7 Money-Saving Tips for Your Road Trip to Nashville

by Elizabeth Aldrich | Updated July 23, 2021 - First published on June 28, 2021

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Young couple having fun together on a road trip.

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Avoid staying downtown, and get a Total Access Pass. Don't forget to try the hot chicken!

Getting serious about personal finance doesn't mean you can't have any fun, but it does mean being more conscious of not draining your bank account in the process.

Saving money on your road trip to Nashville shouldn't be too challenging, thanks to the abundance of affordable food, activities, and sights in the city. Here are our top tips for making your time in Music City, U.S.A. fun and affordable.

1. Stay outside the city center

Downtown Nashville can get pretty spendy when it comes to hotels and Airbnbs, and accommodations tend to be where most of your budget goes.

Luckily, there are great neighborhoods minutes from the city center that offer more affordable hotels and still give you access to all that Nashville has to offer. West End, Belmont, and the Gulch are all under 10 minutes from downtown, yet room rates can be up to $50 cheaper per night. If you're willing to stay 15 or 20 minutes outside of downtown, Brentwood and Green Hills have even more affordable accommodations.

2. Take advantage of happy hours and free live music

You shouldn't come to Nashville without sampling the city's wild array of musical offerings. The best part is that most of it is free.

The city's famous Broadway District is lined with bars featuring live music every day and night, and they don't charge a cover. Open mic and songwriter's nights are also a regular occurrence and tend to be free. To save money on drinks, check out a happy hour before you hit up the honky-tonk bars.

3. Get a Music City Total Access Pass

The Music City Total Access Pass isn't cheap, especially if you're traveling with a big family. That said, it is an excellent deal if you already plan to visit a few of the included attractions.

You get free admission to six major Nashville attractions (four of which you get to choose) and discounts at another six, from the Grand Ole Opry to the Country Music Hall of Fame to a treetop adventure park. Do the math to make sure the pass will save you money, but considering some of these attractions cost $30 or more, there's a good chance it will.

4. Eat at fast casual restaurants

A lot of people recommend not dining out on vacation to save money, but going to Nashville without trying hot chicken, biscuits, or barbecue feels criminal. Plus, it's easy to eat out on a budget in Nashville.

While the city has plenty of great fine dining options, it really shines when it comes to casual spots like chicken and BBQ joints, food trucks, and family-style Southern dining -- great news for your taste buds and your wallet. Hattie B's is a must for hot chicken, and Jack's Bar-B-Que is a great choice for everything from brisket to ribs to pulled pork. If you're after some Southern comfort food, Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant, Arnold's Country Kitchen, and The Loveless Cafe have you covered, and you don't have to shell out much for huge portions of food.

5. Pack food for the road

You might want to sample the local fare in Nashville, but dining out on the road is usually less exciting. Save money on mediocre diners, truck stop fast food, and gas station coffee by packing meals and snacks for your time on the road.

Sandwiches, granola bars, fruit, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, and hummus are all affordable snacks that keep well in the car. Depending on how long your drive is, you might want to get a few gallon jugs of water for the car and bring reusable bottles for the whole family. Coffee is a bit trickier on the road, but instant coffee packets or an AeroPress (a coffee-making device that's perfect for travel), are good options. Not only will this keep you from having to drop $6 on a latte to keep yourself awake, you can make your own coffee each morning you're in Nashville to save even more.

6. Earn cash back on gas

Gas is always a significant expense when it comes to road trips. Aside from seeking out the cheaper gas stations -- which tend to be farther away from the interstate -- there isn't much you can do to avoid spending on gas.

That said, you can earn cash back on your gas spending. Having one of the best gas and groceries credit cards can save you money on gas and on road snacks. There are also plenty of free cash back apps to help you earn extra cash back at gas stations and other stores.

7. Visit the city's murals, parks, flea markets, and museums

Nashville is packed with free and cheap activities. No trip to Nashville is complete without an Instagram photo in front of one of the city's many beautiful murals. You'll find a lot of great street art concentrated in downtown Nashville as well as the 12South neighborhood, East Nashville, and the Gulch, which houses the famous wings mural.

Most of the city's museums boast very affordable -- sometimes free -- entrance fees. Consider browsing one of Nashville's many flea markets, a particularly Southern experience. Finally, Percy Warner is one of the city's most beloved parks, and has miles of hiking and biking trails, two golf courses, a garden cafe, and more.

Whether you're visiting for the music, the food, the sights, or all three, it's easy to have a great time on a budget in Music City.

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