My family is about to embark on our Great American Road Trip. We will be driving the Wild West and visiting Dinosaur Monument, Canyonlands, Arches and Moab, Mesa Verde, Monument Valley, Canyon de Chely, Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef and Timpanogos national parks and monuments – in 9 days!
Earlier in the year, I documented some of the discoveries I made trying to plan our adventure. (See Great American Road Trip blogs.) Originally, we wanted to rent an RV but the cost of the rental, the mileage and the gas turned us off that dream and instead we have booked hotels and rented a minivan – our version of the Griswold Family Truckster.
As we approach our departure date, I’ve been doing some last-minute planning. To save on the price of admission to the parks, we purchased an America the Beautiful annual pass for $80. Not only is it good for our trip, but it’s good for all parks for the next year. However, in reviewing park admissions, I’m learning that some parks are not on the program and we’ll still need to pay. I’ve also discovered that some of the parks are on Navajo land. While we are excited to be on the land of Native Americans (especially the Navajos, as my partner’s grandmother was Navajo), we have learned that the Navajos required permits to hike and camp on their land, and they have sacred areas that are off-limits.
We’re also booking as many tours in advance as we can. We did learn earlier that some of the more popular hikes require advanced reservations. For example, The Wave in Zion, we learned by reviewing the National Park website, is long and strenuous hike not suitable to the kids. It also requires advanced reservations and takes a very limited number of hikers on a lottery basis. We will be skipping The Wave this year. However, we have booked a cave tour in Timpanogos, which was available to book a month in advance of our trip, so we won’t have to drive all the way there and discover its sold out.
Planning this trip has become quite detailed for us. I’m glad I’ve been researching because we were all under the assumption that parks are parks and we just drive to each one and we’re good. There are so many little details we’re discovering on the U.S. National Park Service website that we’re thankful they are so detailed.
We are also preparing the kids for what will be a lot of driving by getting them excited for the Junior Ranger programs offered at the parks. The kids will pick up booklets available at the Visitors Centers, complete a series of challenges, and receive a badge from each park once they have completed the tasks. There are also coloring pages, activity pages and more for kids on the parks website.
If you’re planning to tour any of the national parks, be sure to visit the U.S. National Park Service website for all the tips. Family Vacation Critic also has destination guides for National Parks to help you plan your trip. (I’ll be adding more guides after visiting the parks!)
We’ll be hitting the road Sunday, and blogging about our experiences – even the kids will be writing to give their perspective. Keep your eyes peeled!
– Lissa Poirot