Traveling in an RV is an exciting and popular way to vacation. So this summer my family and I embarked on a whirlwind tour from Austin bound for Yellowstone National Park. The crazy part wasn’t just that we traveled 4,000 miles in 13 days – it was that we traveled with our 3 dogs!
If you’re considering RVing with dogs I humbly offer the following tips based on my experiences! Enjoy the ride. And the read!
A Sensational Sunset In Ridgway State Park Colorado
RVing Isn’t For Everyone. If you’re more the room service, chocolate on the pillow, spacious room kinda person, RVing may not be most suitable for your traveler’s DNA. While I had to adjust on a few fronts, I was rewarded in many other ways. Things like ultimate freedom, big skies, and once-in-a-lifetime memorable moments with the family. If you’ve never been RVing you can get a good idea of the experience by watching the movie “RV” before your departure. The movie is hilarious and would only have been more funny with canine costars. Here’s the trailer:
Rent & Reserve Early. RVing is extremely popular! The RV Industry Association reports that the industry has tripled in size since 2009. With 25 million Americans RVing each year, if you plan to stay at state or national parks you’ll want to make your reservation early. 6 months would be a good starting advance timeframe to ensure you have ample time to “presearch” your itinerary and score the RV and campground you most desire. The Reserve America website was super helpful in securing our campsites, like our home away at Colorado’s Mueller State Park.
Me And The Pups In Mueller State Park Colorado
Flex Your Creativity. When we discovered we couldn’t find available state parks within an hour of Santa Fe and Yellowstone we took a left turn (figuratively speaking). We rented through Airbnb which resulted in a welcomed relief from the RV. Our modern cabin rental had a full-size washer and dryer, shower, satellite TV, and a large kitchen which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Harley, Libby, and Lucca in Bear Lake, Utah
Consider All Costs. RVs can be an affordable way to travel per the RV Industry Association. You’ll want to consider things like the daily rental fee, estimated gas, campground fees, and any extras – our rental levied a mileage fee and an hourly generator cost to run the supplemental AC (luckily we didn’t use the generator once we left Texas).
Right-Size Your Trip. 4,000 miles across 6 states in 13 days isn’t for everyone! In retrospect we should have taken more time to stop and smell the roses. Our friends have been asking “would you take another RV trip again?” I would but I’d opt for a much shorter travel distance like a weekend trip to the Texas Coast, a Round Top rendevoux, an outing into Texas Wine Country, or even colorful Colorado, which is not that far away.
You’ll Want To Stop In Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Travel With Tech. We used our grocery store app to make a convenient/portable list of things to take on the trip. You should be able to score forgotten items or restock ice/water, food, or dog supplies along the way. Our iPad, USB chargers, LED camping lights, and iHome portable speaker ensured we had a few comforts of home on the go.
Don’t Forget The Dogs! Remember to take food, medications, special toys, beds/blankets, bowls, collars and leads. We purchased a 7-gallon water container to ensure the pack was never thirsty.
Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
Explore. There’s so much to see and do! Just in Texas alone we were able to enjoy Palo Duro Canyon State Park which is the second largest canyon in the US. Dubbed the “Grand Canyon of Texas” this park treated us to impressive, colorful views of the ruggedness of Texas. Did you know Texas has an official bison herd? Neither did I until we decided to stay at Caprock Canyons State Park. In addition to wild bison, you can enjoy the The Bats Of Clarity Tunnelplus over 90 miles of trails! In Telluride we rode their dog-friendly gondola which treated us to free and unforgettable 365° views of the valley from 10,540 feet above the valley below!
The Dog-Friendly Gondola In Telluride, Colorado Is Tops (Literally)
There was so much to see on our six state adventure! Perhaps the best part of RVing with dogs is the bountiful bond you’ll create. This form of travel will gift you with unique views and experiences that a plane or train simply cannot. Truly “home was where we parked it” and having the dogs with us only made the family vacation complete.
Have questions about RVing with dogs? Reach out to me – I’d love to collaborate!
~ Joe Paul Reider
Home Style Austin Founder
Keller Williams Realty
As a native Texan who’s been lucky enough to live on an Italian vineyard for a few weeks, I thought I was pretty familiar with what to expect when in wine country. Turns out I had a lot more to experience and enjoy.
At first blush, while Texas wine may not seem as impressive to some as Napa, Italian, Spanish or French wines, it wasn’t until this spring when Wine Enthusiast named our very own Texas Hill Country a 2014 Top 10 Wine Travel Destination in the world when I became promptly determined to make an in-person visit into our nearby wine country. Oh sure, I’ve enjoyed Texas wines over the years (usually buying them from the market) but this newborn acclaim left me thirsting to learn first hand about why the Texas Hill Country had so much to offer.
Setting The Stage
First off, let’s take note of some interesting stats about Texas wines that may surprise you (they surprised me):
Texas is the site of the 1st vineyard established in North America by Franciscan priests (circa 1662). Texas wasn’t founded until December 29, 1845, almost 200 years later!
Texas is currently the No. 5 wine-producing state in the U.S.
Texas has 8 AVAs (American Viticultural Area) across 5 distinct regions in the state. The Texas Hill Country alone is the 2nd largest AVA in the nation, boasting over 9 million acres.
There are 420 growers covering 4,400 Texas acres. Over 270 wineries contribute more than $1.83 Billion of economic value to the State of Texas.
Strolling along a sea of blue at Flat Creek Estate
A Texas-Sized Wine Experience
Day 1 into Texas Wine Country I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but our well-seasoned friends escorted us for our first outing.
We soon discovered that the wineries are as wildly unique as the wines they produce. Some are simple tasting rooms while others are fully operational vineyards that grow, harvest, craft and sell from the same location. My Wine Country cheat sheet:
Vineyard ~ A farm or plantation that grows vines; when a wine is labeled as coming from a “vineyard” it means that the winery and vineyard are on the same property.
Winery ~ A facility for the processing of grape fruits to become wine; it may not always be in the same place as that of the vineyard and it may process grapes from a different vineyard.
Tasting Room ~ Usually a part of a winery where guests may sample the winery’s products.
We experienced live music, great vistas, gift shops, a few food trucks and lots of conversation and drink. People were relaxed, approachable and happy. Hill Country charm is abundant here. I think one of our favorite moments was at Hilmy Cellars when we looked down and saw live chickens at our feet!
What’s all the cluckin’ about? Hilmy Cellers, that’s what! Cluck!
Tastings are a great way to sample the wild assortment of wines, often costing about $8-$12 for 5-6 samples. You may even be able to score a free sample or two if you’re specific about what you want to try. Some wineries will let you keep your etched wine glass, which will likely become a cherished memento and a beacon to return. You can often join a winery’s wine club which offers various perks including discounts, special picks or a “free” tasting or two for members’ friends each year. And of course bottles are available for purchase to enjoy live or to take back home.
You’ll likely find red and white varieties and the selection will vary throughout the year so check online before you go if you’re selective about your wine options.
Jetting along curvy FM 1431
Wine Country Tips
Here are a few of my tips for how to best enjoy wine country.
Plan Your Visit. With over 40 wineries in the Hill Country alone there is no possible way you can consume them all in a day or in a weekend! Visit TexasWineTrail.com and use their handy interactive map to plan your route. We picked 3-5 wineries per day which allowed enough time to relax, unwind and enjoy the music and scenery. October is official Texas Wine Trail Month but special events are held throughout the year.
Start Early / End Early. Some vineyards start pouring early in the day – actually the morning – at 10AM or 11AM. They also close shop around 5PM or 6PM, so don’t plan on heading out for a night of wine country.
Expect Crowds. Wine Country is a communal experience and that means there will be other people around – possibly even cats, dogs and chickens. There’s no surprise that when the weekend weather is nice and in full bloom, so too, are the crowds. If you’re into more intimate experiences try going Monday – Thursday as you may find the crowds more palatable.
Plan A Picnic. Some vineyards and tasting rooms offer light foods. Many have an open policy with regard to you bringing in food and light snacks (please, no B.Y.O.W.). We made a run to Central Market and grabbed some artisan bread, crackers, cheeses and pestos which everyone really enjoyed.
Drink Responsibly. Nobody likes a sloppy drinker. If you’re making a day trip to Fredericksburg remember you have to get home safely so don’t put your life or the lives of others at risk in the twisty, curvy Hill Country roads which are sometimes hard to navigate fully sober – especially at night! Appoint a designated driver (and designated drinkers) – Even better yet there are tour companies that range from the fancy limos to the larger tour buses that can whisk you around and return you safely to home base. A super-tip from Home Style Austin follower Marcia from Grapevine: Did you know that Texas deer come out in droves after 5PM and it’s extremely hazardous on the roads? Drive safe!
I hope you have the chance to enjoy the special place that is Texas Wine Country!
~ Joe Paul Reider
Home Style Austin Founder
Keller Williams Realty, Inc.
A Guide To Shopping Austin Texas – Photo Courtesy Of Flickr User “JustinJensen”
Ladies and Gentlemen – Start Your Shoppers’ Engines!
[ Sidenote from Joe: One of our recent Instagram followers in Australia asked us for our shopping recommendations for her upcoming trip to Austin. We realized we hadn’t yet shared a list of our local favorite shopping spots so here are our local retailers who we think are doing their best to make Austin a great place to shop. ]
First Thing’s First – Austin Bags Bags
As of March 1, 2013, The City of Austin implemented a flyaway plastic bag ordinance designed to help the city be more Earth friendly and reach its goal of becoming a “Zero Waste” city by the year 2040. So what this means for local shoppers is that many retailers who offer single use or plastic bags do so no longer, so let the buyer beware – bring your reusable shopping totes or get ready to carry smaller purchases sans bags. Here’s a fun video about the “Bring It Austin” movement:
The 50,000 Foot Shopper’s View
Austin shopping features many locally owned small businesses that are scattered about town. You really have to explore city neighborhoods on foot, pedicab or your own 2- or 4-wheeled favorite form of transportation to find many of them, which is what really makes Austin unique.
Really love to shop? Better wear your comfy shoes as you’ll likely be making a full day or more of shopping when in Austin. My word of caution: There are a lot more hidden gems to be found in Austin, but below are some of our top picks. We threw in some restaurants too, because what’s a great shopping trip without cocktails and food?!
South Congress Shopping – Picture Compliments Of Barbara Slough (Flickr User “Merbrat”)
South Congress – or “SoCo” as the locals refer to it – is the best place to be able to park, walk, shop and eat. In addition to some vintage and thrift stores, there is also a large antique store called Uncommon Objects filled with unique finds. There are also some other cool stores like Tesoros Trading Company and Ten Thousand Villages where you can find interesting folk arts and crafts from around the world. Lucy in Disguise is a fun and funky costume store packed with every disguise imaginable. A must do is Allen’s Boots where the smell of leather makes you feel like an instant cowboy. Several clothing stores and boutiques are also located in this area such as American Apparel and Austin’s home grown favorite By George which was named one of the country’s Top 10 Boutiques by Lucky Magazine [ listen to this heavenly choir sound effect of what receiving this award must have felt like! ].
Eating Soco: There are many dining options from food trucks to sit down restaurants. dog-friendly Italian restaurant Botticelli’s, South Congress Cafe, Guero’s Taco Bar, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, and HomeSlice Pizza are local favorites. Be prepared to wait in line during peak feeding times! There’s no need to get dessert at anywhere other than Big Top Candy Shop which has been satisfying sweet tooth of kids of all ages since 2007. The folks at Big Top have over 2,000 kinds (not pieces) of candies and an old-fashioned soda fountain and shaved ice bar. A must-see-do-enjoy!
All this shop talk has made us hungry. If you’re in this area try 24 Diner – as it’s name implies it’s open 24 hours daily (except 1 am-6 am on Wednesdays) and it has some of the greatest food we’ve eaten in Austin. A great place for conversation! Better wash down your 24 Diner treat with one of Austin’s favorite ice cream shops – at Amy’s. There are Amy’s scattered around the city (see a list here) and if you haven’t tried their Mexican Vanilla ice cream yet, your life is one maraca shy of a full set.
If thrift shopping and vintage clothing and furniture are your thing, you’ll want this local guide to many of the stores in the area with the Vintage Around Town Guide. Aside from Downtown and South Congress there really isn’t one walkable area where you can see a lot of independent stores at once outside of a mall or strip-mall format. Burnet Road in North Austin has a higher concentration of these types of stores, but not exactly “walkable.”
The North Lamar Central Market location is a must stop if you are in the North Austin area (there is also another location on South Lamar with a Whole Earth Provision and a Cavender’s Boot Citynext door). Central Market is the most amazing grocery store born in Austin and you could spend hours shopping, drooling, resting and repeating! Delight your inner foodie and have lunch at the Central Market Cafe and sit out on the big deck to enjoy your feast. On weekends you can catch live music. Also in this shopping center there is a neat Hardware Store/Gift Store combo shop unique to Austin called Zinger and a nice pottery and gift store called Clarksville Pottery. You’ll also find a Gap, an Origins and our latest obsession ~ Paper Place Austin, which will surely delight your inner artist with cards, stationery, pens, colorful papers and a wide assortment of unique objects … we left with an armful.
East Austin is in a state of change where old multi-cultural neighborhoods are being gentrified with hip urban lofts and trendy nightlife. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of culture, history and an urban vibe yielding a source of local controversy.
The East 6th Street District is a great place to walk and check out a few unique spots. More known for bars and food trucks, there are a few interesting shops to see. Clayworks Studios sells stoneware items made onsite. Green & White Grocery sells a super funky mix of herbals, spiritual paraphernalia and Latin American religious items. The owner is a true ol’ Austinite. If you like gardening, East Austin Succulents is a peaceful place for a stroll among nature’s art for the eyes. There’s a coffee truck on site, too!
One very cool shopping experience that is a bit of a drive on the West side of Austin off Highway 71 in Bee Cave named Revival. Revival is a fun architectural salvage and vintage furniture store with a lot of repurposed items and unique home decor items. “Hamlet the Pig” and a few chickens also wander about the outdoor areas of the store so you’ll truly feel like you were in an authentic shopper’s paradise. Also in the area is a retail shopping area called Hill Country Galleriawith a Whole Foods, Dillard’s and other major chain stores along with a few boutique shops and restaurants, including another Amy’s Ice Cream Shop!
If you were to keep heading into far west Austin (ok, let’s call it day-tripping from Austin), you’d land in the amazing Texas Hill Country. Beautiful views will treat your senses to a different form of “shopping,” while one of my favorite cities – Fredericksburg – offers some of the best shopping in all of Texas. Wine country? Texas has it and you’re right in the middle of over 35 area wineries scattered throughout the Central Texas hills. More information is here regarding the Texas Hill Country Wineries. A visit to Austin without a visit to this part of the state requires a return adventure! Think we’re bragging? Maybe a little – this year the Texas Hill Country was a Top 10 wine travel destination in the world by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
The Domain is the newest of Austin’s large shopping malls. In fact, a Phase 3 was recently announced and will be anchored by Nordstrom. The Domain is an outdoor urban mall with all of the major upscale retailers and nice dining options like Gloria’s Latin Cuisine, and North Italian Restaurant. There is also a new Whole Foods that just opened here with tons of seating for having a bite to eat with a side of live music, too, so check our their events schedule.
If outlet shopping is your thing, you’ll want to visit the Round Rock Premium OutletsNote: There’s an IKEA nearby which is sure to please your wallet.
Barton Creek Square is a Texas-sized shopper’s paradise with all of the major retailers including Nordstrom and more than 170 speciality shops. No true shopper leaves Barton Creek Square empty handed!
We could go on and on about what to specifically check out or eat at these Austin favorites but if you’re still reading this you can only imagine how much my fingers ache from a blog post this long!
In between power shopping sprints, if you’re looking for places where you can eat and hangout with your four-legged friend, check out our post for Austin’s Dog Friendly Hangouts. It’s packed with our favorite places throughout the greater Austin area.
Please email us with any specific questions – we’re glad to help a shopper out!