The husband (V) and I had wanted to do a trip to Nevada, Arizona, Utah for a long time. After seeing some amazing pictures posted by friends, and reading up about the wonders of nature these three states have, we were very excited to make this trip. We had 10 days, from the 23rd Dec to the 1st Jan, which would make a nice and long trip. We wanted to make this our annual trip with friends, but it was difficult to match everyone’s planners for a 10 day long trip, so it ended up being just the two of us. V was keen on a road trip complete with camping and cooking, but since it was winter, I was skeptical about it. Most of these places would be at a subzero temperature, and I did not fancy the idea of sleeping out in the cold for 10 days. After a lot of deliberation and discussion (and some deliberate discussions) we decided against the camping part of the road trip.
We were most eager to see the Utah parks, namely Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon and the Monument Valley. I also wanted to include Las Vegas, as we were flying so close to Nevada anyway. Since all these destinations are a little over couple of hours driving distance away, we decided to fly to Vegas from Philly, rent a car from there, and then drive for the next 10 days to all these state parks, expecting to cover about 1200 miles on road, and drive back to Vegas for the new year’s eve. That decided, we started to make a list of all the places we could visit on our way.
The Utah tourism website is very good (http://www.utah.gov/visiting/travel.html). It helped a lot in planning the places to visit and the activities to do. By the time we were through with it, we had a list of about 15 destinations to cover!! With only 10 days in hand, this was an impossibility, so we had to cut down many places from these list (those places will make the itinerary for a second trip to these states, hopefully!). Five versions of the list later, we had finalized on the following destinations –
1. Grand Canyon
2. Antelope Canyon
3. Monument Valley
4. Arches National Park
5. Capitol Reef National Park
6. Bryce Canyon
7. Las Vegas
Due to winter, the days were short, with sunsets around 4.30 – 5 PM. So, we decided to drive in the evenings, and do the sight-seeing in the mornings. We were unsure of the activities that we could do at these places, as most of the sought-after activities here are non-winter activities, and we are not good at winter activities like skiing/snow-boarding etc. So we decided to just leave it to serendipity.
The next task was the hotel bookings. I do not lie, this was the least enjoyable task of the entire trip (including the 5 hour flight to Vegas). Many lodges were closed due to winter, and many of those open did not fit our budget. We must have looked at so many options, I was even tempted to say yes for the camping just to avoid this hotel booking part. Thankfully V handled almost all of it (and turned out later had made some pretty awesome choices).
None of our plans are made without MS Excel (even grocery lists at times), so we immediately made a detailed plan in excel, with fancy groupings, sorts and all the frills and fancy. Versions after versions of this plan were exchanged, with details like date, destination, expected travel time, hotel to stay, hotel address/phone etc. We also found some really good deals for activities through Groupon. While in Vegas I wanted to see one of the Cirque Du Soleil performances, so we also booked tickets for the Ka show.
All that needed to be done now was wait for the 23rd of December!