Austin: The Details

I’m writing this post from a hotel room in Hot Springs, South Dakota!  We’ve been busy exploring the Black Hills area with some local family this week, so I haven’t gotten online much.  This is our last night here, and I wanted to send my last Austin post out while it was still in my memory.

Check here and here for more on our weekend in the Texas capital last month.


Day 1:  Fly out of Boston Friday morning, arrive just in time for lunch in Austin.  We dropped our bags off at the AirBnB in East Austin, then spent the day wandering around and filling up on tacos.  This was the hottest day of the trip, so we stopped by Barton Springs to cool off later in the afternoon.  When the sun went down, we made our way over to Congress Ave to watch the bats, then onto 6th street for some people watching, live music, and a few drinks.

Day 2:  Opting for the Austin B-Cycle system over the buses, we rode into town and tried to make it to Franklin Barbecue before the line got out of control.  Too late! (Get there around 8AM and camp out if you want to try the food) – so we cycled up to the north end of town for Black’s BBQ.  We meandered back down, stopping in on various shops along the way.  Around lunch time, we hit the Texas Rowing Center and rented two kayaks to better explore Lady Bird Lake.  After 2 hours on the water, we met up with a friend downtown for some drinks and a late lunch, rounding out the evening with a great comedy show at the Alamo Drafthouse – definitely worth a visit!

Day 3:  We packed up our stuff early and hoofed it to Veracruz; I couldn’t leave Austin without a third round of tacos!  Sunday was spent wandering the city.  The Capitol building, some of the famous street art throughout the city, and then back to South Congress Ave.  We settled in for a light lunch and some live music at Güero’s outdoor taco bar, and then caught the bus back to the airport for an afternoon flight.

Packing List

I always include my packing list as a reference point for anyone looking to travel!

  • Clothing
    • Sneakers
    • Vans (street/skating shoe)
    • Flip flops
    • 3 pairs of shorts
    • 2 Tshirts
    • Tank top
    • Socks/boxers
    • Short sleeve button down
    • Swim Trunks
    • Light hoodie (for the plane)
  • Bags
    • REI 40 Liter Pack
    • Camelbak 15 Liter Pack
  • Miscellaneous
    • Phones
    • GoPro
    • Sunglasses
    • Toiletries


Let’s get right to it:

Austin Category Spending

  • Accommodations:  $98.80  Three nights in an AirBnB in East Austin.  The face price for the place was $112, but I managed to cut it down a bit.  First, I bought a $50 AirBnB gift card on sale for only $40.  Every few weeks, AirBnB cards will go on sale through certain avenues; Amazon is a common one.  Then, Bank of America had a Bank Amerideals “deal” for 5% back on charges from AirBnB.  After the $50 gift card, I charged the remaining $62 to my Merrill+ card.  With the 5% cashback, I really only put $58.90 on the card.  So, the $112 AirBnB only cost me $98.80 out of pocket, for a total savings of 11% off sticker price.
  • Activities:  $79.68  Kayaking, Barton Springs, and Alamo Drafthouse.  All worth it!
  • Drinks:  $88.00  Typically, food and drink are lumped into one category, but we went a bit out of control this weekend.  What can I say?  Austin has good drinks, better food, and some great joints to enjoy both.  Our tab was spread out between a few places, and averages out to just under $15/person/day.  Not so bad.
  • Food:  $192.78  Even worse, we spent a ton of money on food.  Now, I’ll be the first person to eat leftovers or to pack granola bars for a quick travel breakfast, but we already knew we were going to eat out a lot on this trip.  My girlfriend is quite the foodie when she wants to be, and she did up a whole list of restaurants and bars in Austin.  The most expensive was Black’s BBQ, but it’s normal for good barbecue to cost a bit more than other fare.  $32.13/person/day.
  • Souvenirs:  $4.33  Easy.  No kids, (almost) no souvenirs.  This was just a few odds and ends – a bumper sticker, a postcard, etc.
  • Transportation:  $282.93  Obviously, this includes the bikes and bus passes for the time in Austin.  The bulk of this cost is due to booking the flights on my credit card.  Typically, I’d be booking flights with Rapid Rewards and my Companion Pass on Southwest.  When I booked flights for Austin though, I didn’t have quite enough Rapid Rewards for the whole trip.  I used 8,717 Rapid Rewards to fly BOS-HOB-AUS, but then paid $196.50 for the return flight AUS-BOS.  It’s more than I’d typically pay for a weekend trip, but we really wanted to take advantage of a no-kids weekend and explore a new city.
  • TOTAL:  $777.62

Spending without Points

You can see in the above chart that we put most of the spending on her Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Easy to see why:  the bulk of our spending was on food and drink, where the CSR earns triple Ultimate Rewards.

Spending with Points

After factoring in our tricks of the trade, we notice that the Southwest Companion Pass came through again – 27% of the total trip cost!  Including Rapid Rewards, travel hacking on Southwest accounted for 38.8% of the trip cost.  In reviewing most of our recent trips, that’s really what made all of these adventures possible.  Rapid Rewards + Companion Pass.  Otherwise, the rest of the trip was paid out of pocket.

Long story short, travel hacking enabled us to take a short getaway that we never would have been able to do otherwise.  That’s what keeps me coming back to all this!  The travel we get to experience, new places, new foods, and everything else is certainly worth the work that goes into it.

Stay tuned for some South Dakota posts coming soon!

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