Travel, When in

Weekend Trip: Kingsland, TX

Located an hour and half from Austin, Kingsland, TX is famously known as the place the The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was filmed. Yes, the infamous house from the film is located here; now a restaurant it’s a frequent tourist attraction. You’ll pass “the slab” or the clear section of the Llano River as it crosses over granite slabs and boulders, on your way to the Texas Chain Saw house. But Kingsland has so much MORE to offer than famous movie spots and rocks! Our trip took us off the normal beaten path and into new and fun adventures.

Packsaddle Mountain

During out trip, we decided to stay at an AirBnB rental property with a semi-private beach. One of the best choices we made! Not only is it social distancing safe because it just us in the house but you also get your own beach! The house and beach were on Lake LBJ and had plenty of activities: kayaks, a boat dock, wake boards, Sonos music system on canopy at the beach and so much more. Plus, there was a spot for a bonfire so our first night we stayed warm by the fire and viewed all the stars. Our kids had a great time building sand castles each day of our trip; each day the castles got bigger and better. One even has a moat around it! The house had great views of pack saddle mountain and the surround area. Named after its shape, Packsaddle mountain is a great place to hike and is of interest to both geologists and historians. It’s the location of the Packsaddle mountain fight, the last major Native American battle area and is believed to have been mined for gold before the Texas Revolution. If you choose to hike the mountain, there is a historical marker at the location of the battle.

Boat Day

On day 2 of our trip we took advantage of the boat dock and rented a pontoon boat for the day. This by far one of our favorite things to do when we’re on the water. The rental company literally boats to your location, drops off the boat for you and then picks it up at the end of the day. Easy peasy – I highly recommend it! Here you can see why we love renting a boat and plenty of reasons why you should too! My husband is usually the captain but I did drive the boat more this time around. We explored the whole lake and even stopped at Wakepoint LBJ; a place to fill you boat with gas and your belly with food. We had delicious barbecue from Uncle Arnold’s BBQ for lunch and then it was back on the boat. One of my favorite sights were all the lake houses – these houses were phenomenal! They all had their own boat docks but some houses added additional features: slides, fountains, double patios, boats houses and so much more. Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that we can get a like house like the ones we saw!!

Longhorn Cavern State Park

On our last day, we took a socially distanced tour of Longhorn Cavern State Park. If your into rocks, caves and history this is the place to be. Longhorn Cavern is a beautiful limestone cave that has been used for many things: concerts, speakeasy, outlaw hideaway, church services and more. We took the walking cavern tour but they also offer the wild cave tour where you get to crawl on your hands and knees through the many crawl spaces. The tour took about 90 minutes and there was lots to see; from the bats to the crystals to Indian arrowheads left behind. Once your done with the tour, you can tour the park which has plenty of “parkitecture”, benches for family lunches, hike trails like Backbone Ridge and the CCC Observation Tower.

But that’s not ALL the things you can do in Kingsland, TX. We have some honorable mentions that we think you should check out during your trip:

  • Falkenstein Castle
  • Llano Slab
  • Lake LBJ
  • PackSaddle Mountain Hike Trail
  • Inks Lake State Park

Surviving Chaos

We had a great time in Kingsland and had plenty of adventures. Here are some of my surviving chaos tips so your trip will go splendidly!

  • Sunscreen: Be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen while and the beach, on the boat and wherever you decide to go. Bring 2 bottles…you’ll need it.
  • Light Jackets: The temperature is significantly cooler at the lake’s edge so you’ll want a jacket especially if you do a bonfire at night. The mornings can be quite cool as well when you sit on the patio and drink your coffee. Also, the cavern is cooler, between 60-65, so the jacket will come in handy.
  • Walking Shoes: There is a lot of walking in the cavern so where comfortable shoes.
  • Life Jackets: Either bring your own or check if your rental property includes them. All kids under 18 have to wear one and its good have when your kayaking.

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Travel, When in

Weekend Trip: Waco, TX

*Note: Trip taken pre-pandemic

Known as “the Athens of Texas” due to its many fine schools, Waco is nestled in between Dallas and Austin and sits along the Brazos River. Since it only takes about an 1-2 hrs no matter which city you are coming from, its the perfect weekend trip for the whole family. You can stay in Waco or in one of the many suburbs such as Hewitt or McGregor. For our trip, we chose to stay in a vacation rental property; you can find our tips for choosing a vational rental here. Home to Baylor University, there is so much to explore within Waco. But our eyes were keen on seeing the Magnola Silos and all things Chip and Joanna Gaines!

Magnolia Market at the Silos

First up on our trip were the Magnolia Silos which is the best place to be! There is so much to see and do from the open courtyard for cornhole games, garden, picnic tables to eat ALL the yummy food to the Magnolia Market at the Silos store full of Chip and Joanna Gaines fantastic home decor. This is a place that cherishes family, food, and fun! The Magnolia Market has so much stuff that you will leave with bags full of decor, coffee mugs, planters,etc. Can’t fit your items in your car, ship it home using their onsite Fedex station! When you leave you will definitely be inspired to start redecorating with all the home goods you found. My personal favorite was the Magnolia Seed and Supply where you can pick up seeds, garden tools, planters and flower growing kits for your kids. I’ve always loved flowers and gardening, a little something I picked up from my grandfather, so I spent most of my time in there. My favorite part of the silos is seeing all the families have an amazing time and getting chance to bond. Families from all over come to sit, enjoy the warm sun and create memories with their loved ones.

Cameron Park Zoo

Next up was something for our kids….the zoo! Prices are reasonable and if you have children under 2 they are FREE. This 52-acre natural habitat zoo was the best and favorite of our kids-we spent the whole day there. With lots of waterfalls, ponds, and lakes it is picturesque! We started our adventure at Gibbon Island with all the monkeys and worked our way through the zoo. Our favorite exhibit was the African Savanna where the elephants, rhinos, and giraffes call home. We had perfect timing because a baby giraffe had recently been born so our kids were very excited to see a baby giraffe. If your looking for some peach and serenity from all the excitement at the zoo, head to the lush green bamboo forest in the Asian forest section.

Waco Mammoth National Monument

If you love paleontology, science, animals and bones this is the place to be. The Waco Mammoth National Monument has fossils from 24 Colombian mammoths and other mammals. Its the largest known concentration of mammoths dying, possibly during a flash flood. Our kids had a field day with this site and had so many questions-it really sparked their interest. They loved standing next to the leg bone of a wolly mammoth and be shocked by how big they were-it makes for the perfect photo-op! Once your finished learning about the mammoths, spend some time walking the trails where you see honey locust plants, Texas Live Oak and a few roadrunners.

Although we did a lot, that’s not ALL the things you can do in Waco, TX. We have some honorable mentions that we think you should check out during your trip:

  • Waco Suspension Bridge
  • Texas Rangers Museum
  • Dr. Pepper Museum
  • Baylor University
  • Mayborn Museum | Baylor University

Surviving Chaos

We did a lot during our trip to Waco! So here are some good surviving chaos trips when planning your visit:

  • Comfortable Shoes: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be doing a lot of walking at the Magnolia Silos and the Cameron Park Zoo.
  • Sunscreen: Don’t forget your sunscreen! The Texas summer can be brutal and hot so don’t get burned. Slather on sunscreen before and during your outside time-there’s not a lot of shade at the Magnolia Silos.
  • Water: Pack plenty of water and drink it often. Texas summer heat is like not other; try to visit your outdoor adventures early in the morning.
  • Wear a backpack: By the time you shop at the Magnolia Market, buy souvenirs, bring snacks and water you’ll need something to carry all your stuff. Plus, you need your hands free to play football or cornhole games!

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5 Ways to Save On Your Next Trip

We are so ready to get back to travelling both domestically and internationally. There are so many places we have yet to explore but we’re waiting until it’s 100% safe to travel. In the meantime, we’ve been planning and budgeting for our next trip. The budgeting part can be the hardest as we want to save money but get the most from our experiences and “do it all” while we are away. I curated our top 5 tips on how to save money when planning your next trip. The tips will save you hundreds if not thousands on your next vacation so there will be less money stress and more fun and relaxation during your vacation.

  1. Use Airline Miles: We ALL have a bunch of airlines miles saved up since the pandemic started. Now is the time to cash in!! Review your miles and cash them in for seats, hotel stays, or rental cars. For example you could travel domestically or to the Caribbean for 10,000 miles or less. By doing this you will end up only paying for government mandated taxes and fees. NOTE: Watch out for blackout dates; typically certain holidays throughout the year.
  2. Book A Rental Condo: Instead of a hotel try out a rental condo which gives you more space and the ability to live like a local during your trip. Plus condos are more affordable than hotels especially if its a family vacation with lots of people. Plus, you’ll have your own kitchen so you’ll save money by eating at “home” and its a creates the opportunity to gather around the table with your family.
  3. Travel Off – Peak: Book your trip during non-holidays, i.e. the week before or after to save hundreds of dollars. Not only are these times cheaper, there will be less crowds or the dreaded “we over booked the flight, anyone want to volunteer their seat?” speech (we’ve all heard that before). Plus there will be smaller crowds and shorter lines at popular tourist destinations like museums, amusements parks, etc. Additional savings: tickets for popular tourist destinations will also be cheaper!
  4. Deals Guide the Way: If your on the hunt for a great deal, then let the deal send you to your next destination. Instead of trying to make your budget fit your destination, let a trip deal determine where you will go. There are great deals for the places least travelled so its a great opportunity to see something new and expand your experiences. But these deals come and go fast so set up email alerts so you’ll be ready to book ASAP. This strategy is perfect for saving on your next trip and many include airfare and lodging so its a win-win!
  5. Stick to Your Budget: The best way to save money is to stick to your budget. Research how much air travel, lodging and experiences will cost and stick to it! Its easy to get lost in new offers or 1 extra experience during your trip. But by paying for that extra luxury, you can easily eliminate your cost savings and possibly go over budget. Travel budgets are easy to create in excel or use any of the numerous templates online. Don’t forget to include expenses for food and souvenirs!

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6 Reasons To Keep A Travel Journal

As we look forward to some travel this year, why not start a travel journal? This is the perfect way to capture all your experiences not just through photographs but also on paper. Travel journals are the perfect companion for any traveller, small enough to fit in any carry-on and last a lifetime. Its the perfect conversation piece for friends and family. There are a bunch of reasons why you should carry a travel but here are just a few of my favorite reasons:

  1. Capture memories, trip details and emotions
  2. Self Awareness and personal development
  3. Pre-trip research, references and tips
  4. Trip Guide and experience log
  5. Important Info and Contacts
  6. A great souvenir

How To Start A Travel Journal

When you’re starting out, keep things simple. Personalize your journal and customize it to show who your are. Choose a layout that fits the flow of your travel experience with room to grow. Sections for tickets, travel schedules, sketches, people you met, best experiences, and summary pages are just a few of the options to put in your journal. Not an artist, no problem! Give travel stickers a try. There are plenty of Pinterest flatlays to give you some ideas. But don’t let it overwhelm you with its picture-perfect journals packed with wise quotes and beautiful sketches. Make your journal perfectly you!

Buy a simple journal that you won’t mind getting a little dirty from your travel adventures. A small A5 leather bound journal is a perfect addition to your suitcase. It’s better to have an imperfect journal that’s yours than none at all. Don’t forget to add a spot for a pen or pencil so your not searching for one while your having the best time of your life.

Keep it honest. Be truthful with yourself and don’t sugar-coat or aim for what you think a travel journal should be like. Let it be yours – and let it reflect the good, the bad and the ugly of your travels. A journal is a record of experiences – not a perfect narrative waiting to be published. But if you do get it published…..what a great story it will tell!! Safe travels!

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Take A Spartan Holiday

We are always looking for ways to unwind from our busy daily lives….work, school, activities, etc but what about technology. In there era where technology rules everything…..shopping, bills, social media, texting a dual purpose vacation may be just what you need. A Spartan holiday allows you to take a vacation from our busy everyday lives AND technology. This type of vacation encourages a total disconnect from technology in order to allow you to truly enjoy your vacation; allowing you to get back to nature and best of all yourself. Shrimayee Thakur said it best:

“To celebrate a Spartan Holiday is to wring pleasure from the modest stuff…..To enliven a rainy day. To gain independence from the media narrative of the week….Honour the actual. Observe slowly. Engage the world like a traveller, canny but agape, whether five or fifty or 5,000 miles from home. That’s what you can expect here, an eyeful.”

Now, your probably wondering how you can travel without technology especially since we use our phones to take pictures and post to social media. Bring your phone but also bring a pen and paper or a travel journal. Draw what you see, write you feelings, thoughts and inspirations based on what you see and discover. Now is the perfect time to start a travel journal, there are lots of options to choose….from blank pages to lined to dot grid. A travel journal your personal narrative of your adventures and the life you have lived. And…it makes the perfect conversation piece with family and friends. Need more reasons on why you should have a travel journal and how to start one? Check out my post here about travel journals.

Another important factor of Spartan holidays is to stay in a micro hotel. Micro hotels offer tiny rooms that are much smaller than traditional hotels. Although they are small, the rooms maximize space! Equipped with full kitchens, outdoor patios with fire rings, and mezzanine bed lofts these rooms are perfectly nestled within forests, hilltops or mountain sides. Talk about fantastic views! Plus, you will have packed light. For Spartan holidays, you only need to take the essentials-clothing, food and travel journal. Less is more! Besides, you’ll be spending a lot of time in nature and not your hotel room.

So I encourage you to find time and a destination for a Spartan holiday. Take the time to get back to nature, unplug and re-center yourself. What before of self care than to pause and observe the world as traveller. What will you discover?

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