As fans of loose itineraries, Brian and I headed to Houston without a place to stay for the night nor a solid return date. This is our favorite way to travel. We intentionally create workable flexibility to maximize fun and minimize wasted time and energy.
Road Trip Prep
We run through a list of things to make life easy leading up to our departure. Check the weather, scope out places we’d like to try, and even double-check routes to avoid any unnecessary tolls. For this trip, we:
- Borrowed a more fuel-efficient vehicle than our own
- Checked out the Verizon Wireless Hotspot from the library
- Downloaded free audiobooks, courtesy of our library and OverDrive
- Boiled some eggs and grabbed some chicken salad for on-the-road snacking
- Packed plenty of water bottles
- Completed grocery shopping for the week away
- Packed said groceries into our big cooler
- Pro Tip: Use frozen water bottles as ice packs. They stay frozen longer, don’t leak, and can be consumed if ever needed.
We left home with the idea that we could possibly be in Houston in 12 hours. Brian and I held off on booking accommodations for the night until we felt confident about where we’d end up. At 12 hours, this was going to be the longest direct drive we’ve taken together. We left room for a change of plans if we got too tired. I drove the first 4.5 hours, and Brian drove the rest while I picked out a place to stay.
We pulled into a Staybridge Suites (an IHG Hotel) about 20 miles outside of downtown Houston. I selected this hotel because it featured:
- Affordable pricing
- Complimentary parking
- Complimentary hot breakfast buffet
- Suites with full kitchens (great for unpacking our cooler)
It was our first time staying in a Staybridge. We loved it! We stayed in a King Studio Suite, which gave us plenty of room for one night.
Hungry and tired, we scoped out the food choices and found a Texas Roadhouse near the hotel. We have NEVER been to this chain, but decided to be extra-cheesy and go. Arriving in Texas and grabbing a bite at Texas Roadhouse? Sure, why not? It didn’t hurt that we received a coupon from our hotel at Check-In!
Spoiler Alert: It was a pretty terrible meal! At least we received a complimentary appetizer…
Luckily, our hotel-provided breakfast buffet made up for it! A great option for our rest stop, Brian and I enjoyed our time and are looking forward to staying in a Staybridge Suites (longer than a night!) down the road.
Houston was a laid-back, educational spot for us. With a few hours to hang, we set out to explore a couple of the city’s exclusive spots.
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Brian and I ventured to Texas’ oldest craft brewery, Saint Arnold. Recently listed as the best brewery in Texas by Tasting Table, we were excited to stop by to try a pint and bite at their restaurant. We were greeted by a large beer garden housed in an airy, open space with string lights and a cool, casual vibe. By 11:30am, it was a slightly breezy 75°F with sunshine slowly peeking through the clouds. Brian and I shared the signature (and delicious) Crawfish Roll and Truffle Fries.
As we finished eating, the crowds were just starting to build and we were itching to move on from the noise. Have you noticed the trend of family-friendly breweries? It was time for us to go when children started to scream and run around in the background.
National Museum of Funeral History
What better place to seek a little peace and quiet than a funeral museum?! In all seriousness, this place was my number one can’t-miss highlight in Houston. The National Museum of Funeral History holds the largest collection of funeral artifacts in the country.
Brian and I spent three hours examining all kinds of caskets, hearses, and memorialized art. I was particularly fascinated with some of the more elaborate exhibits, including the history of embalming and the history of cremation.
Beginning with a deep dive into ancient times, we took in the history of Egyptians as the original embalmers, Civil War era practices, and experimental elixirs throughout the years. Cremation has its roots in religion, practicality, and necessary precaution in the spread of disease. Life-size dioramas, alongside informational videos and descriptors throughout the exhibits, provided additional relatability and points of interest.
The post-mortem photography exhibit was neat to explore, especially with Brian by my side. Post-mortem photographs are images of the recently deceased, usually in specific poses (and, at times, with other family members). It was a way of processing grief and honoring the dead. I have read a lot about cultural practices in death and preservation, so I was interested to check out the photography exhibit. Brian, however, was slightly creeped out, though he did find it interesting.
Other art forms on display included Victorian-Era hair art and modern cremation creations. Hair art is the practice of utilizing loved one’s hair in different forms of portraiture, jewelry, and wreaths. Creations with cremation ashes have become a more modern approach in memorialized art. Today, one can have their loved one’s ashes incorporated into pieces of jewelry, decorative glass, and even turned into cremation portraits. Personally, I will not be subscribing to this form of remembrance, but I can understand why others do. To each their own.
Pomp and Circumstance
The museum also has impressive and expansive sections on presidential funerals, the lives and deaths of Popes, as well as prominent figures in Hollywood (as displayed in their Thanks for the Memories exhibit). There was much on display by way of the pomp and circumstance involved in these varying funeral exhibits. While intriguing, I was actually much more interested in general funeral practices across cultures and time periods without the grandeur.
Still, there is much to learn between those who served as political and religious leaders and national protectors. It is worth noting that the museum includes a 9/11 tribute and dedication to fallen heroes.
Because I took an early interest in death and funeral practices, I was especially excited to explore the National Museum of Funeral History. However, I believe that this museum does an excellent job in storytelling and displaying artifacts that appeal to all kinds of people. There truly is something for everyone in this experience.
Admittedly, I would have preferred the fallen heroes’ dedication be more extensive than it was. I don’t necessarily find the appeal in following the death and services of Hollywood figures over our nation’s service members.
On another note, we were eager to learn about the rituals of other countries upon discovering the museum’s international exhibit. Unfortunately, both Brian and I found it to be a little disappointing. The museum showcased a Japanese hearse, as well as a complete diorama of Mexico’s Día de los Muertos and fantasy coffins from Ghana. While we found the exhibit interesting, we felt it was a little lacking. With so many different kinds of burial rituals and customs around the world, we were surprised that Europe, the Middle East, or even China were not included in the exhibit.
All in all, we honestly couldn’t believe the amount of time we spent in the museum. There was much to take in and, truthfully, we could have spent a little more time there if we didn’t have any other plans. Neither one of us found the museum to be dark or depressing; it was incredibly fascinating and educational. Death is a part of life. We loved spending our Sunday learning about it.
We shopped for groceries and packed a cooler, kept an eye on GasBuddy, and drove over 800 miles to Houston. Brian and I had a fantastic, albeit abbreviated, time here. I’ve included our budget breakdown below. This outline includes the cost of gas to our destination, the amount of points we used for our Staybridge overnighter, and the cost of groceries we purchased for the week. Although we didn’t cook this time, we have plans to at our next stop!
Thanks for joining us on our trip to Houston! Check in with us as we continue on our road trip adventure!