By Cece Drummond
Managing Director, Destinations & Experiences, Virtuoso
I’d never explored our country’s national parks, but I always dreamed of doing so. With 59 of them operated by the National Park Service around the U.S., I decided to start with one of the most famous, Grand Canyon National Park.
Questions piled up immediately: How do we get there, how long do we need, where do we stay – can we actually stay in the park? Online options proved as vast as the canyon itself, leading to one rabbit hole after another. To make it easy, my husband and I decided to try our first escorted tour. I admit I was a little apprehensive about giving up control and traveling with strangers, but I was pleasantly surprised.
We went with Globus, which has escorted travelers all over the globe for more than 85 years. Their Grand Canyon options range from 8 to 15 days; to fit our timing and budget, we opted for the 8-day Canyon Country Adventure. A Virtuoso travel advisor can help you decide which itinerary is best.
Our group of 44 people from across the U.S. met up in Scottsdale and gelled nicely – everyone was punctual, very cordial, and sociable throughout the trip. And while the average age skewed 65 to 70 years old, many were quite active and set out on rigorous hikes in the park.
We visited Sedona, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley, Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park, spending 1-2 nights in each place. (Tip: Pack light for comfortable transfers.) Most of us returned home after our farewell dinner in Las Vegas, though some chose to extend their time there, which Globus coordinated.
Lisa, our tour director, made the trip a big success. Every day on the bus, as we reviewed the itinerary she detailed drive times, dining plans, and the evening’s accommodations. Most importantly, she provided entertaining narration about the sites along the way. This was my vacation – I could just sit back, relax, and have someone else handle logistics! That’s the beauty of a great escorted trip: The destination comes alive while you learn about its history, culture, and natural beauty – with insider tips and a dash of humor to round it out.
“This is what a trip should be,” my husband said one day. “Entertaining, informative, and hassle-free.” After a lifetime of independent travels, I couldn’t agree with him more.
Travel Tips from Cece
- Pack light, seriously — You will be unpacking and packing throughout the week as you move hotels. I recommend just two pairs of shoes – light cross-trainers (sneakers) for exploring and walking, plus another casual pair for evening. Nothing dressy is needed – that was the beauty of this trip.
- Outerwear – Think layers like fleece and windbreakers (for the occasional rain). On long bus drives, it is nice to have that fleece.
- Day packs/bags — Your bus is your base, so you may want a larger bag to leave on the bus and then take a smaller one on your tours. Nylon bags weigh nothing and can work for a quick trip to the market as well.
- Phone storage — Make sure you have enough storage on your phone. If that is your single source of taking photos, it will fill up quickly with so much fantastic scenery.
- Hotels – Check out all the hotels in advance to see what amenities they offer, as well as their restaurants and bars. Ours all had coffee pots, so we were happy.
- Meals – Don’t stress about meals. Our lunch stops offered convenient options and we usually had a choice at night, too. Ask your guide for ideas if you need them – they know these places so well!