Our incredible family trip – 3 states, 12 days and 1450 miles

Sian Pages – Travel Planner

This was a trip I had booked over a year ago, but had planned in my head in 2019 when I created a very similar itinerary for a client of mine. At that time though, our son was only 4 and I knew I wanted him to experience this fully and remember it.

My expectations were through the roof. I had planned every little detail, right down to the exact car I wanted to drive.

Finally, the day arrived for us to board our plane and it’s fair to say that I was giddy with excitement. After a 10.5 hour flight, we arrived and we were all exhausted. But with the 8 hour time difference, it was only 4pm in Arizona and we still had to get our car and drive 2 hours to our first destination. We vowed to stay awake as late as we could – our son already flagging.

After a two hour wait and a lot of messing around, we finally got the car – a convertible Mustang and off we went. We stopped to get fast food (another attempt to keep ourselves awake) and finally arrived in Sedona at 10pm, in the dark, so we had no idea what it looked like. We were so glad to settle in for the night and fell gratefully asleep.

Only to wake at 4.30am.

Still dark outside, we played a few rounds of UNO until the sun started to rise and then when we opened the blinds in our hotel room, I was immediately awestruck.


I had never seen anything like this before and wanted to get out and see it up close, so we began our day at 6am, driving over to a nearby Denny’s to have an epic breakfast, before we embarked on some explorative climbs. We only had two nights here and essentially one full day and it didn’t feel like enough. We climbed, we hiked the vortexes, we watched the sunset over the red rocks and I fell in love with Sedona, as did my son.

Thankfully, our next day also started very early, so we got a lot of exploring under our belts before we moved on to our next stop – the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon by helicopter

I had (reluctantly) booked us a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. Reluctantly because I knew my fears would kick in, but also because I wasn’t sure how my son would feel. So I booked the short one.

I was placed right at the front, next to the pilot, so I guess you could say I was the co-pilot! It was the perfect way to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. I admit, I cried a little. This wonder, this unexplained phenomenon that I had wanted to see for years and years was finally in front of me and I couldn’t fathom it. It felt completely surreal and I really had to pinch myself.

This was on my bucket list. This was the inception of this trip and we were all wowed. We didn’t get to hike the trails as it was too windy and many trails had closed, but we spent hours walking along the rim, taking hundreds of photographs and marvelling at the magnitude of it.

A slight detour

On the day we came to leave, we opened our blinds to a foot of snow.

Not what we expected. Our car wasn’t exactly designed to drive in those conditions, but we decided we would stick to our planned route – as we had planned so many things to see on the way to our next destination.

Well. After more than a few slides and skids that nearly resulted in coming off the road entirely, we abandoned the original route and went back to the main road. We still had plenty of interesting stops along the way (weather permitting) and we were keen to get to our next stop – Lake Powell.

The journey took much longer than we had imagined, but we got some great pit stops in, including an abandoned trading post and visiting Bearizona – which if we had stuck to the original route – we wouldn’t have seen and we all loved it.

Lake Powell

The main reason for the stop at Lake Powell, was to break the journey between the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, but also – its proximity to Antelope Canyon. I had done my research and booked well in advance, as you can only access this beauty with a tour and I knew the best time of the day was around midday – to make the most of the sun’s rays highlighting the colours in the rock. We had two nights here. Eating delicious local BBQ, resting a little and of course, visiting the wonder of Antelope Canyon (the photos do not do it justice).

Looked after by the Navajo, this slot canyon was only discovered in 1931 and first photographed in the 1980’s. One of those photographs sold for $6.5 million and both Apple and Microsoft have used pics from this canyon as their ‘backgrounds and screensavers’. It’s not hard to see why.

Next stop: Under Canvas Zion

We left Lake Powell to start our drive to Zion National Park and this was another stop I was incredibly excited about as we were ‘glamping’ in eco-friendly yurts. I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of tarantulas and rattlesnakes bedding down with us, but I figured it would be too cold for them and thankfully, we didn’t encounter any whilst we were there – much to my son’s dismay.

On arrival to Under Canvas Zion, I was immediately amazed at what they had created. A true community space, with a large outdoor dining and ‘play’ area space. With cornhole, firepits and unlimited s’mores kits, I was in heaven.

No WIFI, no electricity and a strict ‘no food’ policy in our tents, you’re forced to rest, eat communally and spend time doing things like: play cards and board games – which we did in abundance and with our lamps at night, and the largest and not to mention comfiest beds I’ve ever slept on, this was my favourite accommodation by far.

I’m veering off tangent here, as this part should be about Zion National Park, but I can’t recommend this experience enough. Under Canvas was such a treat for us as a family and I’m already planning another trip to incorporate a stay in the Moab branch.

Zion National Park

During lockdown, I kept myself occupied as much as I could and filled my need to travel with things like watching live video streams of Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard and also doing virtual walks of National Parks – like Zion. I had ‘virtually’ hiked the route to the Narrows and through the park and it kept me going.

When we arrived in the park and started walking around, I got the strangest feeling that I knew it, that I recognised it and I realised, I was hiking the exact route I had done virtually. It was such an incredible feeling (photo 2). To finally see it ‘live’ and experience it properly, was breath-taking. A vast and diverse park, with walks a plenty, we spent three days exploring.

We hopped on the shuttle bus many times, getting off at our favourite spots and also drove through many times, as the photo opportunities were everywhere! We also found other interesting things to visit nearby, like a ghost town and a cowboy store.

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas!

Our final stop on this grand tour was Las Vegas – for the ease of flying home. I had previously been to Vegas many years ago and not enjoyed it at all, so I wasn’t looking forward to this part. It was such a culture shock to go from wide open spaces, fresh air and not many people, to the bright lights of Vegas. I had planned to see lots of things whilst we were here though and the weather was perfect – 30 degrees and a constant breeze.

We checked in to our final hotel and it was a good one to end on, as it felt pretty special and my son thought it was ‘so cool’. We immediately left the room to go explore and I really enjoyed myself.

We watched the Bellagio fountains, saw the Mirage volcano and walked all the way to Fremont street (a mere 4 mile hike)… we took the bus back!

We used this time to take stock, eat lots of food, pack and repack and relax in the gorgeous outdoor pool, before it was time to come home.

Trip of a lifetime

This truly was the family trip of a lifetime and by far the best trip we’ve ever done together.

I wanted a trip where we wouldn’t have much down time, and where we wouldn’t feel the need to turn on a TV, but in reality, we did watch some TV and we had down time too. But I didn’t feel the need to be on social media, nor did I look at my phone unless it rang. I helped a client whilst I was in Utah, but other than that, I would catch up on emails in the evenings and it felt like a true break for us all.

We spent every moment together, enjoying each other’s company and having a blast.

Now I need another one!

Get in touch

If you’d like to discuss future travel plans you have in mind, get in contact with our in-house travel consultant, Sian Pages, on sian.pages@notjusttravel.com.

Sian will be more than happy to spend time talking you through your options; remembering her service is delivered at no cost to clients and professional connections of Longhurst.

Happy Adventures!