Monday, March 21, 2011

Have Kids, Will Travel

Ten Tips for Tackling the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with the Under 10 Crowd.

1. Pre-trip Hype
Get buy-in before you enter the park! Involve your family in the pre-trip planning. Find fun books about the canyon - the twins loved Clarence & The Great Surprise for the little ones.   Brighty of the Grand Canyon and The Tail of the Scorpion are set aside for our reader.  The pre-trip debriefing also led to the discovery that Charlie does not like the word "hike." So, instead, we went on several 'journeys' and 'adventures'.

2. Join the Junior Rangers

As you enter the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, one of your first stops will be the new Visitor's Center.  They have several longer hikes detailed on the signs outside and interesting exhibits inside.
The kids all received a Junior Ranger activity book which was a great way for them to stay connected to the trip.  The activities range from counting animals to writing about your adventure.  We didn't complete the Junior Ranger program because the kids tired out before  the ranger led-evening programs started, but they still enjoyed their workbooks.

3.  Picture Perfect

The $2 disposable cameras were a huge hit - and a big distraction for Charlie who had to hike travel by foot an entire 5 minutes from the car to the overlook at Mather Point.

4. Lodging
You could get your fill of the Grand Canyon in a one hour visit or two week adventure. Camping is an option, but we weren't prepared to camp.  We had less than 24 hours and managed to sneak in just before the Spring season started.  We stayed at Maswik Lodge in the park.  It was a step up from camping - clean, warm, but no hot water.  Bright Angel & El Tovar look a bit fancier, but these hotels book early.

You can also find hotels just outside the park (search south rim Grand Canyon) and many more in Williams, Arizona. You can take the train from Williams, AZ into the park.  The south rim is not very large - during peak season, it would be worth the price of train tickets to avoid the traffic. In any event, keep in mind that for kids, the lodging is part of the fun.

5. Hike or Walk?
If you are planning a day hike, do your research.   Given Charlie's stance, I knew a steep hike was out of the question, but, I was pleased at how many 'flat' walks we were able to take. The Rim Trail was perfect for us - and there were many strollers along the path as well.  Even if your little ones aren't cooperating & a hike into the canyon is out of the question, you can enjoy the outdoors & tremendous views.

6. Park Your Car
This is a small park with limited parking spots! If you drive into the canyon, find a parking spot (i.e., at the Visitor's Center) & use the free shuttle buses. There are three different routes - and all easy to use.  You can also opt for several guided tours of the canyon.

7. Keep them Fed & Hydrated
I forgot snacks when we went out to Hermit Road.  Yes, we had just eaten breakfast, but the kids still wanted snacks about half way into the route.  Thankfully, the snack bar at Hermit's Rest had reasonably priced powdered donuts & drinks.  Bright Angel Lodge had reasonable prices for food for dinner.

8. Mind the Weather
There is no such thing as bad weather - only bad clothing. The weather changes quickly here & when kids are uncomfortable, everyone suffers.  While the paths we stayed on were all stroller/wheel chair friendly, stick with closed toe shoes & dress in layers.

9. Know When to Quit
In the morning, we rode the shuttle buses along Hermit Road.  The views were spectacular! If you want, you can walk between stops, or just ride the whole way.  If you don't stop, the trip takes 75 minutes. There are 9 overlooks along the way & you can get out at each one.  Another bus comes along every 15 minutes.  Unless you have super kids, don't try to stop at every one. Pick a few & find "ranger" activities to discuss- what are they feeling/thinking/wishing/smelling at various spots along the way?

Most of the drop-offs aren't too scary, but when the kids stop listening & can't stop running, it's time to take a snack break.

10.  Sunset
The sunset was a bit underwhelming when we visited.  I think it would be better later in the summer. Two suggestions for viewing sunset on the South Rim are Yaki Point (take shuttle from the Visitors Center) and Mohave or Pima Point (Hermit Road shuttle).  The hotels will have sunset/sunrise posted.  
- Be sure to get on the bus early enough to get a spot - it's a crowded time of day.  
- It gets cold quickly - bundle your kiddos! 
- This is the sunset view near Pipe Creek Vista on Desert Road.  You can either drive, take a shuttle or walk here from Mather Point (near Visitor's Center).  One kid was tired & done by now, so we skipped the shuttles/crowds.

Bon Voyage! 


Paula said...

LOVELY photos! I really like your approach, and you list so many good tips on traveling with little ones :) I'll be referring back to your post when we get ready to go to Tucson next month.

Nancye said...

I love the photos and suggestions for traveling with kids. I'll have to remember those when my niece gets older.