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What to Wear and What to Pack for a Grand Canyon Bus Tour

Grand Canyon bus tours give you a terrific way to see the National Park. For one thing, they're cheaper than airplane or helicopter tours. They also give you a close-up view of the natural wonders of the area - a ground perspective instead of an aerial view. They have an additional benefit for families traveling with kids - the drive time gives you lots of quality time to spend with each other.

Bus tours are available for the West Rim and the South Rim. Each one has its advantages, but once you decide and book your seats you'll need to know what to wear and what to pack. The answer depends on the season (summer or winter) as well as which rim you'll be visiting. The rims have different climates, and summer weather is significantly different than it is during the winter. That means you'll want to base your clothing on not just the season but also the rim you'll be visiting.

grand canyon west rim bus tours

That being said, here's some info on what to wear and what to pack for a Grand Canyon bus tour:

West Rim

The West Rim's climate is, as a general rule, much warmer than the South Rim's. Mainly this is because of the difference in altitude - the West Rim is a little over 3,600 feet above sea level, while the altitude at the South Rim is almost twice that. Bottom line: the West Rim is warmer both during summer and winter.

During the summer, temps routinely soar over 100F, so you'll want to dress comfortably. Even though it's hot, wear:

  • Long-sleeved shirt

  • Long pants

  • Brimmed hat

  • Sunglasses (to protect your eyes from the bright sun)

  • Socks

  • Sturdy boots or walking shoes

Bring sunscreen, lip balm and extra water. Pack a light windbreaker in case the breeze decides to come up.

For winter bus tours at the West Rim, stick with the long pants, long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses and walking shoes or boots, but wear warmer socks and add a sweater. Top it all off with a medium-weight jacket. You'll need to wear gloves and a warm hat. As in the summer, bring lip balm, sunscreen and extra water. Winter winds can cause dehydration almost as quickly as hot temperatures!

South Rim

Summer is cooler at the South Rim because of its higher altitude, but it can still get pretty hot there. I suggest wearing the same type of clothing that I recommended for West Rim summer bus tours, but I think you should strongly consider bringing the windbreaker because it will be a little cooler. In your bag pack some extra water, lip balm and sun block.

Winter at the South Rim can be windy and very cold, and snow is fairly likely. It's not hard to know what to wear and what to pack for a winter bus trip here. You'll want to dress comfortably but stay warm, so ditch the windbreaker and wear a heavy parka instead. You'll also want:

  • Warm pants

  • A fairly heavy sweater

  • Scarf

  • Gloves

  • A warm hat

Wear boots or shoes with cleats or slip-resistant soles because some areas might be icy. Don't forget to pack sun block, water and lip balm.

No matter which rim your bus tour visits, you'll also want to bring a smart phone/digital camera, an extra charged battery and at least one memory card to store your photographs. You'll be taking plenty because the Grand Canyon is such a spectacular place!

grand canyon south rim bus tours

Types of Tours

There are two kinds:

  • Basic

  • Deluxe

The West Rim (WR) basic does the 120-mile drive to canyon in less than three hours. It includes free hotel pick up/drop off, Hoover Dam photo stop, box lunch (vegetarian is available) and all taxes and park fees. The best trips give you time to roam the National Park for up to three hours. Things to see include:

  • Guano Point

  • Eagle Point

  • The Grand Canyon Skywalk (extra $)

  • The Indian Cultural Center

  • Hualapai Ranch

Total tour time for WR basic is appx. 13 hours. Trips leave once a day between 7-8 a.m. and get back around 7 p.m.

WR deluxe trips, which I like to call "combo tours," typically bundle in an additional side trip that includes:

  • Helicopter ride to the bottom;

  • Boat ride down the Colorado River;

  • The Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Needs to be noted that the WR is the only place where you are allowed to take a helicopter to the bottom. Further, this is the rim that hosts the internationally famous Skywalk (a.k.a. the glass bridge), which is the world's largest all-glass cantilevered bridge. Do it and you'll experience walking 70 feet past the ledge while standing some 4,000 feet over the bottom!

WR deluxe trips depart once a day, too, and return to Las Vegas around 8 p.m. just like the basic does.

The South Rim (SR) basic bus requires a 5.5-hour drive from Las Vegas, NV, to Grand Canyon National Park, AZ. It includes free hotel pick up/drop off, a hot buffet-style lunch and all taxes and park entrance fees. Time inside the park is up to three hours. Further, if you go with Paradise Found, the bus you arrive on is also the one that will take you to such key SR sights like:

  • Mather Point

  • Yaki Point

  • Yavapai Point

  • Grand Canyon Village

SR basic trips depart once a day in the morning and return to Las Vegas around 9 p.m. This is most definitely a full-day tour and I urge readers not to make evening entertainment plans upon return.

SR deluxe tours are limited due to time constraints, but the one that is offered is outstanding. The package includes everything in the basic plus a rim-to-rim helicopter tour! During the 30-minute flight, you'll see:

  • Kaibab National Forest

  • The North Rim

  • Dragoon Corridor (the widest, deepest section of the canyon)

  • Temple of Ra

The views are simply spectacular so be prepared for lots of "oohs" and "ahhs." Picture taking is encouraged and I definitely advise making sure you have a completely charged digital SLR on hand because you'll be snapping away like mad.

This SR deluxe tour w/ helicopter has the same start and end times as the SR basic.

The Bus

I hope it's clear that there's a lot of driving regardless of the rim you visit. That's why the type of bus matters. Nearly all tours use the most modern coaches available on today's market. These vehicles are the definition of comfort and come with:

  • Lavatory

  • Recliner-style seats

  • Oversized windows (with shades!)

  • Plasma TV's (accessed via personal headsets)

  • Wi-Fi

These buses are built for the road and feature quiet-ride suspensions and industrial-strength AC (both cold and hot). It takes a professional to drive these "land sharks," and each of my Top 3 companies employ the finest driving professionals who serve as your tour guide for the day.

There are also VAN TOURS that service both rims. These trips are much more personalized and can accommodate only 10 people. Vehicles used are customized to include comfy leather captain's chairs. Vans also make more stops and see more sights because there less time is spent on getting travelers on and off the bus. Go here if you feel that a van-style tour is more appropriate for you and your group.

grand canyon south rim lookout

RSVP

I strongly advise booking your bus tour as soon as you can. These trips are packed with value and as such have a high probability of selling out. My rule of thumb is to purchase seats a week or two in advance. I don't recommend buying your trip in Las Vegas for these reasons:

  • You'll pay more;

  • You most likely won't get the day you want;

  • You don't go because every day you want is sold out (happens more than you think).

On a personal note, I dislike taking time out of my vacation to plan a trip I'm in the middle of enjoying, and that's why when given the chance I always book ahead of time.

Deals

Let's get the obvious out of the way first, shall we? The best deals are on the Internet. That shouldn't come as a surprise. However, based on my interactions with hundreds of bus travelers, the trick is finding legitimate online deals.

What to do? This:

Don't purchase bus tours from "big box" travel sites like Travelocity, TravelZoo, Priceline and the like. Go direct to the source. By that I mean the tour suppliers themselves. These are the folks who have the power to set prices and offer real discounts. Visit their sites and you'll see what I mean. However, before you pull out the plastic, there's one rule you absolutely must master:

"Always, and I mean always, complete your purchase online in order to qualify for the Internet discount."

Do that and you are nearly guaranteed to walk away with a rate that will make the guy sitting next to you one the bus furious!

Conclusion

I hope you found this article on what to wear and pack for a Grand Canyon bus tour helpful. Understand that the West Rim and the South Rim represent two completely different climates and that you must dress for them accordingly in order to enjoy the best trip possible. Bus tours by nature are all-inclusive (hotel shuttle, lunch, guide, etc.), which means you need to focus on packing things that will enhance our trip, like snacks, cameras w/ extra batteries, fully charged smart phones, iPods, iPads and so forth. To top it all off, make sure you book in advance and online from a tour supplier. I'm confident if you take to heart all the tips offered here you'll be setting yourself up for a canyon adventure that you'll remember for a lifetime!

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Have a grand day,

P.S. Not sure which tour operator to use? Go here for a comparison of bus tour operators based on safety, quality and price.

 


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