Travelling to Texas on more than 100 occasions, Mark Sheehan just loves toting toddlers and teens into the Lone Star State.
It should come as no surprise, that the word Texas comes from the native Hasinai Indian tribe’s word Tejas (sorry for my pronunciation, I’m a New Yorker!) which means friends or allies. And when you open your mouth from another place when visiting Texas, you’re an instant celebrity. Trust me, they love tourists in Texas.
Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as a former independent republic and as a reminder of the state’s struggle for independence from Mexico. The “Lone Star” can be found on the Texas state flag and on the Texas state seal today.
Get This: When you tote the kids to Texas, be sure you set aside ample time to see a good bit of it. The state is huge, boasting over 692,405 square kilometres of land mass, or… to keep Texas in focus, just under 7.5 per cent of the American nation’s total area. The US of A is about the same size as Australia.
We’re talking a heck of a lot of hectares… But this also means there’s a lot on offer for me and my offspring.
Out & about in Texas
Local ranchers suggest the state’s cattle population is estimated to be near 16 million and boasts the nation’s largest herd of whitetail deer. This translates as a heck of a lot of open country to ride horses, do chuck-wagon outings and rope-up a fair few steers on a dude ranch or adventure venue.
Being a stickler for travel trivia, our son, Dylan Thomas points out some bits of Texas trivia (unearthed on his laptop): “Dad! Did you know that the world’s first rodeo was held in Pecos, Texas on July 4, 1883? Or that the, King Ranch in Texas is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island and then some? (Oh yeah, and Dad can I please have an advance on my allowance to buy some rattlesnake-skin cowboy boots and an authentic Texan saddle for show and tell?)”
My son does not own a horse, and often has difficulty even staying on one… like his father! And then there’s, “Dad, ‘Did you know that the first word spoken from the moon on July 20, 1969, was “Houston”? (Ok dad, If I can’t get the boots or a big-horned saddle, what about an Armadillo-skin wallet and key-ring. Please?”)
Austin, Texas is considered the live music capital of the world, and you’ll have at least a dozen options for rocking in the mosh-pit each and every week.
Self-drive holidays, recreational vehicle (RV) family trips and do-it-yourselves options for visiting Texas are almost endless.
Rentals are great value, gasoline or ‘petrol’ idles at about 50 per cent less than any pump in Australia, roadways are sweetly signposted and if you do wind up on the wrong road, just say “G-day mate” to a local and you’re in! Honestly, when our kids visit the USA, they always make new friends and come home toting new entries in the address book of other youths whom they want to re-visit when they don’t have their parents tagging along.
Our son, Cody William, just having nailed his licence wanted to drive our massive Lincoln Towne Car on the Old San Antonio Road, which in earlier times had no road signs whatsoever when wagons passed over it and is historically known as the El Camino Real, or King’s Highway.
Cody, having done his homework enlightened us all to the fact that it is the oldest highway in the United States, first being blazed by buckaroos in 1691.
Prepare to enjoy
When planning your trip to Texas with tots or teens, engage the entire family in the planning process, long before you put the key in the front door, and determine who’s going to walk the puppy while you’re away.
Move your mouse around and pre-explore all the wonderful family-oriented options available beforehand. This makes your family holiday to Texas an experience that is shared by everyone, long before you leave.
And more importantly, you can pre-book all the ‘must dos’ and avoid disappointments.
Websites abound with good “Lone Star State” information, and once you know-before-you-go, you can triumphantly trot into your local travel agent and simply ‘book it’.
Qantas now flies direct service to Dallas-Fort Worth Texas from Sydney. United, Air New Zealand, Hawaiian Airlines and V Australia also boast daily services to Los Angeles with good connections to Texas.
The currency is the US dollar.
Mark William Sheehan has been writing tour guides for professional tour directors for over 35 years and is considered a ‘specialist’ on most things American. His best-selling Know Before You Go Guide to the USA – America Over Easy! is available at all good bookstores across Australia. Mark welcomes feedback from readers: send him a postcard!