Another impromptu trip which started with cheap airfare and led to a quick weekend adventure. As part of our travel hacking, weekend wanderer series, we explore Memphis, Tennessee. We detail how much we spent on our weekend, where we went, our recommendations and how we saved.
Costs, A Guide and Travel Hacking Memphis Tennessee
Here’s the details of our trip & how much it cost in terms of miles and cash. Below the table is also a breakdown per segment on how we managed to pull this trip off for not so much cash out of pocket. This trip was only for a quick weekend. Fly out Friday afternoon and come back Monday morning. A total of 1 full day out of office (1/2 day off on Friday, 1/2 day off on Monday), with a little extra time on Friday to explore in the late afternoon, the whole of Saturday & Sunday and enough time at the hotel on Monday to enjoy it.
|Activity||Points Used||Cash Paid||Comments|
|Flights to Memphis - Allegiant Air||$163 for 2 people|
|Hotel - Holiday Inn Express Memphis East I-240||10,000 IHG Points (Point Breaks)|
|Hotel - Hampton Inn Batesville||10,000 HHonors Points|
|Car Rental - Alamo||$33.94|
|Gas for Rental Car (SUV)||$19.50|
|Downtown Beale Street Parking||$10|
|Tips to bus drivers/others||$2|
|Miss Polly's, Beale Street Dinner||$34|
|Longhorn Steakhouse Dinner||$45|
|Treats (ice cream, sodas, etc)||$4|
|Total||10,000 IHG Points
10,000 Hilton HHonors Points
$228.73 for two people
Our round trip flight from Jacksonville, FL to Memphis, TN only cost us $163 for two people, or $81.50 per person by using an ultra low budget carrier, Allegiant Air. The airplane was a bit dated, but it was good enough – it got us to Memphis and back in one piece. The great thing was: we were on an inaugural flight! We have never been on an inaugural flight before, so we got free food and an airplane shaped cookie at boarding. The water salute was quite interesting too. I’ve personally never been inside an airplane for that! Oh, and we didn’t know we caught the first flight – as mentioned, we just saw a deal and we jumped on it, not knowing it was actually the first flight out of JAX. Isn’t it funny how things work?
We stayed in two hotel rooms for a total of two nights while we were in Tennessee/Mississippi, through the use of points! We lucked out and a Memphis hotel was included in that quarter’s IHG Pointbreaks so we ended up paying 5,000 points a night to stay at the Holiday Inn Express Memphis East I-240. It was an easy 10 minute drive to the airport and a 15 minute drive to Graceland. While it may not be close to Downtown Memphis, I’m not going to complain because we saved a ton of money and got a great deal on Pointbreaks! You can also book the hotel using cash. It’s not so expensive at around $100 per night.
There was a blackout for a few hours when we were staying at the hotel. It was quite odd, the grid just broke or something. It wasn’t so bad – we just went back to sleep and when we woke up the next morning, the electricity was back on.
Holiday Inn Express hotels normally have free parking and free breakfast so score. We didn’t have to worry about additional charges, and got a tummy filling breakfast every morning.
One other hotel we stayed in was at the Hampton Inn Batesville, Mississippi. Peter is a college football fan and seeing that Oxford, Mississippi was less than a two hour drive from Memphis, he decided to come visit the university town.
However, hotels in Oxford, MS are expensive – points and cash wise! So, what did we do? We looked for cities close enough to Oxford (within a 40 minute drive or less), and found Batesville. It is actually on the way to and from Oxford, MS from Memphis, so score! Oh, and did we mention that it was only 10,000 Hilton HHonors points a night?
The Hampton Inn was under renovation when we were there but not too detrimental that it disturbed us. It looked like other Hampton Inns that we’ve stayed at and we love the free breakfast (here’s to saving again!)
Ah one of our most expensive items on the list. Let’s go through the activities we ended up doing one by one:
Day One: Friday afternoon
Memphis Car Rental
We booked our car rental from Alamo, our favorite car rental place, through Costco. The cost was $33.90 for a three day rental (that’s roughly $11.30 per day). That was such a great deal we hopped on it. Even Autoslash can’t beat that price! We also lucked out – we booked the cheapest option car (normally economy but in this case the reservation was for an intermediate car), but they ran out of cars at the airport lot and they only had SUVs or minivans left. They asked us if we were okay with an upgrade, free of charge and we were like, sure! Of course, SUVs are more known to be gas guzzlers, but Peter and I don’t really drive SUVs (we have Mozzie, our Mazda 3), so we jumped at the chance to do so.
And so, we hopped in our car, put our backpacks in the back, and I settled on the navigator seat as Peter got used to driving the car and we went to….
Downtown Memphis? You’ve got it. Home to live music where the street is closed from 4pm onwards, Beale Street’s got everything. It’s got your bars, your restaurants, alcohol you can buy off kiosks at the street, the souvenir stores, etc
We explored this area for an hour or so and had an early dinner. Peter is always an advocate of trying out local joints so he led us to one where we had a pulled pork sandwich (surprise surprise). We even had a soda pop from an old fashioned store – $3 for a soda but it quenched our thirst and kept us cool! It’s all about the things that make you happy, right?
The Peabody Ducks
This wasn’t originally on our list of places to see, but I just remembered it at the last minute. Thanks to watching all those travel shows, I remember that this fancy hotel has a tradition of the Peabody Ducks.
Twice a day, these ducks will be led out from their Penthouse (read: rooftop) home to the fancy fountain area in the lobby where they will be swimming around and just being ducks.
The big event is when they will walk back from the fountain area back to the elevator and to their home up on the hotel. They usually have some sort of star (or VIP) to lead the parade in a pomp and circumstance way that is quite funny – even though these are just ducks who want to go home and chill out. Their trainer is also with them trying to coax them to fall back in line and waddle back, if they don’t feel like it.
The gift store at the Peabody is insanely expensive. Expect to pay a premium because the hotel is a posh five star hotel, but it’s ducks, ducks, everywhere! Themed, expensive ducks!
Day Two: Saturday
William Faulkner’s House, who was a famous American writer. I don’t know much about him but Peter did. The grounds are free to walk in and visit but you’ll have to pay extra to get inside the house, which we opted not to do. The outside is very pretty, with oak trees lining up towards the front door (maybe that’s where the name of the house was from). Parking can be a bit of a hassle, so if you are in for exercise, Rowan Oak can be hiked through the woods from the University of Mississippi. We tried to do it but it was a longer walk than we anticipated, and not a flat terrain, so we went back.
University of Mississippi (aka Ole Miss)
The University is free of charge to enter and to park. We went to a museum and walked around and saw potential freshmen with their parents touring around the massive campus. We also saw the big football stadium where many a game has been played.
The facade of the buildings have a distinctly European feel to them: made of brick, with distinct white columns that made you feel more like you’re in a mansion instead of a university. There is also a big bookstore where you can buy all sorts of souvenirs to commemorate your time at the university.
There’s also a small mall area where you can hang out, eat lunch or dinner, or go shopping at your whim. It may be a nightmare trying to find street parking there, and if you do find one, expect traffic: it’s a pretty popular area. I loved the bookstores there – they are actually quite a blast to browse in. There’s also shoe stores and other clothing stores that you won’t probably need to go to anyway (unless you really need to). The city hall is great, and so is the frozen yogurt.
Besides the university, there’s pretty much nothing else to do in the area. We headed back to Memphis after our day in Ole Miss and on the way back, you could see a view of the water (not sure exactly what it’s called but you’ll definitely see it on the interstate). If you have spare time, you can actually go to an outlet mall between the border of Tennessee and Mississippi. We went down just to browse and I ended up buying boots for our Alaska trip this year.
Day Three: Sunday
Home of Elvis Presley and his family. We went there because, well, what is Memphis without going to visit this iconic house? If you have a AAA membership, make sure you avail of the discount! Don’t pay full price for attractions just because– always check if you can use coupons or other discounts available to you. I try not to pay full price on anything 😉
While we both think that this experience was super kitschy, it was still good to see his mansion and see that he still stayed true to his roots. Instead of going to a bigger city and buying a mansion there, he decided to build his mansion in a seemingly busy street in a not so expensive area of town. Then again, the area might be expensive before and just turned for the worse?
There’s a lot of gift shops in Graceland. So much so that it’s easy to get tempted and just start shopping. In fact, we even bought a gift for Peter’s parents from one of the stores there. A word of advice: if you want to buy a souvenir, keep it to one. There are a lot and unless you are a die hard fan, you won’t need them. You also don’t need to go into all the attractions or displays either. We opted to get the Elvis Experience tour, which covers the cars, the mansion, and a few other things along the way. We could have opted for just the mansions but you know, boys and cars – Peter wanted to see some of them so why not? But seriously, the difference between the mansion and the cars/other displays is $10. If you could find more value to the other displays (which we did, because of the cars and the costumes that Peter was happy about), then go for it. Otherwise you can just go see the mansion and pocket the extra $10 per person.
Oh, and to top it off, Graceland charges for parking. So yeah, an extra $10 on top of your entrance fees. You would have thought that they would include that but like all the ‘themed’ attractions, they want you to pay up! You can also read Peter’s more detailed post on our Graceland visit here.
Shelby Farms Park
Graceland does close early. But even though you were there in the morning, chances are it’s a half day thing. We had spare time in the afternoon and went to a park. We went hiking around the lake, so the final cost was free! We wanted to go pedal boating but it was nearly 5pm when we arrived and they stopped renting the boats out. The park was fairly busy and since it was April, the weather was good – the sun didn’t set until later, around 630pm, so seems like everybody went there to enjoy their weekend.
Day Four: Monday
Stayed in the hotel for a semi-early day. Had to return the rental car and back to Jacksonville we go. We got home in time for lunch (around 11AM), and at 1PM went back to work.
So, if you’re full time employees like us, our solution to going on a vacation without using a lot of days is going on a mini-weekend break. Essentially you’re only out of the office for a full day (half a day Friday, half a day Monday), so you don’t miss a lot of work but your brain is actually thanking you a lot for it. By the time you get back, you’ll feel like you’ve been gone a full week! We prioritize travel above most things, and while we’re not doing much on Mondays during our mini-breaks, it’s still enough to trick our brains into thinking we’re financially free, even for a couple of days!
Thank you for sticking with reading this article if you made it this far, and hopefully this has been helpful to you as you plan your weekend trip to Memphis, Tennessee!