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2nd Time Around: Nation’s Capital Will be Cheaper, Easier to Get Around For Inauguration

Crowd at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration

Travelers planning a trip to Washington, D.C., to celebrate  with festivities surrounding President Barack Obama’s swearing in for a second term are in luck.

Inauguration Day is Monday, Jan. 21, and visitors are expected to be welcomed by cheaper hotel prices and an easier time getting around town.

Obama’s first-term inauguration attracted an estimated 1.8 million people — the largest crowd ever recorded on the National Mall.

“After hours of being outside, we were all icicles,” recalled Tyra Berger of Upper Marlboro, Md. “Leaving was the worst. We had to stand in line for almost three blocks to get into the subway station. After we got in, it still took at least half an hour to get down to the platform.”

Up to 800,000 people are expected to attend Inauguration Day events this time around. There will be two official inaugural balls — compared to ten in 2009 — and no big concert on the Mall. “A smaller crowd and a scaled-back scope of activities keep with the tradition of most second inaugurals,” said Cameron French, spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. “But there are still plenty of opportunities for people to get involved in the activities.”

Getting there
Many streets and parking spaces in Washington, D.C., will be blocked off, so consider riding with a group that has booked a tour bus, taking scheduled bus service — such as the Bolt Bus — or the train.

Unlike 2009, Amtrak won’t offer extra service. “There will be increased security along the Northeast corridor and in the Washington, D.C., Union Station area, but there are still plenty of seats available,” said Christina Leeds, a spokesperson for Amtrak. A 30-percent discount on companion fares to Washington, D.C. is available through Washington.org, but Leeds says there will be limited availability for that promotion on January 21st.

Some good airfares may still available, especially if you can extend your stay to avoid the crowds leaving immediately after the events. Be sure to include all D.C.-area airports — Dulles International, Reagan National and Baltimore-Washington International — in fare searches.

Where to stay
Some hotel websites are noting a three- or four-night minimum stay, but there are many hotels throughout the city and surrounding areas with rooms available, according to Destination DC’s Inauguration website.

Vacation rentals are also an option. “Availability is holding relatively steady with about 61 percent of the properties showing they’re booked for the weekend of January 18 to 21,” said Jaime Dito, a spokesperson for HomeAway, a vacation-rental website.

“Rates and restrictions for hotels in the D.C. area are dropping and some hotels are even dropping the ‘non-refundable’ clause for reservations,” said Expedia spokeswoman Sarah Gavin. Three- and four-night searches are bringing up deals for less expensive hotels right downtown, and there is plenty of availability, at a slight premium, for one- or two-night stays with arrivals on Saturday or Sunday night.

“Overall, this could be the most open and accessible inauguration we have seen in a long time for out-of-town guests wanting to experience a piece of history,” Gavin said.

Read more: NBC News

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