Fun vacations on a tank of gas


There's no need to spend thousands on your next family vacation. Just fill-er-up at the pump and check out Texas!

"In Texas, there are tons of places you can go on a tank of gas," travel author Kristin Finan said.

Finan loves Texas -- so much so that she wrote a book called "Quick Escapes From Houston." She days you can save thousands of dollars by staying local.

"Going to Cancun is going to cost you $400-500 a ticket. That's $2,000 dollars at best for a family of four," Finan said.

So why not vacation in Texas? Let's start with Rockport-Fulton.

"It's about 350 miles, so according to AAA, for a compact car that will be about $40. For a car like this one, for an a SUV, it will be about $70, round trip," Finan said. "You can do anything on the water. They do tours going out. You can go for sunset cruises. Go for dolphin cruises. You can see the whooping cranes, which are very, very popular in that area."

If the Texas coast isn't for you, head inland.

"Waco is a great destination and that's going to take you about three and a half hours to get there," Finan said. "There is a wonderful park calling Cameron Park. It's great for mountain biking and for hiking. Within the park is a little zoo. It's called the Cameron Park Zoo."

A zoo that lets you get up close and personal with the animals. Finan says you can also find great shopping in Waco and inexpensive dining, which is perfect for a weekend getaway.

Now if you're in the mood for music....

"Gruene is a really wonderful place to be," Finan said. "It's kind of becoming a miniature Austin, so if you're into live music, you can go and see a lot of the up and coming acts you would see in Austin, maybe a few months down the line."

One of country music's biggest stars got his start there.

"George Strait was one of the first people that was playing Gruene Hall and he really got a big break there. So if you're a George Strait fan, you got to go there, even for a piece of that history," Finan said.

If you're looking for just a day trip, Finan suggests driving to Brenham.

"The Blue Bell creamery is an amazing tourist attraction. You do a tour there, and you can also actually see the ice cream going into the half-gallon containers. That's my favorite part," Finan said. "One of the huge benefits of the tour, too, is at the end you can sample any of the ice creams that you want."

Getting to Brenham and back will cost less than a tank of gas, since round trip from Houston is 150 miles. Another thing to look into when planning a road trip are roadside attractions.

There any mobile phone apps that can help you calculate gasoline costs. The Gas Buddy app will find the cheapest gas in your location. The AAA app is good for helping you locate restaurants, lodging and directions.

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