I’ve always loved travelling and I consider myself very lucky to have visited many countries at my age. I don’t have a particular modus operandi when planning a trip, which is why I’ve travelled all over the place: Europe, Central America, the US and Canada. I’ve also travelled with school, friends, family, you name it. I don’t really care, as long as I get to see something new!
When it was confirmed that I was moving to the US, I quickly pulled up a map to see the options. I’m very lucky to be somewhere in the Midwest that isn’t too far from Chicago and Milwaukee, so those are easy day trips and a quick access to airports. I figured I would use my time here and my paycheck in USD to travel around the country as much as possible. As a Canadian, travelling to the US has always been expensive due to exchange rates and our physical location. Aside from the quick East Coast trips, going to the US always required a big budget and extensive planning.
Deciding where to go first was not easy. The wish list is long: Vegas, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans, Miami and etc.
Given my love for country music and sports, I went with Nashville. There were interesting games to catch around Thanksgiving time and it didn’t seem too complicated to get there.
In this post, I will go over my semi-failed attempt at travel hacking and how much the trip cost. I have not calculated the final tally since coming back in November, so this should be interesting…
I wish my travel hacking involved more than coupon codes and filling up surveys, but here it is anyway!
Destination: Nashville and Knoxville
Number of people: 1
Duration: 4 days
Initial budget: $750
Transportation: Rental Car and Uber or Lyft
I could have flown there, but I love driving and road tripping is fun. Renting a car also allowed me to go to both Nashville and Knoxville. It was also nice to have the car while in town to explore the city efficiently on my own. This is certainly a case where I miss having my own car, as renting can be quite expensive. Because I don’t have my own car insurance, I had to purchase complete coverage for both the vehicle and myself. Since I wasn’t 25 years old at that time, I also had to pay a daily premium with most companies.
After calling around and looking at big name rental agencies and local places, I thought I had found a hidden gem: no young driver’s fee, cheap insurance and reasonable rates. Booked. The total was $280. Two weeks before the trip, I called to make sure everything was fine given that I had a Canadian driver’s license, along with an international license. Their website said it was fine. It was not. It took them a week to give me an answer because they weren’t sure and in the end, they said I had to provide my own insurance, that they couldn’t sell me one. Cancelled. Don’t bother with ACE-Rent-A-Car.
I called Enterprise and it took all of 10 minutes to figure out that I was eligible to rent a car, give me a price and make the reservation. I had amazing service and everything went smooth. It was a bit pricier but I went for it. The total came out to $420 for four days with a tank of gas included.
On site, I used Uber and Lyft to get from my Airbnb to downtown and back mostly. One ride in the morning and one ride at night. I spent $27.76 on 7 rides, including tips. I used the first time-user promo codes on both apps.
I also had to pay wonderful tolls in Illinois and Kentucky.
The Good: amazing service, pick-up at my house, upgraded to a 2018 hybrid sedan for free when taking delivery and cheap Uber¤Lyft rides with promo codes
The Bad: Cost more than I expected and I didn’t use Ebates to book (3% cash back)
Total cost: 559,76$
It’s amazing how cheap gas is in the US.
This was my first time using Airbnb and I loved it! I had a good experience both in Knoxville and Nashville. I rented a room in somebody’s house for one night in Knoxville and two nights in Nashville. It was perfect for me. A comfortable bed and a shower in a good location near downtown. The Uber rides to downtown were super cheap and I didn’t have to worry about driving the rental car and paying for parking.
I used the first-time user code for Airbnb ($40 off) and the total cost for my three nights was $97.
Because I’m young and a little bit dumb, I decided to travel through the night for the first day to save on accommodations and rental car days. I left around midnight and got to Knoxville around 1:00pm.
The Good: Promo code, cheap prices on Airbnb and I saved by driving through the night
The Bad: None. I think it would’ve been hard to get something cheaper than that.
Total Cost: $97
Game Tickets: Jets vs Predators, LSU vs Tennessee and USC vs Vanderbilt.
This is where I messed up the most. Since I planned the trip around those games, I bought the tickets early. The one for the LSU vs Tennessee game was the most expensive at $106. What pains me the most is that Tennessee started losing after I bought the ticket and prices went wayyyyyyy down. At least 50%. I could have either saved a lot of money by waiting or gotten a much better ticket.
The Vanderbilt basketball game was only $9 and the Predators game, which was amazing, came in at a reasonable $42.
I used Seatgeek to buy the tickets and got around $10 in cash back for all purchases.
The Good: Using cash back on Ebates
The Bad: Not waiting to buy the tickets to the football game
Total Cost: $147
Food and Drinks
I had really good intentions for this category and I wanted to save a lot there to stay under my initial budget. I think this is where things went wrong.
I brought a lot of food I can get for free at school so I didn’t have to stop on the road the first day and pay for it. I saved on a couple meals doing this. I also had snacks for the whole trip. I even had a free pizza from Domino’s from points I had earned.
In addition, I used my hard-earned swagbucks points to buy gift cards. $25 x 2 at Red Lobster, Olive Garden or Longhorn Steakhouse and $15 x 1 at IHop. I wanted to get four meals out of these gift cards, but I only got three. I stopped at a lousy White Castle somewhere in Kentucky on my way back instead of using the remaining $12 on the cards. Dumb move, White Castle was terrible.
This left me with a few meals to pay throughout the trip. I was really bad at being frugal for those. I bought overpriced food at the football game and hockey game. I went for the very expensive BBQ plates at both restaurants I tried in Nashville. I bought pralines, twice. All in all, it wasn’t terrible, but I definitely didn’t need to eat this much BBQ, or have a full meal at the games. At least it was delicious.
I also had a few beers and drinks before the game in Knoxville and on Broadway in Nashville, as well as a few stops for water and energy drinks on the road.
The Good: Swagbucks and bringing food
The Bad: Going nuts on the other meals and not being frugal at all
Total Cost: $125
Entertainment and Miscellaneous
Aside from the sport games, I went to the Johnny Cash museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame and museum in Nashville. Both were amazing and well worth their entry price.
I also bought some random stuff throughout the trip like postcards, a poncho, a clear bag to get my things into the stadium in Knoxville and etc.
The biggest money fail was going to the shooting range. I like hunting and shooting, but I had never shot a pistol before. I saw a sign on the side of the road and just stopped there. I figured that then was the right time to do it. $62 for roughly 25 minutes of shooting. Yikes. I had a blast though!
Finally, I bought extra data on my cellphone to have the GPS, be able to order a ride in town and google things. $15 well spent.
Fail: None of this was planned, except the museums visits…
Total Cost: $137
The final tally for the whole trip was roughly $1045.97 instead of the $750 budget I had originally planned. This isn’t terrible and I had an amazing time. Still, I wish I hadn’t given up on being frugal during the trip. I kind of gave up on saving and said screw it at one point. I wouldn’t change anything to the trip itself, but I would certainly reduce spending in certain categories, like food.
The trip would certainly have been cheaper had I travelled with a partner or friends, mostly for accommodations and transportation.
How do you guys travel? Do you have an initial budget broken down into categories? Do you travel hack? Do you simply spend and look at your bank account when you come back?