Pull out the suitcases and load the car: coolers, maps, and those hiking boots overdue for another layer of dirt. Throw ’em all in. The three-day-weekend season is upon us. Given the abundance of Texas’s pleasures, both natural and man-made, a “choose your own adventure” buffet awaits.

As the writer of our travel column, the Wanderer, I’ve learned that the best tips come from word of mouth. In that spirit, I enlisted a team of intrepid weekenders to assemble a baker’s dozen of itineraries that account for the myriad ways we Texans define the word “vacation.” And because, depending on where your home base is, it may be quicker to momentarily duck out of Texas than to trek across it, we’ve included two destinations just beyond the state lines, plus one that’s south of the border but requires only a short flight from Houston.

No matter which way you go, I’d like to pass along the same advice that my grandmother always gives me before my trips: don’t forget to leave a little extra space in your luggage. While the immediate thrill of a summer vacation may be about what you get to leave behind—bills, chores, commutes—the point is to come back with something too. The tchotchkes I’ve collected on my drives around the state over the years—a cast-iron mermaid bottle opener from Galveston, a broad palm-leaf hat from Terlingua, seashells from San Jose Island—are mere totems of the less tangible gains, like a newly sparked interest in nautical antiques or a taste of life in the desert or a rekindled closeness with family and friends.

Because a three-day jaunt is neither long enough to require extensive planning nor short enough to be slapdash about, it should be a fairly focused affair. So as you read the following pages, indulge in a little daydreaming—of taking the kids to Palo Duro Canyon or sneaking off without them to the Hill Country, of corralling friends for a train ride to New Orleans or slipping away for some time alone on Baffin Bay. No matter what day it is, your next weekend is just around the corner.

A Summer Weekend in Austin
A Summer Weekend in Baffin Bay
A Summer Weekend in Dallas
A Summer Weekend in Oaxaca
A Summer Weekend in Houston
A Summer Weekend in the Angelina National Forest
A Summer Weekend: San Antonio to New Orleans
A Summer Weekend at Palo Duro Canyon
A Summer Weekend in Galveston
A Summer Weekend in Santa Fe  
A Summer Weekend in Rockport 
A Summer Weekend in El Paso
A Summer Weekend in Wimberley
Plus: Trip Guides for each vacation