In October, Alyssa, Jackie, and Shaye (Jackie’s new friend from Kansas) will be going on an amazing trip through the Southwest United States, which we fondly nickname Destination: Desert. Our original intent was to see the hot air balloons ascend at the famous Albuquerque Balloon Festival, but it turned into so much more.
It didn’t take us long to plan (ahem - just kidding, we talked everyday, or in Saturday's case, every hour), but one thing that we did learn throughout the planning process is that sometimes you have to adjust. We tweaked and changed our plans multiple times, finally coming up with the perfect itinerary for the trip.
Check out our itinerary below to see what was going through our heads as we planned this trip:
9:00 PM - Alyssa arrives in Las Vegas on Spirit Airlines and will spend the night at Bally’s Hotel and Casino.
Alyssa: This was one choice that I was able to make all by myself. First off, I really wanted to stay on the strip. If you're going to go to Vegas, you want to get that Vegas experience. It took me a couple weeks to scout Groupon and LivingSocial until I found a decent deal for a hotel on the strip.
7:00 AM - Jackie and Shaye arrives in Las Vegas around 7 AM from Spirit Airlines.
Jackie: Something I didn’t know is that getting to Las Vegas is extremely inexpensive. I paid only $100 dollars for a ROUND TRIP plane ticket from Kansas City. Crazy! I have never been on Spirit Airlines, but I have heard that budget airlines can be tricky to maneuver. I consulted this article online to make sure I wasn’t nickled and dimed by a budget airline.
8:30 AM - Drive to the Valley of Fire
Alyssa: I know what you're thinking, "you’ve been in Vegas for less than 12 hours and you're leaving already?" We did say this was going to be jam packed. Don't worry, we'll get back to Vegas later.
Jackie: As said before, our ultimate destination is the Albuquerque Balloon Festival, but a road trip lacks fun without the breath-taking stops along the way! We made sure to include some of America’s most beautiful natural formations.
Alyssa: Now some might say “Once you’ve seen one rock formation you’ve seen them all”, but we are not those people. The Vermillion Cliffs and the Valley of Fire have several similarities in it’s natural swooping flow of red rock, which is to be expected of natural formations in close proximity. But their similarities don’t discount it from being a stop on our trip.
Jackie: I mean, look at these pictures - how could we pass up such a magnificent and majestic natural formation? Some people choose to stop at truck stops, we choose to stop at a national monument, instead.
Alyssa: When we first began our planning, I picked the cheapest Holiday Inns and Motel 6s along the way to save our money for activities. All of a sudden, I got a strange urge to just browse through AirBnB, and that was the best decision of the whole planning process.
Jackie: When Alyssa called me and told me about “glamping” I was skeptical. What is glamping anyway? But as soon as she sent me the link to this Airbnb … I was on the excitement train as well.
Alyssa: Unfortunately, we got so excited about this accommodation that I had entered the wrong dates on AirBnB and it was not available for our original plan of heading south first instead of north (basically just the complete opposite of our current plan). But I was determined to make this glamping site a stop on our trip. I flipped our itinerary - starting from Las Vegas going southbound towards Albuquerque, and we were fortunate enough to find availability on this day instead. We booked it in a matter of minutes.
Alyssa: I’ve been in this area before, but never to the Canyon. When I saw how close it was to our AirBnB I knew we had to try to fit it into our weekend. Jackie was skeptical, but what else is new...
Jackie: Alyssa suggested fitting this in, and as soon as I saw the pictures - I was hooked. This is probably the destination that I am most excited for. Because the Canyon is sacred Navajo land, you can only access it by booking a tour ($40). I think that this tour will be WELL worth the money.
Alyssa: When we were researching the Grand Canyon, this gem popped up on our radar. I was sad at first to see that it was nowhere near where we intended to view the Grand Canyon. After looking further into the map, I saw that it is 15 minutes away from the glamping site, and one the itinerary it went.
Jackie: This is a staple for travelers in the Southwest. I’ve seen all of the big American blogs take pictures on the cliff in front of the cliff - and I want one too!
Alyssa: I have been to the Four Corners before when my family was driving cross country from California to Maryland in 2007 (see photo below). Yes, I do like to occasionally return to places I have visited before, but it is definitely not necessary to see the Four Corners twice in one lifetime...unless you are an awesome big sister.
Jackie: Okay - let’s not get crazy now, Alyssa … Anyway, I just think it would be a cool experience to say that you have stood in 4 states at once! Also - the experience is free! And if you know anything about me by now, is that free = me!
2:30 PM - Drive to Albuquerque. Spend the night at Adobe House in Albuquerque, NM
Alyssa: This was the last of of the accommodations that we booked. We knew going into this, it wouldn’t be easy to find a cheap hotel to stay in during Albuquerque’s biggest event of the year, so we were prepared for a $$$$ Best Western for that one night. Since, we had booked 2 other AirBnBs, we figured, we might as well see if they had anything in Albuquerque, and much to our surprise, we stumbled upon a gem.
Jackie: This Airbnb was a convenient, inexpensive place to stay. The pictures were beautiful, and the place looks like we can get some awesome desert pictures. Who could ask for more?
Jackie: Ahhhh. The whole point of our trip. I think that this is the one activity that I won’t mind waking up early for. I am ridiculously excited to see all of the hot air balloons rise over the mountains of New Mexico, creating a sea of colors in the sky.
Alyssa: I have been trying to see this every year for like the past 5 years, and college always seemed to get in the way. Now, without the burden of schoolwork, I’m a free woman! So I knew this would be the year to do it.
Jackie: The tickets were kind of expensive - $15 a person (to see some balloons!) But we knew that this was a “splurge” that we had to pay out for.
Alyssa: To be fair, the ticket includes parking as well, so we really can’t complain at all.
Alyssa: On our way back to Vegas, we are stopping over for a night in the scenic Sedona area of Arizona. I wanted to make sure we didn’t waste our precious time by driving all over town in search for the perfect sunset location. So thank you, past bloggers, for making this part easy for me. With some quick research, I found out that this ranch is the perfect spot for glowing desert sunsets.
6:00 PM - Leave and drive to Sedona. Spend the night at Bubble Capsule in Sedona, AZ
Jackie: This Airbnb rivals glamping. This “bubble capsule” is situated on a cliff near the Grand Canyon. Not only do you get the view of the Canyon, but you can also lay in the capsule and look up at the stars! When I saw this, I called Alyssa right away and told her we have to book it. It was relatively inexpensive - $160 for the night. Split between the three of us, it was only $50 for an experience we hopefully will never forget.
Alyssa: 1 Bubble, 3 Girls. I’ll let you know how it all goes down in a future post.
Alyssa: There is no way we would go on this whirlwind adventure and not stop at the Grand Canyon. Just like, all of our other planning, our time is precious for this trip, we don’t have the time to wander around the Grand Canyon for hours searching for the best spot for photos. So again, thanks to the previous bloggers who gave all the great tips of the best spots along the canyon.
Jackie: The Hoover Dam is one of those milestones that one just has to visit in their lifetime. When we were planning our trip, it was a “happy accident” that we would be passing right by the Black Canyon of the Colorado River. Time to visit a national landmark!
Alyssa: Everyone already knows I’m a over-compulsive freak when it comes to planning so I’m sure it will come to no surprise that I was using Google Maps’ Street View feature to “drive” down the road in order to pinpoint spots that we could stop at for potentially beautiful photos. I was so in-depth to the road, that I saw a river out the corner of my eye and thought “Hmm, what’s over there? Surely a river would be great for photos?”. Yeah, that happened to be the Colorado River.
Alyssa: This is a new art installation just outside of Vegas. It’s pretty self explanatory: it’s on the route, it looks interesting, we are crazy and try to fit as much stuff in as possible.
Jackie: Then, the rest of the night is spent in Vegas! Places that we will hit up: the Neon Boneyard, the Las Vegas Sign (is it really a Las Vegas trip if you don’t take a picture in front of it?), Fremont Street, and the Vegas Strip.