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The perfect family holiday in the Grand Canyon

Few places in the USA are as fit for a family holiday as the Grand Canyon. In this article, we’ll take you through what makes this place so special for families. We’ll also provide handy tips for those looking to make the trip themselves, such as flight information, accommodation and getting an ESTA visa.

Getting to the Canyon

When travelling to the Grand Canyon, the closest airport is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. The distance from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon is about 70 miles, or around 113 kilometres. However, Flagstaff is a very small airport, generally only used for domestic flights. International flights have to deal with multiple stopovers. If you’re travelling from Ireland, a better option is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, about 3 to four hours from the Canyon. The only stop is at London Heathrow. You can easily rent a car at the airports and drive to the Canyon yourself, but there are also shuttles that can take you there if you’d rather not get behind the wheel.

Before buying your flight tickets, you’ll first want to apply for an ESTA visa. Irish travellers don’t need an embassy visa to travel to the USA, and this also applies to children. Irish nationals of any age are eligible for the much easier to get (and much cheaper) ESTA visa, which you can apply for online. All that is required to acquire this permit is filling out an online form and paying the fee. You’ll receive the ESTA confirmation via e-mail.

As for as accommodation for your trip to the Grand Canyon is concerned, you have multiple options. You can stay in a hotel in one of the nearby towns, such as Tusayan, or at one of the hotels and lodges closer to the Canyon itself. Examples of the latter include El Tovar Hotel or Maswik Lodge. These do tend to be more expensive, however.

While the Grand Canyon is one of the most popular family activities to do in the USA, make sure you keep a close eye on your children. This is especially the case when taking pictures. Some of the rocky cliffs and ledges are surprisingly treacherous as people go off-path for the best picture. However, if you simply stick to the designated paths, you’re perfectly safe.

Family activities in the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is filled with activities fit for families travelling together. These include:

Hiking the Rim Trail
Because it’s paved and its minimal elevation change, Rim Trail is arguably the easiest of the hiking trails in the Grand Canyon, making it perfect for families with (young) children. The trail is about 21 kilometres long and takes around 4 hours to complete. Along the way, it passes by all the best sights in the park, providing ample opportunity to take pictures or rest to enjoy the view. If you or your children get too tired to make the full hike, there are bus stops along the trail with shuttles that can take you back.

Desert View Drive
If you’d rather do things by car than on foot, you’ll definitely want to try to Desert View Drive. This scenic car route travels along the South Rim of the park and takes about an hour to complete. It passes by a number of sights, such as the popular Desert View Watchtower. You can stop at any of these sights to explore the surrounding area or take a break with a nice view, such as at Grandview Point.

Helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon
If you have some money to spare, a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon is a memory that will last you and your kids a lifetime. The helicopter will take you to places unreachable by foot, and provide you with unmatched views of sights like Dragon Corridor. These flights usually take between 30 minutes to an hour. Children under 18 are generally required to carry photo ID with them.

Mule Riding
Yes, you read that right: it’s possible to ride mules through the Grand Canyon. These specially trained animals will due all the walking for you while you sit back and enjoy the view. The only downside to mule rides is that they are generally only available to people 9 years and older.

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