Beat The Heat, Save Your Wallet

Given the state of the economy, family vacations to expensive theme parks like Sea World and 6 Flags may be out of reach, even if you are a regional Texas traveler.  Increased oil prices have raised everything from fuel costs to the price of goods and services, so theme park tickets and overpriced cartoon-themed burgers may be out of the question for your family this summer.

Is there good news, you might ask?  Most definitely, yes!  See, if you’re living within a drivable distance of Central Texas, being forced to think outside the box for family vacation ideas can be a blessing in disguise!    You can create an affordable vacation that is focused on your family spending time making memories together while exploring the beautiful, interesting and fun things your home state has to offer.

One of my favorite places to visit is the Highland Lakes, located just Northwest of Austin.  There’s a variety of accommodation options to fit your family’s personality and budget needs.  For the outdoor lovers and the budget conscious, there are plenty of campgrounds and cabins for rent.  There are also lakeside lodges and resorts, as well as very nice vacation homes in the area for those that want more comfortable and modern places to rest your head at night.  Fido may also be able to tag along for the vacation, as there is a good selection of pet friendly lodging, too.

Why are the Highland Lakes one of my favorite places? Well, quite simply, there’s plenty to do without being overly crowded and still allows the outdoors to be enjoyed in a natural setting.  The Highland Lakes equals water fun…boating, jet skis, kayaks, fishing and water sliding, to name some of the most popular water activities.  What better way is there to stay cool?  Even better, many of these activities are easy on the wallet (sometimes even free!), and your family can participate in a number of fun-filled adventures for less than 1-day at a big-budget theme park.

For land lovers, there are a number of other dry, family friendly, things to do in the area.  For example, near Lake Buchanan, the largest of the Highland Lakes, you can turn the reigns over to the capable folks at Vanishing River Texas Cruise.  Their cruises offer beautiful views along the Colorado River and give passengers an insider’s glimpse into the local wildlife, including viewings of the American Bald Eagle (who nests nearby) and rehabilitated birds.  They also have a dinner cruise that blends tasty dinner with a beautiful sunset view.  Cruises start at $20 per adult and $12 per child.

Longhorn Cavern State Park provides a cool and naturally beautiful family excursion option.  These unique caverns were formed in an unusual way (dissolving limestone and flowing underground streams) and offer a great chance for the family to cool off while seeing and learning about a truly special geographic wonder.  Adult tickets are $12.99 and children under 12 tickets are $7.99.

In addition, hikers will enjoy two fabulous hiking options within a short drive of the Highland Lakes.  Canyon of the Eagles is perfect for novices and those with small children, as they have an easier terrain with plenty of wildlife like lumbering armadillos, chirping Black-capped Vireos and Golden-cheeked Warblers and access to food and bathrooms.  A donation is requested for day guests enjoying the trails.  Enchanted Rock State Park is a popular hiking and picnic destination, known for being one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation) in the country.  Hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the hill country once they reach the summit of Enchanted Rock.  Admission is $6 per person over the age of 13.

Hopefully you’ve got some creative, affordable family vacation ideas brewing now, and your family will soon be on it’s way to enjoy each other,  as well as the beauty and fun of your own home state of Texas!