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Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Auckland New Zealand
Level Contributor
41 posts
3 reviews
Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

I am planning a visit to Virginia. Have a timeshare week at Williamsburg, beginning on a Sunday, but plan to travel from Washington DC down to the Newport News- Virginia Beach area on the Saturday. Need some help on deciding whether to pick up my hire car in Washington DC and drive myself down on Saturday morning (a solo driver aided by a Navman), or to get the train from DC to Newport News and pick up my car there. How far is the DC to Newport News journey and is it recommended for a single visitor to tackle. I am guessing I can get out of DC using the GPS system, without getting lost??

When I get to Newport News - should I stay there for Saturday night or carry on down to Virginia Beach. I like the idea of an evening at the Hilton or similar on the beach.

My main constraint is not to have to spend the whole day driving, particularly if the route from DC to Newport News is a big hassle, when using a train and then hiring a car may be easier and faster. I am a New Zealander and it is going to take a couple of days to familarise myself with driving on the opposite side of the road from home.

Any suggestions welcomed.

Thank you Kenyonkid

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Arlington
Level Contributor
3,102 posts
49 reviews
1. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

I assume you are flying into Washington Dulles airport (IAD), and not one of our other two airports. This advice is based on that assumption.

Rent a car and drive from the airport. Public transit options into DC from Dulles are poor, and it is nowhere near the rail line towards Newport News. It will add time (at least an hour to the train station in a taxi) and cost (~$70 cab fare) to your journey that in my view do not justify the relative ease of the train. Service on that line is also limited, so even if you wanted to do it I don't know if the times will work for you. Finally, renting a car at Newport News and then returning it to Dulles adds even more cost, as you'll need to factor one way rental fees into it.

The drive to Newport News from Dulles is about 4 hours. The route is simple, and entirely on major interstate highways that are well maintained and well marked. The only challenge is traffic, which can be significant on Saturday mornings during summer months due to beach traffic. I'd still characterize it as an easy, albeit dull and at times frustrating stop-and-go, drive.

The drive to VA Beach from Newport News adds about another hour. The beach area is much nicer with a lot more to do, but starts to feel like a long drive from the airport after what will presumably have been many hours of flying. That is particularly so if you are only staying one night. As you'll be in Williamsburg for a week, I might make a day trip of it during the week, and plan to spend a day during the week going to the beach and back. If it were me, I'd spend your first night within an hour or two of the airport, so that if the flight leaves you destroyed you won't need to travel very far.

La Plata, Maryland
Level Contributor
1,259 posts
6 reviews
2. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Which Washington airport are you flying into ?

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Arlington
Level Contributor
15,054 posts
125 reviews
3. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Warthog has given you good information based on the assumption that you are flying into Dulles airport on Saturday and wish to head straight to Newport News/Virginia Beach.

However, when I read your post, I was assuming that you were spending some time in D.C. before going to Newport News on Saturday, so that you would be in the city, not Dulles Airport. That would present a different set of factors to consider. So where will you be on Saturday morning?

Also, it would be helpful to know where you are headed after your week in Williamsburg, Are you coming back to D.C. (so that this would not be a one-way car rental) or are you headed elsewhere?

Virginia
Level Contributor
6,829 posts
15 reviews
4. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Some great ideas already.

Additionally, my questions would be what is the train schedule? That may put it off the plate for you right away.

Also, you won't be spending anywhere near the whole day driving, you'll be on good highway all the way, it won't be so much the beach bumpter to bumper of the summer...but some people are very confident about driving on the other side of the road, some not so much. I see you are questioning that a bit. How are you feeling about it now?

Washington DC...
Level Contributor
2,605 posts
53 reviews
5. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

My two cents...

If you are coming into Dulles, and directly hitting the road from there, there are some "creative" driving routes that will take you away from Washington, D.C. and skip a lot of the known traffic mires.

If you are coming direct from Washington, D.C. after a visit there, then you will have more to contend with depending on the time of day.

I would hire the car-the train will just suck up your time and efforts. The drive is very direct and straight-forward; your Navman will be bored. Biggest issue is timing it so you don't get stuck in traffic, but with a Saturday travel, you should be OK.

As for the other side of the road-don't worry about it too much. I spent three weeks driving around your beautiful country, and really, the only thing that is troublesome is the indicator and windshield wiper controls are on the opposite side of the steering wheel. So you will go to indicate and put on your wipers. The big danger is as a pedestrian remembering when crossing the road to look to your LEFT for oncoming cars.

Virginia
Level Contributor
6,829 posts
15 reviews
6. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Sometimes I do better with a process of elimination; sometimes, with a process of what I feel excited about.

So...in case you have not found the train info:

Amtrak leaves DC either 7:30 a.m. arriving Newport News 11:50 a.m. or leaves at 5 p.m. and arrives 9:10 p.m.

Coach one way is $43.00.

http://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak

NN station hours are 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., including on Sat.

Virginia
Level Contributor
6,829 posts
15 reviews
7. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Hey, is it confusing to throw out another option....www.gotobus.com

I haven't used it but friends have elsewhere and thought it was good and the Washington Post seems to recommend them.

Here's the scheudule to the Virginia Beach area. But note they let you out in either Norfolk or Newport News. Not sure why they list both dropoffs at the same price. $20 one way:

http://search.gotobus.com/cgi-bin/bus.cgi?nm=&st=&gid=&option=Select&roundtrip=0&sbus_from=Washington%2C+DC&bus_from=Washington%2C+DC&sbus_to=Virginia+Beach%2C+VA&bus_to=Virginia+Beach%2C+VA&filter_date=2010-10-16&return_date=&quantity=1&x=76&y=15

Of course, then you'd have to explore the rental car options.

Auckland New Zealand
Level Contributor
41 posts
3 reviews
8. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Thank you all for your very helpful responses. I think I will pick up a car in DC and drive myself down to Newport News, rather than bothering with the train. I am much more reassured that the drive is manageable. I laughed at the indicator/wiper mix up reference by jwhiteree . Yep done that before.

As a bit of background - I am visiting DC for a couple of days before going to a timeshare in Williamsburg, then onto another timeshare at Hilton Head Island. So my car hire will be one way. My big decision was where to do the pickup. Washington DC now seems the easiest. I was thinking of getting to Reagan-National airport and picking up the car there. It seems a fairly direct route from the airport to the interstate.

Thanks again to you all for your good advice.

Kenyonkid

Arlington, Virginia
Destination Expert
for Arlington
Level Contributor
3,102 posts
49 reviews
9. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Thanks for the update. Not to confuse things, but given the additional information I personally might opt for the 7:30 AM train if I were in your situation. My thinking is this:

As you'll already be in D.C. to start the day, taking the Metro or a taxi to Union Station to pick up the train vs. getting to Reagan Airport (DCA) to pick up a rental car is a wash. So you aren't adding hassle in that respect. The train to Newport News will then be more comfortable than the drive down, and I for one would pay $43 for the opportunity to turn those four morning hours into time reading the paper or some extra sleep over dull interstate highway driving (there is NO meaningful scenery you need to worry about missing along this route; it's nothing but scrub pine trees and advertising boards).

The deciding variable for me would be whether rental cars are available at (or near) the Newport News Amtrak station, and how the one way rental cost of a car picked up there compares to a car rented at DCA. If the prices were comparable, I'd go with the train. If the car + train option starts to stretch the budget, I'd drive.

Virginia
Level Contributor
6,829 posts
15 reviews
10. Re: Getting from Washington DC to Virginia Beach

Kenyonkid, you might take a look at t his page for any discounts that would fit you, International Studen ID, NationalAssoc of RR Passengers, proof of age for a special over 60 rate and another for over 62, etc.

amtrak.com/servlet/…1237405732514

The Amtrak Bus actually goes from the train station I am told...and so it says on the Virginia Beach visitor info site...all the way to the beach, to 19th and Pacific. You'd actually walk one block further to the main drag, Atlantic Ave. with hotels along the boardwalk and beach.

You need to reserve with Amtrak for that.

Reservations are required. Call Amtrak at 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).

There's a bus that runs up and down the main drag, Atlantic Ave.

There is a Budget car rental at 32nd but there are others that will bring your car to you.