21 Ways to Save on your Grand Canyon Vacation
13. Visit on a free day
If you are willing to put up with insane crowds and backed up highways, you can save yourself the $35 entrance fee by planning your vacation during the numerous free dates offered throughout the year. As your park pass is good for 7 days, this gives you plenty of time to explore. Free dates for 2016 are as follows: January 18, April 16-24 for National Park Week, August 25-28 for National Park Service Birthday, September 24, & November 11. Check back on the Grand Canyon National Park website for upcoming free dates in 2017.
14. Take the free shuttle
Instead of endless driving, attempting to find parking, and multiple gas fill ups, take the free shuttle around the South Rim. This convenient means of transportation will take you to numerous sights of interest so you can hop on and off as many times as you like. In addition, parking and taking the shuttle from Tusayan will save you the time and hassle of waiting in long entrance lines and finding a place to park during the busy summer and spring months.
15. Fly into Vegas instead of Phoenix
The drive from Vegas vs. Phoenix to the Grand Canyon is a bit longer (4 hours vs 3), however, rates are typically much more attractive going out of Vegas as there are more flights going in/out all the time. Plus in Vegas, you’ll have tons of free Strip activities to enjoy, where free fun in Phoenix is a bit more limited, and therefore, you will probably end up spending much more money on man made attractions. Plus, it’s just another excuse to spend a day (or several) in Sin City!
16. Skip the alcohol
When dining out forgo the pricey drinks as alcohol dehydrates you and this is the last thing you want to do in a high altitude area like the Grand Canyon where drinking plenty of extra water to prevent altitude sickness and severe dehydration is a must. To prevent potentially losing time on your trip being sick, as well as to save money (watch how much your restaurant bill drops when you only order water), stick to simple hydrating spring water.
17. Check for Groupon/Living Social deals
Discounts are not the norm in busy tourist areas like the Grand Canyon. However, every once in a while a deal may pop up on a discount site like Groupon or Living Social. It may be worth it to do a quick scan to possibly save a few bucks. Recent deals have included discounts for nearby attractions like the scenic chairlift ride at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, discounted jeep and trolley tours in Sedona, special rates on South Rim bus tours, and various restaurant and hotel discounts.
18. Avoid traveling during summer monsoon season
During the summer monsoon season (July & August) Arizona sees frequent crazy thunderstorms during a time referred to as summer monsoon season. As many think of Arizona solely as a dry desert, they are unprepared for this serious summer weather, which can really put a damper on your trip as almost all activities in the area are outdoor based. As Northern Arizona sees some of the highest number of lighting related death per year, you really do not want to set out on a high altitude hike or any other outdoor activity when a monsoon is possible in the area. Sadly, you really cannot predict these storms (they tend to come on suddenly), so it’s best to just avoid summer hiking.
Besides the frequent inclement weather, the summer season is usually unbearably hot (often reaching into the 100’s), the crowds are insane, and hotel rates are the highest of the year. Just a few more reasons to consider scheduling your trip during the off-season!
19. Consider camping as a budget friendly lodging alternative
Skip the super pricey hotels in favor of a rustic, budget friendly nature experience. Use this time to disconnect and spend some quality time soaking in the natural scenery. The added bonus of unplugging in a time where we could all do with less time in front of the computer, TV, phone makes camping all the more attractive. Camping rates start at just under 20 bucks, so you can really save some big bucks on lodging costs by taking this route. For more info on the 3 South Rim campgrounds, visit the Grand Canyon National Park website.
20. Choose the North Rim as your destination
Although it’s only open from May 15th-October 15th, the North Rim offers the more spectacular scenery, along with fewer crowds and cheaper lodging options when compared to the more popular South Rim. In fact, more than 90% of visitors choose the South Rim. While everyone else is cramming into the Grand Canyon Village at the South Rim, you can enjoy the more peaceful nature setting of the North Rim.
The closest affordable lodging is the Jacob Lake Inn, which offers rooms as low as $90 per night, and with much more availability than any South Rim hotel. It’s a great option for those who tend to book hotels at the last minute. Fall is the preferred time to plan your trip as the temperatures are great, the likelihood of heavy rain ruining your trip decreases, and the aspens shine brightly with golden foliage, especially if you venture out on a hike on the gorgeous North Kalibab trail.
21. Take advantages of free activities at the Grand Canyon Village
There’s lots of free places to explore at the South Rim. For starters, the beautiful lobby of the historic El Tovar hotel, is most famous for being featured in he 80’s classic “Vacation” with Chevy Chase. Fans of the movie will definitely want to check out this site. The hotel was built in 1905 and features a stunning design by architect Charles Whittlesey who also worked on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway.
Other free sights of interest include the Geology Museum where you can learn more about the history of the canyon, Kolb Studio where you can explore art exhibits, Desert View Watchtower where you can climb 85 steps for amazing panoramic views of the area, and the Tusayan Museum where you can explore ancient 800+ year old Indian ruins.
For more info on visiting the South Rim, check out my Grand Canyon South Rim guide.