So, bad news first: All 5,500 hotel rooms in downtown Austin are booked solid.
“We’re suggesting (travelers) take a look at some of the hotels farther south on I-35, and in the northwest part of town. They’re right on the highways,” says Beth Krauss, spokeswoman for the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau. “A lot of those places are still selling for $150 and $200 a night.”
Austin’s economy balloons during SXSW. The festival brings in 150,000 people and pumps an estimated $95 million into the region. This year, 33,300 room nights were sold to accommodate the various bands, journalists, crews and fans.
Some seasoned travelers are used to improvising when it comes to lodging, using websites like www.couchsurfing.com and www.betterthanthevan.com, an Austin-based website that connects touring bands with housing while they’re on the road.
“What ends up happening is you get a lot of grassroots solutions,” Krauss says. “People find ways to get more out of it.”
Now here are some things you should probably know before heading southwest:
• Austin isn’t big. The Texas capital has 26,851 official city dwellers as of 2008, with 1.7 million in the metro area.
• Stay off the highways. Instead, try to use city and side streets that connect to downtown.
• Last call for alcohol is 2 a.m.
• Average cab ride in downtown Austin could run about $15, depending on the location of your hotel.
• Parking is scarce around the Sixth Street corridor, which is closed during the festival. Krauss advocates using the various city pay lots, which can run $10 for a day. Be prepared to walk, she says, and, “Wear comfortable shoes.”
• Helpful websites to consult before and during your trip: South By Southwest Festival, www.sxsw.com; Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau; www.austintexas.org.