It's Time to Book Your Summer National Park Vacation
It's only January, the Super Bowl has yet to be played, and the Rocky Mountain states are up to their necks in snow. Sooooooo, it must be time to book your summer national park vacation.
Why so early? To ensure that you get to stay where you want when you want.
Think I'm kidding? Already the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park is booked for July 10-14. At Yosemite, your best bet for July 25-28 is a room at Wawona, without a bath. At Glacier, Lake McDonald Lodge is already full for July 18-22.
In other words, you're running out of time. True, there are other lodgings in these parks with vacancies, and it's also possible that cancellations in the months to come will create openings in the above-cited lodges. But why chance things?
Act now and you'll be happiest six months from now.
Now, there are some specials starting to appear, although you have to be a bit flexible with your travel and open to trying new things.
For instance, at Shenandoah National Park the concessionaire is offering a late spring-early summer special that will save you a third off summer's typical lodging rates. The "Early Bird Spring Weekday" packages start at $99 for a one-night stay for two and are being offered weekdays March 23 through June 26. (Memorial Day weekend is blacked out, though). This deal is good at either the Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge and includes breakfast.
If you've ever wanted to learn how to fly fish, there's a deal with you in mind at Yellowstone National Park. The "Fun on the Fly" package offered by Xanterra Parks & Resorts has added a families-only session that caters to families with kids 8 and older. The two-day fly fishing program provides two days of instruction through the Yellowstone Fly Fishing School, two nights of lodging in Frontier Cabins at Mammoth Hot Springs, all the necessary fishing equipment, two breakfasts, two lunches, one dinner, and in-park transportation.
The families-only program is being offered August 1-3. Adult-only programs are scheduled for June 13-15, June 27-29, July 18-20, and August 15-17. There's also a women's only program set for September 5-7.
The programs aren't exactly cheap. They run $849 per person based on double occupancy; the kids' price is $669. For more details, check out this site.
Xanterra, which also has operations at the Grand Canyon, has a "Learning and Lodging Adventure" package available at that park. This two-day, two-night program, operated in conjunction with the Grand Canyon Field Institute, focuses on the Grand Canyon's geology and human history. It includes lodging at either Yavapai or Maswick lodges on the South Rim, in-park transportation, one dinner, two breakfasts, two box lunches, guide services each day, instructional materials, and retail coupons.
The summer programs, good for kids 10 and older, run $672.40 for two adults and $205.46 for kids. For more information, visit this site.
There are a number of packages available at Glacier National Park. You can opt for a multi-lodge package, a multi-park package, or a package that blends lodging with a Red Jammer tour of the park. For details, head here.
These are just a sampling of the possibilities that can be found across the national park system. Key to creating the best vacation is to start early and be flexible. When making a reservation, if your first choice isn't available, book your second and ask the reservations clerk when might be a good time to check back to see if there have been any cancellations.
Also, don't bother with stand-alone reservation companies. Deal directly with the concessionaire at the park you want to visit. That will save you time, money and headaches in the long run. To find the concessionaire at the park of your choice, go to the park's web site, click on the "Plan Your Trip" link in the left-hand column, and then on the "Things to Know Before You Come" link, which will lead to a "Lodging" link with area lodging options.
Want a sneak peak of the lodging options? A good resource for this is The Complete Guide to National Park Lodges.