Thinking about visiting Tennessee, but you’re on a budget? Your’e in the right place! I’m going to share my free guide to visiting Tennessee on a budget with you!
As a travel addict who ISN’T made of money, I’m always finding ways to be able to travel for longer, to travel smarter, and to visit destinations that I haven’t been to before. If you are looking for a state to visit on a budget and you’re considering Tennessee, congrats! You’ve chosen one of the cheapest states in the country to visit.
My daughters and I have traveled to Tennessee together 6 times, and I’ve been without them 20+ times. We’ve had some of our best travel memories in Gatlinburg, Knoxville, and Pigeon Forge. There are tons of things that make Tennessee one of my favorites places to visit. I feel like there’s always a new city to explore, a new trail to hike, and new things to see.
I’m going to share with you my favorite ways to save money when I visit Tennessee. No matter what part of the state you want to visit, where you want to stay, and what you want to do — this guide will help you travel the state for less.
Where to stay in Tennessee for Cheap
My one piece of advice for saving money on accommodation is to visit during the off season or the shoulder season. Hotel prices reduce sharply when all the vacationers leave.
However, if you are wanting to go during peak season, you can still find cheap places to stay. You should be able to easily find budget hotels for under $65/night in even the biggest tourist cities in Tennessee. Knoxville, Nashville, and Gatlinburg all have affordable hotels no matter what time you visit.
If you are looking for something even cheaper, consider staying in an Air BnB rental. You will most likely be able to find rooms or entire homes/apartments for rent for less than $45/night.
If you looking for the cheapest option for accommodation, consider camping while you are in Tennessee. The state is OVERFLOWING with natural beauty. In fact, my fondest camping memory was in Tennessee years ago on a solo trip.
You can find developed camp sites where you can camp close to where your car is parked and have access to bathrooms and showers OR you can choose a “back country” or “primitive” campsite where you may have to hike to your campsite and you won’t always have access to drinking water or a toilet.
Basically, if you are looking at staying at a developed campsite, you can look to pay around $15-$35/night. Occasionally when you reserve a spot at a campground you may have to pay a reservation fee, so make sure you consider those fess when making your travel budget.
Backcountry camping isn’t for everyone. However it is the cheapest option. Take advantage of back country camping if you are able to because most of the time it is completely FREE. If you don’t want to do primitive camping everyday of your stay in Tennessee, consider lowering your travel costs by camping just one night or maybe every other night. If you plan on exploring a state or national park for a couple of days, this would be a good time to save yourself some money by backcountry camping.
Finding Cheap Food in Tennesee
When you are eating out in popular tourist locations, you can obviously expect expensive prices. As a whole though, I would say Tennessee is a pretty affordable destination and you can without a doubt find meals for less than $10/person. The option to buy groceries and make your own meals is always there and will really lower your travel expenses.
If you are interested in looking for restaurants that can provide you with a cheap bite; I’ve read a few fantastic posts on restaurants with some yummy and cheap meals. All four articles are great reads and will help you save save some serious money while you’re visiting Tennessee.
13 Delicious & Cheap Meals in Nashville
Cheap Eats in Gatlinburg
21 Delicious and Affordable Things You Need To Eat in Nashville
Chattanooga in Requiem
Free Attractions in Tennessee
Save yourself some money, by visiting some of these free attractions and activities in Tennessee!
1. Clingman’s Dome
An iconic site in the state and just a 1/2 mile drive from Gatlinburg, Clingman’s Dome gives you an incredible views. The path is short and paved making this an easy hike.
Wow oh Wow. The hiking in Tennessee is AMAZING and you have so many options for trails. Short trails, long trails, multi-day trails, paved trails, the list goes on and one. Hiking is really popular in the state, especially in eastern Tennessee. I’ve prepared a list of some of the most popular trails in the state. These very greatly in
Chimney Tops Trail
A 3.6 mile hike with a big change in elevation, but the pay off is an insane view.
Base of The Falls Trail
A popular short 0.8 mile trail with little change in elevation in Fall Creek Falls State Park. This is a great spot for photo opportunities.
Gorge Overlook Trail
This give you an amazing view of the gorge and the waterfall falling down into it. This is a 2.9 mile trail but it’s fairly easy to hike making it possible for kids and all levels of hikers to enjoy.
Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave Bluffs
I have had this on my list of things to do in Tennessee for YEARS! The name of this trail has been in my mind for so long. A 5.5 mile strenuous hike through the smokies will reward you with outstanding landscape and views. (google some pictures of these trails, spectacular!)
This is quite a tiring hike, some of the trail is along a gorgeous large rock path. Once you reach the over look you can sit on a piece of the mountain that is jutting out and get seriously breath taking picture of yourself with the mountains stretching out behind you.
3. Drive Through The Great Smoky Mountains
The drive through the Smoky’s is stunning, especially in the fall. There are several places to pull off and enjoy the view, you can stop and have a picnic lunch at one of the picnic areas, and you can also enjoy the convenience of the short easy accessible hikes that are off of some of the pull off locations in the mountains.
4. Meet The Dolly’s Stampede Horses
One hour before the shows at Dolly’s Stampede, they open up their horse walk where you can check out the horse for FREE.
5. Walk The Village
Walking through this medieval looking area in Tennessee is super fun. You can do some window shopping or get a cheap bite to eat while you are in the area.
6. Visit Douglas Lake
Take a swim, enjoy the view, or eat a picnic lunch around Douglas Lake located in the Great Smoky Mountains. (or do all 3!)
7. Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour
Wether you are visiting Chattanooga or Sevierville, take a walk around the city looking for all of you favorites sites in the city. If you are interested in taking a walking tour of Memphis in particular, here’s a great sightseeing tour by GPS My City that you can follow.
8. Memphis Books Museum of Art
Located in Memphis, this museum is a “pay what you can” museum. Enjoy fine art without having to pay the typical price tag.
9. Mud Island River Walk
This is perfect for kids! It’s a little shallow “river” carved into the walk way in this park where kids can dip their feet into and play to their hearts content. I think this is an amazing idea for a park.
10. Knoxville Botanical Gardens
Enjoy walking trails, historical buildings, and of course the 40 some acres of gorgeous fauna.
11. Ijam’s Nature Center
I highly recommend visitng Ijam’s. There is a boardwalk along the side of a mounatin that gives you views of the blue water below. There is also
Tennessee On A Budget
There are a lot of states in the U.S. that don’t really allow for visiting on a budget, but you won’t have to deal with that with a trip to the volunteer state. I hope this guide will help you and your travel companions travel Tennessee on a budget.
If you are looking for ways to save money to travel, check out my 27 tips in the link below. Happy traveling!