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Sister's surprise trip to Grand Canyon in September

Sister's surprise trip to Grand Canyon in September

Old Aug 21st, 2004, 05:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 47
Sister's surprise trip to Grand Canyon in September

At the end of September, as a surprise for my sister's fortieth birthday, I am making one of her dreams come true by taking her to the Grand Canyon. If I can pull this off she won't know she's going until she gets to the airport the morning of our flight. I have arranged with her boss for her to have the days off. Her daughter will help me pack for her. And she thinks she's driving my husband and me to the airport' which is not unusual. Ha! Won't she be surprised!

Since my husband and I sucked this year's travel budget bone dry by a trip to South Africa in March (worth every penny!), our funding this entire trip is going to be a slight squeeze.

Last week I posted a web site where other family and friends can purchase "sponsorships" for parts of her trip. From $5 for a cocktail or dessert, $15 or a souvenir t-shirt, $25 for dinner or $60 for a hotel night ? the response has been great, everyone is having a blast with it and about 2/3 of her costs have been covered already. (whew!) We're "sponsoring" her airfare. During the trip I will be giving her cards that say, for example, "Today's breakfast was brought to you by: Mary and Bob" and will include their personal message to her. A few people sponsored her expenses for an entire day - for them I'm making her t-shirts that say "This whole fabulous day was brought to me by Lucy and Ricky." She's going to have the best time! And having struggled financially most of her life as a single mother of two and after always putting everyone else first - she deserves it. And I will pay whatever it takes to make it happen - but it would really help me if it wasn't a small fortune!

We arrive in PHX 9/23 and sadly depart 9/28. My plan was to spend our first night in Sedona since we could get there in time for a nice dinner after landing at 3pm in Phoenix. Then two nights at the Grand Canyon (which when I saw for the first time from the north rim I actually wept - it's that breathtaking.) Then I thought we would head back and spend the last two nights in Flagstaff - on the side of town AWAY from those trains! ;-)

The only reservations I've made so far are for two nights (Fri and Sat) at Yavapai. It was the only place in the park that had rooms the nights I needed (and I made those reservations months ago!).

Now having done some research (including this forum!) I have these questions:

1. Jerome has started to sound more interesting than Sedona (which I've driven through but never stayed in). Can anyone suggest decent and affordable accommodations in Jerome? Except for my really liking in-room coffee, we're pretty easy going. Prefer interesting, even quirky, to luxury. Though when called upon, we can do luxury pretty well too! ;-) But again, budget is a consideration. How about dining options in Jerome?

2. Are the jeep tours worthwhile? Sounds like it could be fun. But if you HAD to choose a jeep tour or airplane tour over the canyon, which would you choose?

3. What would you say were the "must" sees or dos between Phoenix and the Canyon? I am planning a visit to Montezuma's Castle. And I?m a rock art (or any art!) junky. Any ideas?

We enjoy just about anything and are always open to exploring. The only thing we don't like are places that feel manufactured.

So thanks in advance for any guidance or suggestions. I am really excited about this "Thelma and Louise" trip and welcome all suggestions for making it go far on a moderate budget.

thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2004, 07:19 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Sounds like a great trip and wonderful surprise! Please post a trip report when you return.

To answer just a couple questions,

1) NO NO NO don't stay / go to Jerome at the expense of Sedona! That would be like eating a hot dog when you can have steak! Not that jerome is bad, but not if it means you can't see Sedona. JMHO.

2) I would prefer a jeep tour over an air tour as you see much more on the ground. Check out Pink Jeep Tours.

3) Neither Montezuma or Walnut Canyon take that much time but are great parks! Also, Scottsdale is a great suburb of Phoenix with fun shopping and restaurants.

Have fun!
ellen_griswold is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2004, 07:37 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 219
Will you be MY sister? This sounds so wonderful and what a fun time planning it!

We just came back from a trip which included Grand Canyon, Sedona and Jerome.

Given a choice, I would definately stay in Sedona over Jerome. While the view from atop the hill in Jerome is pretty, its still a far cry from the incredible red rocks of Sedona. We stayed in Sedona and visited Jerome. Had lunch at "The Haunted Hamburger" and loved it. Sat out on the balcony in back with awesome view over the valley below. Small quirky place with good food.

Are you two into Hiking? While in Sedona, we picked up a Vortex map at a gas station and hiked up to the top of one of the red rocks to "feel" the vortex. There are several vortex areas there, but we chose Boynton Canyon and did not regret it. I can't say I felt any more energy there than anywhere else, but what a feeling standing at the top of those red rocks with an unbeleiveable view! I had wanted to do a jeep tour to get up close and personal with the area, but we opted not to due to cost, so this hike really made me feel like we had "experienced" Sedona.

We loved Montezuma's Castle. We also loved Wupatki National Monument, which we saw when we left Grand Canyon and headed east toward Cameron, then down 89 toward Sedona. Beautiful pueblo you can walk around, but not IN.

And maybe we missed something on our way through Flagstaff, but it just didn't seem like it had much to offer. We hadn't planned any time there, so it really was just a drive by and maybe not a fair observation of the place. But if you're open to a suggestion, maybe do your first night in Jerome and then those last two nights, stay in Sedona, rather than Flagstaff. Sedona just has so much to offer in things to do. Hiking, Slide Rock State Park, Jeep Tours, Shopping, nice restaurants.

We stayed at Sedona Hilton Resort and Spa and absolutely loved it. We had one of their "deluxe guest rooms" which is basically the cheapest room they have. Whereas most of the rooms are suites, ours was a standard 2Q, but had balcony, fireplace, nice bath, fridge, coffee etc. It was 119.00 per night (in early Aug). Theres a great pool there and hot tub and also a whole spa, which I can't comment on since we didn't go there. Nice location not right in the craziness of the town. loved it.

Can't wait to hear how everything ends up! Keep us posted!
mwessel is offline  
Old Aug 21st, 2004, 11:42 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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If by "rock art" you mean petroglyphs then I would do two nights at the Grand Canyon and two nights at Canyon de Chelly and take the half day or all day jeep tour from the Thunderbird Lodge into the canyon. You will see cliff dewelings and many interesting petroglyphs. It's also a very beautiful park!



utahtea is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2004, 01:23 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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You might check out desertquailinn.com for usually decent-rates in Sedona.

If you have a mastercard, check out the "specials"section on budget.com for current discount deal on a rental car.
tracys2cents is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2004, 03:39 AM
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Thank you everyone! This is just the sort of feedback I was looking for.

So sounds like I really should focus on Sedona. I looked into the Hilton - sounds lovely and it has a spa package that includes two, hour-long massages - so now the question is if you had to choose - Jeep tour or massage!? Hehehe. That's a tricky one!

utahtea, Canyon de Chelly is a great suggestion. My husband and I hiked it with a guide last fall - it was unforgettable. That trip also included Arches and Canyonlands. Originally I wanted to take her to Canyone de Chelly on this trip but thought since we really have only four days between our travel days that it might be too much time in th car? Maybe I'm wrong? Anyone know the actual (vs. Mapquest) driving time between the Grand and de Chelly? Would it be reasonable to travel that far and then back to Phoenix for our flight out at 11am Tuesday? I know she would love that area.

Yikes, I already wish I could add more days. And regarding my adopting anymore siblings - it's fine with me, putting this surprises together has been at least as large a gift for me as it will be for her - but you'll have to get in line. When I told my brother what we were doing he said - great idea - and then made a point of reminding me how much he loves St. John.

I am so excited about getting to the southwest again! It gets inside you like few other places do. She's going to love it too, I know it!
thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2004, 11:40 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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What a wonderful sister you are!

As to the choice between a jeep tour or massages, assuming the pricing was equal, I'd vote for the jeep tour. It's really special, and will be something you'll both always remember about Sedona, whereas you can get a message anywhere. (Save it for the next big occasion!) I can recommend the Pink Jeep Broken Arrow Tour.
Judy24 is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2004, 02:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You probably don't have enought time for Canyon de Chelly since your flight is so early in the morning on 9/28. It's a 5 1/2 hour - 6 hour drive back to Phoenix.

utahtea is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2004, 07:54 PM
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I can't tell you all how much help you have been! This trip is getting better and better. I am finally starting to narrow things down but have decided that we will be taking the Broken Arrow tour, hopefully Friday morning. I have also added Wupatki to the itinerary - though I am not certain when yet -- and my husband wants to know how we never learned of that before!

Friday afternoon we head to the Grand Canyon. I'm planning to take the Kaibab Trail route to bring her into the Canyon. I think it will be more breathtaking introduction to the majesty of it than driving through GC VIllage.

Now you've got me rethinking the time in Flagstaff. We really don't have to stay there. I chose it because my husband and I had spent one night on each end of a week in the area last fall and thought it was a funky place worth exploring -- besides we had a really terrific Thai meal there and the truth is I think I only travel to eat. ;-)

(Living in a very rural part of Vermont makes it tricky to gt decent Asian and Indian food. When I travel it's the first thing I look for!)

Thanks for all of the suggestions and wisdom. I so appreciate all of your input! What a great resource this is.

(I made two of the T-shirts today...ha! We leave one month for tomorrow and I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas!)
thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 22nd, 2004, 09:22 PM
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You HAVE to come back and tell us how the surprise and trip went!

utahtea is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 04:16 AM
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Thanks chicgirl. Now I've bookmarked these sites too - (and very much enjoyed the photographer's travel log and images you gave a link to earlier).

I"ve also been in touch with Dennis Young, the star gazing tours guy who I learned about through another of your posts on a differnt thread. We're trying to arrange a "tour" for Sunday night. I love the idea of possibly including the "heavens" and "earth."

Utahtea, I promise I'll post a trip report here when we get back! I'm planning to create a web site that we can update while we're there including photos and video - as time and internet access allow. I'm a web designer with a technology fetish - it's fun for me!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 11:26 AM
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Yikes I hope your niece is up to the task! Packing for someone without them knowing it seems like quite a job! Good luck!

ScottsdalePlazaResort.com has a great $89 AAA or seniors-over-55 rate for those final two nights, InnatEagleMountain.com rates start at $99. 4 star luxury! Check them out, north of Phoenix.
tracys2cents is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 01:12 PM
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Ok. I have a reservation for Thursday at the Hilton and for a Broken Arrow jeep tour on Friday morning. Then two nights/days at Yavapai...then...still to be determined. But I am happier having at least a bed for the first night.

I have decided that I am going to provide a suitcase full of new, and/or new-to-her clothes for this trip. The fact is my sister is consistently financially strapped and I usually give her a couple bags of my clothes around this time of year anyway when I clean out the closet for winter. We can share most shirts, and skirts because I wear mine longish and she's taller than me. I am going to buy her a pair of casual pants - i know the kind and size she wears, and let's not forget she's being given hi-fashion T-shirts! ;-) Another friend is donating a pair of dressier shoes that she bought but has never worn. Some new socks and undies and she'll be good to go. I will bring spare jackets. I will steal her bathing suit in advance since here in VT in September I gaurantee she won't miss it. (Heck, this year she wouldn't have missed it in July!)

The thing about my sister is that her motto is: "Happiness is a choice." And she pretty much lives that way so if she doesn't have her favorite shirt while she's standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, or cruising through red rocks, of all the people I know - she will get over it. In fact it won't even occur to her that she's missing anything.

It's what I think I most love and envy about her. She's not a neurotic fussy control freak like me!

thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 23rd, 2004, 05:13 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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What a great thing to do for your sister! I hope she appreciates it. I took my sister and her two kids to Disney World last year and have yet to receive a thank you. I wasn't expecting anything, and just seeing the enjoyment on the kids' faces was enough, but still you think a simple thank you would just be good manners. Anyway, I know you'll have a good time. Last year in Sedona my husband and I stayed at the Sky Ranch Lodge. A rustic lodge situated beside the airport on top of a hill overlooking Sedona. Fantastic views and the airport has a great restaurant. We were there in February and had a great valentine's day dinner there. I would also recommend Sedona over Jerome. We stayed at the Grand Canyon in one of the rim lodges. Unfortunately it was rainy and foggy the whole time we were there so we didn't see anything impressive. I'm hoping to get back there in November to see what everyone else is raving about.
antlori is offline  
Old Aug 24th, 2004, 03:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Dear thelmaandlouise,

LOVE this idea and love your sister's "happiness is a choice" motto. Here's my motto--"You get what you give." In your case, plenty of happiness and good things will come to you because you are giving to others. I firmly believe the people who give lemons in life get them back in return, including leading a sour life.

Have a great trip. I will post my trip report when we return on Labor Day.
ccrosner is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 03:56 AM
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Thanks for all the encouragement. This surprise business is really exahausting! This trip will be even more welcomed for her as now, her 13 year-old dog (who often outranks her kids for her affection ;-)) is dying and will likely be put down within the week. Bummer.

I am a little stuck now after the Grand Canyon. Thanks to everyone's suggestions I have let go of the idea of spending the last two nights in Flagstaff. Though I do want to visit it - what was I thinking?!

The places I'm thinking to visit on the Sunday and Monday seem to signal heading back to Sedona as a home base.

Here's what I'm thinking -

Arrive Thursday afternoon in PHX
visit Montezuma's Castle on the way to Sedona, check in, go have dinner (somewhere?)

10:00 am jeep tour (which I may switch to 9:00)
Lunch (to be determined - suggestions?)
Drive out to see the painted desert
then to the Crand Canyon in time to be settled in our room and watch the sunset

Hike Bright Angel Trail
Maybe take a plane ride
Drive out to Wupatki Monument in the afternoon

Check out of GC
Wander through Oak Creek canyon, back to Sedona?

From there make trips Sunday and Monday as time and energy allow to: Jerome, Flagstaff, Petrified forest, Honanki Ruins, sit quietly somewhere with a nice Merlot,

Leaving me this question:
Our flight our of PHX is 11:00am we'll need to check in around 10:00. If I allow three hours for driving from Sedona and returning the rental car do you think that's reasonable? Does Phoenix have an awful morning rush hour?

Being on the road by 7:00 is not too awful, both of us our early risers. But I would not want the drive back to the airport to be stressful and rushed, and undo all the R&R we just experienced ;-)

Thanks everyone!

thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 04:28 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 219

Your plan sounds great. And I'm so excited for you. I hope you can keep the secret.

I would just make one suggestion. Rather than leaving the Grand Canyon and going to see Wupatki as a side trip from there....(and dealing with parking issues again when you return that afternoon).....you might be better off just planning on seeing Wupatki on Sunday, as part of your drive back down to Sedona. We did that and it worked out great. No backtracking that way either. We did a leisurely drive heading east out of the park, stopping at several of the viewpoints along the way. Don't miss Grandview, Lipan Point and Desert View. Once you get out of the park and head toward Cameron, there are a lot of roadside Native American stands with beautiful jewelry, pottery and crafts...at great prices. I had to laugh when we saw a sign advertising the next one along the way that said, "Nice Indians next stop".

YOu'll find lots of great suggestions for places to dine in Sedona on this site. We ate at Oaxaca and it was pretty tasty. Southwest and mexican fare with great margaritas. We also ended up getting carry out pizza one night from Blue Moon. That also was good.

You absolutely won't regret going back to Sedona and making trips from there. Sounds like a great idea. Will you stay at same place or try another?

I can't answer about time necessary to get to Phoenix and drop off car.
mwessel is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 05:56 AM
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Seeing Wupatki on the way out is a great suggestion mwessel.

I was looking again my draft initerary and realized that I need to allow some time for just being, and for serendipity. It's hard to not want her to see everything there is to see.

I had forgotten about the roadside vendors! I have several beaded necklaces from earlier trips. Even brought back one for her. It will be fun for her to be able to choose her own.

Is parking at the GC really a nightmare? I just read another post somewhere else about it.
thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 06:42 AM
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More excellent ideas chicgal. I think I'm just beginning to get a grasp on the travel times - and am reworking those days. I think your plan lets me maximize our time and energy.

This is so great!
thelmaandlouise is offline  
Old Aug 25th, 2004, 12:31 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Wow I almost want to chip in nmow too but I'm under pressure from my own overblown travel plans! What a wonderful sister you are.
I'm not sure what the appeal of Flagstaff is other than the Thai food....head back to Sedona, not Jerome.

Don't miss Palatki that someone mentioned...nice petroglyphs (or is it pictographs?) there are some small ruins as well.

Have a great trip!
peterboy is offline  

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