Any advice about Dulles airport vs BWI or DCA?

I’ve lived in the DC area almost 15 yrs and yet have never been to Dulles or Reagan airports b/c we’re so close to BWI. But I need to use IAD now b/c I have a United credit and that’s their hub here. I am planning to use the brand new transport on the metro to get there, but I will go a day early and stay in a hotel b/c I’m planning to take a very early flight (flight isn’t booked yet and I don’t know what time of year yet). Any advice about Dulles? Thanks. I hate to not use BWI b/c it’s so close but it’s the difference in having to have a connection or not.

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Everything I know about Dulles is from Die Hard 2.
Their security wasn’t the best :rofl:
I expect that will have changed by now :sweat_smile::crossed_fingers:t2:

Hope it’s a fun trip!


Is that the airport in Baltimore? I keep reading BWI as “Boardwalk Inn”


If you come early, you can check out the Air and Space Museum that’s out there. It’s pretty cool. There are public transit ways to get there from the airport.


We are the same distance from Dulles (IAD) and BWI. We most generally use BWI for domestic trips and Dulles for International. I also check pricing to see which one to use. Dulles is more spacious than BWI and is easy to navigate. My daughter just flew from there to Vermont and said it was fine, no problems. She said security went fast and she does not have pre-check. Dulles has an air train to the terminals like MCO. I have not used the new metro line but I think it will be convenient for you.

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It is. Baltimore-Washington International.

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How did I not know this took place there! I fly out of there all the time. I must watch now!


I have nvere stayed at a hotel the night before, but I am sure there are plenty with shuttles to and from the airport. Interestingly when we stayed at a park and ride hotel before a trip out of BWI, the cost of the room co ered a week’s parking.

Security at Dulles is almost always smooth, they have that down. A couple of things about United at Dulles.

  1. if you do park, the main parking deck is on the far end of the concourse from United. It is like a half mile walk - which is a pain with luggage.
  2. United is so big at Dulles it has two different concourses C and D.
  3. Depending on which gate you are flying out of, you will either travel by the land movers (they look like big rectangles with a fin - they are actual trucks driving on the tarmac) or by the air train. Just follow the signs to your gate and you will end up at the right one.
  4. getting to your gate by air train can be quite a haul from one end to the other, especially if you are flying out of the commuter wing. So even though security is easy, leave yourself time simply to get to your gate, just in case. Some gates take 5 mins from security, others are at least 15 mins.

Thanks so much everyone! I too had no idea that Die Hard 2 took place there. When that came out I didn’t live here. Will have to watch again! I’ve been to BWI so many times now.

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While Die Hard 2 “takes place” at Dulles, it wasn’t actually filmed there. Apparently they filmed at Stapleton (Denver), some LAX shots as well and some Michigan for the outside snow shots. Anyway, if you don’t recognize Dulles from the movie, there’s a reason…

I always remember the “blunder” that the pay phones show Pac Bell labels at one point - guess those were LAX shots that they forgot to clean up…


Super cool info :sunglasses::flight_arrival:

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I’ve been watching “best of Alan Rickman moments” from Die Hard 1 all morning. I blame you!


This would drive me nuts! Especially because I know all 3 airports (of course not from the era when there were still pay phones).


You’re welcome :+1:t2::sunglasses::laughing::heart_eyes::star_struck::heart_eyes::star_struck::heart_eyes::star_struck:

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I lived in the area for 12 yrs and only flew out of Dulles :joy: I think it’s a pretty easy airport! I-66 is always a nightmare but you will avoid that going metro.

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I live relatively equidistant to DCA, BWI, and IAD. I always search all area airports and will use any of them based on a variety of factors. But if possible, I always want DCA. It’s very small, and thus easy to navigate quickly just on foot, whereas the other two are quite large with a variety of potential transportation options and difficulties that may ensure getting through.

If I lived really close to one airport, that would tend to be my fave, as you say. Dulles has seen a lot of new construction in recent years, so it’s improved a lot lately, IMO. I recently did an international flight out of there and was surprised how easy it was compared to past experiences. And you need not fear I-66 because there is a dedicated access road to the airport, which is nice.


IAD is my main airport (most people flying out of IAD fly over my house). Some general thoughts:

  1. United flies primarily out of C&D (there are commuter flights out of another terminal but those are the really really small planes). C&D are actually just a really long hallway- C on one end that eventually turns into D. I personally (and rather controversially) like to take the “mobile lounge” shuttle bus to D so I can stop at Chick-fil-et on my way to C gates. The Aerotrain just annoys me.

  2. The metro ride out to Dulles from downtown is long. Very long. If you need or want to take it make sure you allow the time. Conversely, some of the hotels (at least pre-pandemic) offered free parking at the hotel if you stay the night before. Take the hotel shuttle to the airport and leave your car at the hotel. I avoid economy parking at the airport at just about all costs; Garage 1 is my favorite as it’s a direct shot into the middle of the terminal, Garage 2 is at the far end and the walk is outdoors instead of underground. Terminal parking is a short walk but uncovered and outrageously expensive. You can make an online reservation for parking that can save you 10-15%.

  3. There’s a mini Dunkin Donuts right after security, usually the line’s not too long and often better than what you’ll find in the main areas.

  4. I second the Udvar-Hazy museum outing. It’s very impressive.

Feel free to ask any specific questions!

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Tagging @DumboRunner and @terp05
They may have some info… :heart:.

Hi friends.


I checked metro and the trip is 95 minutes from either of my 2 closest stations. Yikes, but, that is far preferable to me than driving that–and I would expect it to take a lot longer than 95 min if I were driving from MD to VA especially if it were a rush hour time. The addition of the metro station made going to IAD seem doable to me. I never seriously considered it in the past. But, now that I have a United credit and want to change my plans from the originally canceled ones (from BWI) it makes sense. I appreciate all the responses. I’ve learned a lot. My entire experience living here is BWI. It’s a very easy drive from our house, except the one time I got stuck in construction traffic on 301 and missed my plane and hence missed my friend’s rehearsal dinner (but not the actual wedding, as I flew in the day before). Now I always check 301 traffic.

In my 22 years of flying out of IAD, how have I never discovered garage 1? I only Uber to Dylles if flying United, just to avoid the walk from garage 2!

Completely agree about the Park and Ride hotels. I haven’t stayed at one near Dulles but have loved this option when I fly out of BWI.

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