This week, we are continuing to share destination reports from your extremely knowledgeable and generous peers! Today, we’re learning about the scenic and unique train ride from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon.
Of course, this column can give you only a taste of the extremely popular locations we’re featuring this month. Therefore, for a more comprehensive study, we recommend that you enroll in the North America Destination Specialist Course
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This week’s fascinating and fact-filled report is from Stacey Cabell, CTA
, of Starstuff Travel. Here are Stacey’s awesome insights:
Something the pandemic taught us was how to pivot (I know you are all tired of that word by now). So when destinations slowly started to reopen, my husband and I made a promise to our agency that we would showcase more domestic travel for those who were ready to get back to traveling but were not comfortable leaving the country yet. We set out on a journey to find those little domestic gems that do not get enough hype, The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel
is one of those gems.
You can fly into Phoenix and rent a car to drive to Williams, Arizona where the GCR & Hotel is located. It’s about a three-hour drive, but the scenery is breathtaking. Flagstaff airport is much closer, but Phoenix may be more affordable, even with a car rental.
Our first experience with the Railway was on a family trip in the spring. We stayed in Sedona and drove to Williams to experience the railway for the day. The drive is just under 1½ hours one way; add the two hours and 15 minutes each way on the train, and you’re sitting most of the day. I highly recommend dedicating a few days to this trip.
Grand Canyon Railway cars – Petr Podrouzek/Shutterstock.com
When you purchase tickets, you have a scheduled time to board the train. Tip: Be sure to advise your clients to arrive early. This way, they can tour the gift shop prior to boarding. Visiting the shop beforehand is helpful for those coming only for the day because, when they get off the train, they may need to hit the road for the drive ahead.
We bought coach-class tickets that reminded me of a typical train. The difference is that there are musicians who roam the cars, playing guitar and singing. There always is a passenger service attendant close by who will answer questions and share some insight about the journey. There even is a train robbery where cowboys take over the train while collecting some cash and running from the sheriff. This cabin is a good choice for those on a budget. For clients looking for a more luxurious way to travel, there are many other great car options.
When the train arrives at the Grand Canyon, you will have three hours and 45 minutes to explore on your own or to enjoy a pre-booked tour. Having a tour is good for those who want to make the most of their time. When we arrived, we went off on our own and had a great lunch at the famous El Tavor, overlooking the canyon. You need to make a reservation well in advance to eat here because of its popularity. Guests such as Sir Paul McCartney, Teddy Roosevelt, and President Bill Clinton have dined here.
Experiencing the train for the day like this was fun but very exhausting. We recommend staying multiple days, if possible.
Our next trip a few months later included a two-night stay at GCR & Hotel with dinner at the Fred Harvey Restaurant. The Hotel is on the same property as the railway, so having the convenience of being right there made this trip so much more relaxing.
Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel – Rosemarie Mosteller/Shutterstock.com
GCR offers a few different ways to experience the train and the beauty of the Grand Canyon. You can go for just the day, you can stay at the GCR & Hotel for a few nights, or you can combine it with a stay at the Canyon itself at one of their other properties. A great way to sell this option to potential clients is talking to them about the ease of the vacation. When clients stay overnight at the GCR & Hotel before taking the railway into the Canyon to stay at a related property, their luggage will magically disappear from the GCR Hotel in the morning and reappear at the next hotel destination.
On this trip, we selected the most exclusive seat on the train: the luxury dome. This truly makes you feel like a VIP and offers comfy seating, along with some neat added benefits.
Another great way to upsell this for multiple days is to discuss the great dining and shopping options on Route 66
within walking distance of the GCR & Hotel. We walked around this charming area early in the morning before we boarded the train. There is a large variety of unique shops and boutiques, selling anything from home décor and specialty snacks to cowboy attire and outdoorsy items.
Wild West Junction – Michael Gordon/Shutterstock.com
One evening, we dined at The Wild West Junction, which is exactly what you think it is! Along with great food here, it is home to a saloon, as well as themed rooms you can rent. It is said the venue is haunted and, consequently, has been visited by professional paranormal investigators. This property was recently purchased by a very sweet couple whom we had the pleasure of meeting. A perfect target demographic for this area would be fans of history, the paranormal, and even Disney. The Disney movie Cars
pays homage to most of the area. At night, the view of everything lit up will send chills down your clients’ spines!
This trip not only is the bucket-list itinerary your clients have dreamt of but is more affordable than they think. Because of the popularity of national parks in the past couple of years, be sure clients understand that spots fill quickly. I also highly recommend taking this trip yourself. There are generous travel agent rates, and using the power of social media while on destination creates FOMO (fear of missing out) that translates into great bookings!
Fabulous information, Stacey! Thank you!