Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Austin, Texas

Brit’s Summer Travel Series: Austin, Texas

For the third stop on Brit’s Summer Travel Series, we are heading to the Lone Star state! Until a few months ago, I was just a visitor to Austin, not a resident. Through my visits to Austin over the years and after living here for a while, I have learned a few things about the capital of Texas and am sharing them with you for your next visit!

I’ve always thought Austin is where Texas meets L.A., and it’s crazy to think that nestled in the rolling hills of Texas, there is a burgeoning tech hub with chic restaurants and more outdoor activities than you can imagine. The first thing to figure out for your trip is where to stay and Austin hotels do not disappoint.

The coolest hotel in my opinion is the Hotel Saint Cecilia. This boutique hotel is in the heart of the city, just off of South Congress and a quick jump across Lady Bird Lake from downtown. If you’re interested in proximity to town, the South Congress Hotel and W Austin are both great options.

The Commodore Perry Estate is brand new and I haven’t had a chance to visit yet, but it looks incredible! Auberge Resorts brought the nearly one hundred-year-old Commodore Perry mansion back to life and the storied estate looks better than ever.

Austin’s restaurants are as delicious as they are well designed. My absolute favorite restaurant has to be Clark’s Oyster Bar. It is my vibe to a tee and the food is SO good! If you are a seafood lover like me, then this is the place for you. My husband and I love going for dinner together and it’s also a wonderful brunch spot with your girlfriends! I’m not sure if there is anything better than a dozen oysters with Clark’s famous French fries and a glass of one of their many fabulous wines. Their sister-restaurant, Perla’s, is also fabulous and is a larger space if you’re looking for a group outing.

If you’re interested in Mexican food or TexMex, ATX Cocina and Matt’s el Rancho are my favorites. Matt’s el Rancho is more traditional and great for larger groups and families… you can’t leave without getting the Bob Armstrong Dip! ATX Cocina is a gorgeous restaurant in downtown and they serve modern Mexican food and delicious margaritas.

For sushi, we prefer Soto on South Lamar, we love going for happy hour and getting the Chef’s Choice–it’s five pieces of some of the most amazing and innovative sushi I’ve ever had! We also can’t get enough of Sway…I think about their Blue Crab Fried Rice all of the time and the design of all of their restaurants is just so cool.

For lighter fare with subtle French vibes, I highly recommend Launderette and June’s All Day. The food is incredible and again, the vibe will not disappoint. If you’re looking for the most romantic spot in Austin, I suggest Mattie’s. The food is described as southern and it is delicious. But the setting in out of this world. The restaurant is in an old mansion and the grounds have the most beautiful oak trees that have…Peacocks in them! It is so wonderful and perfect for a date night or special occasion.

Austin is known for its taco scene and for good reason. We are still working on this list, but trying out taco trucks and restaurants in Austin has been one of my favorite things to do with my husband since we’ve moved here. If you’re not interested in driving around to look for a taco-focused restaurant, but still want a taco, you’re in luck. I’ve noticed all of the coffee shops here also sell breakfast tacos, which is something I am more than okay with!

The activities in Austin are endless and if you love the outdoors, you will be in heaven here! Unlike many other parts of Texas, Austin is jam-packed with lakes, rivers, hiking trails and plenty of bike lanes!

Whether you’re a Texan looking for a weekend getaway or from out-of-state, Austin will be the perfect destination for you! Come back next week to see Brit’s next stop on the Summer Travel Series!

XO,

Brit

Travel during COVID-19

Travel during COVID-19

As an avid traveler, the past few months have been incredibly strange for me. In my pre-COVID life, my husband and I would fly somewhere at least twice a month, but until last week, we hadn’t stepped foot in an airport since March.

To be honest with you, I was a bit trepidatious about going to the airport and actually flying. I had so many questions and had heard horror stories about not being able to use the bathroom or not having access to get water or food. In the weeks leading up to our trip, I called the Austin-Bergstrom Airport a couple of times to see what it was like in the airport. They assured me that places like Starbucks and Jo’s Coffee were open and all of the bathrooms were open.

I had also heard stories about crazy-long lines to check bags and get through security, but in our experience, it took less than 10 minutes to check two bags and we got through security in under 15 minutes.

The line for security at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on June 7, 2020.

We flew from Austin, Texas to Panama City Beach, Florida for our first post-COVID vacation. There were no direct flights available so on the way to Florida we had a layover in Nashville, Tennessee and on our way home we had a layover in Houston, Texas. Our layover in Nashville was about 10 minutes so I can’t really speak to what that airport was like, but I would rate Austin’s airport as the cleanest and most efficient.

William P. Hobby Airport on June 14, 2020.

For our trip, we flew on Southwest Airlines and I have to give them such a major shoutout. Everyone from the people behind the counter checking bags to the people boarding you for the flight were so helpful. I think they are incredibly sensitive to the fact that people are nervous about flying again and they worked hard to make everyone comfortable and safe.

If you’re familiar with Southwest Airlines, you will know their boarding process is quite different than other airlines. You check in 24 hours before your flight and are assigned either an “A,” “B,” or “C” with a number between 1-50 behind the letter. That is still the same, but instead of calling passengers in groups of 30, the boarding agents now call passengers in groups of 10. I actually loved this aspect. It was much more civilized and I think it kept the bottle-neck of passengers way down. Until September 30th, Southwest says they are only booking flights at 60 percent capacity leaving the *dreaded* middle seats empty unless you are a family or group traveling together and want to sit in the same row. I loved this and on all four of our flights, there were empty seats and a lot of space between passengers.

None of our flights were completely full. The only people who sat in middle seats chose to sit in them or were traveling with their families.

I do think Southwest could improve the cleanliness of the planes. Our flight to Florida was around 6 a.m., so I believe the plane had been cleaned the night before and you could tell. Our seats were clean and the plane seemed fresh. Our flights home were a very different story. Our flight from Panama City to Houston had a quick turn-around time and there were still crumbs on my set when I boarded the plane. Same story on our flight from Houston to Austin. Luckily, I bring my own wipes and wiped down our seats, armrests, seatbelts and tray-tables, but I do think the airlines should be doing more to keep their planes clean. They were very focused on picking up trash and requested passengers hand them wipes people usually stuff behind the seats several times during the flight, but picking up trash alone does not equal cleanliness.

Passengers are required to wear masks while boarding the plane and during the entire flight unless they are eating or drinking, but while you are in the airport, you are not required to wear a mask. During our longer flights, Austin to Nashville and Panama City to Houston, we were offered a can of water and a snack, but I always bring my own water and snacks so I didn’t take any. On the shorter flights, Nashville to Panama City and Houston to Austin, beverage and snack services were not offered. We were able to use the bathrooms on all flights, but you are not allowed to form lines.

COVID or not, I always try to pack my own snacks. For our flight to Florida, I made Kodiak pancakes, and packed grapes and celery. I don’t usually like fast food and try to avoid buying salty snacks in the airport.

Overall, I really appreciate the changes airports and airlines have implemented and I think they actually make the process of flying less hectic. I do think sanitization efforts should be taken up a notch by sanitizing the buckets used for security, requiring passengers wear socks through security and that airplanes are cleaned AND sanitized thoroughly after each flight.

Up, Up and Away! Leaving Austin for the first time in three months to go to the beach!

Have you traveled during coronavirus recently or do you plan to soon? Leave me a comment and let me know your experience.

XO,

Brit