In the TripIt Lounge at SXSW

Greetings from Los Angeles! If you’re following me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter then you know that my wife and I were just in Austin, Texas for SXSW. The good folks at TripIt (the creators of one of my favorite travel apps) brought us down for a meet and greet with tech and travel enthusiasts. We had a lot of fun; here are the highlights.

First Class
Natalie and I both flew first class, Natalie came from Toronto (via DFW) and I flew in from L.A. When we went to book the flights a month or so ago, it was actually cheaper to fly first class than coach! A lot of consumers never even bother to look to see what the price of first class is, which is obviously a huge mistake because occasionally (especially during major events or conferences like SXSW) flying first class can cost less than flying  economy. See screenshot above.

Travaasa Austin

Travaasa Austin
Since I’d heard that SXSW gets ridiculously crazy, I immediately booked a hotel the moment I knew we were going. The city pretty much sells out and hotel prices, as you would expect, are crazy. For instance, a 3-star hotel in the city was as pricey as the swanky Travaasa Austin Retreat, located about 14 miles out of the city. So I booked a room at Travaasa right away on for $440 a night.

The resort and spa is located on the hills of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and it’s surrounded by ancient live oaks. They have different packages available but guided adventures, culinary classes, cultural encounters and fitness and wellness workshops are all included.

Rooms at Travaasa Austin

The hotel was really peaceful and the food was tasty and healthy (menus include the calorie/fat count on each item) but the person above us was a very heavy walker (the floors are thin) so I didn’t get much sleep. And after my experience of not sleeping in Miami combined with the fact that I’m still recovering from shingles and I needed to be in the city for a meeting and dinner the next day, we checked out.
Before checking out of Travaasa, I looked online to see if there were other hotels available and if I could check out early without paying a penalty. The hotel was great and said it was not a problem on their end but since I’d booked through a third party, I needed to call them to make sure they weren’t going to charge me.’s hold time was less than two minutes and though the agent kept me on hold for a while to find out if the hotel would charge them, they ended up saying we were free and clear.

DoubleTree Austin rooms

DoubleTree by Hilton
First, I looked on HotelTonight (the app for finding last-minute hotels) right at 9am when they release the night’s hotels, to see if they had any good deals available but they didn’t have anything in the city – only on the outskirts. I ended up finding the DoubleTree by Hilton on but I decided to book directly through since it was a tad cheaper and I would get free WiFi as a HHonors member. It was still ridiculously expensive at $527 a night. The staff was friendly and told me the normal rate is around $130 a night except during busiest times, which wasn’t even SXSW – it’s during Formula One.

Rented from Silvercar

Getting Around
To get around Austin, I booked a car with Silvercar, which is a fairly new rental car company available from these airports: Austin (AUS), Dallas Love Field (DAL), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Phoenix (PHX) or San Francisco (SFO). You can book online through their website or via the app but you will need to download the app to get the car. It’s the best rental car experience I’ve ever had and here’s the long reason why.

The short reason is that all of their cars are brand new Audi A4s that have a free navigation system, SiriusXM satellite radio, Wi-fi hot spot, Bluetooth pairing and toll tracking. The best part is that when you’re finished with the car, they will fill up your car with for the same cost of gas as it would cost you, but they add a $5 fee. That’s a bargain compared to what the traditional car rental companies charge, which is usually $9 per gallon.

Since traffic was pretty crazy, we ended up leaving our car in a garage downtown for $18 a night next to where we were speaking the following day and then took Uber Xs around the city. Everyone warned me that Uber and its rival Lyft charge ridiculous amounts of money during SXSW but I didn’t experience it during the four times I used it. The most I paid was a 2.1 surcharge but since I was only going a mile and a half, the ride never cost over $11. On the other hand, when I went to take Lyft, they had a 75% surcharge so I went with Uber.

Spike Lee arriving to SXSW in Austin, Texas

Austin to L.A.
Natalie and I flew back to Los Angeles on Sunday and I knew there would be celebs on the plane when I saw Spike Lee walk past me when we pulled up at AUS and Jeremy Piven get off of the plane before we boarded. There were and I played a game on my Facebook page called Name the Celeb with a Scarf Over Their Head (see photo in gallery). Other celebs on the plane were tennis player Andy Roddick and Tuna the dog.

AA First Class seat from LAX-AUS
L.A. sunrise
Austin, Texas
Welcome to Texas
Reunited with my wife
Driving to hotel
Travaasa Austin
Welcome juice at Travaasa Austin
Travaasa Austin
Rooms at Travaasa Austin
Travaasa Austin outdoor dining
My new fave ginger beer
In the TripIt Lounge at SXSW
In the TripIt Lounge at SXSW with Brian Kelly and Lee Abbamonte
In the TripIt Lounge at SXSW
Austin, Texas SXSW
Lyft Surge Pricing at SXSW
DoubleTree Austin
DoubleTree Austin welcome cookies
DoubleTree Austin rooms
Austin, Texas
Spike Lee arriving to SXSW in Austin, Texas
TunaMeltsMyHeart on my flight from Austin to L.A.
New game: Guess the celebrity under the scarf.
Johnny Jet

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2 Comments On "Trip to Austin, Texas for SXSW 2015"
  1. Linda Smith|

    Nice tips on checking first class prices before booking coach! Glad you survived SX, that scene is too busy for us. An acquaintance of mine rents her entire house for the week and goes on vacation with the money! We were in Austin the week before and found surcharges on Uber and then didn’t find a car when we needed one. Our hotel was less than two miles away, so we walked.

  2. Patricia Yates|

    I am not an admirer usually, but here i found out your tips genuine and got that feeling of experiencing it myself. I wonder there are many other places to visit in Arizona. Especially the ranch resorts. Good read though.

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