AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019 - 15

Old Faithful Lodge

ational parks are the best idea we ever had," author
Wallace Stegner wrote, and it's hard to argue. Since 1872,
when Yellowstone was established - the first national park
in the country, and likely the world - national parks have
protected some of America's most spectacular sights, from
the Grand Canyon's multicolored cliffs to Yosemite's
soaring waterfalls to Denali's snowcapped peaks.
Denali is the park AAA Bluffton/Hilton Head, South
Carolina, Travel Agent Kelly Brock recently took her niece
to for her 13th birthday. Brock booked a guided trip to
make sure they got the most out of their time, choosing a
Tauck tour designed for multi-generational family travel.
"I always prefer an escorted tour," she says. "I don't have
to think about how I want to spend my day while I'm on
vacation. And your guides are trained to tell you about the
history and the culture of the place you're visiting - you're
getting more education on the bus than you are going to
get on a self-drive trip."
In fact, there are many benefits to taking a guided tour
to see our national parks, and there are options to fit every
budget, preference and interest.

Insider Knowledge
On a guided tour, you have the company of experienced
guides who know where to go, and when, for the best
sights. At Bryce Canyon National Park, for example, every
visitor marvels at the park's hoodoos: the tall, slender rock
spires in shades of red and orange, reaching up into the sky.
But not many people experience the short walk along the
Tropic Ditch, as Trafalgar guests do, walking among the
hoodoos and looking up, while every other viewpoint in
the park looks down on them.
This insider knowledge applies to wildlife - which in
Bryce includes mountain lion, bear, elk, coyote and the
threatened Utah prairie dog - because tour guides know
the best places to spot wildlife. "Where people are doing
self-drives, they're in lines and they're not getting in to see
the wildlife, when there's maybe a herd of elk, for example,
because the crowds are there," Brock says. "But the buses
talk to each other. They know where to go first."

Special Experiences
Denali is famous for its wildlife too, home to grizzly
bears, moose, caribou and Dall sheep - nearly 40 different
varieties of mammals - and some tours emphasize
experiences around that.
"The tour companies can offer deeper wildlife tours,
which might get you more wildlife because they go where

there aren't as many vehicles," Brock says. A guided tour
with Alexander + Roberts Travel, for example, takes you
deep into Denali to search for fauna on their Tundra
Wilderness Tour.
A guided tour also delivers exclusive access to
experiences that independent travelers just don't have. In
Denali, home to its namesake 20,000-foot mountain, the
highest mountain in North America, a guided tour with
Insight Vacations introduces you to a local climber at a
private reception, where you can hear first-hand about the
experience of climbing it.

Better Accommodations
"A lot of folks want to stay inside the park so that on
their downtime, they get that lodge-like experience," Brock
says. "They've got the wildlife, the hiking and the beauty
they want right outside their door."
But, she adds, people traveling on their own have a hard
time booking those rooms - unless they plan a year in
advance. That's because guided tour companies are given
preferential treatment for bookings over independent travelers.
In Yellowstone National Park, the Old Faithful Snow
Lodge and Cabins is in demand, offering rooms close to
the most famous feature, the Old Faithful geyser; the lodge
fills up early year round. "Those hotels are booking early
because of the contracts that are negotiated from tour
companies - that's who's getting most of those room
nights," Brock says.
TRAVELER HOLIDAY 2019

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AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019

Contents
AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019 - Cover1
AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019 - Cover2
AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019 - Contents
AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019 - 2
AAA Traveler - Holiday 2019 - 3
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