Family trip to SW USA


Dec 26th, 2011, 12:49 PM
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Family trip to SW USA

I am trying to plan a family trip to National Parks next summer. I want to rent an RV in Phoenix and then tour several national parks.

I need advice. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Here is what I think we want to do Petrified Forest, Mesa Verde, Bryce, Zion, and then Grand Canyon.

I need advice for where to rent an RV; where to stay; what to do: and any hints for traveling with teenagers. We have 3 teens so it will be 5 of us altogether.
Anne_Rucker is offline  
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Dec 26th, 2011, 01:28 PM
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Are very sure you want to rent a motorhome large enough for5 to drive through the SW??

Renting a car and staying in motels will be cheaper, easier, and more flexible. Renting a car and camping will be MUCH cheaper
janisj is offline  
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Dec 26th, 2011, 01:45 PM
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An RV is going to be more expensive than renting a car and staying in motel accomodations.

I would seriously reconsider your plan to rent an RV.

Also, make sure and map out your distances. Petrified Forest is a one or two-hour stop. Mesa Verde is a day-long drive from Petrified Forest.
Placename is offline  
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Dec 26th, 2011, 02:02 PM
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Anne, you might want to read several trip reports from Fodorites who've done that route.

An RV is not only extremely costly, but may be hard to maneuver in the mountains, and difficult to find parking in some places.

I'm with everyone else. Rent an SUV. Pack light.

Have fun with your planning!
sarge56 is offline  
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Dec 26th, 2011, 03:40 PM
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Add this to the mix regarding renting a big RV. Are you from another country [because of your topic title]? Are you used to driving on the right side of the road? Are you used to driving on steep, winding, twisting roads often with steep drop offs and on the RIGHT SIDE of the road and in a BIG RV??

Seriously, the others are right - rent a car, stay in motels. Gas here isn't as expensive as Europe but it will still add up fast and those RV's get terrible mileage. And insurance may be another huge expense.
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Dec 26th, 2011, 04:37 PM
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Our niece and family (4 kids) rented in Denver and went to CA, etc.
It is true that an RV can be more expensive. You will need to have reservations in the Parks in high season.
We camped in our day, and while cheaper--maybe--you've got to pack all that stuff up, rather than just shutting the door and backing out. There's something to be said for each.
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Dec 26th, 2011, 05:09 PM
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I'll agree about the RV, and urge you to look into some other places to fly into. Vegas will probably be cheaper for vehicle rentals and is closer to Zion, Bryce and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon than Phoenix.

Mesa Verde is great, but is quite a distance from the other parks you plan to visit and there are parks like Arches and Canyonlands that you could visit without going too far out of your way if you do decide to include Mesa Verde.
emalloy is offline  
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Dec 26th, 2011, 05:11 PM
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I might consider renting an RV for a stay for a few days in just one spot(even then it's not the best idea). However, to drive that far on those roads, NO WAY would I do it. If you are from a different country double no way.

For the Petrified Forest you will want to allow just a few hours there-3-5 hours is plenty for most folks.

The Grand Canyon really needs a full day and one night(unless you are doing some fairly serious hiking). I would for sure see a sunrise and sunset. The GC is spectacular upon your first sight of it. However, there isn't that much to do there unless you hike or raft.

We love love love the UT parks
Bryce needs 1-2 days
Zion needs 2-4 days depending on how much hiking you want to do.

Mesa Verde needs 2 full days and 3 if you want to include Wetherill Mesa.

I might add that Arches National Park in Utah is equally as good as Bryce and Zion(we love all 3 of them). If you do go that far north, hit Capitol Reef for a few hours and don't miss Goblin Valley State Park. It is actually one of my favorite place in Utah.
In Moab/Arches, your teens might want to try
Other companies operate similar tours just outside of Zion/Springdale. It's Fantastic.
Arches would require a couple of days and then another day driving and seeing all the sights to Bryce.

My suggestions are all a minimum. You could certainly spend much longer time at all the places.
What Month are you going. Earlier in the summer the better.

All of the places you mention have fantastic Historic Lodges. These are old, rustic, and overpriced. However, they are a huge part of the parks and we stay at them every chance we get. Consider it luxury camping. The food at the lodges is really nice. At the Grand Canyon stay at El Tovar or Bright Angel Lodge-those would be my two picks-there are a couple of more options there too. Only one lodge at Zion, Mesa Verde, and Bryce. Staying "in park" is always better.

In Zion, hike The Narrows and Angels Landing. In Bryce hike Queens Garden/Navajo Loop combo. In Mesa Verde, see every house that you can. The more the better. They are all different.

I'm not saying that camping is a bad thing, but you need to really think about it. For most people from abroad it would be a mistake. You could see the GC from both the North and the South side--they are different. You might want to stop at Hoover Dam.
spirobulldog is offline  
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Dec 26th, 2011, 05:15 PM
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How many days max do you have?
spirobulldog is offline  
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Dec 26th, 2011, 11:22 PM
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You can pick up relatively cheap camping equipment at Sports Authority, K-Mart, etc. in whichever city you start your trip. The cheapest camping is in National Forest campgrounds, but they only offer a table, a fire pit, usually water, and an outhouse somewhere on the grounds. National Park campgrounds are usually somewhat better in that they have wash houses with running water.
Michael is offline  
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Dec 27th, 2011, 08:36 AM
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Wow thanks everyone for the advice. Actually from Tennessee so we are use to driving on the right. I would love to just bring equipment but can't see paying what it would cost for extra luggage.

I had originally thought about an RV because my daughter had a torn ACL last year and when we started planning this trip she could not travel for long periods without having to stretch her knee. She is better after surgery but the thought just stuck.

I was trying to get a good balance of easy for hubby (who wants hotels) and wanting to camp a little for myself and my son who wants to be a National Forest Ranger one day (if up to he and I we would just camp the whole time).

But maybe you are right about the RV so if I scrap the RV, then is there any advice on getting a little rustic experience? I especially love Zion. Went there when I was a teenager and loved it. We spent a week there it was one of the happiest times of my childhood.

We have only 9 to 10 days. I planned on us flying into Pheonix because Southwest Airlines is cheapest airfare for us.

Keep up the advice. I appreciate any thoughts.
Anne_Rucker is offline  
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Dec 27th, 2011, 09:29 AM
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Don't just look at airfares, check the cost of a rental car too. It can be several hundred dollars more in Phoenix and Denver than in Vegas or Salt Lake City. And do check on airfares again as they do change, admittedly usually up.

If you and your son really want to do the camping thing, you could buy a small tent, some blow up mattresses at Wall Mart for much less than the cost of an RV and then donate them go Good Will or the Salvation Army when you leave.
emalloy is offline  
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Dec 27th, 2011, 01:16 PM
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Southwest flies into Las Vegas; there are two non-stop flights each day from Nashville to Las Vegas.

Nine days is good for visiting Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon North Rim, and a day at Page for the smoothwater float trip.

You could mix up hotels/lodges and camping. You can rent nice camping gear at REI after you arrive in Las Vegas.
enzian is offline  
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Dec 27th, 2011, 05:34 PM
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Renting at REI is a good idea. Maybe just let your husband and other kids stay in the hotels and you and your son camp for a night or two along the way. The night stars in Utah are awesome.

For any of the lodges(Zion, Bryce, GC), you should reserve ASAP. I think most of the campgrounds are 6 months in advance rental. You will want to do that as soon as they come available if you decide to camp.
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Dec 27th, 2011, 06:47 PM
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The Pioneer cabins at the Grand Canyon North Rim sleep 5 comfortably in 2 bedrooms with bath between. These are great for families. You would want to book ASAP for these.
enzian is offline  
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Dec 28th, 2011, 11:50 AM
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Probably a good call to take the RV off the table. I wouldn't want to fly into/out of Phoenix in light of what you want to do/where you want to go. Here's a map of your proposed route (slight variances) with PHX as your staging area Denver or Salt Lake City might be better options. Have you considered flying into/out of Las Vegas? Southwest has a lot of flights into LAS; I was able to find several out of Nashville (including 3 non-stops).

No matter what you decide, plan on purchasing an America the Beautiful Federal Lands Access Pass. For $80 this card gets you into all the National Parks and Monuments in the US for 1 year's time. It will more than pay for itself on the trip you're planning to take. You can pre-order it in advance at or just buy it at the first National Park Entrance on your itinerary. International visitors should just buy it stateside as overseas postage is quite expensive.
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