Co-operative Travel’s Jennifer Stephenson has always loved country music so she was delighted to hear Willie Nelson perform while on the Travel Weekly Cover Stars trip to Texas.

Q: What were the key highlights for you on the Cover Stars trip?
The whole trip was amazing. I am really into country music, which started with my mum playing it around the house when I was a child. We went to Nashville in 2008 when she was still alive but it was always one of my mum’s dreams to visit Texas too. I love the culture and history about cowboys so this was a dream trip for me. I have always wanted to see a rodeo and finally seeing one thanks to Texas Tourism was fantastic. Seeing Willie Nelson at the famous Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky tonk bar, was also incredible. There were even people arriving by horse and tying them up outside.

Q: Were you wowed by the hotels?
The three hotels I stayed in – Sheraton Fort Worth, Omni Austin Downtown and the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine – were so lovely and huge and each of them had their own feel to them. We got to see the incredible Christmas decorations too with the Gaylord Texan having the most impressive display with the whole atrium lit from floor to ceiling.

Q: What is your best memory of Texas?
I learnt about cowboys and drovers and we got to see them both in action at the Fort Worth Stockyard cattle drive, which happens through the town every day. The first day we saw them go through and then I was lucky enough to do my photoshoot there as the cattle went through, which was excellent.

Q: How was the shopping experience with the Simon centres?
The shopping at the Grand Prairie outlets centre was incredible. I started at the Michael Kors shop as I wanted a bag, and the discounts, with the booklet from Simon Shopping, were amazing. I also had a request from my husband to get him a Dallas Cowboys football shirt and a Texas Rangers baseball jersey. I really enjoyed the help I had picking out my photoshoot outfit, as I tried things I wouldn’t normally go for and I felt so much better for it.

Q: How did it feel having your own photoshoot?
My outfit was really cowboy-ish, which looked great with me standing under the Stockyards sign. The photoshoot made me feel really special. I take a lot of selfies so it was out of my comfort zone being told how to pose by a professional photographer, but the photos came out really well.

Q: How were your business-class flights with AA and BA?
The flights to and from Texas were pure comfort. I had never been in business class before and it is a world of difference you experience.

Q: How has going on the trip helped you sell the destination?
I will now definitely be recommending Texas as an alternative American holiday as I think it gets overlooked. I would really recommend trying the local food too. We were taken to this incredible Mexican restaurant, Joe T Garcia’s, which had huge queues out of the door. We were amazed when we got to walk straight in. The atmosphere was amazing and the food was really good. Another great place was Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-b-que in Austin. You got a limit of half a pound of meat and could choose from almost everything and anything.



Jennifer’s outfit

Jennifer channels her modern-day cowgirl in stylish wrap and leggings from Express at Grand Prairie Premium Outlets, a Simon property. Her look is completed with suede ankle boots and hat from Express outlet; hair and make-up courtesy of Simon Shopping Destinations. Grand Prairie Premium Outlets is a Simon property that offers spectacular shopping in the Greater Dallas/Fort Worth region with more than 110 outlet designer and name-brand stores, all offering savings of 25%-65% off everyday.



Jennifer’s sales tips

Suggest Texas as an alternative US destination for families, couples and solo travellers.

Recommend Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky tonk, for the food, entertainment and rodeo.

Also worth recommending are the Sheraton Fort Worth Downtown and the Omni Fort Worth hotels.



About our sponsors

Travel Weekly Cover Stars 2017 is running in association with headline sponsor Texas Tourism, travel partners American Airlines and British Airways and makeover partner Simon Shopping Destinations.



Jennifer on . . . flying business class

Jennifers says the laid-back, long-haul flights were perfect from beginning to end.

“This was my first experience of business class and when I got on I was blown away,” she recalls.

“Going from economy to that was just amazing and I even did a live video on social media before take-off to tell my friends and family about it.

“The fact I could just lie back and go to sleep made both flights brilliant.

“The food, service and entertainment from American Airlines and the British Airways cabin crew was just fantastic.”