In keeping with my travel theme from earlier in the week, I'd like to introduce friend and fellow writer, Julie Aiken. Julie is putting the finishing touches on her first e-book, Travels With Mom - The A-B-C's of Traveling with a Senior Companion.
I gave Julie 5 semi-random items to respond to, and she tackled them gamely. If winter weather has left you longing for an escape, read on to find some of Julie's recommendations.
5 great spots to visit with senior travelers
The drive into Zion Canyon is spectacular, and at the bottom you can take a free tram ride of the entire Park. The drivers are very knowledgeable and narrate the ride. From the tram you can see the towering rock formations of the canyon, rock climbers high above you (including some that camp overnight on the cliff faces), the serene Virgin River, a wide variety of birds, including brilliant bluebirds, and wildlife such as mule deer. There are several stops, each with different attractions if you and your companion are fairly mobile, and at one stop there is a snack bar with a large patio that is comfortable and affordable for lunch. At one end of the parking lot is a fully accessible Visitors Center with excellent displays and a good shop. This is a lovely National Park, with generally mild weather and little crowding.
While Mom and I prefer the North Rim, which is much less crowded and has small cabins nestled amid towering Ponderosa pine trees, I recommend the South Rim for a couple of reasons. There are more accommodations, Visitors Centers, gift shops, viewpoints and places to eat and drink. There is a great tram system that takes visitors to every viewpoint, and many places attractions such as the El Tovar Hotel and the Indian Watchtower at Desert View with its fabulous murals from floor to tower ceiling and stunning views. (There's no elevator, but you can enjoy it from the first floor, as well.) You are also much more likely to see an endangered California Condor at the South Rim than the North. The elevation at the South Rim is about 1,000 feet lower, so the likelihood and severity of altitude sickness is considerably less than at the North Rim.
Every time we have visited Canyon de Chelly someone from our tour group has remarked that they had not wanted to come, but that it was the best tour they've ever taken. You will love it. A Navajo tour guide drives a group of about 15 through this canyon system in a large 4-wheel drive vehicle, describing the scenery and telling amazing stories of the history of the area. These guides are folks who grew up here and many of them live part-time or have family that lives in the Canyon, and they know their stuff! Getting onto and off of the "jeeps" can be challenging for people with mobility issues, but the guides are helpful and in no hurry. We've visited when it was bone dry, when it had rushing streams several feet deep, and in every condition in between. The natural beauty is stunning, the ancient cliff dwellings and rock art amazing, and the history of the people is entrancing. Along the ride there will be opportunities to purchase hand-crafted art and jewelry from Native artists, and they take credit cards! It's a don't miss, but because most tourists do skip it there is never an uncomfortable crowd. NOTE: Hold onto your hats! People lose them on these jeep rides all the time, and I know that from experience.
If you travel to this extraordinary event with a senior companion, you MUST join the Gondola Club. They have the only seats in the house (seriously, there are no seats at the event), extraordinarily preferred parking (the closest parking available), luxurious bathrooms (rather than the port-a-potties everyone else uses), a full buffet meal, free refreshments including an open bar, and they're located closer to the balloon field than any other area. You can walk 100 feet and be among the balloons! And you're encouraged to walk among the balloons, or use a mobility scooter. This is considered the most-photographed event in the world, and for good reason. It's indescribable and in my opinion a don't miss that should be on everybody's bucket list!
Nowhere in North America will you have the opportunity and likelihood of seeing so many and such a variety of wildlife. On almost every trip we have seen several bears, both brown and grizzly, and usually mamas with babies in tow. Buffalo and elk are a given, with osprey, eagles, hawks, coyotes, moose and deer likely and wolves the prize. The landscape is so variable it's like visiting many Parks at once, from mountains to stunning canyons and meadows to lakes to thermal areas including the famous geysers. And you can see the vast majority of this without getting out of the car, so if you have mobility issues this is a phenomenal place. Yellowstone is truly spectacular, and extremely accessible for seniors of all abilities.
Hollywood has been on to this natural vista since the earliest days of film making, with John Ford and Stagecoach through Easy Rider and 2013's The Lone Ranger with several major motion pictures in between AND Doctor Who! But it never gets old.
Okay, I guess I'm not being too original here, as movies have been set here, including, of course, North by Northwest. But it is certainly a stirring backdrop.
This is another Park with a wide variety of scenery, but of course the cliff dwellings of the ancient Native Americans are the most striking. They're so huge and well-preserved, they're just begging to be the scene of a movie.
Chaco Canyon National Historic Park in New Mexico
This is such a vast expanse of ruins of ancient Native American dwellings that much of it has not even been excavated yet. It's huge. Its size alone would make it an incredible place to set a movie.
It makes you feel young and fit. :-)
Seriously, they have the best stories about America (if they're American) and traveling and adventures. Seniors are really great company! And they get treated with deference and consideration at a lot of places such as restaurants and hotels, so you get that benefit, too!
I include over 150 tips for traveling with seniors, from the obvious to those you probably wouldn't have thought of unless you've encountered specific situations.
1 thing Julie likes to do when she’s not traveling