How to Spend a Weekend in Pigeon Forge on a Budget - Part 1
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is known for being a family-friendly vacation destination, but it’s also a fun place for childfree couples like Ty and me. If you've ever been to Branson, it’s a lot like that – chock-full of live shows and attractions, including Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, and the Titanic Museum.
It’s a nostalgic slice of kitsch Americana that appeals to everyone’s inner child.
No matter your travel style, there's an overwhelming amount of things to do here, but that also means you can blow your vacation budget easily.
As I've mentioned before, I grew up on Smoky Mountain vacations. This was our family’s go-to destination, mainly because it was just a scenic two-hour drive from home, so we usually had season passes to Dollywood. It can also be a surprisingly affordable place to visit if you plan ahead and don’t get tempted by the digital billboards and countless attraction brochures you’ll encounter at every turn.
This weekend, Ty and I are heading to Pigeon Forge for a 2-night getaway, and seeing that we still have our big London trip ahead of us, we’re on a tight budget. Here’s how we’re managing to spend the weekend in the Great Smoky Mountains on $150 or less.
Take Advantage of Rewards Programs
Our credit union offers a member rewards program that allows us to build points when we use our debit card as credit. We didn't realize this when we first opened our account, and I kick myself whenever I think of all those points we could have accumulated over the first couple of years.
It took nearly a year, but we managed to earn enough rewards points to cash out with a $250 gift card for Choice Hotels. Our credit union offers a wide variety of gift card options – everything from movie theatres to airlines – but using our rewards points for a quick romantic getaway seemed ideal.
If you’re a credit union member, it doesn't hurt to inquire about any member rewards programs. Keep in mind, though, that not all credit unions offer this incentive (we’re members of two credit unions, and only our main one offers it). Also, major banks like Citibank and PNC bank are beginning to offer rewards programs, though their terms may be slightly different.
Those without access to a banking rewards program should look into other options, like hotel chain rewards. We've signed up for both Choice Privileges and La Quinta Returns in the past, but we never frequent them enough throughout the year to accumulate much. Travelers that stay at their favorite chain often, however, will benefit from this kind of rewards program.
What it means for us . . .
Having accumulated enough rewards points for a $250 gift card for Choice Hotels, we were able to book a king room with a hot tub at Comfort Inn & Suites in the heart of Pigeon Forge. We could have gone with a cheaper option and come in under our gift card amount, but we splurged on the in-room hot tub (it is a romantic getaway, after all!), which brought our total above our rewards amount. Still, spending $50 on a nice room in Pigeon Forge is better than the $300 it would have cost us without the rewards.
Signing up for a rewards program won’t help you save on this year’s vacation, but it could earn you a few free nights this time next year!
Pick Up the Coupon Book
If you've ever been to the Smoky Mountains, you know the one I’m talking about:
The Coupon Book is mainly another form of advertisement, but there are some great deals on major attractions, which is a good thing if you were already planning to visit one anyway. The Lumberjack Feud dinner show, for instance, allows you to "chop" off $3 from a regularly priced ticket (or you could enjoy a free game of "Spot the Puns in the Smoky Mountains").
The Coupon Book isn't limited to Pigeon Forge, either. You’ll find coupons for Sevierville and Gatlinburg, as well as places off the "main strip," like Townsend.
Keep this coupon book with you wherever you go, because you never know when you’ll get a hankering for a pound of Old Mill fudge (you get half a pound free with the coupon)!
What it means for us . . .
Dining out is one of our favorite pastimes. In fact, I’m pretty sure my husband and I spend more time at restaurants when we’re on vacation than we do at any attractions. The Smoky Mountain Coupon Book offers discounts on dining, so it’s likely we’ll end up choosing a place to eat based on what discounts are available. We also plan on going putt-putting while we’re there, and several mini-golf courses offer coupons. One, in particular, gets you a round of mini-golf for $5 a person. You can't beat that!