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.

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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.

Four Seasons Hotel Austin announces new restaurant concept, other updates

Guests at Austin’s Four Seasons will find “a nearly new hotel” this fall thanks to the completion of a multi-million dollar, three-year renovation spearheaded by designer Michael Dalton.

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The renovated lobby at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin will include a direct view of Lady Bird Lake. credit: Four Season Hotel Austin

Among the renovations: an open lobby concept that provides a direct view of Lady Bird Lake; a new lobby bar, Live Oak, that will feature an expansive outdoor deck; and a new restaurant, Arborist, helmed by Chef James Flowers (Wink, Asti), located in an expanded space previously occupied by TRIO.

RELATED: Can’t-miss Austin staycation ideas

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Four Seasons Hotel Austin is wrapping up a three-year renovation. credit: Four Seasons Hotel Austin

According to the release, “Arborist’s menu will reflect Flowers’ culinary roots, from his southern upbringing to previous roles that exposed him to Italian, Asian and Texan ingredients and cooking techniques.”

5 places to go swimming with the family before summer ends

It’s almost August, which means there’s less than a month to soak in those long, lingering, school-free summer days. If you’re craving a splash, here are five spots that offer fun for the family.

Camp Ben McCulloch

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Camp Ben McCulloch offers easy access to a rope swing. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

First things first, you need to know about the rope swing here, which is flanked by crisp, blue-green water and conveniently located along the trail just to the right of the main parking area. It’s simply too inviting, and too easy to access, to pass up. But those traveling with smaller children or four-legged friends will also appreciate Camp Ben McCulloch for its shady, shallow spots — it’s the perfect place to linger on a hot August day.  Learn more about Camp Ben McCulloch, which is located in Driftwood and also offers camping, at campbenmcculloch.com.

Rock’N River Water Park

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A boy shoots out of a slide at the Rock’N River Water Park in Round Rock. NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This Round Rock water park underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation in early 2017 that doubled its physical size and increased capacity from 600 to 1,200. The lazy river, frog slide and train-theme water feature that enticed visitors before the renovation are still there, joined by features such as a humongous tipping bucket that provides monsoon-like downpours in the Splashville water playground and a rock wall where there’s no need for a harness — the pool below will break your fall. Time your visit with a Round Rock Express baseball game at the Dell Diamond, which is just down the street. Learn more at roundrocktexas.gov.

Landa Park Aquatic Complex, New Braunfels

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Sisters jump into the pool at Landa Park in New Braunfels in 2010. File photo

If you’ve been seeking a spring-fed experience in a safe, controlled environment, look no further than Landa Park Aquatic Complex. The spring-fed pool has steady year-round temperatures around 72 degrees and includes a variety of hard-to-find features including a rope swing, a climbing net and several slides, all overseen by lifeguards. Admission also includes access to the Olympic-size pool and kiddie area located at the top of the hill, a perfect option for little ones who find the spring-fed pool to be too chilly. While you’re there, save some time to explore the rest of 51-acre Landa Park, where you’ll find a miniature train, winding hiking trails, paddle boats, a playground and more. Find info at nbtexas.org/1434/Aquatic-Facilities.

Bartholomew Pool

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Lillian Florence, 8, tried to cross the lily pond bridge at Bartholomew Pool in 2014. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

This Mueller-area swimming spot combines all the elements of a great pool experience: diving board, 25-yard lap pool, two smaller pools (one with beach entry for little kids that goes to 2 feet, another for older kids that goes to 4 feet), tube slides and various water features. There’s even a “lily pad bridge” for older kids to wiggle and wobble their way across. If you want to make a day of it in Mueller, start at the pool, then head to The Thinkery, the Alamo Drafthouse, Lick Honest Ice Creams or any of the many attractions in the area. Get pool information at austintexas.gov/department/bartholomew-pool-project.

Schlitterbahn New Braunfels

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Grab a gator and float your way across Schlitterban New Braunfels. credit: Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort

Since it opened in 1979, locals and visitors alike have been making pilgrimages to this water park complex, which spans more than 70 acres and is home to 51 attractions ranging from exhilarating classics like the Cliffhanger tube chute and Soda Straw body slides to family-friendly features such as the Polywog Pond Kiddie Park and Kinderhaven wading pool. Torrent River in the Blastenhoff section of the park is like a lazy river on steroids — crashing waves at every turn make for hours of exhilarating floating. You can even stay the night at the on-site Schlitterbahn Resort New Braunfels — resort guests receive special benefits including early access to the Blastenhoff section of the park before it opens to the public each day. schlitterbahn.com/new-braunfels

5 cool-weather destinations you can visit in August for cheap

Do Austin’s 100-degree summer temperatures have you dreaming of mountains, snow and ice? Never fear!

Here are five cool places you can travel to in August — for cheap.

Colorado

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The Breckenridge area of Colorado is stunning in late summer and fall. credit: Keri Wiginton

Frontier Airlines offers numerous low-cost nonstop flights to and from Denver. If you travel Aug. 11-16 out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, for example, you can find a round-trip nonstop flight for $136.40 (additional baggage and seat fees may apply). Average high temperatures in Denver in August are in the 80s, but you can always rent a car and head to a resort town like Breckenridge, where the average August high is around 70.

Minnesota

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The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is home to David Nash’s “Standing Frame,” left, and “Spoonbridge and Cherry” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Los Angeles Times photo by Christopher Reynolds

Have you been to Minneapolis lately? Here’s your chance. Sun Country Airlines is offering select nonstop flights from Austin to Minneapolis in August for as low as $96.40 round-trip (additional baggage and seat fees may apply). Bonus: The average August high in Minneapolis is 80 degrees.

Oregon

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Portland Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. credit: Mauri Elbel

People say there are a lot of similarities between Austin and Portland, but when it comes to August temperatures, Portland’s are decidedly lower, rarely topping a high of 80 degrees. Right now, you can book a late-August flight to Portland on Frontier Airlines for as low as $136.40 round-trip (additional baggage and seat fees may apply).

United Kingdom

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The grounds of the Tower of London. Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

Make like a royal and hop across the pond for a change of scenery. Norwegian Air’s new direct flight from Austin to London Gatwick is affordable and comfortable. If you travel Aug. 11-21, for example, a round-trip flight is $574.80.

Iceland

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This Icelandic farm is in South Iceland near the Ring Road. credit: Adrienne Butcher

Want to be as cold as ice? Iceland, that is? WOW Air has one-way flights from Dallas to Reykjavik for as low as $99 each way. For an Aug. 16-22 trip, a flight would cost $248.99.

 

 

Austin ‘critically important’ to Port Aransas recovery, tourism official says

It’s been 11 months since Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast, and Port Aransas tourism officials have a message to send: It’s time to come visit.

“We’re open for fun,” said Jeff Hentz, president and CEO of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, when he stopped by the Statesman on Wednesday. “We’re coming back. We’re obviously in the middle of what traditionally is our busiest season and I’m just amazed that so many people have come and looked around and said, ‘You know, I can tell you had some damage but you guys are making a remarkable comeback.’ There’s really nothing that’s not open that people are used to coming to Port A and doing with the exception of the golf course.”

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Violeta, 8, left, Jenny and Joe Stark walk along the water at Port Aransas Beach June 13. ANA RAMIREZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Hentz said the city’s lodging inventory is currently around 50 percent and is expected to be at more than 70 percent by the end of the summer.

In terms of restaurants and bars, 62 were open prior to Hurricane Harvey and 63 are open now. Two closed permanently after the hurricane, followed by three new ones that opened.

He called Austin “critically important” to Port Aransas tourism.

“For us to continue to support the growth in Port A, Austin has to be a central player in that,” Hentz said. “We’re really Austin’s beach. Austin is going to be even more critical in our marketing and outreach. Austin alone could probably keep our beach full almost year-round.”

Hentz urged tourists to consider fall and spring travel in addition to summer and to increase their length of stay.

“The businesses that everybody loves, they’re back, the owners are back. The characters and the quirkiness of Port A, that’s what’s back. Nothing left except the visitors, and that’s what we’re trying to bring back, because we can’t afford to lose a fall or even a summer when we’re open. We’ve just got to get the word out.”

From treehouses to trailers, check out these unconventional Texas hotels

Sure, hotels and Airbnbs are great, but sometimes we all crave a little something different.

If you’re seeking a unique stay during your next Texas getaway, here are some spots to consider.

Cypress Valley Canopy Tours

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The Nest at Cypress Valley Canopy Tours. Contributed by Cypress Valley Canopy Tours

Cypress Valley Canopy Tours may be known for its zipline tours above the lush Texas Hill Country, but it’s also gaining a reputation for the overnight stays it offers in its treehouses. The property’s Nest, for example, includes two bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchenette/dining room, an outside shower and a small bridge that connects to a bathhouse.

Infocypressvalleycanopytours.com

The Flophouze Hotel

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The Flophouze Hotel in Round Top, Texas, is made from recycled shipping containers.

Visitors to the Flophouze Hotel, which opened in Round Top in 2017, can choose from a half-dozen shipping-container “houzes” outfitted with eco-friendly and recycled materials such as bowling alley floors. Hammocks, fire pits, cozy chairs and complimentary Topo Chico are among the amenities. Oh, and just to complete the theme, there’s a shipping container pool, too, manufactured by Modpool.

RELATED: You won’t believe this Texas hotel and pool made of shipping containers

Infoflophouze.com

El Cosmico

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Guest trailer at El Cosmico in Marfa, where customers stay in trailers, tents, yurts and teepees. credit: Chris LeBlanc

From yurts to trailers to safari tents, if you’re looking for an unconventional place to stay in West Texas, El Cosmico is the place for you. Self camping is also available here.

RELATED: Stay with the hipsters at Liz Lambert’s funky Marfa outpost, El Cosmico

Infoelcosmico.com

Son’s Island

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Son’s Island in Seguin also offers “glamping.” Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

In addition to being a hidden island paradise that’s just an hour from Austin, Son’s Island offers overnight glamping. Guests receive overnight entry for four people, use of a cabana overnight and a 14-by-9 tent with two cots and foam queen-size mattresses. There’s even s’mores on Friday and Saturday nights.

Infolakeplacidisland.com

New floating water park and obstacle course to open on Lake Travis June 29

If you’ve been seeking a new way to make a splash this summer, you’re in luck — a floating water park and obstacle course will open on Lake Travis at the end of this month.

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Waterloo Adventures, a floating water park on Lake Travis, is expected to open on June 29. Contributed by Waterloo Adventures

The new park, called Waterloo Adventures, comes from the same team that created Lake Travis Zipline Adventures. Participants will take a boat ride (included in the cost of admission) out to “adventure island,” where they will participate in a 45-minute session on the 600-foot Floating Challenge Course that includes more than 70 obstacles such as monkey bars, slides, balance beams, hurdles and climbing walls.

The $50 excursion cost also includes unlimited access to the Aqua Park, home to a 14-foot climbing tower, water slide, jumping tower and 25-foot trampoline.

Oh, and if you want a cocktail, never fear — wine, beer and frozen drinks, as well as other beverages and food, will be available. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday-Monday through October. Reservations are recommended.

This is the second water obstacle course to open in the area this summer — in May, QuestATX cable wakeboard park opened Quest Waterpark.

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