They may currently be America's favorite couple. Chip and Joanna Gaines, the down-to-earth Waco pair revitalized the small Texas town known for little more than a tragic standoff in 1993.
In case you didn't know, vacations to Waco are a thing now. Currently in the middle of filming season five of HGTV's hit show Fixer Upper, the creative geniuses and their show's popularity have made it a tourist hot spot. According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, "Major attractions in Waco, led by Magnolia Market at the Silos, reported 1.9 million visits as of the end of November (2016), tripling the 660,000 reported in all of 2015."
So what is there to see in Waco? It turns out, a lot. Like the Tribune mentions, Fixer Upper enthusiasts are likely most interested in seeing Magnolia Market at the Silos. But there's also Harp Design Co., a business that is frequently featured on Fixer Upper, Baylor's campus, where both Chip and Joanna attended college. Plus the numerous "fixer upper" homes the couple has transformed.
Thinking of going there yourself? I did, and I tried to do it on the cheap. I'll break down the cost of a trip for two to this unlikely tourist destination.
Flight Cost: $230.00 round trip for two
Actually, it was only $22.40 for our two plane tickets. Awesome, right? Well, not so fast. We used points through the Southwest Airlines premier card.
Even without the free tickets, it would have been affordable because our travel days were flexible. Southwest was having great deals on flights from Sky Harbor to Dallas (Love Field). A round-trip flight would have cost us $104.46 per person plus a $22.40 fee for a grand total of around $230 for two. Always check the flexible dates map when booking through Southwest. Even shifting your trip a day or two can save you hundreds.
If you do book through Southwest, be sure to first buy a Southwest gift card at Fry's with your Fry's card. Fry's always offers 2x fuel points for most gift cards. Occasionally there is a digital coupon for 4x fuel points. For example, when the Fry's is offering 4x fuel points, $250 worth of gift cards would earn you 1,000 points which is the equivalent of $35 ($1 off per gallon of gas up to 35 gallons).
If you have a little extra money in your budget, you can fly into Waco on American Airlines from Phoenix. You will have a short layover in Dallas before the quick flight into Waco.
Rental Car Cost: $155.00 for three days
Waco is close to 95 miles from Dallas, so Uber isn't going to cut it. We chose a Ford F-150, because well, we were in Texas so we wanted a Texas-sized vehicle! Plus, there were actually five of us. We paid approximately $38 per day plus taxes and fees through Budget. And, of course, add in the cost of gas.
However, I just recently discovered Costco Travel and you can get a small car for half that price. I found compact cars for $62 for three days. Costco Travel has amazing prices, but you have to keep checking it because they change daily. The good news is if you see a better price after you book through Costco, you can cancel your original reservation and rebook it without a penalty. You have to have a Costco membership to take advantage of Costco Travel.
Hotel Cost: $258.00 for two nights
I chose the Home2 Suites by Hilton for a couple of reasons. It was reasonably priced and it serves a free breakfast. The best price I found was through Hotels.com at $125 per night. Again, you can go to Fry's and buy a Hotels.com gift card. One traveling hack I love is to get a hotel that serves a free full breakfast, load up on food in the morning so you can skip lunch and eat an early dinner. There are other hotels for less than $100, but all things considered, I found this to be the best value.
Food and Sightseeing: $90 for two people for three days (not including any souvenirs)
They kind of go hand in hand here. Don't you want to see Chip's favorite BBQ place? The coffee shop owned by a young couple featured on the show?
Magnolia Market at the Silos is free to get into, but surely you'll want to buy a t-shirt, coffee mug, or a Joanna-inspired piece of decor.
The market has food trucks parked along the perimeter so you can shop and eat in one stop. You'll find items like sandwiches, BBQ, crepes and coffee. The food is surprisingly affordable for a tourist attraction. The famous Silos Baking Co. is there too! The line to get in is often long. Parking in the area is also scarce, so there's a free trolley that will drive you there.
Have any questions about the Fixer Upper experience? Send me an email email@example.com