texas road trip map

Texas Road Trip

Our goal was simply to go someplace warmer for part of the winter so we could enjoy being outdoors. We had excellent hiking inland and great birdwatching on the coast. And great food everywhere. COVID dictated a lot of takeout and staying at Airbnbs that had dining spaces came in handy. We’d already learned it’s hard to eat anything but pizza in a hotel room! (Which we did on the way there and back.) We liked Texas more than we expected. People were friendly. Backroads were relaxing. 

Food and Beverage $28 per day

Average per person per day. Breakfast was generally either provided with our lodging or something we got from the grocery store. We packed lunches and ate most dinners out.

Lodging $0-$150 per night

We used points to pay for our one-night stops on the way there and back. Austin was our most expensive stay, with San Antonio not far behind.

Transportation $435

Gas for our vehicle and a couple of small tolls in Oklahoma. We drove 5220 miles at 30 MPG average.

Entertainment $31 per person

We bought day passes for three Texas State Parks. We already had a lifetime senior national park pass.

Days 1-3: Drive to Texas

Planned Activities

  • None

Actual Activities

  • None

The Plan: Driving through on our way to Texas. 

The Reality: Yep, that’s what we did. 

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Drive from home

760 miles

Stay at

Quality Inn, Pontiac IL
Hampton Inn, Joplin MO

Get around by driving

Day 4: Canyon, Texas

Planned Activities

  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Actual Activities

  • Palo Duro Canyon State Park

The Plan: We saw pictures of Palo Duro Canyon online and decided to extend our overnight stay another night so we could check it out. It looks beautiful. 

The Reality: The state park WAS beautiful. And cold and windy and dusty. We hiked the Lighthouse trail and drove the scenic road that winds through the canyon, which was larger than we expected. It was worth the extra night. 

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Drive from Joplin, MO

490 miles

Stay at Buffalo Inn

Get around by driving

Days 5-12: Big Bend National Park

Planned Activities

  • Hiking in the park
  • Driving the river road
  • Maybe getting on the river?
  • Stargazing

Actual Activities

  • Hiking in the park
  • Driving the River Road
  • Stargazing

The Plan: We’ve wanted to come here since family visited years ago and talked about how much they liked the area. We’re looking forward to secluded desert and dark skies. 

The Reality: We liked it even more than we expected. We’ve always liked the desert. Being in a dark sky area made night just as interesting as the day. We got to use our spotting scope to stargaze and enjoyed the chimenea since it was cold at night. 

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Drive from Canyon, TX

467 miles

Stay at Patchin Cabin

Airbnb

Get around by driving

We drove 354 miles in the Big Bend area. It's a long way between points of interest!

Days 13-16: Austin

Planned Activities

  • Bat Colony
  • Gardens
  • Surrounding countryside
  • Live music if possible

Actual Activities

  • Zilker Botanical Gardens
  • Hiking at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
  • Walking around South Congress

The Plan: Neither of us has been here, though I almost came to school here back in the day. No real agenda; more about absorbing the general vibe. 

The Reality: It was the wrong time of year for bats and live music wasn’t possible due to COVID. We chose Enchanted Rock from area state parks for hiking. Good choice! South Congress was good for urban hiking. Excellent food choices. Loved the neighborhood. 

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Drive from Big Bend

485 miles

Stay at SoCo Studio

Airbnb

Get around by driving

We drove 184 miles in the Austin area, primarily to and from Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

Days 17-20: San Antonio

Planned Activities

  • The River Walk
  • The Alamo
  • King William District Victorians
  • Mission Trail

Actual Activities

  • The River Walk
  • The Alamo
  • Guadalupe River State Park
  • King William District Victorians
  • Mission Trail

The Plan: I’ve been here a couple of times for work and enjoyed the River Walk. I never did make it to the Alamo so I’m looking forward to that.  

The Reality: We did everything we planned and also made a day trip to hike at Guadalupe River State Park. Since we stayed in the King William District we saw Victorian houses just getting around. 

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Drive from Austin

80 miles

Stay at A Yellow Rose

We booked through Airbnb, though there are other options, including direct with them.

Get around by driving

We drove 140 miles in the San Antonio area. We took a meandering scenic route there and made a day trip to Guadaloupe River State Park and Boerne, and drove to the missions south of San Antonio.

Days 21-25: Port Aransas

Planned Activities

  • Hiking
  • Walking the beach
  • Birdwatching

Actual Activities

  • Walking on the beach
  • Birdwatching in Port Aransas and at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge

The Plan: We hope it’s nice enough to walk on the beach, even if we can’t sit on it and hang out. It sounds like there might be good birdwatching at North Padre Island.

The Reality: The birdwatching was actually better in town than at North Padre. North Padre was pretty but there wasn’t much to do. Not even real hiking. We were able to get our steps in walking around in town. The beaches were good for walking too.

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Drive from San Antonio

178 miles

Stay at Tin Cottage by the Sea

Airbnb

Get around by driving

We drove 90 miles in the Port Aransas area, including to and from North Padre Island National Seashore.

Days 26-29: Drive Home

Planned Activities

  •  None.

Actual Activities

  • Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
  • Hot Springs National Park

The Plan: Driving through on our way home. 

The Reality: We were able to fit in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge after we left Port Aransas. And we discovered our route took us near Hot Springs so we detoured there for a short visit. Both stops broke up the long drive(s) nicely. 

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Drive from Port Aransas

1483 miles

Stay at

Econo Lodge, Nacogdoches TX
Hampton Inn, Marion, AR
Hyatt Place, Indianapolis, IN

Get around by driving

Resources

Texas Lonely Planet

We used Lonely Planet Texas (Kindle format, borrowed through Kindle Unlimited)