Trip Planning/Prep and Stuff You Might Want to Skip
In February, my husband and I decided to make a return visit to Yellowstone and fly into Rapid City instead of Jackson this time so we could see some of the Black Hills area up. This trip was part of our “see America second” plan after a dozen years of spending at least half of our 5-8 annual trips overseas, mostly in Europe. We’re currently “collecting” national parks and this trip would add parks 29 and 30 plus a few monuments.
As a frame of reference, I’m 68 and DH is 70, and neither of us, we’ve noticed, are in quite the same shape as we were when we were trotting around Manchu Picchu in 2006. We’re also not morning people and have concluded we’ll enjoy our vacations more if we don’t push ourselves before 10AM. We have gotten back into photography in an amateur way and spend a lot of time taking pictures, particularly of animals. So we don’t get as much done as when we were younger. Our hikes are also shorter, more in the realm of 1-2 miles instead of the 3-4 we usually did a few years ago.
I booked flights leaving here the day after Memorial Day and returning mid-June. Also reserved a hideously expensive car; DH discovered that he had points for a free week, so using that knocked down the car rental to $460 for the 16 days. Had no problem in SD but hotels in Yellowstone were another matter. I reserved what I could in the park and in W. Yellowstone and then started checking for cancellations. Since my last nat’l park trip I’ve learned that cancellations become more frequent in the month before your stay, probably because the tour companies hold onto rooms till the last minute, hoping for more customers. As I found better rooms, I cancelled and rebooked. Had hoped to get 3 successive nights in the same lodging at Old Faithful but finally gave that up mid-May. I had a night at OF Inn, 2 at the Lodge cabins and 2 nights at Canyon cabins. (We do have a bathroom rule, especially when in cabins – we want our own. When we want to go to the bathroom, we don’t want to wail till a bison or elk – or, heaven forbid, a bear – decides it’s time to wander away from our cabin door and let us out. Or worse, I fear meeting something large in the dark, as occasionally happens at Y’stone.) We also decided to go to Virginia City between OF and Canyon, spend the night in Bozeman, and drive back to the park on 191. As I always do, I checked rental cars again in mid-May and found I could get the same car from the same company for $410 - $50 less than my first reservation – WITHOUT using the free week. Definitely my biggest saving yet from a rebooking.
For once, I was a day ahead with packing and leaving prep. Then I read about United pulling the second free bag for its MileagePlus flyers. Since airlines seem to be “monkey see, monkey do”, I said DH might check the Delta situation. Sure enough, Delta had removed the second free bag provision for Medallion customers in March. So that involved repacking our 3 checked bags into 2 larger ones. Yes, we take a lot of stuff when we head for the hinterlands. An ice chest and some utensils, trail mix, individual condiment packs, etc., if finding food at lunch will be inconvenient and we can fit it in. (If no luggage room, we buy an ice chest there and abandon it in the car. But having wet rental car seats with those cheap foam chests, we take a better one if we can rather than buying and leaving a better one.) There is also way too much photo and electronics gear – and cords and chargers, etc. And since my weather research, including on this forum, indicated we could have anything from 90 degree days to 30 degree nights and I try to avoid doing laundry other than underwear, we end up with more luggage on a national park trip than we take for 2 weeks in Europe or a city in the US.
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16 Days in SD, Yellowstone, MT & Wyoming
Trip Planning/Prep and Stuff You Might Want to Skip