A Southwest jaunt, with the kids along
Here's a family-friendly itinerary in southern Arizona that combines gentle hiking, a spectacular desert zoo, a little Wild West action, Native American lore and, for a splashy ending, a water park resort. Conspicuously missing: the Grand Canyon. The Petuskys want to save that until their kids are a bit older, and that's just as well. As they're about to find out, Arizona is worth more than one visit.
Days 1, 2 and 3: Tucson. Fly from BWI Marshall to either Tucson or Phoenix. The Petuskys plan to use frequent-flier miles for this trip, but if airfare were an issue, they could save some money by flying into Phoenix and driving two hours south to Tucson. Southwest last Thursday was quoting a round-trip Internet-only fare of $391 per person from Baltimore to Tucson in late March, and $358 to Phoenix. For a family of four, that's a savings of $132. (Tip: Southwest doesn't turn up in Kayak.com or other aggregator searches, so don't forget to check its site, http:/
Tucson, in southeast Arizona an hour from Mexico, has a spectacular setting in the desert valley, with mountains on three sides. Mexican, Spanish and Native American influences are everywhere, and attractions range from the sublime (the lovely 18th-century San Xavier del Bac Mission, still serving the Tohono O'odham Nation) to the offbeat (the airplane graveyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base).
Rent a car at the airport (Alamo is quoting a weekly rate of $241 for a midsize car on Priceline.com, including all fees and taxes) and head to a kid-oriented hotel, such as the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort (800-234-5117, http:/
A cheaper option: the historic Westward Look Resort (800-722-2500, http:/
Start exploring at the spectacular Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a combination zoo-botanical garden-natural history museum with "invisible" cages and lots of hands-on programs for kids (520-883-2702, http:/
Another must-do: Saguaro (pronounced "Sa-WAH-ro") National Park (520-733-5100, http:/
For cowboy fun, head to Old Tucson Studios (520-883-0100, http:/
Day 4: Sedona. Drive up to Red Rock Country, about a four-hour drive, but it's worth it, with some of the most spectacular scenery you'll ever see. Once there, go off-road with Pink Jeep Tours (800-873-3662, http:/
Try to stay at a hotel in town, such as the Best Western Inn of Sedona (800-292-6344, http:/
Days 5 and 6: Phoenix. Drive from Sedona to the capital, about two hours south. For a soggy finale, treat the kids to a stay at one of Phoenix's cool water park resorts. The all-suite Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort (800-947-9784, http:/
Advance-purchase, nonrefundable rates start at $169.15 per night for a one-bedroom suite with a pullout sofa, for a total of $380 for two nights, including taxes and fees. (Tip: Always check hotels' Web sites for Internet-only rates, which can offer substantial savings.)
Day 7: Fly home. Lodging and ground transportation for the trip will run about $1,400 to $1,500 and attractions about $360, for a total of about $1,900, assuming frequent-flier miles are used. Round-trip air from BWI to Phoenix would add $1,488, including taxes and fees, for a family of four, bringing the grand total to $3,388. Tucson, Sedona and Phoenix have a variety of lodging options, so you can bring the cost down by staying in cheaper places.
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