This summer our family planned a last minute trip to Arizona. Something fun to do with our son before he started Kindergarten. Planning a family trip can always be stressful and very time consuming. Even more so, when traveling with a toddler. You always need to be prepared because kids are always full of surprises. I am just hoping I can save you the hours of research and just breakdown some of our fun, mishaps, and lucky finds. I have included some costs to look for on your trip and family tips we learned as well. Here are 3 key steps I found essential to planning a family trip to Arizona.
- Activities – First things first, I like to look at all the beautiful And fun places I could find, in this case it was specific for Northern Arizona. I went through and found what locations and adventures would work well with our little one. Of course, the major attraction was the Grand Canyon but I also found tons to do in Sedona which included; Slide Rock,Red Rock, the Holy Cross, & Jeep cruises. I also had heard about a cool zoo (Bearizona), on the way back from the Grand Canyon, just about half way between the Canyon and Sedona.
- A place to stay – keeping in mind that our focal point was the Grand Canyon, we wanted to be close enough to drive a day out to explore it and still be around the other major attractions in Northern Arizona, mainly Sedona. Upon research I was given hotels in the city over from the Grand. However, most of them were already booked. Apparently, people plan for the Grand Canyon far in advance, and while there I was surprised on how many overseas travelers we came across. We did not want a hotel with two young children (trip also included my nephew and brother and sister in law). Hotel sleep arrangements restrict us and our children need a certain sleep environment to sleep well. Plus, we wanted to enjoy some grown up family time at night and be able to be in the same area while the children slept. After further searching, I began to look at other locations nearby on Sedona. So in the next city over, Cottonwood, we found an adorable renovated dairy farm turned cottage home on airbnb called the Verde Dairy District This home had river access, which would guarantee us some family fun. We were able to get some great deals on Amazon for a Kayak and an inflatable boat. We were thinking Arizona is going to be so hot, much hotter than CA. So, we would have liked a pool but a river was even better, something we didn’t get at home.
- Itinerary– About a week or so before I started to put together my Itinerary schedule, based off my research. Since we had a long drive ahead, I made sure to put the Grand Canyon in the middle of the trip, giving us and the kids some breathing room from the long drives. For my Itinerary (see below) I set up a day by day of the main places we wanted to hit. I started with the river access for our first full day. However, we all got excited and the kids slept so good that we decided to hit Sedona that first full day. So Day 2 & 4 got swapped. Not too much off from the original itinerary and although I love a schedule, I like to relax and go with the flow on vacation. As long as I feel prepared and know all the things I can do, I do not restrict my family on a diligent regimen, as we do at home. It is VACATION after all , enjoy your FAMILY & FREE TIME.
Additional Tips For Cost Saving and families : At the market we bought enough for breakfast each morning, sandwiches and snacks for lunch, plenty of waters for the hikes out, as well as dinner for a couple of days. Going out to eat with toddlers is an adventure in itself, so not only did we save in cost but we spared ourselves on trips out to restaurants with the kids. We ate dinner at the rental the first night. We figured we would all be drained from the long drive. We also ate dinner on the long day back from the grand Canyon. We found a great place for dinner on our day at to Sedona and one for Jerome.
DAY 1: Take Off
Take off 9am from SO CAL to Cottonwood, AZ 86326.
About 7 hour drive : ETA 4pm. (Showed up just in time for check-in)
Local Grocery store for Airbnb: Safeway
Made dinner, played cards and board games, put the kids to bed.
DAY 2 : Sedona
From Cotton wood, the first scenic area we hit was RedRock Park – $15 car entrance fee.
We took the easiest hike for the kids. Packed lunches.
After, we bought the 8$ Parking for the day in Sedona and hit the route below for photo ops with our family.
Highway Scenic route for the Holy Cross, Cathedral, etc:
Dinner ideas: Elote opens 5pm-9pm only. Closed Sunday and Monday. Long lines but so worth the wait.
Afternoon: Slide Rock- $25 park/permit fee awesome place to cool down for the summer. Amazing experience and our favorite place in the trip!
DAY 3 : Grand Canyon
Early rise take off by 6am, 2 hour drive.
Drive to:Follow AZ-89A N/N State Rte 89A and I-40 W to AZ-64 N in to Williams continue one US- 180, follow until S. Entrance RD. Fee- $25
Leave GC by noonish to 1pm for boys to take a nap. Ate packed lunches.
Get to Williams area for ZOO – Bearizona around 2pm
Bearizona Wildlife Park
1500 Historic Rte 66, Williams, AZ 86046
park closes @6pm. Carload max – $120 Adults- 25$ Kids 4 over 15$
Drive home in time for boys bedtime.
We planned for a Flagstaff visit but didn’t really see any thing imparticular to stop by for, I have heard of winter activities. North Pole train <weblink> But we came in August, so we didn’t stop.
DAY 4: Stay local -River and Jerome
River in the AM/ Cottonwood: Verde River around 10am.
We planned for the river, however due to a storm it was flooded with dirt and debris. We decided to do another day of SlideRock. No regrets.
KIDS NAP After. Ate packed lunches.
Late Afternoon: Jerome (ghost town)- Mine Museum.
Asylum For dinner. A little pricey but the view is beautiful. Order their specialty the LAMB, also there butternut squash is delicious (has a kick)! My husband didn’t care for his pasta. The kids meals were big in portions.
DAY 5: Check out
Breakfast and head out.
Local PHX lunch on the drive home.