I had intended a weekly installment to this blog, but some technical snafus and some other life issues interceded. Along those lines, a trip needed to be planned and rather than writing about planning a trip, I actually had to do the planning. Let’s try for twice a month going forward, okay?
So where are we going, anyway? It is a week in early November, adults only, and I immediately ruled out a typical city vacation–New York, Chicago, San Francisco, etc. You can do those any time of the year, and I wanted to re-explore another location in the fall season, somewhere only traveled previously in the crowded summer season. The choices came down to national parks in the West versus a quick return to northern Italy–with options like those, how can you lose?
It turns out that November is an excellent time, perhaps optimal time, to visit either of these venues. The temperature is cooler, and the crowds are much thinner. The prices are considerably lower, and some of the difficult-to-get lodging reservations are a bit less difficult-to-get. The big expense for the Italy vacation would be the air fare. After that, the lodging, activities, and food are quite reasonable, especially in the current strong dollar environment. The national park trip is the opposite–cheap flights and expensive lodging, at least in the more desirable accommodations. So how did we decide? We let the senior person in the party make the decision and ended up with the national park trip. So here it is…
Flight to Las Vegas (yuck, I know), rent a car and drive 2 hours and 45 minutes directly to Zion National Park. Fortunately, there were large rooms available in the historic lodge inside the park–very difficult to get in season, but we were able to snag a room for early November. Zion weather should be fall-like, highs in the 60’s, lows in the 40’s, great for hiking anytime, day or night. Another indication that the park will be less crowded is that the shuttle service is discontinued in November–no complaints here!
Next, we drive 4 hours and 40 minutes to the South Rim, Grand Canyon. The North Rim is closer, but the facilities close for the season on November 1. We were able to get lodging at the Kachina Lodge, next to the historic El Tovar, but arguably with better views (if you luck into the room with the view). I am still hoping for a one-night stay at the bottom of the canyon, at the storied and rustic Phantom Ranch. This will require a cancellation and a phone call at precisely the right moment. Good luck with that!
The third and final stop on this western tour, after a 2 hour and 20 minute drive, will be in Sedona, AZ, a spot that I have not yet before visited. I understand that the scenery is outstanding, with the impressive red sandstone formations. Our accommodations are at the highly rated (and aptly named) Enchantment Resort. I like to end an outdoors trip on a note of relative luxury, when possible, and this resort does not appear likely to disappoint. On the morning of Day 8, we fly home from Phoenix.
And there you have it–a trip to two national parks and to Sedona, AZ, planned six weeks in advance, in the middle of the fall season. I will end with some important links for anyone who wishes to recreate the trip or use it as a starting point for your own research. The next several blogs in this series will focus on activity planning, dining, and other elements related to this upcoming vacation, followed by the trip summary and some do’s and don’t’s.