Thursday 13: The Dos and Don’ts of Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon

May 31, 2012

A couple of months ago, we went to Arizona for the express purpose of visiting the Grand Canyon. Unlike most of my impeccably planned travels, this one was seriously lacking. Hopefully you can benefit from my mistakes by following these tips.


  1. When researching the local weather, don’t check weather temps for Phoenix.  Do be sure to look at Grand Canyon weather instead.  Even though I knew there was a 4-5 hour car trip between the two locations, it did not occur to me that I could look up Grand Canyon weather.  After all, I can drive four hours from home and only have temperature variances of a few degrees.  Imagine our surprise when we left 90 degree Phoenix and drove up to the Canyon, only to be greeted by a snow storm.  We now own tacky Grand Canyon souvenir sweatshirts as a result.
  2. Do plan way in advance and stay at one of the park lodges.  (They fill up early, so it’s essential to get reservations as far out in advance as possible.)   The only other hotels nearby are going to be ridiculously expensive ($200 a night for a substandard Holiday Inn Express) and lacking in amenities.  The park lodges are less expensive, provide shuttle service around the park, and have all different types of restaurants either on site or nearby.
  3. Don’t plan to be there more than a day or so.  You can see all of the majesty and nature that the Grand Canyon has to offer in one day.  You just don’t need more time than that, unless you’re planning to do some serious hiking or exploration.
  4. Don’t eat outside of the park.  The restaurants in the hotel area just south of the park are mediocre at best and ridiculously expensive.  If you must eat at a restaurant outside the park, I recommend Wendy’s or McDonalds (which will still be more expensive than they are elsewhere in the US).
  5. Do stay hydrated.  The Arizona air can leech every bit of moisture out of you, even if you aren’t sweating away in the sun.  Keep a refillable bottle of water with you and/or stop to buy beverages often.
  6. Don’t overdo picture-taking.  I have approximately 450 photos from the Grand Canyon.  Most of them fail to capture the vastness and beauty of it.  Many are barely distinguishable from the others.
  7. Do take pictures at sunset.  The lighting is better and the colors more vibrant.  You can even book a relatively inexpensive “Sunset Tour” that will take you to various lookout points by bus at the right time for awesome photos.  (This was one of the few things I did right!)
  8. Do utilize the park’s shuttle service.  It is fast, free, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get an entertaining driver who will share some tips about seeing the park.
  9. Do take time to look at more than just the canyon/rocks.  There are California condors, ravens, and mule deer throughout the park.    There is also a Tusayan Museum and Ruin that sheds light on the Native Americans who called that area their home.
  10. If you have school age children, do have them complete the Junior Ranger program.  It’s free and it will keep the kids from getting bored.
  11. If you’re hiking down into the canyon, don’t do it on a whim and don’t underestimate the distance or time you will travel.  There was a chilling poster in one of the visitor centers about an athletic young woman, age 24, who had run in the Boston Marathon, but died on a hike into the canyon.  Why?  She under-calculated the length of her hike, and didn’t carry enough water with her.
  12. Do check out the Desert View Watchtower.  It’s an amazing, beautiful building.
  13. If you do venture into to the money-sucking town south of the canyon, do see the IMAX movie about the canyon and its explorers.  You’ll be impressed with the one-armed Civil War veteran Major John Wesley Powell, who was responsible for mapping most of the canyon.

Menu Plan Monday: April 16-21, 2012

April 16, 2012


Comments on last week’s menu:  Last week I did minimal cooking, and tried no new recipes at all.  Doesn’t look like I’ll be doing much cooking this week, either, as I’ll be trying to use up our leftover camp food.

Monday — Girl Scouts for Sophia & me; Bible study for the guys.

Tuesday — Spaghetti, garlic bread, Caesar salad.

Wednesday — Fast food for the kids; date night for Dan & me

Thursday — Chicken tacos, served with southwestern salad.

Friday — Heading west to visit a friend while Dan does some cycling.

Saturday — Not sure if we will be home by dinner time.  Probably not.

Sunday — leftovers or snacking.


Menu Plan Monday: April 9-15, 2012

April 7, 2012

We were on vacation in Arizona last week, so no menu to comment on. I need to get back into the swing of things this week… at least temporarily, before I go camping with the Girl Scouts this weekend.

Monday — a fast dinner on the run before our Girl Scout pre-camp meeting.

Tuesday — Ravioli with Italian sausage, Caesar salad, garlic bread.

Wednesday — Date night for Dan and me; church activities for the kids.

ThursdayHurry Up Chicken Pot Pie

Friday — I’m leaving for camp late this afternoon.  The boys are on their own for the weekend!


Menu Plan Monday: March 26 – April 1, 2012

March 25, 2012

Comments on last week’s menu: The rotisserie style chicken in the crock pot was fabulous!  The chicken was tender and moist, and the mix of herbs & spices was perfect.  There won’t be much cooking for me this week, but here’s the menu, such as it is…

Monday — Girl Scouts for Sophia & me, Bible study for the guys.  Dinner on the run for all of us.

Tuesday — Ladies’ night out at my church.  I have a Baked Spaghetti in the freezer that I’m thawing for the rest of the family.

Wednesday –Church for the kids, date night for us.  We’ll probably stay home and try to use up some leftovers since we’ll be going out of town soon.

ThursdayBacon Cheeseburger Meat Loaf, mashed potatoes, peas

Friday — leaving for a vacation!



Menu Plan Monday: March 19-25, 2012

March 19, 2012

Comments on last week’s menu:  The So-Good Corn Chip Pie was, once again, a big hit. So was the Creamy Chicken Crescents.  Highly recommend both recipes.

Monday — Girl Scouts for Sophia and me; Bible study for Trevor and Dan.  We’ll grab a quick dinner beforehand.

Tuesday –I have a meeting to attend this evening, so dinner needs to be easy.  I’ll fix Tater Taco Casserole and serve it with a southwestern salad.

Wednesday — Fast food for the kids; date night for Dan & me.

ThursdayStromboli and Caesar salad.

Friday — Family movie night:  Light fare and Enchanted.

Saturday — Trying a different recipe for rotisserie style chicken in the crock pot.  I liked the last one okay, but it didn’t taste like rotisserie chicken.  This one has more herbs & spices, so I’m eager to see how it compares.

Sunday — leftovers or snacking.


Menu Plan Monday: March 12-18, 2012

March 12, 2012

Comments on my last published menuNone of us liked the White Cheddar Chicken Pasta.  It was just plain gross.

Monday — Girl Scouts for Sophia and me; Bible study for Trevor and Dan.  We’ll grab a quick dinner beforehand.

TuesdayCreamy Chicken Crescents and broccoli

Wednesday — Date night for Dan and me; small groups at church for the kids.

ThursdaySo-Good Corn Chip Pie

Friday –I’m heading to a weekend crop with an old friend in PA.  Dan and the kids are on their own!


Menu Plan Monday: February 27-March 4, 2012

February 27, 2012

Comments on last week’s menu: The Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches were a big hit with everyone.  I think I might have preferred them as a wrap, though… so I might try that the next time.

Monday — Bible study for Dan & Trev; Girl scouts for Sophia & me.  We’ll be eating on the run.

TuesdayWhite Cheddar Chicken Pasta, served with broccoli

Wednesday — Date night for Dan & me while the kids are at church.

ThursdaySausage & Pepperoni Baked Spaghetti, served with Caesar salad.

Friday — Sophia and I have a cookie booth from 6:00 to 9:00 tonight.  Dinner will be something most likely picked up along the way and eaten in the car.  (I hate living like this!  Thank goodness cookie season is almost over!)

SaturdayOld fashioned chicken & dumplings.  Yum!

Sunday — leftovers or snacking.