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Road Trippin' in Texas - Hacks and Fun Stops

travel Oct 15, 2019

Originally Published on 7/8/19

Friends. Last week I went on a Texas road trip with my son, and it was the best vacation I’ve been on in a long time, and y’all, I went to Mexico kid-free this year so that’s really saying something.

We basically did a tour of Texas water parks with other stuff sprinkled in, and I didn’t hate it. I have a couple of rad playlists that we played on repeat, and he played on his Nintendo in the car. At one point between Waco and Austin, he was like, “Is THIS what a road trip is? Singing to music and playing games? Because this is awesome!” No lie, those words came out of his mouth. Anyway, I want to share some tips and tricks if you want to hit the road with your spawn.

Current favorite song: This remix of Benny and the Jets

Friends, my kid packed his own suitcase. If that gives you a mild panic attack, I promise I double checked for him. He did a great job on his own, though. T-shirts, shorts, swimsuits, done. Dressing yourself as a boy is so easy. Legit the smartest thing I did the whole trip was pack a collapsible hamper so that we could just put our dirty clothes in it and carry them separately. That made unpacking sooooooooo much easier, she says as if her suitcase isn’t still sitting on her bedroom floor with stuff in it.

But seriously, the collapsible hamper made doing laundry when we got home super easy because I know the clothes that are still in our suitcases are clean. This obvi doesn’t work if you’re flying. Obvi. Checkout my tried and true road trip essentials below. Yes, a hamburger towel is essential.

What I pack

  1. This sunset suitcase from ebags was my birthday gift to myself last year and it’s just so beautiful and makes me want to travel more. I like that it has a hard shell so nothing gets smooshed.
  2. My kid has an R2-D2 suitcase, natch. There are Stormtrooper and BB8 options too – so adorbs. So nerdy. So fetch.
  3. Packing cubes make your suitcase super organized.
  4. This luggage tag is also a portable charger for your phone. This is awesome in general, but also in an airport where plugs are hard to find.
  5. This cell phone pouch = being able to take pictures at water parks. It legit works, I’ve had this one ever since we went to see Jaws on the water at Lake Travis (a cool event Alamo Drafthouse does/did where you watch Jaws from an innertube on the lake)
  6. Use a cooler bag for the lighter stuff that needs refrigeration – think deli meat, grapes, etc. – so it doesn’t get squished in your bigger cooler.
  7. Burger towel – I get compliments EVERY TIME I bust out my burger towel. Shout out to my friend Angela for being an awesome gift giver
  8. Avocado towel – I meannnn how cute?! There are tonnnnns of different ones at the link – you can go junk food with it like pop tarts or healthy like pineapple and sushi roll.
  9. Nintendo Switch – okay this console is so amazeballs. It’s a console that can connect to a tv, OR you can use it as a handheld (like in the car), OR you can set it up as it’s own screen and play it like that. The controllers come off the sides and you can play it alone or with other people. It’s so versatile – my son played in the car and we played together by connecting it to the tv when we got there.
  10. Water socks – a million times better than the water shoes of yesteryear. Be sure to get the kind with a rubberized bottom so they last more than 5 minutes
  11. Goggles – if I have to buy another GD pair of goggles this summer I SWEAR. Just bring your own and save yourself the hassle.
  12. Collapsible hamper for your dirty clothes. Seriously, it makes it so much easier
  13. Rolling cooler – I like this one because it isn’t ginormous. IMO 2 of these for a bigger family is better than 1 large cooler, just for maneuverability. Pro tip – use your reusable ice packs from meal kit boxes to keep everything cold for longer than ice will.
  14. Not pictured – your Nerky Book Club book *winky face*

Obvi you also need things like clothes, alllll the sunscreen, etc. I tend to bring 2 swimsuits and 2 towels per person so you have one to wear/use while the other is drying.

Our Itinerary

Dallas -> Waco

I wanted to stop a couple of hours into our trip because my son was wary of being in the car for so long (it turned out to be a non-issue), so I wanted to break it up. Waco is a couple of hours South of Dallas, so I looked for something he’d enjoy there – aka not the Silos. Nothing wrong with the Silos, it’s just not his idea of an exciting stop.

The Dr. Pepper Museum was pretty neat, honestly. Plus, you get a free old-fashioned Dr. Pepper with your ticket – meaning they mix the syrup with the soda water right in front of you. There’s a Groupon for it, too – save those doll hairs for the gift ship, mkaaaaaay.

Waco -> New Braunfels

Schlitterbahhhhhhhhhhhnnnnnn! Legit the best waterpark I’ve ever been to. Pro tip – take the tollway SH 130 around Austin. It’s 80mph and 1,000% worth the toll! We did the “Stay and Play” package at Schlitterbahn with family and it’s definitely the best deal if you’ve got the right number of people. It’s awesome because you stay on the water park property and you get water park passes for the day you check in, the day you check out and the days in between. I didn’t know this ahead of time, or I would have rearranged my itinerary a bit – aka gotten there earlier – so I’m passing on that knowledge to you! You also get other perks by staying on site – some of the rides are open earlier or later for resort members and they have nightly events like movies and s’mores. It was pretty rad being able to step outside and be right there by a ride. Plus, our room had a full kitchen so we literally never had to leave because we brought food to make.

Schlitterbahn is also awesome because they let you bring in a cooler and food. Hellooooo sandwiches and fruit.

You can stay in any type of room they have ranging from budget to upscale. The water park has 2 sections with a free bus in between that runs pretty often. The “old” section is the OG spring-fed water park with tube rides. The “new” section has more modern slides and stuff. We liked both sections for different reasons, but both mine and my son’s favorite ride was this slide that shoots you into the lazy river in the new section. I might have had a couple escapees, but such is life in a bikini at a waterpark (yeah, now you get what I meant by “escapees”). At one point I had to hold my swimsuit top on and my cell phone bag and I forgot to take my sunglasses off, so when I crashed into the water everything was still inside my swimsuit top, my phone was still around my neck, but my sunglasses took off down the lazy river. Luckily, my nephew found them. Crisis averted.

The lazy river in the new side of the park has a fast side and a slower side – so if you get in the current, you can go faster. It also has these floating alligators you can ride if you’re lucky enough to catch one.

The wave pool is in a circle, kind of lazy river-esque, and it’s constantly going as opposed to wave pools that start and stop. There are tons of tubes available too – for free – so that you can float around the waves.

Overall, Schlitterbahn was so much fun. I’d definitely recommend it and I’m petitioning my family to make it an annual summer trip together.

New Braunfels -> Natural Bridge Caverns

This place was super cool – you can explore caves, “mine” for gemstones, arrowheads and fossils, do a ropes course, figure out a human size maze and zip line. So much fun.

How cool are these rock formations in the cave?

Pro tip: The cave tours are cheaper if you buy them online ahead of time, but everything else is the same price.

My son’s favorite part was the ropes course, which admittedly scared the hell outta me. I’m not super excited about heights, but I got over it and did the thing with him. Teachable moment, ya know? We didn’t zipline, but we did mine for gemstones, which he loved and was super fun. The cave tour was interesting too – we did the Discovery Tour. The maze was fun too – you have to find certain things in the maze, then you have to find the exit and they time you. It’s open air and there are real exits all along the perimeter, so if you get claustrophobic or panicky you can get out without completing the maze. We finished it in about 20 minutes.

This is the maze from one of the higher points, so it’s not as claustrophobic as it sounds.

We wound up staying there for several hours doing all the things. They have food and stuff, but we planned ahead and packed our lunch since we had plenty of food in the cooler. We just had a little picnic outside.

Natural Bridge Caverns -> San Antonio

We stayed in this totally adorable tiny house in San Antonio. Like, so adorable and efficient that I really want to make my own. Like, rill bad. I prefer to use Airbnb and stay in a house or condo when I travel as opposed to a hotel. I think it’s so much more interesting.

We went to San Antonio to check out the Riverwalk, Alamo and Fiesta Texas. Mostly Fiesta Texas because we have season passes to Six Flags, so let’s go to all the parks!

The Alamo wasn’t exciting for my kid because he’s too young – he hasn’t learned about it in school yet so it was kind of over his head. He liked the Riverwalk, but only because we stopped at a candy store in River Center Mall on the way, ha. I got this shirt for myself and obviously I need to wear it every time I teach a painting class. (It’s not in their online store, so I linked to Amazon.)

Honestly, the tiny house was our favorite part about San Antonio. I MEAN IT WAS SO CUTE. We chilled in there most of the time we were there – it was like a little tree house or fort, but with plenty of space for us. Man, I need to build my own.

Fiesta Texas was cooler than Six Flags Arlington. There, I said it. It has a water park side and a theme park side, and I’m not sure if it was just because when we were there it wasn’t super crowded, but the people seemed nicer.

San Antonio -> Austin

We got rained out of Fiesta Texas the day I had planned on going (so we stayed in the adorbs tiny house, ate our cooler food and watched Netflix/played Nintendo Switch together – I’m telling you, this console is so awesome), so we went on our way back home, which made for a long (but fun) travel day.

We stopped on the way back in Austin to go to Mylo Obstacle Fitness because I’ve been following this guy for YEARS. He built a Tough Mudder-esque obstacle course where he trains people to compete in obstacle races and has group fitness classes. My kid LOVED it. We also stopped at my favorite snarky bakery on Instagram – HayleyCakes – to get some cookies.

I love Austin and the hill country. I mostly love the hill country, it just doesn’t hurt that Austin is so close.

Austin -> Waxahachie

Wait…Waxahachie? Since when is that a tourist destination? How do you even say it? Waxahachie is just south of Dallas, and we stopped there to check out The Crape Myrtle Guy – this guy who has a whole nursery in his back yard. He sells crape myrtles and all sorts of other plants right from his back yard, so you can either order them online or just stop by his house and pick them out. And GET THIS – you can order crape myrtles from him on Amazon Prime! How freaking rad is that?! Check out these red ones. And these white ones. So affordable! So neat! I love when I meet people who have an idea and just freaking do it. So inspiring.

I got some purple vitex trees, a crape myrtle (because you can’t visit The Crape Myrtle Guy and not get a crape myrtle) and a plumbago, because my son really liked it. Books and plants, man. I’ll literally buy him every single book and plant he wants, no question. Reading and learning to care for something other than yourself are important lessons, gnomesayin?

Waxahachie -> home

It was like a 14 hour day doing all the things, but you know what? Totes worth it. It was such a fun trip that my son wants to repeat it before summer’s over, haha. All the animals were super stoked to see us, natch. I always have a pet, house and plant sitter when we go out of town, but I still feel bad for leaving the animals. Even though they’re well taken care of, I feel like they think I just abandoned them. Even old Mia who sleeps all day and has trouble walking (arthritis) had a little perk in her step when we came through the door. Animals are the best.

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