Top 5 Tips for Planning An Itinerary

Top 5 Tips

Planning a trip the Southwest or anywhere for that matter? Not sure where to start? Itinerary planning can be pretty tricky, and most often should be left to the experts. With the ease of user-friendly booking websites, most people think trying their hand at making their own itinerary will help save them time and money. Yes, it can – but it may not always save you effort.  We spend hours creating itineraries every day, and we think we’ve learned a thing or two about planning itineraries – and we are glad to share these tips with you!

When we plan itineraries, we look at a few different things that you’re probably familiar with:

1.Dates
2. Important Must-See’s
3. Hotel Reservations
4. Transportation
5. How to get from place to place (maps, train schedules, directions, and much more)

These are all important elements and need to be included – but itineraries are so much more than just specific reservations. Itineraries are hard to create, especially if you aren’t familiar with the area. They’re kind of like a puzzle (hence the photo). However, with these tips hopefully it will become easier for you to plan a fantastic itinerary for you and your family or whomever you are travelling with!

So, in no particular order:

Tip #1: Don’t Try & Fit Too Much In

This is a very common mistake with most travellers. They are so keen to get everything done in one shot – because, let’s face it – they may never make it back there again (depressing 😦 ). While it is important to ensure you include your must-sees’, it is also important to build in some downtime. Without downtime, your vacation will feel like a whirlwind. Some people are into that style of travel- but most of us treasure our 2 weeks off and want to make sure that it is enjoyable and fruitful but also leaves us well-rested.

Tip #2: Think About Contingencies

When I build itineraries, I like to look at them and think. What happens if this doesn’t work? Where would I go? How would I get there? It’s also really important to build in some buffer time (i.e don’t schedule a flight to land at 7:01 when your pick up time is at 8:00 an 40 minutes away from the airport, 19 minutes is cutting is close!) While that seems pretty self-explanatory, you will be thankful for that little bit of buffer time when the pilot announces that you’re running 2 hours behind. Instead of having to sweat and run through an airport, or worse thinking about how you’re going to meet up with the tour group that is currently departing without you, you’ll be able to rest assured that you have some time built in so you don’t need to rush. While you can’t always plan for everything, at least you’ve thought about some major potential issues and what you would do in case the worst case scenario happens (If you have every travelled before…something WILL go wrong).

Tip #3: Embrace the Local Culture

As easy as it is to gravitate to the comforts of home, trying new things in a new place is always a key to understanding and embracing local culture and getting the most out of your experience. Even in the Southwest that is possible. Whether it is trying a Navajo taco outside of Monument Valley or some of the local fresh made pies along the way to Bryce Canyon, the area definitely has opportunities for you to try new things or things that are specific to the area. Learning about the culture is also a great way to feel less like a tourist and more like a traveller. Learning and embracing cultures can take your trip itinerary from touristy to meaningful.

Tip #4: Build a Budget

As important as an itinerary is with all of the details, a budget is an important part of vacation planning. Whether you use a scrap piece of paper to jot down notes or a detailed spreadsheet, a rough idea of what things are going to cost will help keep you organized and on track. Vacations can add up quickly, so it is important to have idea of what things cost – and what you can afford to help keep you on track. But, vacations are also about the experience, so if you’re thinking about penny pinching in destination on a once in a lifetime opportunity…my advice is to throw your budget to the wind – the experience is always worth it! (With caution, obviously!)

Tip #5: Details Are Important

Forgot the confirmation? Don’t have the hotel address and your GPS has failed? Not sure what day you’re checking out or what the tour cancellation policy is? These are all important details to keep in mind. With my itineraries, I like to have all of the pieces of info I could possibly want or need just in case I don’t have internet access: address, phone number, hours of operation, directions, key info, prices, etc. Most people aren’t like me and forget the details – and that’s OK if you are flying by the seat of your pants. But I’m pretty sure you’ll want the details on how to change your flight when the seat of your pants is taking you to Aruba instead of flying home like you thought you were going to!

All in all, planning an itinerary should be fun, not stressful! It is planning your vacation after all! Are you ready to plan your itinerary? Do you think you will use any of the above tips?

Let us know some of your tips below! Or you can just contact us for your next itinerary and leave the planning to the experts! 🙂

Winter Travel in the Southwest

Travel in the winter months doesn’t need to be a single adventure trip!  When most think of winter vacations, it’s limited to skiing in the cold air or a warm beverage by a crackling fire.  Well, that does sound nice, but what if there was more to do?  What about one day on the slopes, repel down a narrow slot canyon the next, followed by a snowshoe hike through a pristine Ponderosa Pine forest?  Or maybe you would prefer an adventurous ride over sandstone trails on the seat of an ATV.  Welcome to the Southwest, where anything is possible!

The southwest United States, centered on the four corners states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona is known for its warm temperatures and arid climate.  But this corner of the country, also known as the Mountain West, is a winter wonderland filled with a multitude of winter recreation.

So, let’s start with the obvious!  With over 60 alpine ski resorts and a multitude of Nordic ski centers between these four states, the terrain is endless!  Whether you’re looking to shred the ever popular resorts of the Colorado Rockies like Vail, Copper Mountain, Aspen, or Telluride or the champagne powder of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains at resorts like Alta, Snowbird, Park City, or Deer Valley, you will find a wide variety of skiable terrain.  But let’s not forget those lesser known resorts like New Mexico’s Toas Ski Valley and Angel Fire Resort or Arizona’s Sunrise Resort and Arizona Snowbowl.  No matter where you choose, the possibilities are limitless!

So what do you do if hitting the slopes is not your thing?  With over 40 million acres of National Forest, 14 National Parks, and over 100 State Parks and National Monuments there is plenty to see!

Maybe a snowmobile tour through a wide open mountain pasture or a guided snowshoe trip through those ponderosa pine forests.  With all the snow this area receives, there are more opportunities than one could count.

So with most winter activities focused on snow sports we tend to overlook the warmer weather activities.  Get out of these wonderful mountains and you’ll find a few of the activities you love in the summer are available in this region year around.  With average winter temps in Moab UT running from the mid-40s to the upper-50s and an average precipitation per month of less than an inch, this is an outdoor recreation lover’s mecca!  Mountain biking, rock climbing, canyoneering, and a plethora of 4×4, and ATV trails just to start.  Add in the two National Parks in the area, Arches and Canyonlands, and it can be a photographers dream!  Stray outside of this area and find a land unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.  From the human-like hoodoos of Goblin Valley to the Antelope slot canyons and Glen Canyon Recreation Area of Page AZ.  From the famous Bryce Canyon National Park to the high cliffs and endless trails of Zion Canyon.  From the ancient Anasazi ruins of Mesa Verde National Park, to the towering buttes of historic Monument Valley.  Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it here in your nation’s backyard.

Now, if you plan on visiting this beautiful country, keep in mind this is the desert southwest. You can drive for miles without passing a town or city so always be prepared.  If you’re planning a trip driving yourself, be sure you’re always stocked with a full tank of fuel, extra water, extra blankets, and first aid kit.  Always check road conditions and be prepared for changing weather.  Cell service can be very spotty in the desert southwest, so always stay in your comfort zone when traveling.

Another way to see this beautiful country is by booking a trip with a company like Southwest Adventure Tours or another tour company that supplies guided services.  These companies specialize in arranging travel itineraries and guided driven tours with hotel accommodations, park fees, and meals.  However you see this area, come and see it, you won’t be disappointed!

Where do you want to travel this winter?

Arches NP Landscape Arch

Mesa Arch Sunrise Winter Canyonlands

Winter in the Southwest

Bryce in the winter

GET TO KNOW OUR GUIDES: TOMMY

“After being born in central Texas my family moved to New Mexico when I was around 5 years old. There I learned to snow ski, and my passion for the outdoor life grew.

After graduation my path took me to Colorado where I spent the winters skiing, and the summers exploring the National Parks, and public lands of the Western United States.

Many adventures have led me to a few different different places I have called home. New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and now Salt Lake City Utah where I reside with my 2 wonderful boys Aden, and Eli.

Guiding for Southwest Adventure Tours I have been referred to as many things, guide, personal trainer, drill sergeant, and therapist. I will take you to beautiful places, push you that few extra steps, and show you ways to face and overcome the fears that you have.
With a passion for the southwest, photography, food, and geology, I can show you different ways to compose, and shoot photos while we eat at great food establishments, and explain the intricacies of millions of years of creation that has given us this place we call the Desert Southwest.

I love to meet new people, and show them around this beautiful place I call home! Hope to see you all soon, so we can explore it together!”

 

 

Guide Tommy

 

 

GET TO KNOW OUR GUIDES: JIM

“Born in the heart of Texas, I’ve been enjoying life in the core of the Desert Southwest since my early teens when my folks packed up the wagon and moved to Durango, Colorado. Since then, I’ve had addresses in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Utah but I’ve never once thought of living anywhere else. Well, there was that little stint in West Texas but that’s another story…
 Admittedly a desert rat, I currently reside at approximately 9 o’clock on the perimeter of the Grand Circle, having chosen this area as the ultimate desert base camp. Be it Mojave, Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Great Basin or the Plateaus of the Grand Staircase and Four Corners regions, I never met a desert I didn’t like. I believe nature (and especially the desert) has something to say to us all, if we’re ready to hear it.
“Well that’s great and all but what kind of a guide are you”?
 Maybe a little different. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about anything. I’m very content to know just a little about a lot of stuff. I have an appreciation for geology, biology, history and the like in as much as they contribute to my relationship (love affair) with the desert, but you won’t hear me calling anything by its scientific name. Honestly, I’d rather romanticize than categorize. While sharing my unique perspective, I reserve the right to speculate about anything.
 But be advised, I will invite you to step out of your comfort zone and hike a little further, see and feel a bit more, to put yourself out there and see what the Southwest has in store for you. Let’s explore it together.”
Guide Jim

Southwest Adventure Tours Giveaway!

Hi Everyone!

We are SO excited to announce our next giveaway!

 

2prizes

Here are the 2 AMAZING prizes you can win!

(1) Grand Canyon Railway Adventure:
– One night accommodations at the Grand Canyon Railway hotel in Williams, AZ
– Round trip first class train travel from Williams (for 2 adults over the age of 18) to the south rim of the Grand Canyon
– Live old west entertainment from cowboys and musicians
– Expires 09/30/2015
– Valued at over $450 USD

Websitehttp://www.thetrain.com/

 

(1) White Stallion Ranch near Tuscon, AZ
– 2 Guests
– 3 day/2 night stay
– Includes All Meals and Ranch Activities (Space available and not available in High Season or Holiday Seasons
– Expires 12/31/2016
– Horseback Rides including desert, mountain, breakfast, slow and fast rides, all day, half day, wine and cheese rides, beer and Cheetos ride, and team cattle penning (No riding on Sundays). Riding instruction is available at an additional charge.
– Other activities include guided hikes, hayrides, barbecues, rodeos, and a petting zoo.
– they have a heated pool, redwood hot tub, lighted tennis and sports court.
– Valued at over $1200 USD.

Websitehttp://www.whitestallion.com/

 

Click below for all of the ways to enter! You can also share with your friends and if they enter – you get bonus entries as well (up to a maximum of 10 extra entries).  Must be 18 years or older and a resident of USA or Canada to enter (See full terms & conditions on the link!)

Happy sharing and good luck!

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Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park

One of the most commonly asked questions about hikes in Zion National Park is about the Narrows. It is one of the most unique hikes in the area. Prepare to be wet! Most hikers wade waist deep or even swim through portions.  It is a truly special place but one that you need to know a few things before starting to hike it. Plan on spending 60% of your time in the water and the remaining time walking on the riverbank.

It’s a pretty tough hike with uneven ground and walking upstream against the current of the Virgin River – so it is important to be prepared!

First of all, there are two ways/areas to hike in the Narrows:

1.Bottom Up Hike From the Temple of Sinawava (no permit required) (Best for first time river hikers/those with only a short time in the park!)

Hiking in The Narrows upstream as far as Big Spring does not require a permit. Doing the hike this way allows you to see some of the most spectacular and narrowest parts of the canyon. You can hike in the river for an hour and have a great experience, or you can hike as far as Big Spring, a strenuous, ten-mile round trip, all-day adventure. This trip starts in Zion Canyon – ride the shuttle to Temple of Sinawava (about 45 mins). This trip during the summer is OK for most kids 4 feet or taller. The nice thing about going this way is you can turn back at any point. From the parking lot, it is usually about 2-3 hrs till you get to the part of the Narrows known as “Wall Street”. Also note that most hikers say it takes 2/3 of the time to hike back as it did to hike in. If you want to take photos in this area, the best light is usually 10am-3pm, and you may need a tripod for lower lit areas. You can only hike as far up as Big Springs.

2. Top Down Hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch (permit required)

You can also hike sixteen miles downstream over one or two days, entering the park soon after starting the hike and then exiting at the Temple of Sinawava. Those who choose this option must get a permit and arrange transportation for the one and a half hour ride to start the hike outside the park at Chamberlain’s Ranch. There are 12 designated sites for hikers to stay overnight at. You are looking at between 7-8 hrs of hiking per day. Since you will be carrying all of your gear in the water, make sure to pack light!


**IMPORTANT: Flash floods are an EXTREMELY real hazard! Please ensure that you speak to a ranger for up to date information regarding weather **

Suggested Packing:

  • Comfortable, closed toed shoes
  • Walking Stick
  • Clothes for cooler temperatures – hypothermia is a risk at any time of year!
  • Water
  • SunscreenZion National Park

Have you hiked the narrows? What are your favorite tips?