Memphis on a Budget: Two Days Inclusive for Under $700

A Budget Memphis Trip

Memphis offers a lot of interesting things to do at bargain prices. But many people overspend. Two days can be enjoyed there for under $700. Here’s how

Choose the Right Weekend

Two people can do Memphis for under $700, but you’ll have to choose your weekend carefully. Key the words “Memphis events” into Google. The Official Guide to Memphis has a monthly calendar under the What’s Happening tab. Look for special events that are likely to draw a lot of people. For example, The Beale Street Music Festival runs from April 29th to May 1st. This is not a good time to visit. The hotels will cost twice as much and prices everywhere will be bumped up.

A better strategy is to find a weekend where nothing much is going on. These are the weekends where hotels are desperate for guests. For example, if you back it off two weeks, and look at the weekend of April 16th and 17th, something magical happens.

On the weekend of April 29th to May 1st a room at the Springhill Suites Marriott Downtown will cost you a blistering $175 a night. But two weeks earlier you can have the same room for $129. You save yourself about $50 a night and avoid the crowds too.

Better yet, if you’re driving, consider not staying downtown. It can save you big time. For example, a room at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Beale Street fetches $175, even on an off weekend. Move just 9 miles up the road to the Hampton Inn on Poplar Avenue and the rate drops to $75 a night and includes a free breakfast. That’s a savings of $200 for the weekend. The trade-off is a 15-minute drive to get to Beale Street. The cost of parking in nominal.

Fly or Drive? It’s No Contest.

On the chosen weekend, round trip airfare into Memphis from a city located nine hours away is $285. For two people you are looking at $570. What’s more, since you will not be staying downtown, you’ll have to rent a car to the tune of $75 a day. So before you’ve even left the airport, you’re out $720.

Consider driving instead. In fact, as a rule of thumb, always consider driving if your destination is within nine hours of home. You’d think nothing of putting in nine hours at the office to please the boss and get your pay. If you get paid less than $520 a day, consider driving to your vacation destination, because that’s how much you will save.

Even weighing the brutal cost of gas these days, a nine-hour drive to Memphis and back will only cost you about $200 in gas, and you’ll have a car when you get there.

But what about the time? Isn’t driving going to take much longer. Well, let’s look at that.

Flying to Memphis will take only an hour and a half in the air, but when you add in all the rest of it – driving to the airport, parking, checking in, going through security, arriving at the gate an hour ahead of time, waiting for baggage, waiting for a cab – it will take 5 hours of your time to fly. Invest four hours more and reduce your transportation costs by an astonishing 72%!

Day One Itinerary

Before heading off to Memphis, plan your activities carefully. The most popular attraction in Memphis is Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland. Buy your tickets online ahead of time and get there early. A line starts forming for tickets and by mid-morning, they bring ‘em in by the busloads.

Bypass all that and book the first tour at 9 am. It’ll take you 3 hours to tour the house and grounds and set you back $35 per person with not a minute wasted staring at the back of a senior city from Terre Haute. If you get there early, you will be finished by noon.

After lunch head over to Sun Studio to see where Elvis got his start, as well as Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Tours begin at the bottom of every hour. It will set you back $12 per person and take about an hour.

At 3 pm head over to the Gibson Guitar Factory to see where they make the guitars. Tours are on the hour between 11am and 4pm on Saturdays and cost $10 per person.

If you don’t have a car, getting around to these various places will cost you, but if you drove to Memphis, you’re golden. You can see a lot of Memphis in a short time at very little cost.

At night you will definitely want to check out Beale Street, sort of a scaled-down version of the French Quarter. Lots of music and dancing. Dinner and drinks with live music at BB King’s Blues Club will run you about $100 for two. Consult their online calendar and book your reservation ahead of time.

Day Two Itinerary

On day two figure to take in the National Civil Rights Museum where you’ll see the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was gunned down in 1968 as well as a wealth of fascinating exhibits related to the civil rights struggle. The museum will require about 2-1/2 hours of your time and costs $13 per person.

In the afternoon take the audio driving tour around beautiful Elmwood Cemetery in the heart of Memphis. The audio tour can be rented for $10 and includes a map. It provides a 1-hour narration as you drive through the historic cemetery, learning about Memphis’s dramatic past.

What’s a trip to Memphis without some delicious Memphis BBQ? Try Central BBQ where a lip-smacking plate of Beef Brisket will run you $10 and will be accompanied by live blues music on Sunday afternoons. Check their online calendar for showtimes.

Now that’s doing Memphis right.

The Reckoning

So after you’ve finished your two days in Memphis here’s the total bill:

  • Gas $200
  • Lodging $150
  • Food $175
  • Graceland $70
  • Sun Studio $24
  • Gibson Guitar Factory $20
  • Civil Rights Museum $26
  • Elmwood Cemetery $10
  • Total Cost $675

20 major American cities lie within a 9-hour drive from Memphis. Among them:

  • Atlanta, GA 6 hrs
  • Charlotte, NC 9 hrs
  • Chicago, IL 8 hrs
  • Columbus, OH 9 hrs
  • Dallas, TX 7 hrs
  • Houston, TX 8 hrs
  • Kansas City, MO 8 hrs
  • Nashville, TN 3 hrs
  • New Orleans, LA 6 hrs
  • St. Louis, MO 4 hrs

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