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13 Tips for an Amazing Family Vacation in Arizona

Arizona may be best known for the natural wonder of the Grand Canyon but there is so much more to experience on a trip to this Southwestern state. With weather that cooperates for most of the year and a cross-section of activities that work well with kids, Arizona is an ideal destination for your next big family vacation.

 

Arizona is an ideal destination for your next big family vacation

Arizona is an ideal destination for your next big family vacation

Whether you’re ready for a week (or just a weekend) of adventure, relaxation and all-ages fun, our list of tips for planning a journey through this scenic state will help you take an epic family vacation.

1. Plan an Itinerary

One of the easiest ways to reduce your stress while traveling is to plan ahead. While our list is a good start, search the Internet for your own personal favorite kind of activities in the area. If your kids love dinosaurs or spaceships, see what the local area has to offer. Don’t forget your own interests, too – if you love antiquing, classic cars, or maybe strolling through used book stores, check out what Arizona has to offer and make a short-list of your favorites.

From there, you can organize these activities based on the locations you’ll be in on each day — making it convenient to squeeze in more fun. Now you’ll have several things to choose from each day and you won’t risk missing out on any of your must-see attractions.

2. Create a Packing List

The worst feeling is walking into the airport while thinking “I know I’m forgetting something!” A packing list prevents that from happening.

Once you know where you’re going and have an idea of what you’ll be doing, you can plan accordingly. Don’t forget to check the weather report! There are plenty of packing lists on Pinterest that can help but also remember to pack specifically for the type of trip you’re taking. I love how YouTuber Rachel Talbot packs for trips and the video she released about her own trip to Arizona with her family has some awesome tips here: Rachel Talbott’s Family Travel Tips and Arizona Vacation!

3. Pack Travel Snacks for the Kiddos

Airlines usually don’t feed you on the plane anymore and we’re often pressed for time when navigating busy airports. That won’t stop your kids from getting hungry.

An easy solution is to put your kids’ favorite snacks in plastic baggies and bring them with you in your carry-on. Your future self will thank you!

4. Visit the Concierge Desk at Your Hotel

Now that we do all of our travel planning online, the hotel concierge often gets neglected. However, they are one of the most underutilized resources for traveling smart — especially if you’re on a budget or you’re looking for a specific experience.

Your hotel concierge will be able to tell you about the best free activities, where families have the most fun, and even where parents can sneak away for a little fun of their own.

5. Look for Hotels With Heated Pools

After a long day of travel and fun, you probably want to relax, but your kids don’t. A simple compromise is enjoying a heated swim.

Your kids can swim and play while you kick back. It’s funny how we try to plan the most amazing family trips and our kids end up having the most fun at the hotel pool — go figure.

6. Indulge in Local Cuisine

Traveling is always a great excuse for eating lots of yummy food, especially when it’s food you can’t get back home. Arizona has some of the most unique food in the country — a blend of Mexican, Native American, and Tex-Mex cuisines.

Here are some of the local favorites:

  • Cactus – Incorporating saguaro and prickly pear cactus into various recipes is one of the oldest traditions in Arizona. You’ll find these delicious fruit used in syrup, jelly, salsa, fruit bars, candy, margaritas, and even BBQ sauce.
  • Navajo-Churro Sheep – This is some of the sweetest and most tender lamb meat you’ll ever taste and these sheep are actually the oldest surviving breed of sheep in the United States.
  • Mesquite Pod Flour – Mesquite is a type of wood that people often use to cook meat with, because it adds a tremendous flavor. In Arizona, people eat the seed pod from mesquite as a desert. Not only is it surprisingly tasty, but it’s full of antioxidants and reduces blood sugar.

Skip the familiar chain restaurants and go for something new!

7. Enjoy Some Arizona Tee-Time

Golfers will love visiting Arizona, which has some of the most beautiful golf courses you’ve ever seen. There are several resorts, such as The Camelback Inn and Resort in Scottsdale, that have nice golf courses while still being fun for the entire family.

8. See the Grand Canyon

You can’t visit Arizona without visiting the Grand Canyon! However, there are several ways to see the Grand Canyon to choose from — by land, air, or water.

The walking tours are the cheapest, but they also provide the worst view. If you’re looking for the best view possible, the helicopter tours are the perfect option. However, if you’re feeling adventurous your family can ride down into the canyon by mule and even go rafting at the bottom of the canyon!

 

See the Grand Canyon

See the Grand Canyon

Many of the tours, other than the helicopter tour, take up the majority of the day, so keep that in mind when planning other activities for the same day and packing for the kids to be out a long time.

9. Enjoy a Spa Day

Family vacations can get a little hectic so plan some time to chill out at the spa for a few hours. A quick list of some top ones in Arizona include:

  • Revive Spa at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort – there’s a peek at this gorgeous spa in Rachel’s video – she obviously loved it!
  • Enchantment Resort in Sedona
  • The Spa at the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale

10. Take a Fun Food Class

Cooking while on vacation? It’s not as crazy as it sounds. The Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix offers a Chocolate Interlude class where you and your kids can make candy bars and other chocolate goodies.

In Rachel Talbott’s video above, you can see her family giving their seal of approval for this unique experience. The class, taught by executive pastry chef Joel Gonzalez, has won the hearts of many other online reviewers, too!

11. Check Out Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Not far from Tucson Starr Pass Resort is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which has a collection of 16 individual gardens, 1,200 native plant species, and 240 native animal species. They also have an awesome raptor show — featuring ravens, owls, falcons, and several different hawks.

Don’t forget sunscreen for the little ones, because 80% of the museum is outdoors.

12. Take a Tour of the Sonora Desert

Unless you live in the Southwest, your family probably hasn’t spent much time in the desert. Despite what some might think of a ‘desert’, the Sonora Desert is quite scenic with beautiful mountains, rock formations, ancient ruins, abandoned gold mines, a variety of cacti, and wildlife.

 

Take a Tour of the Sonora Desert

Take a Tour of the Sonora Desert

There are plenty of walking tours, but I recommend looking into the ATV tours if your kids are old enough or a Hummer tour if you’d rather not do any driving so you can cover more of beautiful ground. Make sure you bring a camera (or just snap pictures on your phone)!

13. Live a Little

Last but not least, open yourself up to spontaneous fun. Sometimes we get so caught up in relaxing on vacation that we miss out on the excitement.

A day at the golf course and spa might sound great to us, but that all sounds pretty boring when you’re a kid and full of endless energy.

Here are some exciting activities your kids will never forget:

Arizona is the heart of the Southwest and the scenery is incredible. More importantly, it’s a wonderful place to travel with family. They have tons of activities for parents and kiddos to enjoy together!

 

Arizona family vacation

Arizona family vacation

For your next family trip, plan on coming home with a new tan, great memories, and some stories about how many ways you ate cactus.

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