Travel Money Diaries: Lauren in Austin, Texas

Anyone who knows me well knows that budgeting is not my thing. So when I travel, I tend to go in with the following game plan: Live like a queen for the days that I am out of town and then, when I get back, work overtime and only eat soup until I replenish my savings. With that in my mind, I thought that this blog post about my trip to Austin, Texas, would be the perfect opportunity to attempt conscientiousness with my travel spending. Having friends to stay with for free was an awesome way to start my new thrifty ways!

I decided to book my trip to Austin through Spirit airlines with a checked bag; I had a voucher for a botched flight a few months back that I used to cover the checked bag ($91.19 total). I flew into Houston from Baltimore because the flight was about half the cost. Then I booked a Megabus ($7.50) from HTX to get me to Austin. For the way back I reserved my flight directly from Austin to Baltimore through Southwest ($136).

I have never been to Houston before and did not realize how big that city is! My Uber from the airport to the Megabus ended up being $45, which I had not accounted for. I think if I had known this I would have tried to find a flight directly to Austin. The only other money I spent on the first day was $10 at Chik-fil-A.

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After a long day of traveling, I arrived in Austin on Thursday around 9 p.m. My friend Mackenzie, who I stayed with for the weekend, picked me up and we went to her friend's house for dinner. We cooked perogies and they had bottles of wine already open, so I saved on dinner.

Friday was my me day! All of my friends who live in Austin were working so I had the day to myself to wander around. Before I got to Austin, I knew that I wanted to swing by my favorite breakfast taco place. Usually, I would take an Uber, but because I knew I was going to be the "thrifty gal I never am" on this trip, I decided to walk instead. I got my favorite breakfast tacos and a cup of coffee ($10.55). I managed to not spend money until dinner. I met up with a business that I do freelance work for, and they bought me a delicious vegan enchilada! Then I got a tour of their studio space (and a free cup of coffee).

For dinner, I met back up with my friends and we went to an Indian Mexican fusion restaurant. That dinner ended up being $45, which is about double of what I typically feel comfortable spending. To make matters worse, the food wasn’t great. We barhopped for a bit and my friends ended up buying me my first few rounds of drink. I felt a little guilty that people had been buying me food, drinks and providing lodging all day, so I bought a couple rounds for everyone. We went to a two-stepping bar next and I got everyone I was with a round of drinks ($30).


Saturday was our big, day-trip excursion. We ate breakfast in and then hit the road to go on the 15-mile drive to the longhorn caverns. To get there, we drove through the Texas countryside, which is always crazy for me coming from the D.C./Baltimore area where everything is so built up. The caverns were really cool and ended up being an all-day activity. The tickets for the caverns only cost $19 and we got to go on an hour and a half tour before exploring the premises. We then headed back to Austin and stopped at a little coffee shop on the way where, you guessed it, I got more coffee.

For dinner, we made reservations about a month out to a place that specializes in traditional Oaxacan food called El Naranjo. As a general rule, when you have to make a reservation a month out it's usually upscale and pricey. El Naranjo was no exception. I only got one drink and the cheapest entre on the menu ($39). Again, more than what I would like to spend on a meal, but it was fun to go to a swanky restaurant and relax after a long day of hiking. After dinner, I grabbed a beer with some friends ($7).

On Sunday, after a weekend filled with eating and drinking, Mackenzie and I decided to take it easy. I wanted to check out the stores in Austin (they have great shopping there) so we again skipped the Uber and did a five-mile scenic walk from her house to downtown. We checked out a couple swanky boutiques and I bought her a gift for letting me stay with her for the week ($30). We then grabbed dinner at another one of my Austin faves, Fresas. Monday morning I caved and ordered breakfast tacos through Postmates ($11). I walked around a bit after that and then a friend took me out to lunch (one more round of Mexican food, duh) and drove me to the airport!

The last expense of the trip was $8 WiFi on the airplane because my phone broke mid-flight and I had to coordinate accommodations back home once I landed.