Beautiful Hot Springs and My Stay at The Austin


One of the best parts about road tripping is finding new places to fall in love with. So much of the United States is stretches of chain stores, which gets monotonous. I get excited when I stumble across somewhere that doesn’t look like everywhere else, which is exactly why I LOVED Hot Springs, Arkansas. As I mentioned before, I had never been to Arkansas though Hot Springs has been on my “Must Visit” list for years.


I had the opportunity to stay at The Austin Hotel* in downtown Hot Springs. Located walking distance from the historic bathhouses and restaurants, The Austin is the perfect place for a quiet retreat. It was a nice alternative from the typical chain hotel. It had great views of Ozarks and felt really calming. Ommmmm….! They even have a spa.

The Austin Hotel | Road Darling

Hot Springs is most well known for its “Bathhouse Row” where people used to come from around the country to detox and get well. As a modern person, the experience of walking through the Fordyce Bathhouse was truly like teleporting. The Fordyce Bathhouse is now a National Park that’s free and open to the public. I spent a good two hours there wondering around looking at all the stained glass, marble and spa equipment from the 1920s.


There’s still one working bathhouse in Hot Springs, which gives visitors a taste from the past. Hot Springs isn’t just about spas and bathhouses, however. It has its very own Gangster Museum of America, which is great for the history buffs out there. The town also has its fair share of restaurants and shopping, making it a good place to go for a mini retreat.

And yes, if Starbucks is required, there’s even one of those a few miles from the downtown.

More Photos from Hot Springs


*I received a one night free stay at The Austin. I am not being paid to write about the hotel.

Dallas and The Magnolia Hotel: Where Past Meets Present

The first day of my road trip was the most eventful so far with vintage thrifting (more on this later!) and my first time in Dallas. I had the pleasure of staying at the Magnolia Hotel located in downtown Dallas.* The hotel building is what was once known as the Magnolia Petroleum Building, home to one of the icons of Dallas–the Flying Red Horse . Built in 1922, the building was the first skyscraper in the city. The Pegasus was finished a year later and was later restored in 1999.

via the Dallas Public Library

via the Dallas Public Library. Ain’t she pretty?

The Magnolia Hotel of today is modern with great bones. One of the first things I noticed was the restored elevator area, which featured original marble walls, an old timey mail chute and ornate ceilings.  The hotel does a good job at incorporating historic aspects while keeping things contemporary. The Magnolia Hotel is a modern one with a historic twist, which is perfect for travelers wanting the comforts of home with a taste from the past.

One of the many things that the Magnolia Hotel does well is preserving their history. For example, the 24th floor is restored to its former 1920s glory, with wood panel walls, old heavy doors and grate radiators. There’s no added cost to staying on this floor, it just has to be requested. Even the historic floor has modern touches throughout. So, no sleeping on a 1920s mattress, because, you know, that would be terrible.

If you’re looking for a more modern stay, there’s 24 other floors to choose from with a variety of options from guest rooms to extended stay suites. Prices start at $125, which is a pretty good deal if you consider the location, the history and the modernity of the hotel.

The views were one of my favorite parts of staying at the Magnolia Hotel, which offers sweeping views of Dallas. During my stay, I went up on the roof to see the Flying Red Horse up close, which was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in a long time. Overall I had a great stay at the Magnolia Hotel and would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Dallas or just wanting a little getaway!



*I received a one night free stay at the Magnolia Hotel. I am not being paid to write about the hotel.

Real Talk: Travel Tips from Having to Pee to Trying to Find Target

Let’s talk road trip tips. Not the ones from books. Not the ones from AAA. Like real life ones. Where do you go to the bathroom? Where’s the Target?! These are REAL questions! Sure, the books will say to change the oil before a long road trip. They’ll give you safety tips, but what REALLY happens on a trip? That’s what people really need to know. Or not. It’s up to you.

If you see a Target, stop. There will not be another Target for 150-300 miles.

Having lived my adult like exclusively in cities (doesn’t that sound fancy?!), I’ve gotten used to having a Target within a stone’s throw. As a result I got addicted to Target. There are times when I end up at Target and I don’t even know how I got there. I just get in the car and drive to Target.

Outside of large metropolitan areas, there are not a lot of Targets. Without fail, I’ll always think, “Oh, there’s a Target! I should stop! Oh, never mind. I’ll just go to the next Target.” People. THERE IS NO NEXT TARGET! That is THE Target for a 100 mile radius. So stop at the Target why dontcha?

You will spend 10% of your time thinking about how bad you have to go to the bathroom.

We’ve all been there. Bladders almost exploding from too much iced coffee, that cup in the back seat looking like a good alternative because, you know, you have to GO. Like, now. I don’t know if 10% is an accurate percentage for how much time the average road tripper spends thinking about where to pee, but it’s probably how much time I spend thinking about it.

Let me let you in on my bathroom secrets. Gas stations catering to truckers are the best places to stop. They’re super clean almost without fail. They’re well stocked with food for everyone even with allergies and such. They have cool shit to look at. Places not to stop for the bathroom: The only gas station in a small town. They are usually smelly and weird. Do not go in there for the toilet. Also, outside bathrooms. I mean, is that a murder movie waiting to happen or what? Don’t do it. Especially if you’re by yourself.

Another secret: Wal-Mart has reliably average bathrooms. When driving in middle America off the beaten path and there isn’t a truck stop, Wal-Mart is usually pretty a-OK. They’re not great, but it is what it is and at least it’s reliable. There are also nice people at the Wal-Mart and interesting sights. Like one time in Kansas I saw an Amish girl in full on Amish clothes purchasing a string bikini. And I thought, “You go, Amish girl!’

No one is judging your license plate. Just let it go.

On my first road trip, I thought, “Oh my god! People are going to judge me because I’m from a different state! They are going to road rage on me!” No one cares about license plates. No one. So stop thinking people care. In fact, I’ve only gotten nice comments for my out of state plates. Sometimes it gets annoying when people are so nice. Like, dude, calm down with that niceness. Here’s my imaginary one liner:

Random nice person: Oh! Hello! What brings you to [insert town here]?
Me: I don’t know. What brings YOU to [insert town here]?!

That’s right, flip the tables. Someone’s trying to be hospitable? We can’t have that. Just kidding, don’t do that.

Retrain your brain to see half a tank as almost empty. Or else AAA will have to come tow you and you will feel dumb.

OK, so this is coming from a girl who has twice run out of gas in the car and who perpetually drives on almost empty. Some places in the U.S. there aren’t gas stations for like 20-30 miles. Or maybe there are some but maybe they aren’t open. Or maybe they are WAY over priced (Utah, UTAH! I’m looking at YOU!). When the gas tank hits half full, the brain should scream, “FILL YOUR TANK OR ELSE!”

Another thought on gas: If gas is cheap for at least 10 miles at multiple stations, stop to fill up. It won’t be cheaper. It almost never is. I could kick myself for how many times I’ve though, “Oh, surely gas will be just as cheap in the next state.” NOPE. Gas taxes, y’all. Gas taxes.

Well, there you have it! My Real Talk travel manifesto. Happy Targeting and peeing across the land!

How to plan road trip stops

Savannah -

With my road trip coming up, I wanted to share about how I plan a 1-2 day trip to a specific city or town. Exploring a new place can be daunting. There’s so much to do, whether it’s a big city or small little town. I’ll walk you through my process to make it a little easier.

Step 1: Before you start, decide how to track your research.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.55.49 AM

While some prefer a notebook to a computer, I digitally plan my trips. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve lost pages with notes or spilled coffee on a notebook. In a flash, all that work is gone. I use Evernote on my computer and phone to keep my notes in one place. I have an Evernote notebook dedicated to my trip and notes on hotels, towns, shopping and eating. Using the cloud sharing across devices makes notes portable and easy to reference. Google Drive and Dropbox are also great.

Step 2: Decide where to stop and how long you want to stay.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.07.03 PM

Where to stop along the way depends on the amount of distance driven in a day. A person driving alone can safely do 5 hours of driving everyday, which equates to 300 interstate miles. If there’s stops along the way or the route is on country roads, the mileage might be lower. Travel Math has a great tool that computes stopping points for a trip based on daily mileage.

Any city or town really needs at least a full day or two to visit. An agent at AAA once told me each stop needs three days, but sometimes places just aren’t that interesting. However, it’s always good to maintain a bit of flexibility in a schedule for those places with an unanticipated magical pull. Or perhaps when an extra day of rest is needed.

Step 3: Decide where to stay.

Gone are the days of being stuck at the Super 8! Thanks to platforms like Airbnb, FlipKey and HomeAway,¬†there are so many options for how to stay. Want to sleep at someone’s house? Done. How about a cabin? You’ve got it! Maybe you want a free option, in which case, check out CouchSurfing.

For those on the hotel route, there’s more out there than just the typical big name chain. From boutique hotels to bed and breakfasts, there’s a whole world of options out there. I already have stays planned at the Magnolia Hotel in Dallas, The Austin Hotel in Hot Springs and The Capital Hotel in Little Rock. I’ll be sharing about my stays as they happen!

Step 4: Make a plan.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.10.50 PM

For big cities there’s a wealth of information out there. For smaller cities and towns, more digging is required. Let’s take Hot Springs, Arkansas, a small town with a population of about 35,000. To start planning, I’ll search something broad like, “What to do in Hot Springs, AR.” Luckily¬† Trip Advisor has a great series of guides of the top 30 things to do almost anywhere. Here’s their guide for Hot Springs. Some days I prefer to be out in nature, while others I like to be in museums. I open whatever interests me in a new tab. I quickly skim through the information and if it sounds fun, I add it to my notes for that city in Evernote.

For eating, I depend almost entirely on Yelp, probably like a lot of other travelers. Typically I don’t decide where to eat until I get there, but if dietary restrictions are a concern, planning certain helps! I search for $ and $$ restaurants around me and usually go with one in the top five depending on what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes I’ll even order based on dishes mentioned! This strategy has yet to lead me astray.

Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you in your travel planning!

How to Start Planning a Long Distance U.S. Road Trip

I set out on my road trip on Sunday! Having done my fair amount of road tripping over the past seven years, I can say with confidence that planning is often the most daunting task, so I wanted to share some tips. While I wish I could say that this advice applicable to other countries, I don’t know that for certain since I’ve only done road trips in the United States. Hence these tips will be mostly for long distance driving adventures in the good ole US of A.

#1: Don’t try to see everything. You will fail. Miserably

The United States is 3.806 million miles. You will not see it all. Do not try to see it all. Even if you spent a year on the road, you would fail. Instead look at your road trip as America: Part 1 (or whatever part you’re on). Ask yourself what you’re interested in and how you want to spend your time. As I mentioned in my last post, right now I’m super into Presidential libraries. Last time I did a road trip, I was more into visiting friends and doing nature things along the way. Whatever you’re interested in, research attractions along the way.

#2: Have a plan of some sort.

I’m sure there are some people who go only where the wind takes them, and that’s fine. But for most of us, having a plan, at least for the first week or so, gives confidence. With a play you won’t feel like you’re wasting your time if you have it at least a few things planned for each stop. On my last trip two years ago, I tediously planned out the first week and a half from Boston, MA to Aspen, CO. It was reassuring to know where to stop, what to do, where to stay.

#3: Throw your plan out the window. Or at least accept that this will happen at some point.

Your road trip will not be perfect. Your plans might fly out the window. Two years ago a friend was supposed to meet me in New Mexico, but three days before her flight, she cancelled. I got this message while in a hotel near the Grand Canyon, and OK, I was upset. At that point I hadn’t seen a single person I knew in two weeks, which was a very weird feeling for me. Longing for familiarity, I scrolled through my phone until I found an old co-worker in San Francisco. Luckily he was willing to put me up for a few days, so my trip took a detour. Life goes on. I had a great time driving through California. Lake Tahoe? Gorgeous. Big Sur? Stunning. I wouldn’t have seen any of it if I stuck to my plan.

#4: Know your driving limits or learn them fast.

You will want to learn your driving limits and fast. Driving tired is a potentially deadly decision. Don’t push yourself. In my experience, you can safely drive 5 or 6 hours per day. Could you do more? Sure, but it wouldn’t be safe because driving is monotonous and mentally tiring. You don’t want to wear yourself out. If you have a driving partner or two (or three), great! You will have more flexibility on how long you can drive every day. About six years ago, I drove with my aunt from Pittsburgh to Seattle. We switched off driving responsibilities every two hours and that worked pretty well.

Check back tomorrow for my post on how to plan a city day trip while traveling!