Skip to content

Talking Travel In Texas And Beyond: Tammy McSwain

McSwain owns ARTA Travel which specializes in corporate, leisure and group travel
Photo: Tammy McSwain

Whether by car or plane, there’s a sense of adventure for what is ahead — from the food we will eat to the places we will see. Traveling is magical. At least, the idea of it.

But the reality? Travel plans always seem to spiral into some sort of stressful situation. Packing, planning, booking and everything else can be overwhelming. We want travel to be fun. So do you. Local Profile reached out to eight people in the Collin County community to get their take and advice on everything travel related. 

McSwain’s family moved to Plano in 1973, she grew up and has raised her children here. She and her husband Steve own ARTA Travel which specializes in corporate, leisure and group travel. The family is active in the Plano community through the Prince of Peace Catholic Community, the Chamber of Commerce, hospital boards, commissions, Junior League, Rotary and other organizations.

Where is your favorite road trip destination in Texas? 
Kerrville, Texas. Our kids went to camp in Hunt, Texas and there’s something really special about going down to the Hill Country. It’s just the right amount of drive (5-ish hours) with fun stops along the way.

What do you consider “essential” when packing? 
We make it a point to try and never check luggage. I always make an excel spreadsheet of my outfits to see where I can mix and match — especially shoes.

What is your favorite transportation method? 
Definitely a flight, especially a flight to a cruise!

How can you save money while traveling? 
Planning is key. Do your homework. Consult an expert. Your time is worth it.

What do you look for when booking a vacation? 
I tend to be a “sun” girl. I love to go places we’ve never been but I’m also a creature of habit. We always try to travel to at least one new place every year but we also go back to Nantucket every year. I’ve been going there every summer, and then some since I was 9 years old. It holds such a special place in our hearts that our daughter got married there in November.

What travel hack or tip do you follow? 
As mentioned above, I do make a spreadsheet for my clothes. I also always check to see if our accommodations include a hair dryer. It’s not my hairdryer but it will do for a few days and it’s definitely worth saving the space required for packing one.

What is your favorite road trip snack? 
Cheetos. Crunchy — hands down.

What is your most memorable trip in Texas?
In Texas, it’s Kerrville. There’s a dance hall on the Guadalupe River in Hunt called Crider’s Rodeo and Dance Hall. It’s only open from Memorial Day to Labor day. Friday night is catfish Friday night and on Saturday night they have a rodeo followed by live music under the oaks and the stars. It’s the oldest outdoor dance hall in Texas. You’ll see everyone from infants to elders in their 90s dancing the night away. 

Outside Texas is a hard one. Africa is magical. Definitely a trip of a lifetime that everyone should experience. The history in Israel was very spiritual and enlightening. To actually see the river where Jesus was baptized and the shore on the sea of Galilee where the story of the loaves and fishes happened is indescribable. Tahiti is beyond beautiful. All of these are a commitment — quite a journey but definitely worth the trip.  

How do you pass the time on road trips? On the plane? 
I love to read so my Kindle is my go-to on a flight unless there’s a movie I haven't seen calling my name. Kindle and the car are not friendly to my tummy so I channel my inner DJ and require everyone to sing along.

Are there any hidden gems you’ve come across on a Texas road trip? 
Storms make a great burger and you’re lucky enough to pass more than one location if you take 281 to Kerrville. Luckenbach is just a short detour on your way to Fredericksburg. Certainly not a secret but it is a tad hidden and has cheap beer, live music and a really fun gift shop.  

How do you decide where to go? 
Being in the travel business we receive more than our fair share of publications with up-and-coming destinations, new hotels and resorts, cruise ships and itineraries, etc. We do our homework and decide what interests us most, fits our timeline and budget, and go from there.

Do you have any favorite camping or hiking destinations in Texas? 
I enjoy hiking but camping is really not my thing. Our son loves to take his Tacoma into the great unknown and camps like a pro. He loves Big Bend, and I must admit seeing his pics kind of makes me wish I was a little more adventurous.

What time of year do you prefer to go on vacation? 
We always try and go when others are not on vacation. It tends to be less expensive and is undoubtedly less crowded. Thankfully our birthdays and anniversary fall in shoulder or low season for most destinations.

Do you have any upcoming travel plans? 
We already have trips to St Barth, Greece, Nantucket and Alaska on the books for 2023. We’re planning a multigenerational journey to Africa in 2024 — fingers crossed!

Photo: Tammy McSwain

To find out more about travel in and out of Texas visit Local Profile’s latest issue.