Broke AF Travel Guide: Austin, TX
Travel Guide: How to do 36 hours in Austin when you're broke AF
One night in my apartment (while probably watching the Food Network and drinking wine), I was nonchalantly scrolling through cheap flights out of Buffalo. I wasn’t really looking for anything, just kind of browsing. Seeing what there was to see. Next thing I know, though, I have a one-way flight to Austin booked. I mean, not complaining, but.
Transportation (For hella cheap):
Much like this, most of my travels up until this point have been booked on an impulse, but Austin, and Texas in general, is somewhere that’s been on my travel wish list for a while now. So when I saw a $63 direct flight from Buffalo to Austin, you know I jumped on that as quick as I could.
I know what you’re thinking- HOW did I find a flight for THAT cheap?
Frontier Airlines is a budget airline recently new to the Buffalo airport, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Actually, scratch that, I honestly expected the worst- my luggage to get lost, my flight to get delayed, the whole nine yards. If I could get to Austin and back for $213 round trip, with both of my flights being direct flights- something’s gotta give, right? But to my surprise, flying Frontier ended up being bearable enough to be worth it, with only minor annoyances.
Hot mess or not, it all ended up being totally fine. My host was super nice and gave me everything I needed during my short time there. For a cool $95 for two nights, I would definitely recommend.
Altogether, that puts my transportation and accommodation total for this trip at $308 total, which made it more expensive than my Boston trip, but you have to consider it was a lot farther away. Can’t just hop on a bus ride home to Buffalo from Austin. Well, I guess you could, but it would probably suck.
Much like my experience in Chicago, I ended up buying a day pass with Austin B-Cycle, Austin’s popular bike share, for $15 and then just biking everywhere I wanted to go. Though it was a little more expensive than Chicago’s bike share in comparison, and the app isn’t super user-friendly, it’s still the same concept and gets the job done- with a little booty exercise on the side. Can’t complain with that.
So, I have to admit that originally, I only went to Jo’s for the famous I Love You So Much mural (so basic), but ended up falling so in love with everything about it that I went back the next morning for breakfast again. That’s right- only two mornings in Austin, only two opportunities to explore breakfast spots (and if you know me, you know that I am very passionate about breakfast), and I went to the same place. That’s how good it is, people.
Also, you need to get the breakfast tacos while you’re there. Breakfast tacos seem to be Austin’s thing, more or less (seriously, just like Buffalo has a Tim Hortons on basically every corner, it feels like you can get breakfast tacos at every corner in Austin. Not complaining about it). Total for all three delicious breakfast tacos and a small Belgian Bomber (one of their amazing signature coffee drinks that you also need to get if you like specialty espresso drinks that are sweet but not too sweet) was like, $9, so honestly, you can’t go wrong. Go there and thank me later.
Following the food theme- once you’re ready for dessert later on in the day, you need to hit up The Baked Bear right near Trader Joe’s downtown. You can create your own ice cream sandwich concoction by mixing and matching cookie flavors, specialty ice creams, and toppings- which will all then be hot pressed into warm, gooey goodness. Honestly, you’re welcome.
Firing off all the things I did that didn’t cost me one single penny:
Did you know that over one and a half million Mexico free-tailed bats call the South Congress bridge in Austin, Texas home? I didn’t.
Seeing the bats was actually a recommendation from my boss at work who had been to Austin a couple months prior. She mentioned she had really wanted to see “the bats” but was super sad she didn’t get the chance to when she was there, and that I had to go see them. I was a little skeptical about it at first, not going to lie- going to see a ton of bats flying around over my head seemed a little scary/out of my comfort zone. But that’s why I knew I needed to do it. So I did some research.
If you’re like me and know literally nothing about these bats, let me break it down for you. From March-November(ish) at dusk(ish) every night, these thousands of bats start to emerge from underneath the huge South Congress bridge for their nightly…bat stuff, I guess. Feeding, hunting, and other things, I assume. I don’t know, I’m not a bat. But basically, you can watch them fly around and do they thang and it’s pretty much a free show for Austin locals and tourists alike. Hearing the sounds of the bats and watching them fly around was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. An absolute must-see if you’re in Austin, and it’s completely FREE AF.
The bat poop that landed on my head was also free. Oh yeah, wear a hat when you go.
Pro Tip: When I was there, everyone flocked to the top of the bridge to get a spot to watch. I started up there, and yes, it was pretty cool- but if you venture down to the bike path that runs below the bridge, you can get a much better view of everything with way less people around. And the sunset looks so pretty on the water.
Barton Springs/Zilker Park:
I’m going to be completely honest, I tried to find Barton Springs and I got lost. I talked a little bit about it on my Instagram stories, but it was almost 100 degrees, I was out of water, and I had been walking and biking around for the better part of an hour to try to find it. So I gave up and went home- and that kind of sucked.
But all of that aside, Zilker Park was a really cute park that I could definitely see my friends and I going to and drinking heavily on a summer day, if we all lived there. Getting lost never had such great hashtag nature viewz. Free AF.
Graffiti Park, also known as the HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Outdoor Gallery, is another one of the prime Insta-worthy spots around Austin. And it’s not just a cute little graffiti wall, it’s a three-story concrete structure with art covering every single inch of it. If you climb to the top, you get an incredible view of Downtown Austin. You can even see the Texas State Capitol Building, which, fun fact, is actually taller than the US Capitol Building in DC.
You’re probably wondering what I was also wondering when I stumbled across this Austin hot spot: Why and how is this even here?
The structure was originally being developed as housing, but the owners ran into some legal issues (is anyone surprised), so it was vacant for a while. With it’s massive (and completely blank) concrete walls serving as the perfect canvas for murals, you can imagine how some hashtag illegal graffiti started popping up on the walls overnight. Eventually though, instead of getting law enforcement involved, the owners actually ended up welcoming it, and opened up the entire property for local artists to come contribute to. Fast forward to the present day, and you have the HOPE Outdoor Gallery.
Lucky for me, my Airbnb was actually on the same street as Graffiti Park, which made it super easy for me to pop over and explore early in the morning before people started flocking there during the day. So, pro tip: get there early to get your Insta photo shoot done with no one in your way.
One of the cool, but sort of frustrating things about Graffiti Park is that with so many artists visiting and contributing to the walls every day, the art on the walls literally changes within hours. This “Love Texas” graphic (below) wasn’t there the morning of my first day in Austin, but when I was walking down the street back to my Airbnb later, it was. After a nap in the air conditioning for about an hour and a half, I set out again, only to find that it had already been covered up again. So, if you see something you like, be sure to snap a pic of it quick.