After two weeks of traveling around the great state of Texas, the Tako family has finally returned home. Landing in Seattle, we actually came back to snow!
I think Mrs. Tako actually wanted to turn around and get back on that plane after seeing our typical cold-wet Pacific Northwest weather! We got spoiled by all the Texas blue skies and perfect 77F degree days!
This was our first visit to the state, and overall we had a really good time … so much so that I wonder why we’ve never vacationed there in the past!
The Texas Trip (in short)
We visited multiple state parks, beaches, walked through caves, museums, and made a trip to Johnson Space Center (aka NASA). There was plenty of driving around the countryside too. Thankfully, sunshine and good food were in plentiful supply!
In summary: Good food. Good weather. Friendly people. Lots to see and do outdoors….
But, was it affordable or a frugal vacation destination?
Yep, I think it qualifies!
In total, the Tako family spent $2,248.79 on our trip to Texas. That’s an average daily cost of $56 per person. This was supposed to be a very affordable vacation for our family, and at first I found myself trying to optimize every financial transaction.
Eventually I realized how pointless this was, and resolved to just let myself spend a little.
My estimated cost of $2000 for the trip ended-up being a little low. We blew past that original estimate, but not by an unreasonable amount.
I think this qualifies as a very affordable family vacation. Let’s look at the numbers in more detail…
The largest single expense for most vacations is airfare — and our vacation to Texas was no exception. The total cost for our plane tickets was $903.24. This works out to be $226 per person.
This is not an especially cheap airfare price, and it’s very possible to find even cheaper tickets to Texas from the Pacific Northwest. Just search around using Google Flights, and you can find sub-$100 flights!
Car & Fuel
Texas is a big state and public transportation is not great, so a rental car is pretty much required if you are a tourist. Our mid-sized rental car cost $223 for the duration of the trip. This seemed like a pretty decent deal.
Usually I rent cars from Costco Travel due to the low prices, but for this trip we found a cheaper car through Hotwire. It pays to shop around!
In total we drove over 1,000 miles on this trip and spent $66.50 on fuel. We averaged roughly 33 miles per gallon in our rental car.
With its close proximity to many big oil refineries and low state gas taxes, fuel costs in Texas were absurdly low. The lowest price we paid for gas was $2.09 per gallon, and the most expensive was $2.19 per gallon. That’s cheap!
I had sticker-shock after returning home, realizing just how much more we pay for gasoline in the Pacific Northwest (nearly $1 per gallon more).
Parking & Tolls
Normally I hate paying for parking, but sometimes you just have to on vacation…
Our biggest parking expense was actually at the Seattle airport, a cost of $106.26. Other options, like taking a shuttle or a cab to the airport would have been more expensive.
There were also additional parking costs throughout the trip — such as parking to see the Austin bats emerge from Congress Avenue bridge at sunset.
I suppose I could have driven around for half an hour trying to find cheaper parking in downtown Austin, but $6 wasn’t going to break the bank (and we didn’t want to miss the bat emergence).
And yes, we did get to see plenty of bats…
Parking costs also included $8 in downtown Galveston, and parking in Houston when visiting the Museum of Natural Science and Hermann Park ($20, the cost was included in the museum tickets).
Tolls are also another reality of visiting Texas — Many of the larger cities in Texas utilize toll roads and toll lanes. Prices and distances tend to vary, but were typically $1.25 to $1.75 per toll segment. We ended-up spending $10.75 in tolls, mainly in Houston.
If you’re wondering — yes, it is possible to entirely avoid paying road tolls in Texas, but travel will be much slower.
One of the biggest ways we save money while traveling is by keeping our lodging costs low. For much of this trip we stayed with friends that live in Houston. This helped to keep costs down.
Camping at a friends house is great when you can get it, but we did need to stay a couple nights in a hotel (while in Austin). Total lodging cost was $239, and this included a great breakfast for the family.
Why no Airbnb? Believe it or not, staying at a Hyatt Place in Austin ended-up being cheaper than all the available Airbnb’s (after taxes and fees). Plus we got a very nice breakfast included.
Go figure! Airbnb isn’t always the cheapest option. Again, it pays to shop around!
Yep, the Tako family loves to eat. We spent $461 on food while traveling around Texas. This amount includes shopping at grocery stores as well as meals at restaurants.
Normally we cook most of our food at home, but this was hard to do when traveling. Inevitably, we spent more than usual on food because we were eating-out at restaurants.
So was the food in Texas any good? Oh hell yes! Here’s a little sample…
It wasn’t all expensive sushi dinners of course, there was plenty of cheap eats to go around!
We also had to try some of the local ‘Texian’ fare… bbq of course!
Oh, and I can’t forget a mandatory taco picture either! Austin is famous for food trucks, and the taco trucks were everywhere!
Travel is more than just eating of course…. we had to burn all those calories somehow!
Besides visiting with friends, we touristed around the cities of Galveston, Houston, and Austin. Originally we had planned a full day in San Antonio, but based upon the recommendation of others we decided to spend that day at Longhorn Cavern state park instead.
We had a great guided tour through the underground caves ($50.73), which lasted 90 minutes. Mrs. Tako had such a good time she said “It might just be the best tour I’ve ever been on!”
Activities on this trip also included a trip to the beach in Galveston Texas ($0), a day trip to Johnson Space Center ($90), Brazos Bend State Park ($14), a visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science ($85), and Barton Springs/Zilker Park ($0).
There was also plenty of walking around to see and enjoy the local culture. This activity is entirely free! Austin in particular was a funky/weird city. We fit right in.
Would We Go Back?
Some vacation destinations are great for only one visit… but a few places in the world are worth going back to multiple times.
Texas was like that for our family. We only scratched the surface of what Texas has to offer on this trip!
It’s such a BIG state that there’s no possible way we could see and do everything in just 10 days. There will be plenty more to see, eat, and explore in Texas.
I have a feeling we’ll be visiting again soon!