Author Topic: National Parks (6!), Slot Canyons, White Water, Lake Powell For Family Of 10  (Read 2251 times)

Offline kivabb

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Our group consisted of my wife and I with our 8 children ages 4 to 21. The combination of having more help from the older ones, as well as having the youngest at 4 years old, allowed me to convince my wife to push more than we usually do on a trip and make this one of the best ones ever!

Cost/Points -
Flights - 128K JetBlue Points, 88K United Points, About $110 in fees
Hotels - 126K Hyatt Points, 60K IHG Points, $254 for one night in Cannonville, UT.
12 Passenger Van - $983, Gas $580 $580
Activities - Rafting $459, Boat on Lake Powell $650, Tube $57, Gas for boat $165, Horseshoe Bend $35, $360 in van service to and from my house round trip.
Total $3653


Flights -
EWR-LAS - JetBlue. They wanted 12800 TrueBlue points for each one way, so we needed 128K for 10. Barclays had on offer for 60K points after $1K spend (https://cards.barclaycardus.com/banking/cards/jetblue-business-card/).  My wife and I each got a card which gave us 61K points each. That still left us 3K points short on each account. Jetblue has this pooling option (https://www.jetblue.com/trueblue/points-pooling) that allows me to take her leftover points, add 6K UR points from Chase onto my account to get the last ticket. I kept 2 separate browsers open when booking from each account as JetBlue limit is 7 on one itinerary and was afraid the price might go up after one booking. Barclays card includes just about free suitcase for everyone on the itinerary.

LAS-EWR - United. Award availability was open at 11K for each one way, so we grabbed those. My daughter and I had a United credit we used for 2 of the one ways. Chase United Club Infinite Card includes 4 free bags (2 free bags for myself and one other person on itinerary).

Rental Car -
With our group of 10, I love renting those Ford Transits which are basically the 15 seater with the last row removed for luggage. In my experience, only Budget or Avis rent those. The other companies have the extra back bench and minimal luggage space. My trip planning actually starts where I can find an Avis or Budget location with good rates on a full size van. I like using Costco Travel for car reservations. They include an extra driver for free, usually give me great rates, 2% back for Costco Executive card plus allow me to add FastBreak to my Budget reservation so I can skip the counter. Budget FastBreak really saved us another hour in LAS.  When I arrived, I was given a high profile Transit with the back row in place, which meant we basically had to put our luggage on the back bench. They told me that all these Transits in LAS have the same configuration. Considering the current rental car shortage, I was grateful for what I got as I feared them saying they had nothing. It was the last full size van in the lot. Rental car shuttle line was so long. We waited like 40 minutes for the shuttle in blazing heat. In hindsight we should have split an Uber with someone for $25 to car rentals.

Lodging -
Usually the best bet for our group is Hyatt House @ 8K points for a suite with a full size kitchen and eating area. But being that we were on a road trip, we were very grateful to find 3 Hyatt Places in Southern Utah/Northern Arizona which were probably second best for point value at 5-8K points per night. No kitchen, just a mini fridge, but a pull out sofa sleeper and many (extra) Hyatt amenities with the Hyatt card. These are the only Hyatts in that area. We needed 3 rooms for each night.
Sunday - Hyatt Place St George https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/utah/hyatt-place-st-george-convention-center/sguzs 3 rooms @ 5K Hyatt points each.
Monday - Grand Staircase Inn http://grandstaircaseinn.com/ We needed a hotel after a day in Bryce ideally in the direction of Peekaboo Gulch. The chain hotels were at least double the price, so we stayed at this no frills hotel.  3 rooms @ $80 each. https://www.agoda.com/account/editbooking.html?bookingId=qzg9T7Y5YFTpAyu5085OAQ==
Tuesday-Wednesday Hyatt Place Moab https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/utah/hyatt-place-moab/slczm 3 rooms @ 8K Hyatt points each per night
Thursday Hyatt House Lakewood Belmar - https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/colorado/hyatt-house-denver-lakewood-at-belmar/denxl 3 rooms @ 8K Hyatt points each
Sunday Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alamosa https://www.ihg.com/holidayinnexpress/hotels/us/en/alamosa/alses/hoteldetail 3 rooms @ 20K IHG points each. Not great value, but the alternative was spending $500+ for 3 rooms for any hotel in the area.
Monday/Tuesday Hyatt Place Page https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/arizona/hyatt-place-page-lake-powell/pgazp 3 rooms @ 12K each per night. My wife and I each had 2 free nights each from our Chase Hyatt card which we cashed in here. 
Wednesday Back at Hyatt Place St George 3 rooms @ 5K Hyatt points each per night.

Food - This was the trickiest part of our trip as we needed to basically bring food for 10 (big and hungry) people for 11 days and keep it cold. We have 4 of those Polar Bear Bags and wanted to keep 3 for fridge stuff and 1 for freezer items. But with basically no freezers in the hotel rooms, it was a constant effort to make sure the ice was changed in the morning and evening. Frozen items consisted of  marinated schnitzel, and hamburgers that we alternated making BBQ on portable propane grill (that we had shipped to our first hotel). We brought wraps to make sandwiches and bought hamburger buns at our destination which were easy to find with hechsher in all places we were. Fridge items included cold cuts, hot dogs, cheeses and milk. We bought a Betty Crocker Pizza Maker this year to facilitate breakfast. It was very multifaceted from scrambled eggs to sandwich makers, and it made very little smoke for hotel room usage. 5 cases of those Gefen Noodle Soups. If youíre polite to your flight attendant, theyíll fill those soups up on the plane as well. This year we brought a small electric kettle so heating up 10 soups doesnít take so long in the coffee makers. We also put all our non-perishable food or food related items in boxes so we wouldnít have to deal with return luggage. The empty Polar Bear Bags are also used as suitcases to carry our items home.

Packing - A few points that worked well for us. Considering that we were staying in so many places and not wanting to unload the entire van each time, each person brought roughly 3 days worth of clothing that they carried in their own carryon bag. We also made separate Shabbos suitcase for everyone. Every 2-3 days we washed our clothing at the hotel, but it made us carry much less stuff and made the loading and unloading process much easier. But it is a bit of a hassle doing laundry in the hotel if thereís other guests with the same intentions, as you need to babysit it. Itís like back in the Yeshiva Bochur days. We also bought hiking sticks and hydration packs that made the hikes much easier. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B091YBHHPD/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s03?ie=UTF8&psc=1
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01L2HYPNW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


Itinerary - Iíll try to stick to the facts of what we did without adding too much color commentary of my thoughts of each place. Reason being that every single day, back to back, was totally WOW. Iíve been to spectacular places, but never to 8 of those places in one trip. If your family loves nature, hiking, adventure...if youíre up to driving 3+ hours a day (we could never have done this trip with my youngest being less than 4), you have 10-11 days to spare, and you want your kids to think you really hustled for them, then this trip is it. I spent lots of time strategizing the itinerary and have added links below that I used for my trip planning.

Sunday - Fly out to LAS, pick up a van and drive straight to St. George.

Monday - Bryce Canyon National Park (2.15 hours from Hyatt Place St George)
Free pass for anyone going in or out of 4th grade and their family  https://everykidoutdoors.gov/voucher.htm 
We had planned the Figure 8 loop hike which my wife and I had done many years back. She has said many times that from all the beautiful places we have ever been too, Bryce Canyon was her favorite. This hike is what made her feel that way.
https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/utah/wall-street-and-queens-garden-loop-to-peekaboo-loop-figure-eight-trail
http://hikingwalking.com/destinations/ut/ut_sc/bryce/figure_8/figure_8_detail
https://www.nps.gov/brca/planyourvisit/upload/2021-Amphitheater-Map-01.jpg
Wall Street down (Navajo), Peekaboo clockwise, Queens Garden Up
At the entrance to Peekaboo, they told us it was closed. So we took Navajo Loop, and then took Shuttle to Bryce Point where we did Rim Trail back to Sunset Point.



Tuesday - Peekaboo & Spooky Gulch (1.5 hours from Grand Staircase Inn)
https://www.earthtrekkers.com/hiking-peek-a-boo-gulch-spooky-gulch/
This place was definitely an adventure, starting with a 29 mile dirt road getting in (that was better then we had read about). The trail markings are not so clear so a 1.5 mile hike to the slot canyon turned into almost a 3 mile hike down. That would have been fine but it was getting really hot and we were running short on water so it was a bit stressful halfway through. In the end, we only did Peekaboo Gulch as we were barely able to squeeze through some of those tight places. Thereís also a 12 foot climb needed to get into Peekaboo Gulch, but that climb was facilitated by having some strong kids that helped pull the weaker ones up. Spooky Gulch would have been too tight (11 inches in some places!) for most of our group. My family loved this place and the adventure, but make sure you know where youíre going following those cairns (stacked stones) properly, and that you bring plenty of water.


I couldn't figure out how to rotate the picture, but you get the point.



On the drive to Moab, Scenic Highway 12, we stopped at Capitol Reef National Park (Panorama Point, Goosenecks Overlook and Sunset Point), Scenic Highway 24. https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/capitol-reef/grand-wash.

Wednesday - Arches National Park
Balanced Rock (0.3 miles stroller accessible) (can do this on way out too after Windows), Hiked to Delicate Arch (3 miles RT), Arches Scenic Drive Road, Skyline Arch (quick photo stop), Sand Dune Arch (0.2 miles walk), Windows Section (North & South Window from Parking Area), Take short hike to Double Arch (0.5 miles RT, best view from bottom), Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, Park Avenue Viewpoint. We started at 9AM, and came back to the hotel to rest, freshen up, take cover for the warmest part of the day, and then headed out at 5PM for the next part of the day.



Canyonlands National Park (35 minutes from hotel)
Island in the Sky Visitor Center (refill water bottles), Shafer Canyon Overlook (5 minute walk) (can do this on way out too), Shafer Trail Viewpoint (can do this on way out too), Mesa Arch Hike (0.5 miles long), Green River Overlook, Grand View Point - short path to view (7.5 miles/15 minutes between viewpoints), If time to spare, hike small part from Grand View Point to Grand View Point Overlook (1 mile each way but can do just small part of it).



Sunset at Dead Horse State Park - 20 minutes from Canyonland Entrance.
Meander Overlook
Dead Horse Point. Sunset here was amazing.
https://fullsuitcase.com/arches-and-canyonlands-in-one-day/
Incredible day that we never would have accomplished without proper research.



Thursday - Colorado River Rafting in Glenwood Canyon (3 Hours from Hyatt Place Moab) https://www.raftdefiance.com/advanced-rafting-double-shoshone
We had a blast. Highly recommend this place as well as doing the Double Shoshone which means they take you on the big rapids twice. Just keep in mind that due to the fire here last year, there are mudslides often which cause closures on I-70. That might add on another 2-3 hours to get back to Vail or Denver. There was a storm a few hours after we left which left that portion of I-70 closed for days.



Friday - Lakewood, Colorado (2.5 hours from Glenwood Canyon)
Late start after non stop 4-5 days. Nordstrom Rack (across the street from the hotel) to keep the ladies happy. Hotel gave us a 2PM checkout which was so helpful and took some of the load off our hosts for Shabbos.

Shabbos/MS - Spent with relatives in Denver. Thank You God.

Sunday - Great Sand Dunes National Park (3.5 hours from Denver)
High Dune Trail - 3.0 mi out and back. Figure 3 hours. Incredible place and experience. We didnít rent the sand boards but had a blast running down the dunes. Go early or late in the day since the sand gets hot. We got lucky as the day we went was overcast and a storm had recently passed so the sand was cool and easier to step on because it was harder. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alamosa (35 minutes from GSDNP)



Monday - Drive to Page Arizona (7 Hours)
We skipped past Mesa Verde NP as well as Four Corners Monument (wanted $5 per person). Antelope Canyon just opened and is supposed to be WOW, but it would have been close to $600 for our group, so we also skipped. The hotel didnít allow us to do BBQ on the property so they told us about Golliardís Park less than a half a mile away where we had nice BBQ and kids had a chance to run around.

Tuesday - Full day boating on Lake Powell
https://www.lakepowell.com/marinas/powerboat-watercraft-rentals/
The idea of spending 6-7 hours on a boat (you can only rent a full day in peak season) concerned me because I thought weíd get bored. But I was wrong, as the day flew by. We rented a 23' Larson Escape which basically is a Pontoon boat that goes fast enough to pull a tube. We rented a tube as well. Explored Navajo Canyon and then took the kids tubing on Warm Creek Bay. Must reserve these ahead of time during peak season.





Horseshoe Bend - Caught sunset here. 15-20 minute walk each way.



Wednesday - Zion National Park
Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion Visitor Center, (Really the coolest hike in the park is Angelís Landing. My wife and I did like 12 years ago, but the thought of watching some of my kids on those chains at the end of the hike was more than I could bare)



Zion Narrows https://theflyinghens.com/2019/10/hiking-narrows-zion/
Hyatt St George 1 hour from Visitor Center

Thursday
Fly back to EWR

As the years fly by and I reflect back, probably the best times and memories I spent with my family were on these nature, adventure trips. With hardly any cell phone service, and a great itinerary that I was excited about, I was all in. Even my kids said, this trip will be tough to ever beat.

I hope this helps and I can benefit someone out there and give back to this forum that Iíve gained so much from.

Offline Sholom123

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This is fantastic! Good for you guys!

Offline EliJelly

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Amazing! You need a family of angels to pull this off :D

Offline crownsbroyal

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So awesome!! Thanks for posting.

Offline jack

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Amazing amazing-Thank you for sharing. How did the 4 year old manage?
« Last Edit: August 10, 2021, 01:36:06 AM by jack »

Offline kivabb

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Thank you!

My wife was the angel being the great sport she was.

Last year we called it hikes, which my youngest didn't want to hear of doing this year....so this year we called it trailing.  Most of the "trailing" was on the first 3 days, and after that my 4 and 6 year old had had it so matter what we called it. They each spent some time on my shoulders and we slowed the pace at times.

Great Sand Dunes they didn't view as a hike (even though it was a tough one) as they loved running in the sand. The Narrows, the little ones thought were really cool splashing in the water, but here too at some point my wife and I pulled aside with the 4 year old and waited for the older ones to return.

With my older kids pumped about the destination (and lots of nosh and snacks), it somehow brainwashed the little ones that 3 miles of hiking was fun.....but granted for only so long.

Offline lunatic

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Amazing. I really want to do something like this with my family, great inspiration

Offline justmeha

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How did you keep the kids entertained in the car?