Compared to Obama’s in 2009, a trip to Trump’s inauguration is going to be pretty cheap

Was it really only eight years ago?
Was it really only eight years ago?
Image: Reuters/Brian Snyder
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald Trump will become the president of the United States. Will a divided America show up for his inauguration?

Whether it’s simply to welcome Trump to the nation’s highest elected office or remind him in person that you care about the environment and human rights, whether carrying a banner that reads “Love Trumps Hate” or wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, visitors have more options than ever to witness the pomp and splendor of the inauguration at the US Capitol.

It isn’t clear whether Trump will draw the record crowds that Barack Obama did in January 2009, when close to two million people flooded the streets of Washington DC to watch the swearing-in of the country’s first black president. Hotel rates in Washington hit an average record $608 a night, according to STR. And that was in the depths of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and before the rise of Airbnb. Would-be travelers to the inauguration have more money now and more ways to spend it.

Google Trends is showing much less interest this time around compared to 2009, though it could still pick up as we approach January:

Tickets to watch from the inaugural platform are free and hopeful spectators can apply through the their lawmakers’ offices. But you can always show up early with binoculars and watch from afar.

In case you’re wondering, Trump’s newest property, the Trump International Hotel—just steps from the White House—is requiring a five-night stay with rates that start around $1,200 a night for inauguration week.

If austerity isn’t your thing, there’s a $500,000 (yes, Quartz double-checked the price) package at the W Hotel. That includes round-trip airfare to Washington from anywhere in the continental US, a three-night stay in the 1,200-sq-ft Extreme WOW suite (which has a bathtub view of the Washington Monument), unlimited Veuve Clicquot champagne, and your own inaugural ball: A sit-down dinner for you and 249 of your closest friends.

For the 99.9%, be warned: dozens of DC hotels are already sold out for the night before the swearing-in ceremony, according to Expedia. But hotels in the greater Washington DC metropolitan area, which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia, are going for a reasonable $250 a night for Jan. 19—the day before.

The rise of home-sharing gives visitors a whole new set of options. Listings in Washington on Airbnb for the night before the inauguration start at $35, though better deals are possible by staying on the DC outskirts, or even Baltimore and riding into DC on the commuter rail. Airbnb’s listings in the area have increased to 6,100 from 4,900 a year ago.

For those who don’t mind bunk beds, lists eight options in or close to Washington starting at $43 for a shared room and as high as $467 for a private room, with a two-night minimum stay.

Kayak has also recently added listings from home-sharing companies like HomeAway. The rise in popularity of these home-and-room sharing platforms’ listings also help keep hotel rates in check.

More good news: Domestic airfare is the cheapest its been since 2009 thanks to a plunge in fuel prices. Airfare to Washington DC for the inauguration from Los Angeles is starting around $304, from Dallas $240, and $150 from Detroit. For those who find US airports as unappealing as Trump, Greyhound says it will add buses to the DC-area for the event.

And you can always take a page from the president-elect’s playbook and fly private.