Wednesday, January 29, 2014


My favorite part of the trip planning is the actual purchasing. That is when things start to look real - when I hit print reservation an see that paper that says we have a flight seat or a hotel room waiting for us.

My husband read an article that says that the best time to shop for travel deals is Wednesday between 1-2 am. Well, I didn't wait. On Saturday afternoon, after doing a lot of searches, I purchased our flights, car rental and 2 hotel reservations.

For the flight, what a deal. I was going on expedia and looking for the best dals they offered then going on each specific airline and purchasing it from them. Well, I thought I was going to get pretty sweet deals, but then I resolved to search expedia for individual parts of the trip - that is, one way. It turned out I got even sweeter deals. $1,012.00 round trip for both of us going with Delta and returning with US airways, instead of $1,110.00 (expedia) or $1,096.00 (individual airline websites) going with American and returning with US Airways.

Oh, by the way, careful when purchasing from the AA website. For some unknown reason - maybe a glitch in the website, they do not show all flights in the desktop website, but they show them on the mobile website. The flight missing on the desktop was actually the best priced and the best timed one.

But I didn't purchase AA. Because before I could purchase it, I chose to go on expedia and serach for one-way flights and Delta, instead of AA came up.

Of course, do bear in mind that neither Delta nor US let your checked bags travel free. So travel lightly and only carry cabin luggage.

Now, car rentals.

We chose to go with E-Z rent-a-car . No,we had never heard of it, but instead of almost $300.00, or over 400 of most popular names in car rental.

I figured, I have already experienced so many disappointments with famous big renters, why not try the not so famous one? $184. -1% for joining their rewrads program, -3% for liking them on facebok. $173.00

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Grand Canyon Scenic views

There are some scenic drives in the South Rim. We believe we can get those all done in one day.

Some can be made by car only, others by shuttle only, and others by either one.

On you can find a list of all the drives/routes and download a map of the routes available for the current season.

- Hermit Road Route is done by car during the Winter season and by shuttle from March 1 to November 30. The Round trip takes almost 1.5 hour (80 minutes)

-The Village Route is not a scenic route but it gives access to the Hermit Road Route - it is 50 min round- trip, so I assume a 25-min ride there.

- Kaibab/Rim Route is done by shuttle year round. The round trip takes about 50 minutes. The only reason why this is worth the ride is a view point called Yaki point, which is the only point only accessible by shuttle. They suggest this place as a nice spot for a sunset or sunrise view. Since we won't be staying in the park, the Sunset will be our option. We will schedule our day to be there by sunset. I need to check the SUNSET time for the day we will be there. All the rest of the view points in this route can be done by car on the desert view drive

All these routes are described here (along with hours that the shuttle runs)

- Desert View Drive - car only and the website says the Watchtower can be climbed and offers a great 360 view.

This is enough for a day. I will be looking at the museums and visitor centers to see what is there to see, and where to eat on the next step of my search.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Grand Canyon South and North Rims

The Grand Canyon National Park Website
I feel that the Grand Canyon should not be a simple 1 or 2 day drip. 3 days maybe? 2 days a t the South Rim and 1 at the North Rim?

I was looking at the national park website and there are 2 things I would love to do. The Scenic drives and the hikes.

The website has a lot of information. On the link Operating hours and seasons, you can find the times of the year that each area of the park is open.

The South Rim, being the most popular is open year round and 24 HOURS A DAY. 

The North Rim isn't open year round, so depending on when we end up scheduling our vacation we won't be able to go there. it is only open from May 15 through October 15.

There are also several PDF files that offer maps and trip planners. I printed a couple of them, but it was a stupid thing. It uses a lot of toner. You're better off saving them and using them in the computer and then getting a real one when you're there.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Petrified Forest

Petrified Forest and Painted desert
photo taken from the National park website

Flagstaff is about 1h40m from the entrance to the Petrified Forest national park.

On their website, you can get a list of what kind of things to do depending on how much time you have.

First, it is good to know when you can arrive and when you can leave.
Arrive around 10 am (if we leave hotel at 8)
Leave at 7:30 (to be back at hotel by 9:30)

So, here is a rough outline that I summarized for us:
Start in the South entrance.

If  only 1 hour:
Stop at the Painted Desert Visitor Center (drive through park)
Stop at Rainbow Forest Museum

If several hours:
Stop at Painted Desert Inn Museum
Stop at several overlooks
Walk the Puerco Pueblo Trail, the Giant Logs Trail,

If half a day:
Walk the trails at Painted Desert Rim, Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, Long Logs and Agate House.

If (BIG IF) whole day: Attend some Ranger Programs
Hike into the Wilderness Area

I said BIG IF because if there is time I would like to drive back home via Tuba City, which is a drive of about 4.5 hours.
So we should leave at around 6:30 to be back at the hotel by 11pm.

Very important information
- There is a GAS STATION at the national park!
- The cost of entrance is $10.00 per vehicle.

According to this website :
 "The western-end of the Painted Desert can be accessed north on US 89 from Flagstaff AZ. Drive north past Cameron, into Tuba City. One could spend several hours meandering along either of these routes, enjoying the views, stopping for photo opportunities and shopping at trading posts and gift shops along the way."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ghost Towns - follow up

Vulture City - the Coolest looking Ghost town in the AZ Website will not let you walk around if not on a guided tour, which is only offered on Saturday mornings. What a let down. :(
Well, I guess then, if you are ever within driving distance of Vulture City, on a Saturday morning, go there.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

One way flights

Now thanks to the fact that I have signed up to receive emails from the places where I have miles or points programs, every so often I get an email with a good price on this or that. Unfortunately many times they show you their super low fare, but that is usually not your fare. Usually their super low fare that they advertise is some flight between nothing and nowhere. But still, there are low fares to choose from.

But thanks to one of those emails, I found out something interesting:

It turns out that purchasing one way flights might end up being cheaper and fitting your needs better.

I had gone to Southwest because they had a good sale going. But their return flight was not that great.

So I went to United. A bit too expensive, even thought the flights were a little better.

I went back to my starting point, Expedia
, and found out that the reason why their UA flight was so cheap and with a good time was because they had included US Airways in it. So I checked out US Airways one-way. Great return time and cheaper than United - more expensive than Southwest.

Put together Southwest and US Airways, and you have perfect times, and lower fares.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Miles and emails from travel related places

Well, miles cards are not a bad idea. Every time we travel with a new airline, or stay at a new hotel chain, we check to see whether they are linked to our current miles cards, and if they are not we make a new card with them.

So far we have:


MileagePlus United

AA Advantage

 It turns out that most airlines we travel are connected with one of these 3 miles programs.

Then there is:
Wyndham Hotels membership.

They give us points for extra stays at their hotels or convert the points to miles towards any of our current mileage programs.

Our mileage programs also have other ways to gather miles:
Dining programs, and shopping programs.

Shopping: You register on your mileage program website, and every time you want to shop online, go on their website first, and check whether the store you want is there. Then go to the store using their link and make the purchase that way. You make miles for every purchase done this way.

Dining: You register on your mileage program website, and register a credit card with them - it has to be a different credit card for each program. Every time you want to go out for dinner, you check their website first for a restaurant near you. If that restaurant meets your needs and is giving out miles on that day and time, then go for it and pay with the credit card you have registered.

Your miles won't expire as long as you keep adding miles to them. So this is what I do - I have a chart with our miles and the cards linked to them. When the miles are about to expire (because we haven't flown in a while) I go shopping or go eat out with my husband.

Just this Christmas we did our shopping through Dean's AAdvantage eShopping, because his miles expire in February. We found all the stores we usually shop at, and we bought stuff we definitely needed.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ghost towns

I have mentioned the Arizona tour website before. Here is the link to the Ghost towns page:

We have picked two whose descriptions matched what we were looking for.

1- Oatman, AZ. Not exactly 100% what we were looking for, because it is not an abandoned ghost town, but it does have some interesting attractions as it is a tourist destination. It is 2 hours away from Hoover Dam so we might just go there before we hit our motel for the night.

2- Vulture City Ghost Town - 100% what we are looking for. A town where everyone has packed up and left and it is completely uninhabited. There is a lot of websites out there that talk about it and even offer tours (such as four-wheelers tours), but the legitimate website seems to be the one I got as a link form the Wickenburg Website Click on About Wickenburg, and on Things to do in Town
Then the link to the offical tour place is on item number four - Vulture Mine Tours.
They are 2 hours guided tours.
Cost: $10/person (CASH!!!!! take cash on your vacation, you frequently come across places like this. What a shame to miss out on a great tour because you didn't bring pieces of that green paper)
There is only one disappointment - our Saturdays are nowhere near this place - I really mean nowhere near (even for Western standards, because of our flight schedules).
So I emailed them and asked if we can at least walk around. I am still waiting to hear from them.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Nearby: Sky Walk, Hoover Dam, Route 66, church

I have promised to describe how I am fitting things in for a next post.

In this post:

Well, the Loop around was one thing I gave a serious consideration.

It is true that motels will give you discounts when you spend 3 days or more with them. However, some times the higher fee is worth the comfort of not driving an extra 4 hours there and four hours back to your destination the next day.

As much as I like the comfort of not having to pack up and move every morning, having grown up with a nomadic mom, I feel the need to settle down, but I can never bring myself to do it - something inside me keeps finding reasons to be on the move. Besides, I did made myself the promise to spend less time on a car and more time on my feet, so the subtraction of the extra 4 driving hours x 2 does make the higher rate worth it.

We will land in Vegas and drive to Hoover Dam. We might not take the tour, but we will walk over the dam and take pictures.

Then we will head to a town called Kingman, and probably stay the Knights Inn for a total cost of 41.99 for the night. We will probably arrive there with plenty of time to get to know Kingman, so I will do some research on what's up in Kingman AZ.

The Famous Route 66 also happens to lead to Kingman, so we will make sure we drive on it to Flagstaff.
Knights Inn in Kingman
 From there it is just a 1.5 hours drive to The Sky Walk  vs a 4 hours drive from Flagstaff (not counting the other four hours we'd have spent driving there the night before.

The place has free breakfast and every room has microwave and refrigerator (same is true for the Knights Inn in Flagstaff.

As I looked around in the map, we did find a Christian church (baptist and several cathlic ones on the same road of the Baptist. We figured, since it will be a Sunday we should make it to church. We got the church's website and their Sunday worship service hour.

Amount of time needed for The Grand Canyon West (Sky Walk trip) - on their FAQ page, they recommend 4 hours. Since starting in April (till Ocotber) they are open from 7am to 7pm, if we get there at 1 pm, we have a good 6 hours. So we go to church in the morning (11am-12pm) and head to SkyWalk after the service. Their restaurant is open till 9pm.

Reservations to SkyWalk - they take reservations, but We have chosen to not do it, because their weather cancellation policy is bad for us - there is no refund. You just have to go back another day. So we will just purchase our package when we get there.

The Grand Canyon West FAQ page has some interesting info - about places to eat, fuel, and lodging close to them.

At around 6 we can make the 4.5 hour drive to flagstaff via route 66. This will put us in Flagstaff at 10:30 pm. So we really should not leave after 6 pm.

Is it worth paying more money to the car rental agency to have two drivers? We are discussing that idea. And we should also look into how not to pay extra for 2 drivers. I wonder if any agency will give you that for free if you have a loyalty card or ... something.  I will look into that.

Knights inn in Flagstaff