100 dollars on refreshments and food. Why don’t you ask three of four friends if they want to go to the inauguration with you rather than watching it at home?
Using the example above again: a group of four suddenly brings that 40 dollars on gas for the trip to and from Philadelphia to 10 bucks each. A 100 dollar hotel room plummets down to 25 bucks a night per person (so $50 a person for two nights). That 20 dollars of gas to make the trip from Philadelphia to DC, and back again, becomes 5 bucks each– and yes, that’s something you might be able to find underneath your couch cushions. That 20 dollars in parking becomes, again, 5 dollars each.
But let’s keep that high estimation of $50 a person for food (hey, there are great restaurants in Washington DC).
The new total? 170 dollars. Not bad.
Take that inauguration party to Washington DC. Sure it’s last minute, sure the hotels in DC are full, but if you want it, you can make it happen… like Obama did.
All photos from Flickr. Photo credits (in order of placement): Hope- Obama (Shepard Fairey poster) by Steve Rhodes; Washington Monument, National Mall, Washington DC by yeowatzup; Barack Obama by transplanted mountaineer; The White House by Scott Ableman.