Before flying in, take to heart a little basic information and pick up a few tips from six-million-mile traveler Joe Calloway.
→ Note: The Nashville Airport (designated with the code BNA for Berry-Nashville Airport), is midway through a massive renovation which means things are in a state of flux. Arrive early, be flexible, read the signs and you’ll be fine..
ARRIVING AT THE NASHVILLE AIRPORT
Reaching your in-town destination is much easier than most major cities. Downtown is less than 10 minutes away (except during morning rush). Opryland Hotel is 8; Brentwood is 14.
Currency exchange and banking
Currency exchange services at the airport are available from SunTrust Bank (615-275-0236) and Wright Travel (615-275-2660). both on the ticketing level. This SunTrust branch can complete all everyday banking transactions such as cashing checks. It’s open Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:o0 pm.
Suntrust ATMs are located at this location and at the north and south ends of the central security checkpoint. Fifth Third Bank has ATMs near gates B-10 & C-14, and near the terminal entrance, across from baggage carousel.
Some credit cards will lock you out if your purchases are made in a city that is beyond your normal purchase area. Check with your bank to see if it’s necessary to invoke a travel exclusion for your time in Nashville.
Here’s a list of hotels that offer shuttle service to and from the airport (and I imagine there are others). You can also see listings on the phone board on both the ground transportation and baggage claim levels.
LEAVING FROM NASHVILLE AIRPORT
When you’ve got your boarding pass, give it a close look to see if you’ve received the Golden Ticket Travel– a TSA Pre✓™ designation. If so, getting through security will be a breeze. If not…
Bottlenecks are more likely to occur at the south security checkpoint near the Southwest desk. than the north checkpoint toward the desks of other airlines. Why the other airlines have markedly fewer travelers than Southwest. Both checkpoints lead to the same atrium so it doesn’t matter which you use. Click for the current security wait-times near the top of the FlyNashville home page. There are also real-time postings of flight status.
With so much of the parking area under construction, merging can be stress-inducing–and right now lanes can shift weekly to accommodate the improvements. Watch the signs closely, looking as far ahead as possible to move into the proper lane.
If you’re dropping off a rental car or picking up someone on the arrival level, you’ve got to negotiate a major merge if you’re coming from the downtown/Opryland area on I-40. After passing the cellphone waiting area, all traffic enters a big loop so you want to make sure you’ve shifted to where you want to go.
Sneaky little trick: If a non-commercial vehicle is dropping you off for departure at a peak time for departures AND you have little or no luggage, jump out on the ARRIVAL level and go up one floor to the departure zone where ticketing and security screen occurs.
Learn what Joe knows about flying
The author of seven business-building books, Joe Calloway designs and leads highly interactive retreats and events with an emphasis on participant engagement–which means he’s always flying somewhere and knows the Nashville airport by heart. Now go, Joe!
Get there early
Really early. (This is the best tip of all.) With construction at the airport, parking is limited. You also don’t know what the TSA security line situation will be. If you arrive 30 minutes before your flight and the TSA line is 45 minutes long – you’re in trouble.
Cancelled and delayed flights are a fact of life when traveling. The earlier you get to the airport, the more time you’ll have to come up with a solution if your flight goes astray.
Where to park
If I am pressed for time and suspect that on-site parking will be full, I go straight to the off-site. Will also use off-site when my family is with me so we get taken right to the door at the airport rather than all of have to walk a distance with baggage to carry. I’ll also do off-site if I need a car wash (their prices are reasonable).
Check the BNA Parking website for real-time space availability in each on-site lot: economy, valet, short-term, long-term and BNA Express Park.
Know where the off-site private parking lots are and be early enough to go to one with no stress. (Current off-site providers: FlyAway, The Parking Spot, Executive Travel and Parking, Flight Park and Park’n Fly.)
Flight delays and cancellations
If your flight is delayed or cancelled, and you are a frequent flyer with the airline, call the customer service number on your FF card while you are waiting in that long line of fellow flyers at the gate waiting to be rebooked. If you get through on the phone before you get to the counter, let the operator rebook you on an appropriate flight. Sometimes it can save you a ton of time to call rather than only wait in line, and can get you a seat on the next flight before they’re gone.
When your flight is cancelled and you’re going to be stuck, consider renting a car and driving. From Atlanta, for example, rather than be stuck not knowing for sure when I’ll get home, I’ll rent a car and just drive.
Eating at the Nashville airport
I’m a Starbucks guy so it’s my go-to for coffee. Quiznos makes a good sandwich and if I am throwing caution and my waistline to the wind I might even get some Popeye’s fried chicken. I know it’s unhealthy but sometimes it’s great comfort food.
››Learn about local restaurants with in-airport locations.
I favor whichever airline offers a direct flight–no connections–to my destination. From Nashville, Southwest offers more direct destinations than any other airline, so that’s who I fly probably 75% of the time. I also have to say that the people who work for Southwest have been, in my experience, most consistently friendly and helpful.
What stands out about BNA
What I love about the Nashville airport is that it’s still small. It doesn’t take forever to get to or from any point in the airport. In the past couple of years, Nashville has added a lot of new restaurants and there are more to come. New parking facilities are currently under construction and that will be helpful. Of course, the real claim to fame of the Nashville is live music (including jazz, pop, and classical) at various security exit points and at Tootsie’s (always country). It’s kind of fun to walk through the airport and hear people singing and audiences applauding.
Rental cars and ride-sharing
All the major rental car companies have on-site pick-up (no shuttle rides)–a huge benefit. I’m a regular customer with National because I like the ability to pick any car you want from the category you’re renting.
Uber and Lyft are allowed to come on-site for pick-ups. Meet your driver on the first floor near the taxi waiting area.
My rule of thumb when traveling is that I am more than willing to pay more for almost anything if it’s easier and more convenient. Travel today is usually stressful under the best of conditions. I place great value on anything that can reduce that stress.
⇒You’re flying in–great–but now you need to learn your way around. Consult these helpful posts:
♦ 30+ fun things to do with kids of all ages.
♦ Transportation for getting around downtown Nashville.