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My wife and I recently traveled to Austin, TX, using our Southwest Companion Pass to fly round trip for FREE. We ate amazing BBQ, sampled lots of beer, explored eclectic shops, enjoyed the landscape, and spent time with great friends. Three days was not nearly long enough, but we had an absolute blast! Come along with us.
We planned the trip to Austin to join in the wedding festivities for two great friends – Congrats to #HouseBolton2015! While we were in town, we wanted to soak in as much of the awesomely-weird city as possible.
- Air Travel/Transportation – How we got there and how we got around.
- Accommodations – Where we stayed in the city.
- Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
- Total Trip Cost Breakdown – How much we actually paid for the trip and which loopholes we used.
- Southwest Airlines – $0 (Free with Companion Pass)
- Rental Car – $16/day x 3 (Covered with Barclay Arrival+ miles)
We love flying Southwest! The flight attendants are nice, the boarding is generally very smooth, and the in-flight entertainment is free. (Check out our Tips for Flying Southwest). We landed in Austin at 11am on Saturday morning and picked up our rental car from Budget Rental.
Having a rental is necessary to really explore Austin. We booked through Priceline and got a great rate on our little Hyundai Veloster. The car was sporty and had quite a bit of zip for a tiny economy option.
Hotels in Austin are expensive! We browsed award prices, but the hotel point costs were quite high. We almost booked a Holiday Inn property south of the city for 30,000 points/night, but we decided to give AirBNB another chance. Location was important, because our friends’ wedding was southeast of the city, and we had activities planned in downtown and southwest of the city. We selected a private room on the south side of town, and we were VERY impressed!
After my first AirBNB experience, I was a bit nervous to try again. This time it was much different in a great way. Our host, Andres, lives in a brand new gated development in South Austin called Edgewood, with beautifully built homes. His house was clean and modern, and our room had a private bathroom. The bed was simply a mattress on the floor, but it worked perfectly for us. The location was also very convenient to everywhere we needed to go. I highly recommend staying at Andres’ place if you want a nice, inexpensive spot in Austin!
- Salt Lick BBQ
Our first stop in Austin was lunch at Salt Lick Barbecue. You have to drive about 30 minutes out of town and into the hill country to find this gem, but trust me, it is well worth the effort! We shared a sampler plate and licked it clean. I particularly loved the sauce and the tender sliced brisket. Feel free to stop by the neighboring winery and bring a bottle with you to drink at Salt Lick, because they have a BYOB policy.
- Hill Country Breweries
After lunch, we wanted to sample a couple local breweries, Jester King and Twisted X, both located in the hill country. Twisted X is relatively new and has a very interesting Jalapeño Lager. Jester King is located on a working ranch and features a beautiful outdoor patio area. All of their beers feature local Texas ingredients and natural fermentation processes. Take the tour and learn about how they harvest local flora to barrel age and sour their beers.
- Sixth Street/The Driskill
As night fell, we ventured into downtown Austin to the world-famous sixth street. We ate dinner with friends at the Driskell, a beautiful, historic hotel. I recommend the Wagyu Sliders!
- Wedding – Cedar Bend Events
The next day, we headed out southeast of the city to partake in the wedding festivities for our good friends. If you’re planning a wedding in the Austin area, this is really a great venue.
Also, there was a minor emergency when the stylist went missing on the morning of the wedding I want to give a big shout out to the housekeeping crew at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort for coming to the rescue! Since we were half an hour away and barely awake, I placed a call to the Hyatt when I heard about the situation from the bride. They were nearby and offered to bring hair dryers and a stylist from the salon at the resort to save the day!! How amazing is that?! Also, we drove through the resort to return the hair dryers and it is gorgeous.
- Hopdoddy Burgers
Hopdoddy serves up fantastic, gourmet hamburgers in the South Congress area of Austin. The Primetime Burger was delicious!
- South Congress Street Shops
South Congress is a very artsy, eclectic part of Austin. We strolled down the street and visited some very random shops, including Uncommon Objects, a vintage store with everything from old jewelry to stuffed (literally stuffed) animals.
- Barton Springs
We paid a visit to the Barton Springs pool, but opted not to venture into the water. Instead, we walked just down the sidewalk to the actual river and just dipped our toes in. Quite a nice area of the city to get out of the hustle and bustle. Also, grab one of the uniquely flavored popsicles from the concession stand.
- Mount Bonnell
Mount Bonnell is the premier overlook for the city. A quick drive up the hill will put you at the base of a relatively short staircase. Climb to the top for a nice view of the river and surrounding areas.
- Live Oak Brewing
Before heading to the airport, we stopped by Live Oak Brewing company. They were located in an industrial building with no tasting room or tours. We were bummed and almost left, before we met Jason. He just happened to be walking by the door and must have seen our dejected looks. He offered to let us in to sample a few beers, and he ended up giving us the full tour of the facility! What a guy! He also told us that Live Oak will be moving to a new location closer to the airport soon. Look for their Hefeweizen when you visit Austin!
The following table breaks down our transportation and lodging costs. As you see, we spent no actual money on these items, which allows us to use our money for good times and great food in the city!
We definitely enjoyed our time in Austin. Hopefully some of the recommendations will help you plan a similar trip. Did we miss anything big? Cheers!