Today is Cheap Flight Day! Here’s what you need to know

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If you’re not a frequent traveler, the week of Aug. 23 may have no special significance, but for those of us who spend a lot of time in the sky, it can be even better than Black Friday. That’s because Aug. 23, aka Cheap Flight Day, traditionally marks the start of the fall travel season and is the day that airlines frequently drop fares on many if not most of their routes. Here are some answers to common questions about Cheap Flight Day and some tips on getting the best fares.

Commercial Airline Comes In For Landing In Florida
A plane comes in for a landing at Miami International Airport. credit: Getty Images

Why Aug. 23? By Aug. 23, the majority of kids have gone back to school and the demand for leisure travel decreases a lot. Airlines know this, so they drop fares by 20 percent or more.

What happens if I don’t book on Aug. 23? No worries. Cheap Flight Day should really be called Cheap Flight Season, because the reduced fares will continue to be available (and could even drop more) through early November.

Does this apply to international flights? Yes! You’ll see a drop in fares for international as well as domestic flights.

What are the best days to fly to get a good fare? Traditionally, traveling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays will get you the best deals, but that can vary widely depending on where and when you’re going.

How far in advance of my trip should I book? Usually experts say to book at least 30 days ahead.

Where can I go on the cheap in the next few months?  Great question. Here’s a sample of some deals I found for September and October:

  • Austin to Charleston, S.C., traveling Oct. 5-8: $96 roundtrip on Frontier Airlines. (Note: Frontier is a low-cost airline that charges extra for seats, luggage, etc.)
  • Austin to Philadelphia, traveling Sept. 14-17: $117 roundtrip on United Airlines.
  • Austin to Portland, Oregon, traveling Oct. 13-20: $131 roundtrip on Frontier.
  • Dallas to Reykjavik, Iceland, traveling Oct. 9-19: $260 roundtrip on WOW Air.
  • Austin to London, traveling Sept. 11-18: $475 roundtrip on Norwegian Air.

What sites can help me find good deals? If you want to get out of town but don’t care where you’re going, try using airfarewatchdog.com. You can enter your departure city and it will give you a list of places where you can travel for cheap. I also like kayak.comhipmunk.com and travelzoo.com. And be sure to sign up for weekly alerts and last-minute deal alerts on the major airline websites, including flyfrontier.com/ways-to-save/online-dealstravel.southwest.com/specialoffers and united.com/web/en-US/apps/booking/specials/default.aspx.

What are some other tips for finding deals this fall?

  • Don’t forget to include Houston and Dallas as possible departure cities in your searches, especially for international travel. It can be worth the drive if you can score a low fare.
  • Be flexible with your dates. You know how most airlines offer a calendar view that allows you to see all of the fares to a particular destination for the month? If you have some wiggle room in terms of when you travel, book according to the lowest fare.

Road-tripping to Round Top? Don’t miss these 7 fun things to do

Round Top, population 90, is located about an hour and 15 minutes east of Austin and is famous for its antiques scene. Here are some things to see and do during your next visit.

The Flophouze Hotel: Relax and unwind at this shipping container hotel that comes complete with hammocks, record players and, yes, a shipping-container pool. Rates start at $175. 1132 W. FM 1291. 979-353-2627, flophouze.com

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The Flophouze Hotel in Round Top has a shipping container pool. Contributed by Flophouze Hotel

The Original Round Top Antiques Fair: This bi-annual antiques show, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, draws visitors from around the world. The fall show is Oct. 1-6; the spring 2019 show is April 1-6. A small winter show will also be held Jan. 25-26. roundtoptexasantiques.com

Royer’s Round Top Cafe: Two words: Got pie? This Round Top institution is known for its delectable pies that range in flavors from strawberry rhubarb and JunkBerry to chocolate chip and Sweet N Salty (chocolate, caramel and a pinch of sea salt). There’s a full savory menu too, with items such as pork tenderloin, grilled shrimp BLT and a chopped barbecue beef sandwich. Lines are common here, so go early or during off-peak hours or expect to wait. 105 Main St. 979-249-3611, royersroundtopcafe.com

Junk Gypsy: No visit to Round Top is complete without a stop by the Junk Gypsy Company, the flagship store of sisters and HGTV stars Amie and Jolie Sikes. Expect tulle, unicorns and leather, among other fascinating objects. 1215 Texas 237. 979-249-5865, gypsyville.com

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When in Round Top, don’t miss the Junk Gypsy flagship store. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Teague’s Tavern: If you’re hungry after roadtripping to Round Top, make Teague’s Tavern your first top. The menu includes items such as chicken-fried steak sliders, barbecue shrimp and cheddar grits, a meatloaf dinner (complete with a warm cheddar biscuit) and a smoked chicken salad. Wash it down with a blueberry-vodka lemonade or one of numerous Texas beers available on draft. Expect karaoke on Fridays and live music every weekend. 105 N. Live Oak St. 979-249-0377, teaguestavern.com

St. Martin Catholic Church: It’s easy to miss this tiny yet picturesque church as you’re heading into Round Top from Warrenton, but it’s worth a quick stop to snap a photo — the church claims to be the world’s smallest active worship Catholic church. 3490 Texas 237. facebook.com/pages/St-Martins-Catholic-Church/705943256225878

Espressions Coffee and Art: If you’re up early in Round Top, this is the place to get your java fix (and a homemade brunch buffet). Hours may vary; check website for details. 111 W. Wantke St. facebook.com/EspressionsTX

For general information on Round Top, visit roundtop.org.

Heading to Hamilton Pool? Here are 5 things you need to know

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Those of us who grew up in Austin can remember making spur-of-the-moment jaunts to Hamilton Pool Preserve, where the cool, blue-green waters offered instant relief on 100-degree days.

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Hamilton Pool Preserve is currently accepting reservations for as early as August and September. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

But as you probably know, Hamilton Pool — a natural pool created thousands of years ago after the dome of an underground river collapsed due to erosion — has experienced excessive crowding of late and two years ago switched to a reservation system.

Reservations are required between March 1 and Oct. 31 and on weekends and official Travis County holidays during November and December. You can pick a morning or afternoon reservation (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.); each reservation includes one vehicle with no more than eight people.

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Hamilton Pool Preserve should be on every Texan’s bucket list. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Want to take a dip before summer ends? Here are 5 more things you need to know.

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Swimming is not always guaranteed at Hamilton Pool Preserve — it can vary based on bacteria levels in the water. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman
  1. Bring cash. Cost for a reservation including service fee is $11 and is paid online when you make your reservation. Make sure you bring cash to the park, too, because an additional $15 cash entrance fee is required on the day you visit.
  2. Wear tennis shoes. It’s advisable to wear tennis shoes because a steep and rocky quarter-mile hike is required to access the pool.
  3. Swimming is not guaranteed. Sometimes visitors are not allowed to swim due to high bacteria levels. Call the public information line for the current status of the preserve: 512-264-2740.
  4. Life vests are available but no lifeguard is on duty. No pets are allowed either.
  5. Some August and September dates are currently available. Weekdays in particular are opening up now that school is back in session. Click here to view available dates and make a reservation.