Road Warrior

How to attend Inauguration Day in style—or on a budget if you don't have $45,000 to spare

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
How to attend Inauguration Day in style

Whether headed to Washington to celebrate or protest President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20 (or the Women's March on Washington the day after), there are plenty of options available for room, board and entertainment.

Included in the mix are traditional hotels and a wide array of rentable rooms, homes and condos offered on sites such as Airbnb, FlipKey and HomeAway. However, travelers should be prepared to pay a hefty price, as some inauguration-themed packages are budget busters.

"As we get closer to the day of the inauguration, you might see some hotels reducing the minimum night stay requirements, dropping rates a bit or throwing in extra amenities," said Theresa Belpulsi, vice president of tourism and visitor services at Destination DC.

The $45,000 Inauguration Celebration package at the Mayflower Hotel includes a four-night stay in the presidential suite, two tickets to the presidential inauguration and special in-room nightly amenities. (The hotel plans to donate the full room fee to the Washington-based Children's National Health System).

The Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C. is transforming its lobby into a patriotic homage to the American flag and all past U.S. presidents. It created a $75,000, four-night inauguration package that includes lodging in the White House Rose Garden-inspired presidential suite, a living red and white rose wall, a four-course dinner for eight (served in the suite), 24-hour complimentary champagne service — and fresh roses delivered nightly.

Over at the Fairmont, where there will be nightly inauguration-themed turndown amenities for all guests and complimentary post-swearing in champagne in the lobby, there are still a few rooms available for the relatively more reasonable price of $1,200 per night.

The deadline has passed to book a $150,000, four-night "Discover the District in Luxury" inauguration experience at D.C.'s Ritz-Carlton. That would have included, among other things, two round-trip, first-class plane tickets to Washington and a 3-carat sapphire necklace set. Yet over at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City — 3 miles away — there is a one-bedroom executive suite available for two nights during inauguration weekend for $999 a night.

If those packages or room rates are too pricey for your pocketbook, there are less-costly alternatives still available (note that prices may vary, and fluctuate depending on the day).

As of last week, inauguration weekend rates at returned rates such as $265 at The Fairfax at Embassy Row near Dupont Circle, $299 at the AKA White House (two blocks from White House) and $256 at the Omni Shoreham in Woodley Park.

For alt-hotel options, WhyHotel, which operates pop-up hotels in new apartment buildings, is taking reservations for The Bartlett in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington. As of last week, rates were $779 a night for a three-night stay in a two-bedroom unit.

Home-rental sites and Craigslist are still showing plenty of inauguration inventory, although some of the offers may seem a bit odd.

On Craigslist there's a listing for a two-bedroom basement apartment in a single-family home ($1,195 for the three-day inauguration weekend), but guests are advised to bring their own air mattresses, because there is no furniture.

And in what's advertised as "The Worst Deal on AirBnB" a host in Alexandria is offering a one-bedroom apartment for $1,000 a night. According to the listing, what you're renting is actually "a couch in the living room. But is a sectional so two people can definitely fit on it."

Also included in the deal: two cats and a dog.

People walk past the main entrance of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington March 11, 2008.
Larry Downing | Reuters

For those who plan to be dally in D.C. through the inauguration weekend there are plenty of low-cost and free things to do.

All the Smithsonian museums, except the National Museum of the American Indian and the Renwick Gallery, plan to welcome visitors during normal hours on Inauguration Day.

A photo portrait of President-elect Trump will be on display at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery through the inauguration festivities and the National Museum of American History will offer a live broadcast of the swearing-in ceremony and the president's speech.

The George Washington University Museum (suggested admission donation: $8), in Washington's Foggy Bottom neighborhood, has an exhibition on view through April 10 featuring flag-inspired memorabilia and a wide variety of advertising items from past presidential campaigns.

And on Jan. 21 and 22, when hundreds of thousands of women plan to travel to D.C. for the Women's March on Washington, the National Museum of Women in the Arts will be waiving its usual admission charge and offering special programming.

—Harriet Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.