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Tips for Making National Park Room Reservations This Summer

Visits to the country's 387 national park sites have dropped seven percent in the past five years. They're forecast to drop again this year. That means it's not too late to make national park travel plans. According to the country's largest operator of national park lodging, restaurants and other concessions, this year offers a prime opportunity for prospective visitors.

"Although calls to our reservations centers are beginning to increase, we're a long way from selling out, especially at parks like Death Valley and the Grand Canyon," says Judi Lages, vice president of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts. "We believe domestic travelers will want to visit classic American destinations like national parks, so we expect many families to make last-minute decisions to take a drive to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone."

By following a few simple suggestions, any traveler can enjoy an affordable and memorable vacation in one the country's most spectacular settings, even with as little as 24 hours' notice.

Lages offers these tips for planning a national park vacation.

  • 1. Be informed. Visit Xanterra's web site (www.xanterra.com) for general information on the parks, plus lodging descriptions, rates and availability. Rooms can be booked online. Also visit the National Park Service website (www.nps.gov).

  • 2. Be aware."Reservations services" charge non- refundable fees to book rooms, a service that is free for those who book directly with authorized concessioners like Xanterra. Some of these reservations companies have names and web site graphics that may lead consumers to believe they are dealing with the National Park Service.

  • 3. Be a bargain-hunter. Prices at lodges, restaurants and gift shops inside the parks are often lower than prices at facilities outside the parks. Visitors can find great bargains on popular items such as Black Hills Gold at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial gift shop and Native American jewelry at the award-winning Hopi House gift shop at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Learn about rates and specials by visiting www.xanterra.com and following links to specific parks and resorts.

  • 4. Be flexible. Because some people make their plans far in advance, they often have to change or cancel existing reservations. Be as flexible as possible with travel dates and choice of lodging and you stand a better chance of getting a room on short notice. Check the website frequently to see if rooms have become available. Roughly 70 percent of the 907 guest rooms at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park are located off the rim. There's still considerable availability at the off-rim locations; guests who are flexible are more likely to find a room.

  • 5. Be timely. International tour operators reserve blocks of rooms up to two years in advance expecting to sell them as part of tour packages. If all the rooms are not sold, operators must release them for resale 30 days out.

  • 6. Book activities prior to your arrival. Call the reservations office because popular activities like the Old West Cookout at Yellowstone's Roosevelt Lodge fill up fast. Also, dining rooms do fill, but dinner reservations at some restaurants like the El Tovar Dining Room at Grand Canyon's South Rim can be made six months in advance.

    For reservations and more information about Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon or Zion, call (1) 303-297-2757 or toll-free at (1) 888-297-2757.

    For reservations and more information about Yellowstone, call (1) 307-344-7311.

    For reservations and more information about Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park, call (1) 800-600-3813 or (1) 239-695-3101.

    For reservations at Crater Lake Lodge, call (1) 541- 830-8700.

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