Travel Savings Alerts Newsletter, March 2010 Issue
Travel Savings Alerts
P.O. Box 91033
Columbus OH 43209
ISSN: 1542-801X, Copyright 2010
All Rights Reserved.
Editor: Nicki Chodnoff
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Sterling Silver Circle Pendent
The 30 mm sterling circle pendent is nearly 1 1/4 inch wide with a pave finish to make it look like small diamonds line the circle.
The back of the pendent is clad in yellow 18K yellow gold overlay while the front remains sterling silver. The necklace is finished off with an 18-inch sterling silver box-like chain clad in the same 18K yellow gold overlay. Comes in a black faux-leather gift box.
Priced at $75. Our price $24.95.
Order from AAA Jewelry Outlet. Click here to order.
|In This Issue: |
Old Faithful Erupting, Yellowstone National Park, WY
|Experience a fun adventure with the Legoland Family Escape! hotel package. The Legoland Family Escape! hotel package at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center, in Schaumburg, IL, includes overnight accommodations, four Legoland Discover Center tickets, and a $30 credit for lunch or dinner at the Gather Lounge.
Prices start from $129 per room, per night. The package is valid Thursday through Sunday, through Nov. 25, 2010. Use promotional code LL8 in the Corporate/Promotional code box when making online reservations, or ask for promotional code LL8 when calling in reservations.
Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center or 800/228-9290.
Colony Beach & Tennis Resort Value Packages
|The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, in Longboat Key, FL, offers value packages for families, couples, and tennis enthusiasts.
The resort offers a beachfront location. Included in all rates is tennis court time, use of the fitness center and spa, pool and beach chairs and towels, children's recreation programs and parking.
The "Beach Break" package is for couples, families or groups of friends traveling together. Available for a minimum of three nights, the package includes a one- or two-bedroom suite, daily continental breakfast for two in a one-bedroom and breakfast for four in a two-bedroom and a $50 dining credit. For stays of four nights or longer the dining credit is $100. Rates start at $215 per suite, per night.
The "Family Fun in the Florida Sun" package includes accommodations in a one- or two-bedroom suite, continental breakfast for four daily, a dining credit of $50 for a one-bedroom and $100 for a two-bedroom, three hours of babysitting services and dinner for two in The Colony Dining Room. Package rates start at $239 per night.
The Gold or Silver Tennis package includes accommodations in a one- or two-bedroom suite for three nights, daily continental breakfast for each adult, and four (Gold) or two (Silver) tennis clinics per day, per suite. Rates start at $105 per person, per night. For stays Sunday through Wednesday nights, you get an extra 10 percent discount.
Located on a private white sand beach, the resort features 208 one- and two-bedroom suites that sleep four to six people with a full kitchen, living room and private balcony overlooking gardens, tennis courts or the beach.
The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.
Ohio State Park Lodges started a Passport Program for repeat guests at any of the eight state park lodges operated by Xanterra Parks & Resorts.
Passports are available at any participating Ohio State Park Lodge. For each night stay in any participating Ohio State Park Lodge throughout 2010 and 2011, you receive a stamp on your passport at the lodge registration desk. Once you receive three stamps you can redeem your passport for a certificate for a one-night stay at any lodge.
The Passport Program is valid with other discounts and promotions. Travel must be completed by Dec. 31, 2011 to earn vouchers. Mail completed passports to Passport Program, Ohio State Park Lodges, P.O. Box 7, Cambridge, OH 43725. Passports must be postmarked by Jan. 31, 2012. Redemption certificates will be sent within six weeks. Redemption certificates can be redeemed for overnight stays within one year of the date of issue.
Each Ohio State Park Lodge is distinctive and reflects its natural surroundings. A common denominator, is the wide range of recreational activities such as kid-friendly water features, old-fashioned arcades, kid-friendly nature center and the resort naturalist leads games, experiments and nature hikes. Bicycles, paddle boats, canoes and rowboats can be rented at many of the parks. All of the lodges feature an indoor pool and exercise room, and you can borrow board games to take back to your rooms or play in the lobby areas.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts' eight Ohio State Park Lodges or 800/282-7275.
The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village in Northeast Florida offers an "American Hero Rate" of $89 per room, per night, to active and retired members of the U.S. military, U.S. police officers and U.S. firefighters. The special rate also includes breakfast for two in the resort's restaurant.
The offer is available through Dec. 31, 2010, based on space availability. You need to ask for the special rate, and then show your appropriate supporting ID upon check-in.
For golfers, the resort also offers an "American Hero Stay & Play" package, available to active or retired members of the U.S. military, U.S. police officers, and U.S. firefighters. The package for one golfer and one non-golfer in the room (or for one person in the room), includes: one round of golf on the Slammer & Squire course or the King & Bear course; one night in a newly remodeled guest room; breakfast daily for one; and range balls. The rate is from $179 per room, per night through May 31, 2010, based on space availability.
The "American Hero Stay & Play" package for two golfers in the room includes: one round of golf on the Slammer & Squire or King & Bear, per golfer; one night in a newly remodeled guest room; breakfast daily for two; and range balls. The package is from $279 per room, per night through May 31, 2010, based on space availability.
Located on the 6,300-acre World Golf Village, near St. Augustine, the Renaissance Resort features two championship golf courses, a professional indoor golf simulator, a sauna, pool, hot tub, tennis courts, and full-service concierge.
Guest rooms and suites offer flat-panel high definition televisions; high-speed Internet access; connectivity for MP3 players, digital cameras, and video game players; two telephones with data ports, a wet bar and refrigerator, and in-room coffee.
The Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village or 888/740-7020.
French Country Waterways allows you to relax on one of three barges, sip on a Grand Cru wine and snack on local cheeses, while taking in the scenic vistas of the French countryside plus save $250 on April 2010 departures.
For people celebrating quinquennial wedding anniversaries, (takes place every fifth year), French Country Waterways offers discounts that equal the number of years - five percent for the fifth anniversary, 15 percent for the 15th year - all the way to 50 percent for the golden anniversary.
April fares, reduced by $1,000 per person for the shoulder season, range from $4,845 to $5,245 per person, double occupancy, a savings of 20 percent. The "Quinquennial Anniversary" program comes off the regular fares of $5,095 to $6,495. Cruises have weekly departures from Apr. 4 to Oct. 31, 2010. The offers cannot be combined and are subject to availability.
The eight-passenger Horizon II takes in historic Burgundy, between Tanlay and Veneray-les-Laumes on the Canal de Bourgogne.
The 12-passenger recently-renovated Nenuphar moves to the Canal de Bourgogne in Burgundy's Cote d'Or wine-growing region for 2010, following the 18th-century Canal du Centre and the Canal de Bourgogne between St. Leger-sur-Dheune and Dijon.
The 12-passenger, all-suite Adrienne sails the Champagne region between Maizy and Chateau-Thierry on the Canal Lateral a la Marne, Canal de l'Aisne a la Marne and the River Marne.
Characteristics of French Country Waterways barge cruises are a lunch ashore and a dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant; creative cuisine with the trend to lighter cuisine; four-course candlelit dinners with Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines; daily sightseeing to nearby medieval towns and churches, chateaux and famous vineyards; time for relaxing on the sun deck, walking or bicycling along canal towpath and shopping in nearby villages.
French Country Waterways or 800/222-1236.
The Jalousie Plantation St Lucia opened two clusters of luxury villas and two new bars. Anew rainforest spa with tree house treatment rooms is scheduled to open before summer 2010 to compliment the existing Oasis Spa and PADI dive facilities on the beach.
In addition to the amenities, Jalousie offers free nights on stays of seven nights or more in any room category. The longer you stay, the more free nights you receive. Stay seven nights, pay for five. Stay 10 nights, pay for seven. Stay 14 nights, pay for 10.
You will also receive free breakfast and dinner daily (excluding drinks) as part of the free nights offer. Or, you can upgrade to an all-inclusive meal plan for $60 per person, per day plus 18 percent tax and service charge.
This offer is valid for new bookings only, for stays to Oct. 15, 2010. It cannot be combined with any other special offer.
The Jalousie Plantation is undergoing a $100 million enhancement and it will be re-branded as the Tides Sugar Beach. Located in the Val des Pitons (Valley of the Pitons), a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Jalousie Plantation sits on 100 acres of rainforest and the only white sand beach in the south west of the island.
The new villa suites will offer butler service, four-poster beds, air conditioning, flat screen TV, iPod station, walk-in body shower, claw foot bathtub, plunge pool, and high thread count cotton linens.
The Jalousie Plantation or 758/456-8000.
Allstar Coaches, a RV rental dealer, reduces its rates for Florida RV rentals during March and April 2010.
Local delivery and pickup for all Broward and Palm Beach RV renters is offered at no charge. And according to Rob Tischler, President and CEO of Allstar Coaches, the company will meet or beat any price for a comparable RV rental.
RV rentals offer an alternative to expensive airline tickets and overpriced hotel rooms, allowing you to take control of your vacation and go pretty much wherever you want. RVing offers all the comforts and conveniences of home while on the road or in the most remote locations.
Allstar Coaches has locations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with locations opening this year in Orlando and Tampa. Allstar also has rental locations in California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada and the ability to deliver a RV to any doorstep in America.
Allstar Coaches or 866/838-4465.
Passengers flying on state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia can use the newly launched onboard visa application service on its Tokyo-Denpasar-Jakarta route.
With this service, tourists from Tokyo no longer need to line up at the immigration counter, allowing an easier and more convenient way to arrive in Bali. The Tourism Ministry hopes this service will attract more visitors to Indonesia, to meet the goal of attracting seven million foreign tourists in 2010.
Travelers are required to buy visa on board vouchers at Garuda Indonesia's check-in counters in Narita Airport. You can apply for a seven-day visa for $10 or a 30-day visa for $25. The 30-day visa can be extended for another 30 days at no extra charge.
Two immigration officers on Garuda flights will check your passport and later process your visa on board. After your visa clearance is granted, you will receive a pass card. The pass card is handed to officers at the immigration checkpoints upon your arrival at Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali and Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta.
Garuda Indonesia will provide the visa on board service on Garuda flights from Nagoya's Chubu International Airport and at Osaka's Kansai International Airport later this year. They also plan to expand the visa service for inbound flights from Korea and China.
NFL Team Branded Growth Chart |
A great keepsake to capture a child's growth through the years and show your team spirit.
Available for all 32 NFL teams plus the Ohio State University, the large growth chart (54" long by 15" wide) easily hangs
on any surface with removable adhesive tabs. A pink version for all 32 NFL teams is available for girls.
The growth chart comes with 14 removable footballs that adhere directly onto the chart.
Footballs, placed at the child's measurement each year, include a place to write the date and child's age, when measured,
and a place for a photo!
NFL team and Ohio State University growth charts are available at ke specialties
Wimco Villas launched their "Break for a Cause" promotion. This program is designed to reward Wimco clients by entering them into a drawing for a free week-long villa vacation on St. Barts that can be gifted to a school as a live auction fund raising item. Anyone traveling with Wimco to any destination they serve between Mar. 1 and May 1, 2010 will be entered into the drawing.
Can't travel but still want to help? Wimco set up a web page where you can enter your school into a drawing for a $1,000 scholarship. Wimco will award the donation to the school with the most nominations. The school must be accredited and have a minimum enrollment of 40 full-time students and a maximum enrollment of 1,500 students. Each person can only nominate a school one time.
Wimco Villas is a villa rental company with access to private villas in the Caribbean and Europe. In the Caribbean Wimco represents villas on St. Barts, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, Anguilla, Barbados, Mustique, Nevis, St Martin, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. In Europe, Wimco represents villas in Italy, the South of France, and Mykonos. Wimco recently introduced villas in Cabo San Lucas and Punta Mita, Mexico and in Maui and Oahu, Hawaii.
Wimco Villas "Break for a Cause" promotion or 800/449-1553.
Universal Studios Hollywood's "Buy A Day, Get 2010 Free" annual pass, offers free admission throughout 2010. This year's new benefit enables year-long visits with no black-out dates. The "Buy A Day, Get 2010 Free" pass is available with the purchase of a full-priced one-day admission ticket purchased through Apr. 30, 2010.
The "Buy A Day, Get 2010 Free" annual pass also offers perks and privileges, including a designated member entrance located at the theme park's main gates, exclusive sweepstakes and invitations to events, such as movie premieres and a chance to experience this summer's new, "King Kong 360 3-D."
The arrival of "King Kong 360 3-D" coincides with major enhancements to the Studio Tour and the extensive backlot reconstruction. When you board the behind-the-scenes Studio Tour, you'll be greeted by contemporary movie sets and striking facades on the backlot.
Recently converted into "mobile movie theatres" and outfitted with HD flat screen monitors and digital playback systems, the backlot Studio Tour features movie and television clips, corresponding to sites visited along the Tour route. Helmed by knowledgeable guides, the Studio Tour is enhanced with video commentary from filmmakers, actors and personalities offering insightful perspectives on film and television production.
"Buy A Day, Get 2010 Free" with no black-out dates can be purchased online or at the Universal Studios Hollywood ticket booths and can be redeemed at the theme park's Annual Pass processing center.
"Buy A Day, Get 2010 Free".
The adults-only Royal Hideaway Playacar, in Playa del Carmen, welcomes an additional 200 feet of white-sand beachfront as Mexico's east coast is expanded and replenished with more than one-billion gallons of sand. In celebration of the new shoreline, the all-inclusive resort offers spa treatments, beverage service and private dining on the beach, and 30 percent off nightly rates starting from $278 per person for travel throughout 2010.
Among must-try experiences at the resort is the new, interactive Chef's Table located inside the kitchen at the resort's signature restaurant, Las Ventanas. The customized dining experience offers you the opportunity to interact with the resort's executive chef and his team while enjoying unique dishes created exclusively for the Chef's Table.
Royal Hideaway Playacar vacations include unlimited meals and snacks, with six a la carte specialty restaurants; 24-hour room service; unlimited drinks featuring premium alcoholic beverages, a selection of house wines, juices and soft drinks; daily resort activities; evening entertainment; DVD library; non-motorized water sports; and all taxes and gratuities.
The Royal Hideaway Playacar's staff will assist with services, such as private dining on the beach, reservations at the Chef's Table, and spa services at the Royal Hideaway Spa or on the beach.
Royal Hideaway Playacar, situated on 13 beachfront acres on the Yucatan Peninsula, is 45 minutes from the Cancun International Airport. The 200 guestrooms are in two-story colonial Mexican-style villas, each with a private concierge. All rooms feature marble baths and tropical touches. Furnished terraces and balconies blend the outdoor with the indoor. The resort's all-inclusive plan includes a fitness center, basketball, bocce ball, horseshoes, tennis (two lit courts), SCUBA lessons, sailing and cooking classes, kayaking, boogie boarding, windsurfing and aqua aerobics in the cascading infinity pool which overlooks the beach.
Royal Hideaway Playacar or 800/999-9182.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds travelers crossing the border into the United States from Canada to make sure they have approved travel documents.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), implemented on June 1, 2009, requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable travel document that denotes citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea.
CBP strongly encourages you to get a radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled travel document such as a U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver's License/Enhanced Identification Card or Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST/EXPRES) to expedite entry and make crossing the border more efficient.
RFID-enabled documents help reduce the time it takes to process travelers at the border. No personal identification information is stored on the RFID chip embedded in the cards – only a series of ones and zeros that points to information in a secure CBP database.
CBP reminds U.S. lawful permanent residents that the I-551 form (green card) is acceptable for land and sea travel into the U.S.
Here are few steps to make entry into the U.S. more efficient.
- Familiarize yourself with the "Know Before You Go" section of the CBP website to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items.
- Prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth. Have your approved travel documents available for the inspection and declare all items acquired abroad.
- Consult the CBP website site to monitor border wait times for various ports of entry. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits. During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative, less heavily traveled entry routes.
- Build extra time into your trips in case you cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic.
- Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use. Check details here.
- Do not bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood into the United States from Canada without first checking whether they are permitted.
- CBP officers have the authority to conduct enforcement examinations without a warrant, ranging from a single luggage examination up to a personal search. Even during the holiday travel season, expect a thorough inspection process when you enter the U.S. from Canada.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
|Don't count on getting too cozy on American Airlines. You won't get a pillow and blanket unless you pay for it or bring your own.
The carrier took all free red blankets out of its coach section on all North American flights so coach passengers won't have access to blankets at all. As of May 1, on flights of more than two hours, passengers in coach can buy a blanket and pillow for $8.
The new policy applies to coach passengers on flights to the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Premium-class passengers on all American flights and coach passengers on longer international flights will continue to get free blankets and pillows.
The $8 will buy you a blue fleece blanket and an inflatable neck pillow that you can keep. Plus, the airline throws in a coupon good for $10 off a Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. purchase of at least $30.
American isn't the first U.S. carrier to charge for bedding. JetBlue Airways Corp. and US Airways Inc. already offer $7 kits to passengers who want a blanket and pillow.
Southwest Airlines doesn't offer a blanket at any price. Blankets were pulled off their planes in 2009, due to H1N1 flu health concerns.
NFL Team Branded kleen kits
Fight against bacteria and flu germs with National Football League team branded hand sanitizer kleen kits. Produced by ke specialties llc, a kleen kit consists of a 2 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer, an 8 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer and a 40 count canister of wipes, available for all 32 NFL teams plus The Ohio State University.
The 2 ounce bottle (TSA approved for 3-1-1 carry-ons) or 8 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer easily fit into a pocket, purse or back pack and the 40 count canister of wipes can be used at home, while tailgating or at work.
NFL team and Ohio State branded kleen kits are available at ke specialties llc.
Reserve two nights' lodging at The Inn at Bay Harbor, in Bay Harbor, MI, with the Spa Freedom package and receive accommodations, breakfast for two each day and a $555 credit to spend as you please at the Spa at The Inn.
A two night package starts at $615 plus tax. With the $555 credit, you can relax and refresh with any combination of spa treatments, hair and cosmetics services in the new salon and/or select spa products from the Spa Boutique.
The offer is based on availability and blackout dates apply. Taxes are additional and midweek and weekend rates may apply. Spa credit must be used at The Spa at The Inn at Bay Harbor on spa services, salon services, spa boutique retail items or service charge. Scheduling spa appointments two to four weeks before arrival is suggested. Spa services that are bundled as a package will be booked individually at the individual service rate.
The Inn at Bay Harbor opened in 1998, overlooking the blue waters of Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay. The resort's ambiance resembles the turn-of-the-century northern Michigan inns.
Inn at Bay Harbor or 800/462-6963.
River Dance Lodge, a guest ranch in Kooskia, ID, features log cabins that offer rustic luxury and outdoor adventures such as horseback riding, rafting, biking, fly fishing and hiking. River Dance Lodge is in an ideal location for adventures on the trails, rivers and mountains of Idaho. On the banks of the Clearwater River, the lodge specializes in all-inclusive ranch vacation packages.
Their four day (Thursday to Sunday) or five day (Sunday through Thursday) Serenity package includes accommodation and meals.
In spring and fall, the four-day package in a small cabin costs $665 for the first person, $105 each additional adult, $90 for each child ages five to 12, and $65 for each additional child ages two to four. The rate for the four-day package in a large cabin only differs in that the first person charge is $995.
The spring and fall five day package in a small cabin costs $765 for the first person, $140 for each additional adults, $120 for each child ages five to 12, and $90 for each additional child ages two to four. The rate for the five-day package in a large cabin only differs in that the first person charge is $1195.
The Serenity packages includes a stay in a private hand-crafted log cabin with hot tub; small fridge, microwave, in-room coffee maker and library. There are no TVs or phones in the cabins. Breakfast and dinner, from dinner on arrival day through breakfast on departure day, is included as are snacks. Wireless internet plus board and card games are in the café building. Evening campfire entertainment is included.
Riverdance Lodge or 866/769-8747.
BOOK BY MAR. 17 - - Sceptre Tours offers it Affordable Luxury package with a six-night stay at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, south of Dublin, from $799 per person including airfare and rental car. Book this package by Mar. 17, 2010, and you’ll be entered into a drawing where one traveler plus companions will be upgraded to the Presidential Suite for the entire week.
The Presidential Suite at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt is at the top of the hotel with views overlooking Sugar Loaf Mountain and features: master bedroom and a separate guest room, signature linens and featherbeds, walk-in wardrobe, dining room, living room with fireplace, study room, private rooftop terrace with Jacuzzi tub, private sauna and steam bath, TV in the bathroom, wireless Internet access and Espresso machine.
The Affordable Luxury package includes: six nights in an interconnecting suite with living room and deluxe room at The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt; roundtrip economy airfare to Dublin; manual shift car rental for the week.
This package is priced from $799 per person for travel through Apr. 30,2010 from New York, There’s an additional $20 fee to fly from Boston and $49 from Chicago. The package price in May starts from $899 and peak season from $1,299. Rates are per person, based on four people traveling together, but the package is available for two to five travelers. Taxes to $150 per person are additional.
You can upgrade to the Business Class Special and fly business class on Aer Lingus for an additional $499 each way.
A Gold Upgrade includes rental car with automatic transmission and GPS Navigation from $59 per person, while a Platinum Upgrade includes the automatic car rental with GPS and dinner at Gordon Ramsay Powerscourt from $199 per person.
Sceptre Tours or 800/221-0924.
Enjoy winter at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort where you can find snow sports or fireside relaxation.
Through Apr. 29, 2010, the three night Nemacolin Winter Getaway package starts at $1545 per room. The package includes three nights at the resort and the $15 daily resort fee plus a $900 amenity credit for dining and activities. The $15 resort fee per day covers valet parking, on property shuttle service, fitness center access, wireless Internet, local and toll free calls, in-room coffee, newspaper, art tours, tennis court and access to winter trails. Taxes are not included in the price of this package
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort sits on 3,000 acres in Southwestern Pennsylvania and offers a myriad of activities and amenities for golfers, families, spa seekers, oenophiles, foodies, nature lovers and adventure seekers.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort or 866/344-6957.
BOOK BY MAR. 15, 2010 - - American and Canadian travelers looking for a spring or summer Caribbean getaway are eligible for a deal when they chose the island of Curacao and the Curacao Now package.
You must book the "Curacao Now" package through Mar. 15, 2010 for travel May 1 to July 4, 2010 or Aug. 15 to Dec. 18, 2010. Packages must be booked through official travel partners.
The deals and discounts with the Curacao Now package include: a $200 instant credit per person, a $200 food and beverage credit per room and one night free when five nights are booked.
Located in the Southern Caribbean, two and a half hours from Florida, Curacao is a UNESCO World Heritage site with an eclectic mix of history and culture. With diving, secluded beaches, championship golf and rich local cuisine, Curacao offers something for everyone.
Curacao Now terms, conditions and official travel partners. For free Curacao information call 800/328-7222.
Your lifetime dream of visiting Yellowstone National Park may have you envisioning a herd of buffalo lazily grazing in a meadow with cotton ball clouds hanging in the so-blue summer sky punctuated by the jagged Rocky Mountains.
Unfortunately a slew of tourists have the same vision of Yellowstone. The National Park Service (NPS) gets more than 275 million visitors each year, with the biggest crowds descending upon the parks in summer. So how do you get a slice of Yellowstone all to yourself? The best solution is to avoid the summer crowds by visiting out of season.
Our mid-June trip was the perfect time to beat most of the crowds. Our out of season travel was just before many kids end their school year and families hit the road. And we had the added advantage of traveling midweek instead of a weekend stay.
I see Yellowstone as the epicenter of the wild and untamed in the lower 48. It's larger-than-life landscape is primordial America, what existed before pioneers, railroads, highways, telegraphs, telephones and today's instant technology.
To see more of the wild and untamed, our journey starts by taking the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway out of Cody, WY to Yellowstone. There are barely any vehicles as we climb past red buttes. At more than 8,000 feet, we get out at the windy look-out at Dead Indian Summit, where we are treated to a stunning panorama of the Absaroka mountains. The road twists down the mountainside and the switchbacks along hairpin turns lead into a remote basin area. The drive provides head-turning scenery and occasional wildlife, in this area that's home to the largest herd of mountain goats in Wyoming. The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway ends when it intersects with the scenic Beartooth Highway, U.S. Highway 212, which takes you into the northeast entrance of Yellowstone.
To tour the oldest park in the U.S. park system, established in 1872, we opt for the historic touring Yellow Buses that in the early 1900s took visitors to see the wildlife and the natural wonders of the park. After being refurbished to their original appearance and updated to today's standards for safety and emissions, the eight vehicles each carry 13 passengers. Equipped with a top that can open so everyone can see the beauty of the park in warm weather and cozy lap blankets for cold weather viewing, every refurbished vehicle has its original Yellowstone Park Transportation Company number on it. Drew our knowledgeable driver, showed us we were in Big Rocky, number 433, built in 1938.
More than 30 different Yellow Bus tours are offered at Yellowstone. Taking a tour means someone else is driving so everyone has a chance to marvel at the scenery. Drew showed us some of his favorite spots, informed us about the history (did you know that five stage coach hold-ups happened in the park) and pointed out wildlife and flora we would miss on our own.
The boundaries around Yellowstone are more like mesh than nylon. Things flow in and out. Taking a tour when you first arrive gives you the lay of the land, so it's easier to explore this vast park on your own. Almost three million people visit this corner of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Surprisingly, less than 19 percent of Yellowstone visitors head into the back country. And less than 10 percent get more than 100 feet from their vehicle.
As was our intent, most visitors come to experience the park's restless geology; to take in the let nature-take-its-course scenic beauty; to see grizzlies, gray wolves and herds of buffalo in the Lamar Valley, called the savannah of America; or to fish legendary trout streams such as the Madison and the Yellowstone River.
During my first visit to Yellowstone, I and I imagine many first-time visitors, are surprised to see so many large animals, all free and wandering around. As a repeat visitor to the park, I was hoping to see as many of the Lamar Valley's inhabitants as I could, including grizzlies, wolves, bison, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, coyotes and eagles. As we drove around the park, I felt a heightened sense of surprise, as you never know what's coming around the next bend. Your chances of being in the right place at the right time improve with the guidance of a park ranger, tour driver, a Yellowstone Institute instructor or private guide.
Even with great expanses of land, along the main roads through the park, all it takes is a tourist with a camera or binoculars aimed at allegedly distant wildlife to start a traffic tie-up. Several times, traffic came to a stand-still or we crawled past vehicles partially blocking the road while their occupants wandered off on a wildlife quest. On one occasion, a bison calmly standing in the middle of the road caused a log jam. As we drive by, the animal impassively stares at us unconcerned with the people and cars.
Even with the occasional traffic jam, Yellowstone has plenty of room to roam away from the crowds, even if, by some estimates, one-third of the U.S. population will visit Yellowstone during their lifetime. You don't need to don a backpack bursting with a week's supply of dehydrated food to find solitude. The park's three million visitors are not overwhelming when you consider the park spans across 2.2 million acres of some of the loneliest, geologically bizarre and wildlife-rich turf in the country.
A few of the best ways to find a semblance of solitude and get a better appreciation for the park is to get out of the car for a few hours. Walk as little as 100 feet away from your car and the people with cameras or view the sights everyone wants to see when others are not there. That may mean going in the morning when people are sleeping but the wildlife is up or around dusk when people are jostling for seats at the restaurant.
Old Faithful is one of Yellowstone's major attractions and one of nature's most famous spectacles. Geysers are incredibly rare geologic features, so seeing Old Faithful eject a column of 130-foot-high steaming water and seeing more geysers in the Old Faithful area than in the rest of the world combined is a rare treat. But if you show up mid-day, be prepared to bump shoulders with thousands of people standing around the landmark's perimeter.
To have Old Faithful and all the other geysers in the basin that drain into the Firehole River nearly all to yourself, stay overnight at the Old Faithful Inn or Old Faithful Snow Lodge. One of the treats of the Old Faithful Inn is ending the day sitting on the outside terrace and taking in the spectacular scenery or cozying up to the huge stone fireplace. The hotel is one of the largest log structures in the world, with a 76.5-foot-tall lobby. Electric candles softly illuminate lounging areas on overhanging balconies. Handsome, dark-toned gnarled logs form railings.
Since Old Faithful's eruptions are fairly predictable, head out early in the morning, about 8 a.m. will do. Before the crowds arrive, you'll share the event with a handful of people. Another alternative is to take the unpaved trail behind Old Faithful to Observation Point, a rise of 250 feet.
There are around 10 more geysers in the Old Faithful area that are worth viewing. From the bridge that crosses the Firehole River, there's a boardwalk that circles past the basin's less famous, but still impressive, geysers and hot springs. When you cross the bridge, there are beautiful pools of searing-hot and perfectly clear water, with gorgeous colors around them. And early in the day, they'll be few people looking at the thermal formations.
As the name suggests, Solitary Geyser is apart from the rest of the basin's geysers and springs. Chances are good that you'll have the place to yourself. Wait 10 minutes or so and you'll see Solitary Geyser erupt. A fountain-type geyser, don't expect an impressive column of water and steam as Old Faithful as most eruptions are less than six feet high.
Perhaps the most breathtaking sight in Yellowstone Park is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, 24 miles of twisting, sheer rock cliffs carved 1,200 feet deep. At the canyon's beginning two thundering waterfalls inspire awe. The Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, twice as high as Niagara, plunge 308 feet into clouds of mist and the Upper Falls tumble 109 feet down.
Well-marked trails take you to spectacular vistas along the north and south rims and into the gently rolling timbered slopes and deep grassy meadows that surround the canyon.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone Park was created some 600,000 years ago, when huge volcanic eruptions occurred in the area, emptying a large underground magma chamber. In minutes, volcanic debris spread for thousands of square miles, causing the "roof" of the magma chamber to collapse into a giant caldera (canyon) 30 miles wide and 45 miles long.
Some people rank the dramatic and spectacular view of the canyon and Lower Falls from Artist's Point as one of the most scenic spots in America. You're so high up and the canyon is so tremendously large and deep, your camera won't do it justice. Come early in the morning and in addition to the uncrowded views, you may be treated to wildlife along the mile and a half round to the parking area. Bison freely roam the road as may deer and elk. It's a good bet that in the afternoon the area will be teeming with tourists. Free ranger talks are presented here to further enhance the experience.
Steamboat Point, on the east shore of Yellowstone Lake south of Mary Bay, was named for the many steam vents, or fumeroles, found in the area. Plus the sounds of steam escaping from fumeroles on the steep hillside resembles the sounds of a steamboat. The high bluff provides a beautiful view of the lake, the largest high-altitude lake in North America.
In a series of boardwalks near Yellowstone Lake, you can view the uncrowded charms of the West Thumb geyser basin, with its colorful mats of bacteria and algae surrounding bubbling vents and fumaroles. The boardwalk loop-trail is a half-mile long, with a quarter-mile inner loop past vents, springs, boiling pools, and bubbling mud pots ringed with colorful organisms which thrive in hot water. Geologists estimate that more than 3,100 gallons of boiling water pours into the adjoining Lake Yellowstone daily. Viewing the geyser basin in the morning make the released steam more visible.
The Grand Loop Road following the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake will take you to the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. The sprawling Southern colonial mansion, with its distinctive columns, was transformed from a box-like structure by Robert Reamer, the architect who designed the grand log masterpiece of the Old Faithful Inn. Seemingly in the middle of no where, the second largest wood-frame building in North America offers a fantastic views of Lake Yellowstone, which you can appreciate at lunch or dinner if you can't stay there.
Most of the our journey was on Yellowstone's 140-mile figure-eight shaped Grand Loop Road, which takes you past nearly all of the park's primary attractions. The views are exceptional, whether alongside Yellowstone Lake or in an open valley. The road crosses the Continental Divide three times between Old Faithful and the park's South Entrance. You can break it up into two shorter loops by the 12-mile Norris-Canyon road which links Norris and Canyon Junctions. The road divides the eight-shaped Grand Loop route into two shorter loops: the 96 mile southern loop and the 70 mile northern loop.
Our short visit to Yellowstone barely scratched the surface of what to see and do.
Leaving the park was not the end, the eye-popping vistas continued as we traveled on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Highway (US 14/16/20) to Cody. Teddy Roosevelt dubbed the Wapiti Valley from Yellowstone's east entrance to Cody , WY "the most scenic 52 miles in the United States." Today, it's the 27.5-mile Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, which hasn't changed much since Roosevelt uttered his tribute.
The byway follows the scenic North Fork of the Shoshone River through the Absaroka Mountains, the Shoshone National Forest and the Wapiti Valley, which resembles the West of old cowboy movies. Cottonwoods line the riverbanks and lead to the steep granite walls of the Shoshone Canyon as the highway cuts through gorges with yellow and pink mesas, buttesy and bluffs with names like Laughing Pig and Chimney Rock. Look carefully and you might see Bighorn sheep and elk clattering over the boulders, while bison graze the adjacent grasslands.
So there are ways to see Yellowstone Park's principle sights such as Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone without fighting the crowds. Yellowstone is so vast that it's impossible to see it all in a single trip. But you can survey many of the park's highlights in as few as four days. The point to remember is that nearly any part of Yellowstone can be a wild and quiet place. It's all about the timing and distancing yourself from the other tourists.
Employees of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of the lodges, restaurants and other concessions in Yellowstone Park are experts on places to go and things to do throughout the park. Here are some of their favorites.
- Wake up before the critters. Get up before the sun and hightail it out to Lamar Valley to watch the sun rise and listen to the sounds of the park. You may hear the howl of a wolf. Sunset is also a great time to look for wildlife in the valley.
- Soak in the Boiling River, the only hot spring in the park where it is legal to bathe. A large hot spring enters the Gardner River, creating a steamy pool along the river's edge where bathers can soak in bubbling warm water. Bathing suits are required, and be prepared for a half-mile walk from the parking area to the hot spring.
- Walk Norris Geyser Basin. Home to the some of the hottest and most acidic geysers in the world. The acid killed most of the lodgepole pines in the area, creating a barren, other-worldly-looking place that many find more interesting than the Upper Geyser Basin featuring Old Faithful geyser. A series of boardwalks - some quite steep - circle the bubbling and malodorous hot springs and geysers.
- Hike to the Mount Washburn Fire Overlook. Considered by some employees to be the park's best short hike, the three-mile trail from the Chittenden Road parking lot to the overlook is only 1,000 feet elevation gain. From the summit, you can see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone Lake and the Grand Teton mountain range.
- Cast for trout. There are more than 200 streams and rivers in Yellowstone, and many of them have abundant population of wild, stream-bred cutthroat, rainbow, brown and brook trout.
- Bicycle along the Blacktail Plateau Drive to the park's Petrified Tree. This road is one of two in the park that allows two-way bike traffic and one-way car traffic. Mountain bikes are recommended.
- Take a two-hour horseback ride in the Roosevelt area of the park. The guided trail ride heads up a wooded hill behind the corral and meanders through and around sagebrush flats, meadows, canyons, lakes and valleys. Horseback rides are also offered at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and the Canyon Lodge.
- Paddle Yellowstone Lake in a canoe or kayak. Xanterra provides a one-way or roundtrip backcountry shuttle service with five drop-off points for travelers, their gear and boats.
- Hike to the most remote spot in the lower 48 states - the Thorofare region. It's at least 20 miles from a road in all directions. You are treated to the abundance of Yellowstone - wildlife, rivers, valleys, forest, thermal features and solitude. If you have limited time, you can arrange a drop off and/or picked up at a location near the region by Xanterra's Backcountry Shuttle Service.
Yellowstone Reservations or 866/439-7375. Yellowstone National Park
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