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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of How To Travel For Free! Today’s episode will be detailing our recent trip to Nashville. I’m not exactly sure how we ended up deciding on going on this trip, but I do know that my wife watches the show Nashville, and that’s what prompted the conversation.
Now, before you think it’s ridiculous to go on a vacation based on a TV show, MAYBE WATCH IT SOMETIME AND JUDGE FOR YOURSELF! Yes, I watch the show too, and yes….I’m on team Deacon (almost bought the Team Deacon shirt!).
But seriously, when we started telling people about our trip idea, the number 1 response was “For what? Some kinda business trip?” People didn’t get it, but we didn’t care, we were excited. Plus, after doing some research, we found that Nashville was among the top 10 budget destinations IN THE WORLD, according to Budget Travel. So put a notch in the WIN column for iHeartBudgets 🙂
What Credit Cards Did We Use?
Here’s a quick list of the cards and points used for the trip
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Card – Limited time 50,000 miles bonus currently
- Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX Card – Currently 25,000 point bonus
- Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard – Currently 30,000 miles bonus, but there are 50k links floating around Flyertalk.com
You can check out these cards and more on my Free Travel page.
How To Get There On Points
Since I’m obviously obsessed with credit card rewards, I wanted to find the best (and MOST FREE) way to get there. We’ve been building up a decent stock of airline miles, and I started checking out flights to Nashville from Seattle. We have over 200,000 American Airline miles (by getting both the Citi Aadvantage card and US Airways card [which doesn’t exist anymore]). , so I first checked there. The routes weren’t great, and we’d have to drop 50k miles. GROSS!
Then I hopped over to Southwest and check out their flights. There was a lot of availability on the dates we wanted, but would have cost 34,000 miles per person. BUT WAIT! Luckily, I had signed up for the 50k mile SW personal card AND 50k mile business card to get 100k miles total. After putting a total of $10k on the cards combined, we were at the magic 100k mile number, which qualified us for the Southwest Companion Pass. This is a pass we get to use for a free companion ticket on any flights through the end of 2016. DONE!
We were able to book the main ticket for 34k miles, and then add the companion ticket directly after.
The Southwest 50k offer is currently live, check it out HERE.
How to Stay There On Points
Since we were booking pretty last minute, I didn’t have time to add any points to my collection. And though we are swimming in airline miles, we were a little shy on hotel points. I looked around downtown Nashville, and found that most of the hotels were SUPER EXPENSIVE (both cash and points offers). Unfortunately, we only had about 17,500 Starwood points, and no other hotel rewards points. I searched around for a decent priced Starwood hotel (Westin, Sheraton, etc.) but they all wanted 10+ pts per night.
We needed enough points for 3 nights, so we ended up staying in Brentwood (home of the Dave Ramsey Show!) at the Four Points Sheraton for 7,000 points per night. I had to buy 3,500 points from spg.com to get to 21,000 for the 3 nights. That cost us $122.50. So much for totally free, but hey, a trip to Nashville for $122, I’ll take it! 🙂
How To Rent A Car On Points (using a surprising method)
We had tickets booked and a place to stay, but now needed to rent a car to get around. I was curious, as I had A TON of AA miles, I wanted to see if I could use them for car rentals. I had seen it advertised on my account, so I checked it out. I logged into my AAdvantage account and went to the car rental section. I picked the dates and destination, and was given a list of options. And WOW!
For a 3 day car rental, it would only cost 4,500 MILES! OMG!
I booked the car and was SUPER EXCITED. I could not believe it was so cheap! We ended up having to pay the taxes and fees, but it only came to about $35. DONE!
The bummer is that I didn’t read the terms and conditions and didn’t read the hours of operation. We were landing after 12am, and the car rental agency was closed from 12am – 6am. UGH. I called, and they would not leave me keys or anything. I then looked at the cancellation policy, and saw a $125 cancellation fee. So we were stuck. UGH! Luckily, we worked it out, taking a cab from the airport, and then back to the airport in the morning. The line for the car rental in the morning REALLY SUCKED, so I sent Michelle off to downtown while I waited. It worked out well, as she got to go shopping, and I caught up on my fantasy baseball stats 😉
What To Do In Nashville
Now that we had squared away the traveling details, time to plan the FUN STUFF! We had roughly $1,000 in our vacation budget, and wanted to do all the sights and sounds of Nashville. This was going to be a kid-free trip (thank you Gammie!), so we planned on a lot of exploring, eating at fun places and, of course, checking out the country music scene. As with all things, crowdsourcing the wisdom of Facebook in a mega-thread about our trip was the best way to handle the planning.
Michelle has a BIG online network, and put out there that we wanted to know of all the cool places to go and things to see in Nashville. We got some great responses, even ones from a cousin who lives just outside of there, and told us about all the swanky and fun, lesser-known places to check out. We also, of course, needed to go to the Grand Ole Opry, and (for those that DO watch the Nashville show), we wanted to get into the Bluebird Café.
Michelle was able to score some sweet ticket to the Opry, but the Bluebird Café was going to be another challenge. Apparently it’s a totally unassuming, small dive bar in between a teriyaki place and a dry cleaners or something. The seating is limited, and since literally millions of people watch the show know, it’s become VERY popular. Well, Michelle found out that she needed to book tickets for the coming Friday show on the prior Monday at 6AM PST! She set her alarm and got up at 5:45am to get on the webpage for booking. Right at 6am, she picked her seats and refreshed the page over and over until the “Buy Tickets” button become available. She bought the tickets, and found out that ALL tickets were sold out within 2 minutes! WAY TO GO HUNNY!
We also planned in some time to roam around downtown. We wanted to check out Broadway St, which apparently had a bunch of “honky tonk” bars and tons of places to shop. And we wanted to eat at “cool places” that are a little off the mainstream radar.
Where do YOU want to travel for free?