Austin, Texas: one of the top travel destinations in the United States right now. Folks love it for the live music, the barbecue, the 300 sunny days we get each year, and the nearby Texas hill country. Home to both SXSW and Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin has plenty of reasons to stop by for a visit. (Here’s how to cram that visit into a 3-day weekend, including an itinerary.) But let’s get to it: is Austin expensive to visit? How much does an average trip to Austin cost?
As with all things travel-related, the cost of the trip is relative to the type of traveler you are. Are you going to be staying in a high-end boutique hotel in Austin, or will you be hiking and camping? And if you're visiting for a bachelorette or bachelor party, your costs will obviously be a bit different than if you're traveling to Austin with kids.
Is Austin Expensive To Visit?
Yes. There's the short answer. Hotel and food prices are slightly higher than average.
According to Kayak, the average nightly cost for a hotel in Austin is $205 - $237. January is the cheapest month to visit, and March is the most expensive (due to SXSW).
Of course, you can google "average hotel price in Austin," but coming from a local Austin resident, those online prices tend to be way off and don't accurately reflect the cost of visiting Austin. The actual cost is much more than that, mostly because to find this average price they're factoring in ALL of the Austin hotels, including some budget motels that tourists typically won't be booking.
Even if you're not staying in a boutique hotel in downtown Austin, hotel prices inside Austin City Limits have risen a lot in the last few years. Your best option for finding a budget place to stay is asking a friend if you can visit them or searching for an Airbnb on the outskirts of Austin.
Why is Austin getting so expensive?
A big reason this city has seen such a boom in prices lately is the announcement of some of the major tech companies moving here. Tesla, Google, Apple, and others have opened headquarters in and around Austin in the last few years. That means that lots of folks from California (which has a very high cost of living) are moving to Austin. They're willing to pay top dollar for Austin homes, which means the housing market has gone up. And as real estate increases, restaurants around these trendy neighborhoods start to charge just a bit more for their food. And other entertainment categories go up, too, like movie tickets, live music, and boat rentals.
Of course, good 'ol inflation has played a big role in it lately, too.
And a final reason why Austin is an expensive city to visit: Austin restaurants tend to care a lot about employee quality of living. Of course, this is a broad generalization, and not every restaurant participates, but many businesses prioritize employee healthcare, sustainable food sourcing so that farmers and growers can be paid properly, and ensuring tips are distributed easily through both the front and back of the house. All of these things are amazing...but they also mean that your meal in Austin is slightly higher than if you're dining in a city that doesn't prioritize these things.
The average cost for a trip to Austin
Factoring in hotel accommodations, food, and entertainment, you should factor in about $205- $419 per day.
Again, this is HIGHLY relative to the type of traveler you are and the month that you visit.
For starters, the most expensive month to visit Austin is March. (That’s when SXSW happens.) The cheapest month to visit is January.
If you can manage to stay with a friend instead of staying in a trendy east Austin hotel, your cost will be lower.
And if you stick to breakfast tacos at food trucks and craft beer at some breweries instead of cocktail bars and high-end steak houses or fancy Tex-Mex restaurants, you'll obviously save some money.
And if you look for free things to do in Austin, like the bike trails, hiking the Barton Creek Greenbelt, walking around Lady Bird Lake, seeing the bats at the Congress Avenue Bridge, and hanging out in Zilker Park rather than buying front-row tickets at expensive music venues, then duh...your price will be lower.
Can you get around Austin Texas without a car?
Yes! And no...we have an entire guide written about that!
If you're someone who's planning to book an Airbnb on the outskirts of Austin, you probably already know the answer to this. But go check out this guide to get a full and detailed report.
Of course, you'll need to either rent a car or get an Uber to go from Austin Bergstrom International Airport to your hotel, but that's a pretty short drive. And uber won't cost you too much. Oh, and there are tons of great places to eat at the Austin airport.
How can I go to Austin on a budget?
We have an entire guide written to that! It's a bit too long to repeat everything here, so go check out that post if you're interested in knowing how to visit Austin on a budget.
Psst: one of the best ways to Keep Austin Weird is to do some of these free things that aren't the trendiest parts of Austin.
What are the hottest months in Austin Texas?
July, August, and September are the hottest months in Austin, with lots of days over triple-digit heat. But surprisingly, October (especially early October) can still get pretty warm.
April is typically still pretty comfortable, and by May and June the temps will be warm enough that you'll want to jump in Barton Springs...but the weather won't be as brutally hot as it is in July - September.
By November Austin has finally cooled off.
Where should you definitely spend your money when you visit Austin?
Here are the 25 best things to do in Austin (that aren't tourist traps), so start there. But here are a few places where you'll want to spend money in Austin:
See some live music. You don't have to see an arena show at the Moody Center (although that's fun!) You can get into C-Boys or Continental Club for a pretty low cover charge and see some of the best Musicians in Austin perform. And these small venues are where Austin locals go, anyway, so it's way more fun than going to the big shows. After all, this is the Live Music Capital of the World.
South Congress Ave. You'll definitely want to spend a few hours strolling up and down SOCO. How much you spend is entirely up to you. There are $20,000 handbags available at Hermes, and there are $4 coffee drinks at Jo's (home of the famous I love you so much mural.)
Something in the water. Whether you're walking around Lady Bird Lake (the portion of the Colorado River that's dammed up near downtown), jumping into Barton Springs, the massive spring-fed pool that stays 68 degrees year-round, or renting some kayaks on a spring day, you should definitely plan on doing something in the water while you're in Austin.
As you can see, Austin can easily become a costly city to visit, but if you're willing to do a little bit of research and think outside the box, you can visit Austin on a budget at any time of the year.