21 Ways to Save on your Grand Canyon Vacation
5. Skip the pricey restaurants
Meals at hotels like the El Tovar and Bright Angel Lodge’s Arizona Room are quite pricey due to the touristy location and lack of many other options. Save these restaurants for a one time special occasion, and instead, visit one of the markets and pack your own food, use your hotels’ kitchenette (if available) or grab quick, convenient, & more affordable meals in the Maswik Food court. Dining out at restaurants is one of the priciest aspects of any trip, yet we often do not realize this until we are back home and it’s much too late!
6. Don’t purchase pricey water bottles
In a high altitude area like the Grand Canyon (elevation 7000 feet) you really should be drinking extra water to prevent dehydration and altitude sickness. However, this does not mean that you need to keep buying overpriced water bottles all trip long. Free stations of incredible spring water are located throughout the village.
You can find these at several locations including Hermit’s Rest, the South Kalibab and Bright Angel trail head, Canyon Village and Desert Marketplaces, Yavapai Geology Museum, the visitor’s centers, and the Maswik Lodge cafeteria. Wear a camelbak for convenient access all day long (an absolute must if completing a long hard hike like Kalibab) or stock a backpack with multiple bottles. Enjoy the clean, crisp, and free taste of fresh natural mountain spring water.
7. Skip the Grand Canyon Railway
The Grand Canyon Railway, a popular mode of transportation to and from the canyon, is just not a great value, in my opinion, especially for the budget minded traveler. Tickets start at whopping $67 per person, and this is for pretty cramped seating, not to mention limited time at the canyon (you will only have about 3 hours to explore the canyon which is simply not enough time). And, for more leg room and some amenities, you will be paying $152-219 per person!
To add to the disappointment, the views really are not that great and consist mostly of barren desert lands until the last 15 minutes or so prior to arriving at the canyon. This is not a scenic train ride by any means so you really are not missing out on any views by driving. So all that extra money for the “views” really is not a worthwhile investment. Drive or rent a car and save some money, as well as enjoy the convenience of going to and leaving the canyon on your own terms. You’ll trade the extra time wasted in the long, boring train ride for more time at the Canyon. Plus, you can get a head start early in the morning and arrive before the crowds hit.
On the other hand, if you love trains, you may want to fork over the extra bucks for the experience.
8. Book a hotel with a kitchenette
Dining at restaurants is often an overlooked major expense on any vacation. Luckily, you can easily cut down a big chunk of your travel expenses by cooking most of your meals at your hotel. The restaurants in the Grand Canyon area are very expensive, and thus, a hotel with a kitchen really can help you save big bucks. Although you will not find any kitchenettes at Grand Canyon lodges, you will find a number of options if you decide to stay out in Williams or Flagstaff. Even with the extra gas expenses that come with staying out in one of these towns, you will still rack up hundreds of dollars in savings by not dining out daily. This especially rings true on longer stays and for bigger parties.
9. Purchase an annual “America the Beautiful” parks pass
Entrance fees to the Grand Canyon and other national parks seems to keep increasing with each passing year. A one time visit to the Grand Canyon will now cost you 35 bucks. If you plan on visiting any other parks during your vacation, or even Sedona (all of the red rock trail heads accept the annual pass), an annual national parks pass will come in handy. Zion, the Petrified National Forest, and Walnut Canyon are just a few of the must-see places within a 2 hour drive. Might as well buy the pass and check out other parks while you are here! And yes, all the parks mentioned are definitely worth the drive!
By purchasing this $80 pass, you will save lots of money in the long run, especially if you will be taking other national park vacations in the same year, and thus, the pass will likely pay for itself after just a few parks visits. It’s good for 1 year from purchase date for up to 4 people and is accepted at all national parks and monuments, so it really is a steal for any nature enthusiasts/frequent travelers.
10. Buy all necessities outside of gift shops
You’ll need to be prepared for the high altitude and diverse climate of Northern Arizona with many essentials. Sunblock, a hat or visor, sunglasses, a poncho or rain jacket for summer monsoon season, and salty snacks to replace lost electrolytes will all come in handy. All of these items will be outrageously priced at any gift shop, and thus, you are better off packing them prior to your trip, or stopping at a drugstore/Walmart if staying in a town like Flagstaff or Williams, which offers these stores. Always plan ahead – it saves both time and money, which means more time for fun during your vacation & enough saved money to take another vacation!
11. Limit souvenir purchases
Find just one or 2 cute knick knacks and then walk away. Endless souvenirs can really add up quickly. And all extra money wasted on something you are likely to toss in the trash or simply forget about before your next vacation! Keep it simple with a small memento to remember your trip by like a magnet, key chain, or puzzle.
12. Instead of endless expensive activities, consider a day trip to a nearby natural attraction
There are so many great sights to explore in Northern Arizona, that it would be silly to waste a trip out here and see nothing more than the Grand Canyon. Most of the popular activities within the canyon like rafting, float trips, and tours are just additional ways to take in the same views. I recommend using some of your time to explore other free natural sights instead of throwing away more money on the same views.
Located within a half’s day drive are some pretty incredible places like the Petrified National Forest, Walnut Canyon, high altitude mountain hikes in Flagstaff, the breathtaking Oak Creek Canyon scenic drive, and gorgeous red rock views & trails in Sedona. You could spend hundreds (or thousands of dollars) on a popular & pricey tourist attraction, or you can go the budget friendly route (and more scenic) and plan a day trip to any of these gorgeous areas of Northern Arizona.