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  • Dos & Don'ts of Reserving a National Park Stay

    Dos & Don’ts of Reserving a National Park Stay

Timing is everything in securing a stay.

Lodging in national parks comes with world-class settings. You can choose to visit any national park and discover lakes, towering mountains, river-cut canyons, painted deserts, and red rock formations beckoning just beyond your room’s door. The railroad companies built many of the best national park lodges, and many of these grande dame hotels feature soaring lobbies, thick log beams, and impressive fireplaces — all waiting for you to discover. Follow these helpful dos and don’ts to maximize your stay at these iconic properties.

Grand Canyon Lodges on the South Rim

Do Stay in National Park Lodging

A simple do that we can’t understate. The fact is that national parks are big — really big. By lodging in national parks, you eliminate hours spent driving to and from your destination. That affords you more time to explore and to savor the scenery. Leave your car parked and take advantage of trains, in-park shuttles, walking paths, bicycles, horses, mules, and organized guided tours.

Do Book Your National Park Lodging in Advance

And the further out, the better. After all, these are popular spots, and the best national park lodges fill up quickly. You can book reservations at The Old Faithful Inn (Yellowstone National Park); El Tovar, Phantom Ranch, and Bright Angel Lodge (Grand Canyon National Park); Many Glacier Hotel and Cedar Creek Lodge (Glacier National Park), and other well-known historic facilities 13 months or so in advance. Less famous lodging often have availability closer to your arrival date. However, it’s still wise to book as far in advance as possible. If you’re traveling to Yellowstone National Park and looking for lodging, summer reservations open May 1 for the following year. For winter, reservations open March 15. Be flexible with dates and hotels/lodges. Doing so gives you a better chance to secure a reservation. Check for cancellations. Cancellations do occur. The easiest way to check for cancellations is at the individual park website or by calling central reservations at 888-297-2757.

How to Plan a Grand Canyon Vacation - Part III

Do Book Guided Tours in Advance

Select the guided tours you want and book them as far in advance as possible, which also provides more choice when there are multiple departure times. For example, you may book the popular all-day South Rim mule rides 13 months in advance at Grand Canyon National Park.

Winter in Glacier Country

Don’t Assume the Features of Your National Park Lodging

When booking lodging in national parks, you must read the descriptions carefully. Amenities vary. Some rooms use shared bathrooms. Other accommodations come with private baths, telephones, and coffee makers. Often, rooms do not have televisions or air-conditioning, although some may.

Historic Lodging in the National Parks 4

Don’t Pay Unnecessary Fees

When you book lodging and activities directly with Xanterra Travel Collection®, you avoid paying third-party booking fees. Furthermore, you’ll be dealing with company representatives who know the properties and are based there in some cases. For reservations, call 888-297-2757.

Historic Lodging in the National Parks 5

Don’t Unwittingly Book the Wrong Lodging

Some online booking sites often prominently feature accommodations outside the parks and are paid commissions for doing so. When it comes to the best national park lodges, your best bet is to deal directly with Xanterra Travel Collection®. Ready to learn more about the exciting travel experiences available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties? Check out the latest digital issue of Explore Magazine.