You'll have to forgive me for this shameless plug, but I just can't contain my excitement! You see, Josh and I have finally done it! We have designed a yearly planner specifically with freelancers in mind. I'm pretty sure up until now, it didn't exist. And if it did, I couldn't find it. But it's here! And now freelance writers can rejoice in a planner made just for them.

The 2016 Freelance Planner is the hottest new tool on the market for freelancers of all kinds.

See, your normal run-of-the-mill planner just has space for to-do lists, maybe a few notes pages, a month overview, and a place to keep track of birthdays if you're lucky. Ours has all that plus tons of pages to keep track of article ideas and pitches, personal projects and goals, months and weekly assignments, and a place to list all of your favorite editors' contact info. And lots of pages for notes.

Monthly overviews offer a place to see what you have going on in the current month, including projects due, money made, and personal projects you'd like to accomplish.

Weekly overviews offer ample space to keep track of daily
tasks and assignments and projects with quick turn arounds.
 Keep track of what projects you're pitching and when on the many pitch board pages.

Awesome, right? Having tested the planner for a little over 6 months, I have to say I love it. See, I have this obsession with paper planners. While Josh is perfectly content to keep track of all his comings and goings and project due dates on Google Calendar, he's not a writer. Writers like paper. We like books. We like cracking something open, holding it in our hands, and using a real pen to write real letters. But before this planner I had papers, notebooks, sticky notes, and a calendar all stuffed in random drawers and such all over the house. And I still felt like I never quite had a handle on all my projects and assignments.

I now have everything in one book. My daily to do lists, monthly overview, project tracking, goals, deadlines, editors, notes and everything! Check out some of the photos for an idea of what's on the inside and if you happen to be a freelance writer trying to keep the 700 things you have to do and finish organized, buy yourself a copy. And then one for every one of your friends. *wink*

It's available on in Create Space's bookstore and on Amazon, so check it out!
Just about everybody who goes to Australia ends up in Sydney. It's like an unwritten rule or something. Not going to Sydney when you visit Australia would probably be like not going to New York City when you visit the States. Sure, people will tell you either of those places are just another big city, no big deal, but the fact of the matter is we all know we're going to end up there anyway. But just because you're in the city doesn't mean you have to stay in the city. Fortunately for travelers who love the outdoors, the Blue Mountains are just a couple hours drive or train ride away and offer endless adventures! Here's a guide to the Blue Mountains on a budget.

Getting Around:

  • Rent a Car: Maybe not the cheapest option, but assuming you're going to the Blue Mountains via Sydney, it's not hard to find a rental car and then you can motor about as you please. It's not a must have, though there are a few locations you won't be able to get to by train.
  • Train: Trains at Central Station in Sydney will take you all the way to Mount Victoria and back again and town centers of all the stops along the way are within a two minute walk of the tracks, making it a super convenient and cheap way to get around.
  • Buses: You can catch a bus (or series of buses) from Sydney, but it will take longer and not save you any cash. Once in the Blue Mountains there are a few here and there, but your best bet will be the train.
  • Opal Card: As of early 2016, you'll have to have one of these reloadable cards to take a bus or train in New South Wales. No more paper tickets will be sold, and while you can sometimes pay in cash when you get on the bus, the driver will give you dirty looks. You can pick up an Opal card at just about every convenience store in town and reload it online or at a kiosk in the stations.
  • Hitchhiking: Unlike thumbing a ride in the States, hitchhiking in Australia is more widely acceptable and while I was a bit unsure of myself the first time I stuck out my thumb, it was quite the pleasant experience. Of course, this mode of transportation probably won't get you from the city to the mountains, but once you're there you might have a shot.

Hotel Blue's Lounge Series features local and international musicians every week
The Three Sisters in Katoomba is a popular photo op for tourists
The National Pass in Wentworth Falls offers stunning views of the Mountains and valleys
The National Pass in Wentworth Falls has no shortage of, well, falls

Free Things to do in the Blue Mountains:

While most of the free activities are outdoor activities, there's still plenty to keep you occupied in the upper Blue Mountain towns of Katoomba, Leura, Wentworth Falls, and Blackheath.
  • Bush walks: Otherwise known as hiking in the U.S., there are enough walks to keep you occupied for a month spread throughout these towns. Information centers can offer maps and advice, but our favorite hikes were the Charles Darwin Walk and National Pass in Wentworth Falls and the Six Foot Track in Blackheath (the best parts of which you might need a car to access. Hitchhiking anyone?). Check out a Visitor Information Centre or download maps here. If you're trekking alone they'll even lend you a personal locator beacon for safety.
  • Mountain Biking: Bring your bike? Hit the trail. There are several great cycling trails in the Blue Mountains and you can even transport your bike on the train for free!
  • Rock Climbing: If you have your own gear, the Blue Mountains is a great place to climb! You can find maps and info on where to begin here.
  • Shopping: Free as long as you don't buy anything, browsing the shops in Leura Village and Katoomba can provide an interesting afternoon. Leura has more upscale and quirky shops whereas Katoomba is home to more antique stores and adventure outfitters.
  • Music: Sips and Sounds at the Penrith Regional Gallery in Emu Plains is a bit of a trip at an hour and a half from Katoomba on the train, but offers art, music and food in the garden on Summer Friday evenings from 4-Sunset. Bar snacks and drinks aren't free, but the evening outdoors is. Hotel Blue's Lounge Sessions offer free jazz, blues, folk and more Thursday through Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. It's not quite free if you enjoy a beer or cocktail with your music, but it's a nice place to relax and listen to some tunes.
  • Rhododendron Gardens: If you're visiting in spring or summer, visit these gardens in Blackheath. You can walk there from the train station and spend an hour walking along the paths and gazing at the gazillions of rhododendrons. There is a requested gold coin donation ($1 or $2), but that's practically free, so it stays in this list!
  • Blue Mountains Botanic Garden: In Mount Tomah (you'll need a car to get there), you can spend an afternoon in this 28 acre garden with plants from around the world. They're grouped by region and you can take a free guided walking tour if you like.
  • Festivals: Upcoming events like festivals and grower's markets (farmer's markets) can also be found on Most of these, like the Leura Village Festival, Blackheath Rhododendron Festival, monthly grower's markets and more can be found here. But there's lots going on every month of the year. For a full overview of festivals, check this out.
  • Art Galleries: There are a handful in just about every town in the upper Blue Mountains. Find a list, far from exhaustive, at or
  • Libraries: Spend an afternoon at the Blue Mountains City Library in Katoomba. Far from your run of the mill library, this one has comfy seats encouraging guests to sit and read, tables, outlets and wifi for laptops, and sweeping views over the city and mountains. It's a cozy place to spend a rainy afternoon, and it's connected to the Cultural Center (listed below) and a cafe, so you can easily spend some time reading about Australia's history, flipping through magazines, or planning the next leg of your journey.

Our Favorite Things:

Spend the cash. It’s not much for these attractions and it’s worth it.
  • Mount Vic Flicks: This historic theatre plays mostly art house and Indy films, but if you're into that, tickets are $11 and you can even grab some homemade snacks at the concession stand.
  • Adventure Tours: If you're up for a real splurge, there are numerous adventure companies that offer rock climbing, abseiling (rappelling), caving and more. And while you can expect to shell out something like $200-$220 per person for a day of excitement, some companies, like Australian School of Mountaineering or High and Wild, offer two days of climbing education for around $350. That way, you get more practical know how and you can get out there and do it yourself.
  • Blue Mountains Cultural Center and World Heritage Exhibition: At $5 per person, this Cultural Center is a pretty good deal, especially on a rainy day. There are always special exhibits, plenty of art, and even film screenings and curator talks from time to time.
Drop by Up Beet, a vegetarian café in Katoomba, for a tasty lunch

Nearly everywhere you go in Australia, savory meat (and veggie) pies abound.

Meat, vegetarian, and even vegan options are available at Altitude Delicatessen in Blackheath

Grab a Bite:

There is no shortage of cafes and restaurants in the Blue Mountains. Finding one that caters to a tight budget, however, may take some digging. Fortunately, we did the hard work for you!
  • Cafes: If it's coffee you're looking for, don't fear popping into any one that looks interesting. Seriously, everybody in Australia knows how to pull a shot and I haven't had a bad cup yet. Another upside is that, unlike in the U.S., drinks are pretty much the same price from one place to another. Prepare yourself for ordering, though, by checking out our Australian Guide to Coffee. Cafes are also a good bet for lunch or dinner (if they're open for dinner). Meals like sandwiches and salads are generally around $10 whereas sit down restaurants are usually closer to $20.
  • Bakehouse on Wentworth: Located in Blackheath, this bakery sells killer sourdough, pastries and pies. Sweet and savory. They have some vegetarian options in addition to meat pies and prices range from $5.50-$7.00. Try a roo pie (yes, kangaroo) if you're feeling brave.
  • Altitude: Also in Blackheath, this cafe serves up good coffee and reasonably priced sandwiches, even vegetarian and vegan ones (though you may have to ask for no mayo, etc). Sandwiches are all under $10, a good deal for Australia.
  • Up Beet: This vegetarian and vegan cafe in Katoomba is small but mighty. You can grab a toasty, wrap, salad, or even a quesadilla, all for under $10. They also serve coffee, smoothies and cold pressed juices.
  • Ruby Fruit: Leura's only vegan restaurant, Ruby Fruit serves lunch, smoothies, vegan desserts and even some vegan groceries like dairy free cream cheese and almond milk. With meals closer to the $10 and up range, it's a little pricier than some others, but it's vegan, so it's often to be expected.
  • Piedmont Inn: If it's pizza you're craving, this Italian joint's got it. The locals even love this place. Two can split a pizza starting at $19 for a large, but be warned, that's the to go price. You'll pay a few bucks extra to dine in.
  • Pies: I know it sounds generic, but any place that advertises pies (the savory kind filled with veggies and meat, not the sweet kind filled with fruit and sugar) in the window is going to be a good bet for cheap eats. Pies come in many varieties, including vegetarian, and are usually $5-$7 and reasonably filling.
  • Yellow Deli: A hip, mountainy sort of place, The Yellow Deli in Katoomba offers sandwiches and soup and salads for under $10. And they're pretty tasty. They even offer several vegetarian options, which can be made vegan upon request.
Glenella Sports Bunkhouse in Blackheath provides accommodation for budget-conscious Outdoor enthusiasts

Places to Stay:

  • Hostels: There are numerous hostels in the Blue Mountains, and of course not all are created equal. We've heard great things about Flying Fox (from $30 per night, $20 for a tent site) and Number 14 (from $34 per night) in Katoomba.
  • Glenella Sports Bunkhouse: If you're headed to the Blue Mountains for mountain biking, rock climbing, adventure racing, or other outdoor sports, give Glenella a go. Upstairs is a bed and breakfast but downstairs is a sports bunkhouse, which is a sort of cross between a hostel and a B and B. A private room is between $75-$85 per night, cheaper than a hotel but more than a hostel, the upside being you don't have to pay per person, so if you're traveling with a buddy, you're getting a pretty good deal. Plus you'll often get to hang in the living room with the hosts or other guests.
  • Camping: If you have a car (these places are tough to get to if you don't) you can camp for free in Megalong Valley or at Ingar in Wentworth Falls. Do your research on what's available at these sites, though, so you don't arrive unprepared.

Ways to Save:

  • This site will have all the local happenings - from music to festivals to movies - listed for your review, even the free ones.
  • Another guide to what's on in the Blue Mountains. Check out what's happening while you're in town.
  • Travel by bus or train on Sunday and public holidays and the max fare you'll pay with your Opal card is $2.50. Be prepared to fight the crowds, though, because everyone has the same idea.

Ordering coffee in Australia isn't like ordering coffee in the U.S. Or anywhere, for that matter. You can't just waltz into any cafe and order a macchiato and expect a syrupy, sugary, milky mess like you get at Starbucks (although true coffee connoisseurs are fully aware that Starbucks is hardly on point when it comes to coffee). On the contrary, everybody in Australia knows how to make a brilliant cuppa (translation: cup of coffee). It's quite impressive, actually. Probably because they've been drinking espresso longer than we have in the U.S. But in order not to be disappointed with what you're handed when you order a latte, do your homework first and you won't bat an eye when you look over your first cafe menu in Australia.

Here are the big players when it comes to coffee:

  • Short Black: This is an espresso. Same as in the States, just goes by a different name.
  • Long Black: Nope, this isn't a doppio (double espresso), but nice try. It's what we would call an Americano, but usually smaller, which means the coffee to water ratio is higher, which means it's a bit stronger.
  • Macchiato: Much like in the U.S., this is an espresso topped with milk foam.
  • Latte: Similar to the American version, but smaller, so stronger, and usually served in a small glass (if you're not taking it to go, of course). And don't expect to find a bunch of fancy flavored syrups that turn your coffee into a fruffy dessert. It's just not popular in Oz.
  • Cappuccino: You're safe with this one. It's pretty much the same as in the U.S. Again, just a bit smaller.
  • Mocha: Similar to the above mentioned latte, but with chocolate. The kind of chocolate will vary, but it won't be nearly as sweet as the American variety.
  • Flat White: My favorite Australian coffee, It's similar to a latte, but with virtually no foam. Just enough to make latte art, a skill nearly every barista possesses. Also small, it's a bit stronger than a latte, usually. And keep in mind that some cafes use a double shot by default, so if you're particular, just ask.
  • Piccolo Latte: Like a macchiato, but with more milk. Or a latte, but with less milk, if you will.
  • Brewed Coffee: Bad news for you drip coffee fans. It's not popular here. You'll be hard pressed to find a coffee pot or even a pour-over bar in most places in Australia. It's espresso or nothin' in these parts. Except in Melbourne. Their coffee scene is a bit more robust and offers more options.
  • Large or Regular: There's none of that "tall," "grande," "venti" nonsense that you sometimes have to deal with in the states. So if you try to order a "grande skinny capp," you may get some funny looks. 
  • Milk: Also good to know is that almond and soy milk are just as widely available in Oz as in the States. However, half and half isn't really a thing and neither is 2% at most cafes. Skim and whole milk are all you've got for cow juice, so it's all or nothin'.
Hopefully we've set you straight and prepared you for your first coffee order in Australia. Trust us, it's gonna be worth the effort!

Public Transportation. For those of us who grew up in small towns in middle America where buses were scarce, trains nonexistent and if you didn't have a car you didn't have a life, it remains a mystery. Seriously, though, I still haven't been able to wrap my head around it. I consider myself a relatively intelligent individual, but hand me a bus schedule and drop me in the middle of a strange city and I will lose my mind. No joke. It's happened before. On multiple occasions. You probably think I'm joking.

But as I write this I've only just completed my most recent bumbling trip through the city. Melbourne, Australia, to be precise. It was a trip that involved dead phone batteries, no wifi, a train, trams, and a long ride in the wrong direction. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. It's pretty ridiculous. See, for the life of us we can't seem to figure out how to properly navigate public transportation. All the trains in all the stations and so many lines on one platform and buses quite often on a side of the road we're not used to and numbers and timetables and numbers! Hard as we try we rarely get it right.

Take our day trip to Washington D.C., for example. Since we went into the city from the last train station on the line, we erroneously assumed it would be just as easy to get out of the city as it was to get in. The silver line is the silver line, right? Wrong. We got on and off not one, not two, but three trains that night in an attempt to get back to where we had started that morning. We did eventually make it hour and a half after we would have had we managed to get on the right train the first time.

In Melbourne we rode a tram 30 minutes in the wrong direction, only realizing our error when we arrived at the last stop and we weren't where we were supposed to be. In London we ended up walking a mile in the rain because we didn't feel confident trying to navigate the bus system. In Edinburgh we missed trains because we couldn't find the platform. The only subway on which we didn't get completely mixed up was London's Underground. We've hopped on and immediately off buses because we realized we were on the wrong one. We've gotten up to check maps on the walls a hundred times a journey to make sure we know where we're headed. We nervously wring maps in our sweaty palms as we anticipate the worst.

In a nutshell, we're bad at this. And I'm sure all you big city dwellers out there will have a good laugh at us, but that's OK. I mean, sometimes you just have to be able to laugh at yourself. We do on a regular basis. But we don't want them laughing at you, so in the spirit of helpfulness, here are a few tips for navigating public transportation in any city.

  • Get a map. As in a map of the city and a map of the subway/train/tram/bus routes you anticipate using. Digital maps on your phone are all well and good until your battery dies or you run out of data and can't find a cafe with free wifi. Having some good ol' paper maps will come in handy when you need to identify where the nearest station or stop is and what line you need to get to the contemporary art gallery on the other side of town.
  • Download an app. Most cities have an app that will show you maps, give real time data, and help you plan your journey. Download one for wherever you happen to be before your first trip and get to know it intimately.
  • Get a pass. Most big cities use card passes instead of paper tickets these days (like Sydney's Opal card). Cities that do still have paper tickets sometimes charge more for them, so it's often worth getting a card just to save a few bucks. Find out before you go because most bus drivers don't appreciate passengers who want to pay in cash as they get on. Check into week passes if you'll be on and off a lot in a short amount of time as they might save you a few bucks.
  • Plan ahead. If you can help it don't wait until you're in the middle of the city to look up where your bus stop is. It will likely cause frustration and yelling at your travel buddy. Before you head out, know where you're headed and what your transport options are. Most cities have a website to help you plan your journey, so use it!
  • Take notes. That said, grab some paper and take notes. I always keep a small notebook and pen in my pack for when we hit the city. In it I keep the names and addresses of the places we're headed (places I've circled on my paper maps) and very specific instructions on what train/bus/tram to take and when (Central Station, platform 1, Eltham line to Rosanna, 4:18) 
  • Calculate time for screw ups. It happens. Especially in a new city. So if you have a time sensitive appointment like a dinner reservation or a sunset viewing, leave plenty early and if you arrive early and without incident, well, you're a better man than I and you just earned yourself a little browsing around time at your destination.
  • Relax. If you miss your train or get on the wrong tram, don't freak out. Just get off at the next stop, take a breath, and if all else fails, ask a local. And instead of worrying, think of it as an unexpected adventure to see and explore an area you might not have seem otherwise. Plus, it often makes a pretty good story.
Have any other tips for using public transportation? Add them below!

I hate traveling and trekking with my camera. Seriously, it's awful. It weighs a ton, I never know where to stash it, it's humongous, I'm always fumbling it out of a bag or untangling it from a shoulder strap. It's the worst. Unfortunately, I also wouldn't dream of going anywhere without it. Ever. So the question becomes how do I bring it along so it will be the least burdensome, the least troublesome, and the most convenient?

For years I've only used a Black Rapid women's specific shoulder strap to tether my camera to my person. I love this strap, I do, but I still have to wrap it in something before I stuff it in my pack or bag and if I carry it across my body it doesn't take long before my shoulder starts to ache. And then the headaches. Also, I hate looking like a tourist with my camera constantly slung around my neck.

Of course sometimes I just bring along one of our many Lowepro bags in various sizes - no joke, we have, like, five Lowepro bags - but none of them are really made for hiking or walking around a good deal. So sometimes I'll just wrap my camera in a towel or protective soft case, but I'm so lazy and if I really have to stop, dig my camera out, unwrap it, shoot and reverse, it may never happen. And if it does I'm liable to complain about the two and a half minutes that were lost doing so.

Enter the Capture Pro Camera Clip. Like a holster, but for your camera. It wasn't the first brand of camera clip I've owned - the second, actually - but it is definitely the sleekest. My first was big and clunky, made out of heavy plastic, and Josh never trusted it. I did like that one for the lens support that kept my camera from bouncing against my leg when I walk, but a belt was about all you could use it on. The Capture Pro intrigued me because it was smaller, lighter, made of aluminum and could be clipped on a belt, a cross-body bag, a backpack strap, you name it. I had to have it!

 Its small size actually made me a little nervous at first, but the immensely satisfying click when the click.) I spent the summer with it attached to a belt as a camera holster and it worked great. On day hikes it got moved to our daypack strap where the camera was easily accessible for quick pics on the trail without having to stop and unpack or untangle anything! Brilliant!
camera locks into the clip reassured me in no time. (Seriously, I love that

The weight of our professional DSLR does tend to make the pack a bit lopsided, but tossing a water bottle and a couple of accessories like trekking poles or trail mix on the opposite side tends to balance it out a tad. Of course, with a smaller camera like a point and shoot, you can just clip it onto the chest strap if your pack has one.

On a belt a larger lens may bounce against your leg a little, but it's nothing I didn't get used to and it's still way better than carrying that same long lens on a strap across your body with an expensive piece of equipment swinging to and fro. I mean, I can't be the only one who has swung her camera straight into a door jam or counter top before, right? With that sucker on your hip or pack it's more of a solid extension of your body and thus easier to maneuver because you're more cognizant of where it is.

And let me tell you how great this thing is on day hikes! Clipped on your pack, you can whip that thing off to shoot the goanna lizard or cockatoo that wanders across your path in no time flat. And then get back to walking. Because if you're like me, you gotta get that trail done, son!

To wrap it all up in a tidy little package, this Peak Designs Capture Pro clip is the shiz. If your get out and about with your camera a lot - in the city, in the wilderness, at work - you're gonna want one. And then you'll never go back to that lame old strap again.

*In the spirit of transparency, we want to let you know that Peak Designs provided the Capture Pro Camera Clip to Terradrift for testing. But trust us, if we didn't like it, our honesty can't be bought (at least not for $69.95).

Austin, Texas. Music capital of the U.S., one of the fastest growing cities in the country, and one of our all-time favorite places. We even got to live there for 8 months! And yes, it was a pretty great 8 months. Despite the traffic and often difficult parking situations, it's definitely worth a visit. There's always something going on (and I do me always) and you couldn't possibly get bored in this city alive with art and music and festivals and outdoor activities. Of course, not all of the options are budget friendly, but you'll find more free and cheap things to do here than just about anywhere else, so head to Texas and get to it! No cowboy hat or boots required. Here's our guide to Austin on a budget.

Getting Around in Austin:
  • Austin International Airport: It's not huge, but it does the job and it's not far from downtown, so you can easily get to and from the city center when you arrive. The airport in San Antonio might be cheaper if you don't mind the 1½-2 hour drive.
  • Parking: If you'll be driving around town, keep in mind that parking is almost always pay to park. There are pay to park lots (which are usually more expensive than metered parking unless you're going to be parked for more than 5 hours) and plenty of metered parking around town. Meters usually run about $1 per hour and are in plentiful supply, but be prepared to walk as you'll rarely find a spot precisely where you want to be, especially on weekends.
  • Pedicabs: Austin is one of those cool places where you can hail a pedicab, a person on a bike pulling a trailer that usually holds one or two people. They're cheaper than cabs and often more convenient when you're downtown because you probably won't need to go far and they can be found everywhere! Prices are usually clearly marked somewhere on the cab, so check it out!
  • Bike rental: There are certainly storefront locations to rent a bike in Austin, whether for a few days or a few hours, but there are also quite a few B-Cycle rental racks around town where you can grab a bike for a quick ride and drop it off at another rack near your destination. If you only need the bike for 30 minutes or less it doesn't cost you a penny.
  • MetroBus: Starting at only $1 per ride, the MetroBus is a viable transportation option in Austin. It'll get you all over town and you can even park at one of the many park and ride lots and head downtown if you're not feeling up to combating traffic.

Free Things to do in Austin:

There's soo much to do for free in Austin. Just pull up Meetup, The Austin Chronicle or any number of websites to find scores of free concerts, craft fairs, festivals and activities. We promise you'll never be bored.
  • Toms: Yes, the shoe store. But it's also a coffee shop. One of only two in the country, actually. But besides selling boots and lattes, they also host events every month that range from yoga for kids to craft and cocktail nights. There's even a free movie out in the yard once a month. Just sign up for their e-mail newsletter on the website and have the schedule e-mailed to you before you get to town.
  • Theatre: Zilker Hillside Theatre offers several free shows a year on, you guessed it, a hillside. Bring your blanket and a picnic and see musicals, Shakespeare and orchestras in the warmer months. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming events. Present Company also offers free Shakespeare at various locations at various times of the year and is always quality.
  • Comedy: There's usually a free comedy show or two per week ranging from stand-up to improv. One takes place at Austin Java every Saturday night and features up and coming and established comedians. Grab a beer or a coffee and get ready to laugh.
  • Movies: I'm a sucker for free movies in the park. Somehow it's even better when there's a stunning view of the city in the background. Austin Parks Department and the Alamo Drafthouse offer several outdoor movies each spring, summer and fall and the Alamo, together with Do512, also hosts free Sound and Cinema events with movies and live music.
  • Swim: While many swimming holes and natural pools charge admission, it's free to swim in Lady Bird Lake! A popular spot is just down the trail from the famous Barton Springs Pool where on warm days you'll find lots of people (and their dogs) enjoying the water and the scenery. You might even make a few new friends! 
  • Music: So much music! Austin is the live music capital of the world, after all. On any given night (and I many any given night) you can find live bands playing at bars, convention centers, events, festivals, even on the street all over the city. There's something for everyone from metal to classical. Our fave is Jazz at the Elephant Room. It's free Sunday-Thursday.
  • Holiday Festivities: In December there are a wealth of free things to do to get you in the holiday spirit. The Trail of Lights is a big hit every year and during the week admission is free. Mozart's Coffee offers a free light show (coffee and specialty hot chocolate is available for purchase) set to music in the evenings.
  • Take a hike: There are plenty of places to take a relaxing or invigorating stroll in Austin, including around Lady Bird Lake, the Greenbelt and Mount Bonnell. Check out a list of local favorites on the Austinot blog.
  • Mayfield Preserve: If you've never seen a peacock up close, here's your chance. You can wander around the park and gardens surrounded by the colorful birds, then take a hike around the grounds if you like. Don't forget your camera!
  • Blanton Museum of Art: Every Thursday admission to this museum is free, so take an afternoon and stroll through the exhibits.
  • Bullock Texas State History Museum: On the first Sunday of every month learn about the early days of Texas for free.
  • Street art: There's plenty street art to see in Austin, so print out our handy guide and get going! There's lots of iconic artwork around the city to enjoy.
  • Festivals: All year round there are festivals in abundance in and around Austin. And Austin festivals are not taken lightly. From the Lavender Festival near Fredricksburg to the Zilker Kite Festival in the spring to Eeyore's Birthday and South by Southwest events every March, there's always something going on. My favorite is definitely Texas VegFest. You can find a handy list on

Our Favorite Things:

Spend the cash. It’s not much for these attractions and it’s worth it.
  • The Alamo Drafthouse: Never has going to the movies been such an experience. It's a theater and pub all in one. There's a bar in front of every row of seats and you can order real food and alcohol (including some vegan selections) right from your seat.
  • Live Theatre: There's plenty of it in Austin, but if you want it on the cheap you'll have to keep your eyes peeled. Hyde Park Theatre and Salvage Vanguard Theatre are two unassuming little theatres that look more like warehouses to the untrained eye, but produce a few interesting shows a year that offer a "pay what you can" night on some Thursdays where you just show up and offer whatever you want to pay in exchange for a ticket. Sign up for the theatres' mailing lists to make sure you know when those plays are.
  • Improv: There's live comedy in Austin almost every day of the week, but there are a few places you can catch a show for next to nothing. Coldtowne Theater, The Hideout Theatre and The New Movement all offer shows for as little as $5. Some are even family friendly!
  • Barton Springs Pool: It's $5 per person ($3 for residents), and it's worth is to spend an afternoon in the natural spring-fed pool that stays at a bracing 70 degrees year-round. It's beautiful, it's refreshing, and you can see the city skyline from the pool or the green grass surrounding it.
  • McKinney Falls State Park: It's $6 per person to get in (all Texas state parks are), but you can spend the day navigating the trails, admiring the falls, or swimming in the swimming hole. Not as cold as Barton Springs Pool, but still super refreshing on a hot day. I could relax here for hours.
  • Kayak on the lake: It's fun to take in the view of the city skyline by water, so rent a canoe or kayak and start paddling! You can usually find a deal on Groupon or Living Social that will keep the cost under $15-$20.
  • Main Event: often a little pricy, this playland for all ages offers bowling, laser tag, black light mini golf, a restaurant and bar and rock climbing and on Monday evenings you can enjoy unlimited play for $10 per person.
  • Blue Starlight Mini Urban Drive-In: There's just something about a drive-in movie that is so fun and relaxing. Maybe it's the throwback to simpler times. It's $5 for walk-in admission and $15 more for a car slot. There are package deals available, too, and you can usually score some savings on Groupon.
  • Trivia: Technically trivia is free, but since you really ought to at least buy a drink or a basket of fries, we'll say it costs a few bucks. There are plenty of places to play in the city, but we enjoyed an evening of hilarious team names and embarrassingly incorrect answers with Geeks Who Drink most.

Grab a Bite:

There is no shortage of excellent options for dining in Phoenix. But not all of them are cheap, so we rounded up a few quality options that might save you a few bucks.
  • Wheatsville Food Coop: Yeah it's a grocery story, so what? It actually has pretty great hot food, including vegan stuff. The popcorn tofu is killer. But they also have tacos and other sandwiches, smoothies and a hot bar for a quick meal. Hey, if you're cooking your own food while you're in town, it's also a great place for good produce.
  • Austin's Pizza: We like Austin's Pizza because they have whole wheat crust AND vegan cheese. Don't expect Domino's prices, but if two or three people are splitting a pie you can still cash out for under $10 per person.
  • Chilantro: Food truck alert! This one's delish and their kimchi fries are practically world famous. They serve up tacos and burgers with your choice of filling (including tofu) and everything tastes great.
  • Conscious Cravings: Also a food truck, this one serves up strictly vegan fare. It's less than $7 for a meal like a portobello or seitan wrap and it's definitely tasty. There are several locations so check their website to find one close to you.
  • Frank: Like hot dogs? You'll love Frank. Grab a hot dog or sausage dinner for under $10. The best part? They have a vegan chili cheese dog option.
  • Vegan Nom: The best vegan tacos in town. Seriously. So good. They range in price from $3-$6. Try the Del Rey. You won't regret it.
  • Bistro Vonish: Another awesome food truck, this one serves up elevated vegan cuisine. Kolaches, pizza with aged cashew cheese, orange french toast, this stuff is legit. Prices are a little closer to $6-$10 per meal, but it's totally worth it.
  • Arlo's: For the best veggie burger ever, check out Arlo's. They have a bacon cheese burger that will change your life. Meat eaters approve. Josh said it reminded him of a McDonald's burger from childhood, only way, WAY better.
  • Torchy's Tacos: OK, I get it! Not everybody wants to go to a vegan food truck for dinner! So go to Torchy's. It's an Austin staple and offers killer tacos. There are breakfast tacos, the Republican, Democrat and Dirty Sanchez and they still have options like the Fried Avocado and Independent that you can request be made vegan.
  • No Va Kitchen and Bar: An more upscale and classy establishment, this restaurant offers Taco Tuesdays where diners can snag two delicious tacos for $6. At those prices you can enjoy a cocktail to go with your dinner! The options rotate, but there was a vegetarian option while we were there and the omnivores agreed that the pork taco was killer.
  • Amy's Ice Cream: If ice cream's your thing, don't miss this local legend where the employees (Scoops) perform tricks with ice cream.
  • Sweet Ritual: If dairy free ice cream's your thing, then you'll want to stop by this place inside a Juiceland (also a good place to grab a quick bite or smoothie to go) where you'll find flavors like Unicorn Poop and Cinnamonkey Elephantastic.

Ways to Save:
  • Austin Chronicle: This weekly entertainment paper is an Austin staple. Not only does it have relevant local news, but events, reviews, features, and an events calendar where you can find plenty of free things to do in the upcoming week. Pick up a free coffee just about anywhere.
  • Find events like music, theatre and more on this website based on when you want to go, who's with you (family events, anyone?), even how much you want to pay (there's a free events tab). Pretty much anything and everything that's going on will be listed here.
  • For events targeted to your interests, search for upcoming events ranging from book clubs to kayak water polo, rock climbing to nature clubs. Most of them are free and because Austin is so big, there are hundreds to choose from.
  • Groupon and Living Social: There are so many deals for restaurants and activities in Austin it's crazy. You can often find great deals on movie theatres, rentals, restaurants and spas, among other things.
Is there anything we missed? Add it in the comments below. Enjoy your trip!

I love a good road trip. Sans highway, of course. The kind of road trip where you can slow down and take in the sights, pull to the side of the road to take a picture next to the world's largest rocking chair, and roll down the windows and blast your tunes. But not just any music qualifies as road trip music. It's got to have a beat, it's got to make you want to sing at the top of your lungs, it's got to keep you awake for those long stretches of road and make you feel alive! So I have compiled an ultimate road trip playlist full of songs that will make the miles fly by. Yeah, there's a lot of classic rock in there, but you know what, I dig it, so I blast it. You'll also find a lot of songs that have to do with travel, adventure, or that just plain make you happy. It is by no means a definitive playlist, but I think it's a pretty good start. Find the jams on itunes and burn yourself a DVD of these perfect road trip songs!

1. "I've Been Everywhere" - Johnny Cash
2. "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen
3. "Carry on Wayward Son" - Kansas
4. "Don't Stop me Now" - Queen
5. "Foreplay Long Time" - Boston
6. "Mr. Blue Sky" - Electric Light Orchestra
7. "The Prime Time of Your Life" - Daft Punk
8. "High of 75" - Relient K
9. "Mustang Sally" - Wilson Pickett
10. "Life is a Highway" - Tom Cochrane
11. "Born to be Wild" - Steppenwolf
12. "American Pie" - Don McLean
13. "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" - The Proclaimers
14. "Sweet Home Alabama" - Lynard Skynyrd
15. "Highway to Hell" - ACDC
16. "California Girls" - Beach Boys