Your Guide to the Perfect Texas Road Trip

Travel essentials to maximize your mobile vacation

By Julia Jones

Jetting off on vacation by plane has its advantages, like efficiency and built-in downtime. But the disadvantages can outweigh the upsides: Air travel means missing out on the freedom and sense of adventure that come with road-tripping. The open road affords unplanned discoveries and cultural oddities, taking in the view at a scenic overlook for however long you like, and the feeling of satisfaction when you stop and stretch your legs out in the fresh air. A road trip is its own reward, no matter your final destination.

GPS and smartphones have made taking a road trip easier than ever before, but all you reallyneed are miles of asphalt (which Texas has in abundance), a car packed with your favorite snacks, and activities to keep you entertained. Just ask Chet Garner, a Texas Highways contributor and host of The Daytripper on PBS.

“There are times when you just need to put on some music, roll down the windows, and keep your eyes on the horizon,” he says. “Don’t just stare at your phone; you’re sabotaging your own road trip.” Garner averages about 45 road trips per year and has been traveling in Texas for more than 10 years, so he’s learned a few things. (See Chet’s Road Tips for more.)

According to an annual American Automobile Association survey, more than two-thirds of American families take vacations each year, with 53% opting for road trips. If you’re one of those families, we hope these suggestions keep you on the right path.

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The Daytripper


“Always pack a swimsuit—you never know.”

“Leave time to follow the whims of the backroads.”

“Pace yourself on food. There’s going to be an old lady making something delicious in some small town, or an up-and-coming baker, and you’re going to want to eat that chocolate chip cookie.”

“Keep your head up and your mind present.”

Need inspiration for your next Texas trip?

Click to Read 7 Texas Road Trips that Are All About the Journey

Rules of the Road

Don’t hesitate to make detours. Road trips are all about discovering new places.

Stop and stretch often. Your muscles will thank you, and your focus will be replenished.

Put away your screens. Let the passing scenery—and chats with your fellow travelers—be your source of entertainment.

Play it safe. Get plenty of rest when you can so you stay alert on the road. Sleeping for at least eight hours each night is a good start.

Consult the experts. Twelve statewide Travel Information Centers offer local recommendations.


Buc-ee’s convenience stores and gas stations throughout the state


Square miles of Texas to roam


The year El Camino Real was built, making it the oldest highway in the U.S.

Time for a Tuneup

These links open in Spotify

On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson
Wide Open Spaces,” Dixie Chicks
Waltz Across Texas,” Ernest Tubb
Amarillo By Morning,” George Strait
Long Ride Home,” Patty Griffin
Miles and Miles of Texas,” Asleep at the Wheel
My House,” Kacey Musgraves

Texas slug bug

Don’t see enough VWs out on the highway to justify a game of Slug Bug? Try a game of Wooly Dually instead. How? If you see a dually (a pickup truck with two rear wheels on each side), punch (lightly) the person in the seat next to you.


Mark off all of these and you’re well on your way to completing an epic Texas road trip.

Just Do It

  • Stock up on snacks at H-E-B
  • Listen to an audiobook by a Texas author
  • Take a bathroom break at Buc-ee’s
  • Learn something new at a historical marker
  • Sing “On the Road Again,” out loud, word for word

Say Cheese

  • With a Longhorn (from a distance!)
  • In front of a small-town courthouse
  • In a field of wildflowers
  • Hanging with a real-deal cowboy
  • Jumping into a swimming hole


  • Kolache
  • Whataburger
  • DQ Blizzard
  • Topo Chico
  • Dr Pepper
  • Gas station tacos
    (better yet, gas station barbecue tacos)

From the May 2020 issue

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