What I Spent: Five Nights in Austin, Texas

  • 01 of 07

    Upfront Costs

    Neon sign in Austin, Texas
    Jeff Gardner/Getty Images

    The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this new series, we’ll look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend.  (Thanks for the inspiration, Refinery29!)

    For this installment, a group of 11 friends head to Austin, TX for a long weekend of tacos and beer—and end up stranded an extra day due to a snowstorm. 

    Flight: $177, EWR-AUS
    Accommodations: $356 ($3918 AirBnB reservation, split by 11 )
    Size of Group: 11
    On-the-Ground Transportation: $45.57 (Ubers and cabs, split evenly among the group) 

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  • 02 of 07


    A United plane at Newark Airport in New Jersey
    John Moore / Staff / Getty Images

    4 p.m. Leave the office early to schlep to Newark. I take New Jersey Transit from Penn Station because it’s rush hour. Cost: $13

    5 p.m. The line at Newark’s United terminal is the longest I have ever seen, snaking down the escalators and through the main ticketing area. Thankfully, I was approved for TSA Pre-check over the summer. My boyfriend and I join a shorter line—and get to keep our shoes on, laptops in bags. Cost: $100 TSA Pre-Check fee (valid for five years) 

    6:25 p.m. We only beat our friends in the main line by 10 minutes. We squat at the gate eating sandwiches smuggled from my boyfriend’s work cafeteria. Cost: $0

    8 p.m. Finally at cruising altitude. Finish a binge-watch of True Detective season one while sipping two Goose Island 312s. Cost: $15.98

    10:55 p.m. Uber from airport to our AirBnb rental, a five-bedroom house with a two-story roof deck—and hot tub. We plan to rotate Uber duty throughout the weekend and split total costs at the end, so a friend grabs this ride. 

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  • 03 of 07


    Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas
    Andrew Skwarek


    10 a.m. We walk to Franklin’s Barbecue, an Austin BBQ joint with lines as legendary as the brisket, which sells out every day. The manager says it’s a three-hour wait, so we pregame with coffee cake and lattes from Legend Coffee Co., a coffee shack that smartly set up shop just behind Franklin’s. Cost: $7.58 

    10:30 a.m. Buy champagne and orange juice at CVS to drink in the parking lot while waiting for barbecue (this is allowed in Austin). There are worse ways to spend a January Friday than drinking mimosas in the sunshine. Cost: $14.06

    11:15 a.m. The sun is deceiving and my hands are freezing. Pick up a pair of gardening gloves at CVS. Cost: $2.06

    12:45 p.m. Finally inside. It’s brisket (1/4 pound), sausage (1/4 pound), and a side of potato salad for me, but I wish I had ordered the bourbon banana pie, make exclusively for Franklin’s by local bakery Cake and Spoon. I steal a bite of my friends and it is hands-down the day’s winner. Cost: $19.18

    1:30 p.m. Walk off the food coma and end up in downtown Austin. Pop into the famed Driskill Hotel, where the bartender tells us about the allegedly haunted rooms. I’m spooked. Cost: $13.91

    3:15 p.m. Catch the end of the day’s sun at HandleBar, a quirky roof deck outfitted with cornhole and a seesaw.. Play a few rounds before I remember that I fail at cornhole. Sample a Shiner Ruby Redbird. Cost: $5.25

    4:45 p.m. Swing into CVS to stock up on weekend provisions (Cheez-Its, coffee). Cost: $137.48, split by 11, so $12.49.

    8:30 p.m. Too full from BBQ for a full dinner, so we order some queso at Javelina, one of the many Rainey Street bars. All of the homes on this street have been retrofitted into bars and restaurants—a cool effect that makes bar-hopping even more appealing. Cost: $18 

    11:07 p.m. Food trucks beckon from a parking lot across the street. The cinnamon sugar donuts from Little Lucy’s Mini Donuts are a revelation, pillowy and sugary and far too easy to eat by the dozen. Cost: $4 


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  • 04 of 07


    Tower at the University of Texas-Austin
    Utnomi/Wikimedia Commons

    10 a.m. Go for a four-mile run through downtown and UT—gotta put a little dent in all that brisket. Cost: $0

    12 p.m. My friend Selena lives in Corpus Christi, TX, and she drove the three hours to see me for the afternoon. We meet another mutual friend for flautas and diet Cokes at Habanero Cafe, a hidden little cash-only Mexican joint. Cost: $12 

    2:15 p.m. Wander South Congress for a couple of hours, admiring the murals and endless racks of cowboy boots at Allens Boots. I pay for valet parking at South Congress Hotel—the least I can do since she drove all this way. Cost: $13

    4:15 p.m. Back at the house for a roof deck party to celebrate an engagement. A friend proposed to his girlfriend on this trip, so we’ve popped the bubbly (purchased on an earlier provisions run). $0

    8 p.m. We eat at Contigo, a ranch-to-table restaurant that serves things like rabbit and dumpling stew (my order). A couple bottles of wine adds to the bill, but hey, we’re celebrating—and engagement and three 30th birthdays. Cost: $33 

    10:15 p.m. We fight through crowds of college students on Sixth Street (UT is just back in session from winter break) to get to Trophy Bar, a western joint with a mechanical bull. Everyone falls off. Cost: Dignity, $5

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  • 05 of 07


    South Congress Street in Austin, Texas
    Kylie McLaughlin/Getty Images

    11 a.m. Breakfast tacos are required. We score sweet bar seats at a brand new Torchy’s Tacos on South Congress. One order of queso, a sweet tea, and dos tacos, and I’m back. Cost: $15 

    12:37 p.m. Walk north on South Congress to Joe’s Coffee, where we watch a country band play some two-step on the outside patio. I sip a latte and munch on a chocolate chip cookie that has no right to be that good. Cost: $9 

    1 p.m. I hear New York City is having a snowstorm. I don’t worry because it is 65 and sunny in Austin. Cost: $0

    3 p.m. Head to Full Circle Bar, a quirky East Austin pub with a knish stand in the back and a row of skee ball up front. My friend’s sister knows the owner and hooked us up with free games and a $100 bar tab for two hours, and we’re the only ones in the place. I score 300, but just once. Cost: $10, to tip the bartenders

    5:45 p.m. Missed call from a friend about the NYC snowstorm. Our flight home is cancelled, because the city got walloped with 26 inches of snow. Take an Uber to the airport to book a new flight, as United’s call service is too bogged down to even put us on hold.

    6:45 p.m. Arrive at the airport minutes before the United desk closes. They rebook all 11 of us on a Delta flight to NYC on Tuesday morning. Bonus day! Cost: $0

    7:15 p.m. Confirm with the AirBnb manager that we can stay an extra night. Cost: $487, split by 10, so $48

    7:45 p.m. Yelp “best tacos” and order takeout from El Taquito (two al pastor, two bistec, and a quesadilla). Eat at the house while playing a quick game of kings around the table to finish up the last of our beers. Cost: $9.96

    8:50 p.m. Meet a few other stranded New Yorkers at The White Horse Tavern, Austin’s answer to a honky tonk. Beers are pricey for this town. Cost: $7

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  • 06 of 07


    Meals at Kerbey Lane Diner in Austin, Texas
    Courtesy of Kerbey Lane

    11 a.m. An Uber driver recommended the queso at Kerbey Lane, a diner with several locations around town. We head to the original (on Kerbey Lane, naturally) and the dip is as good as promised, plus the cinnamon roll pancakes are the size of Frisbees. Worth being stranded for, 100%. $22.35

    3:30 p.m. A different Uber driver mentioned the margaritas at Guero’s Taco Bar, so we head there for an early happy hour in the sunshine. I am enjoying these Uber-driver recommendations. $25.92

    8:15 p.m. For our final meal in town, we head to Hoover’s, a southern comfort food spot. I opt for chicken-fried steak (because Texas) and pick up my boyfriend's tab. Cost: $49.21


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  • 07 of 07


    Food vendors at Austin Bergstrom International Airport
    LoneStarMike/Wikimedia Commons

     6 a.m. Uber to the Austin airport—impressed by the number of local restaurants here, but I'm still too full of chicken-fried steak to eat anything. 

    12:15 p.m. Land at JFK and decide to split a cab three ways. The snow banks are already dirty brown. Cost: $70, split by three, so $23


    Food & Drinks: $302.7

    Entertainment: $15

    Miscellaneous: $148.70

    Transportation: $36