Grand Canyon Vacation Planning: Your Favorite Mistake

Good morning travelers! No, I’m not about to start singing Sheryl Crow songs ūüôā Today’s post is about the two most common mistakes made in the Grand Canyon Vacation planning process, which happen to be illustrated by not one but two trending threads on TripAdvisor.

Mistake #1: trying to cram too many destinations into a limited amount of time. ¬†In a query titled “Vegas-Grand Canyon National Park -Bryce-Zion-Vegas in 3 nights,” ¬†‘brooklyndan1’ writes:

Traveling w/3 active teenage daughters. I have 3 nights from a Tuesday to Friday to leave Las¬†Vegas. Can I do all 3 NP’s not rushed. Maybe 2 nights at GCNP and one at Bryce or Zion. I just would like a good taste of all 3. Don’t need a full meal at each ;0) ¬†I can leave on Tuesdasy morning, I need to be back in Vegas by Friday late afternoon (by 5-6 pm). I assume I should do the South Rim with all the amenities, although the north rim seems like an easier trip to hit all 3.

This is a common pitfall in Grand Canyon vacation planning, and I don’t blame ‘brooklyndan1’ one bit! He sounds like a busy dad, his time is at a premium, and there’s so dang much to see out here, it’s tempting to try and work it all in somehow, someway. Indeed, ‘awinatl’ offers up this suggested itinerary:

It can be done but is quite a bit of driving. I would do something like this:

Tue- Zion and possibly leave for Bryce in the late afternoon (a lot of driving that day though)

Wed- Bryce and head to Page, AZ in the late afternoon

Thur- checkout Page area and head to GC early/mid afternoon–make it to GC by sunset

Fri- GC until an early lunch and then back to LV

Bryce is a little out of the way for what you want to do but is a very cool place to see.

If all that’s making your head spin, here’s what it looks like on a map:


View Larger Map
Tucson Destination Expert ‘Bob B’ attempts to bring a little sanity to the situation:

I would make a choice: Zion and Bryce, or I would suggest an alternative of Grand Canyon National Park with some of the attractions near it. But all 3 in 3 days, no. You could wave to them as you drove past on the way to the next. These are very large natural areas over very long distances.

Here’s what I brought to this Grand Canyon vacation planning discussion:

GCNP-Bryce-Zion in 3 nights? Not my idea of fun, especially with 3 active teenage girls (I used to be one back in the dark ages). You’re going to be sitting in the car most of your vacation. IMO they – and you – would enjoy Lake Powell (Page). It’s just 2.5 hours from¬†Grand Canyon South Rim¬†and has a lot to offer, not just beautiful scenery (think¬†Grand Canyon¬†with water in it), but fun activities such as the Colorado River Float Trip, 4×4 tours to Antelope Slot Canyon, boating on Lake Powell itself, either by rental or tour boat. If you go with a rental boat, maybe add a tube or wakeboard to your package. I think that would be fun for the girls!

We’ll see what ‘brooklyndan1’ decides. We’ve always said that you can do whatever you put your mind to when it comes to your Grand Canyon vacation, but we also maintain that “quality” trumps “quantity” when it comes to using your Grand Canyon vacation time wisely.

Mistake #2: Another trap Grand Canyon vacation planners tend to fall into is overthinking their trip plan. Our old buddy ‘daruwala’ is doing this very thing right now:

Ok, we have about 6 hrs at the Grand Canyon. Driving from Las Vegas. Should reach Grand Canyon National Park around 10am. Once we enter the park thru South Rim, where to then? Drive west on Village Loop Dr to Rim Dr to Hermits Rest? Drive east on Entrance Rd? Park the car and use park shuttles? Is it a good idea to drive inside the park or use shuttles? I understand there is a visitors center at the entrance, but then what? We have about 6 hours, want to cover as much as possible and take some nice pics with kids (6 & 8).

Just reading this makes me want to tell ‘daruwala’ “whooooooooaaaaaa, buddy, chill!” It’s great that he is planning his Grand Canyon vacation in this much detail, even just a day visit. But there’s no one “best” way to enjoy the Grand Canyon once you arrive there.

When you arrive at the park, you’ll be given a map of Grand Canyon South Rim, which points out the roads you can drive (East Rim/Desert View) and those you can’t (West Rim/Hermit’s Rest). You’ll also receive a copy of “The Guide,” the Grand Canyon National Park Service’s quarterly newspaper that gives suggestions for how best to use the time you have, whether it’s a couple of hours or a couple of days.

‘daruwala’s’ best bet? Get to the park, pay your fee, go to the Canyon View Information Plaza, get your bearings and go from there. Walk across the street to Mather Point and take in that first breath-taking view of the Grand Canyon. Once that happens, you might find that you “let the day take you” as Meryl Streep said in “The Bridges of Madison County.” I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘daruwala’ threw his well-drawn-up plans entirely out the window. ¬†That’s OK. Your Grand Canyon vacation is about discovery, on your own terms. Think about it too much, and after awhile it feels like work. Isn’t that the one thing you want to be able to forget about on your Grand Canyon vacation?

That’s all for now! Talk to you soon, and make your day a “grand” one!

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