Vacationers may not be able to control how much they spend on gasoline this year, but there are many travel costs that can easily be controlled - and even reduced - by following these tips offered by Xanterra Parks & Resorts (www.xanterra.com). Xanterra is the nation's leading operator of lodges, restaurants and other concessions in national and state parks and resorts.
- Stay inside national parks. At national parks, rates for rooms, food and gift shop items are based upon a government-monitored pricing model that ensures rooms and meals are priced similarly to comparable rooms and meals outside the park. Travelers pay the same amount of money for a room at the Zion Lodge (www.zionlodge.com) and a room for a motel in the gateway community of Springdale, Utah. Also, room rates inside the parks do not increase as availability decreases, a practice called "yield management" that is common in the hospitality industry.
- Search for Internet-only deals from the hotel operator. You will find the lowest room rates available on Xanterra web sites for state and national park lodges. Some lodges offer occasional Internet-only deals. At seven Xanterra-operated Ohio State Park Resorts (www.atapark.com), Internet-only promotional rates list deep discounts all summer long for the weekday traveler. Last-minute travelers will also find a number of Internet-only deals at the Gideon Putnam Resort (www.gideonputnam.com) in Saratoga Springs. Although the destination of Saratoga Springs is popular throughout the summer, these online specials permit even the stingiest bargain-hunter to find a deal. Don't use third-party Internet reservations services to book national and state park lodge rooms. Their rates are never lower than those available directly through the operator, and many Internet reservations services add a non-refundable surcharge of up to 20 percent of the room rate.
- Take advantage of value-added packages. The Silverado Resort (www.silveradoresort.com) in Napa Valley offers a package called "Napa Valley Experience" that includes accommodations, welcome gift, dinner with wine, spa treatments, breakfast, winery lunch, VIP winery tastings and passes to a local museum. If all the components were booked separately, just the cost of the room, dinner and spa treatments would far exceed the total price of the package.
- Purchase souvenirs with care. Although it is always fun to splurge on a kitschy souvenir, many gift shops also offer high-quality, hard-to-find local artwork, jewelry and crafts. For example, the newly renovated gift shop at Mount Rushmore National Memorial features a vast array of distinctive Black Hills Gold jewelry. Since the jewelry - like all other in-park items - is subject to pricing according to the National Park Service's model of comparability, it is guaranteed to be fairly priced. The gift shop staff is trained to assist customers in choosing the perfect item.
- Take a hike. It's free, and one of the best ways to truly see a beautiful destination is on foot. All Xanterra locations can provide visitors with information about nearby hiking trails for travelers of all physical abilities.
- Dine at breakfast and lunch buffets. A good way to save dollars for the occasional dinner-time splurge in a fine restaurant is to scrimp a little at breakfast and lunch. Once given a bad rap because of mediocre food choices, today's buffets often provide well-prepared traditional fare as well as an array of foods that reflect regional tastes. At Xanterra restaurants, choices often include foods purchased from local and regional farmers.
- Take advantage of free naturalist programs. Ohio State Park Resorts offer a variety of activities with park naturalists. For example, Mohican State Park Resort offers a free live "birds of prey" demonstration every Saturday night in the summer. In national parks, rangers offer a variety of hiking, campfire and other naturalist programs. A good source for National Park Service information is www.nps.gov.
- Let someone else do the driving. Xanterra offers interpretive motorcoach tours in the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone (www.travelyellowstone.com). These comfortable motorcoach tours include stops at park viewpoints and an ongoing interpretive talk by drivers who are knowledgeable about the human history, geology and wildlife in each park. In Yellowstone, travelers can not only enjoy the park while someone else drives, they can do it in one of eight newly refurbished Old Yellow Buses, vehicles Xanterra returned to the park after an absence of more than 50 years. Train aficionados can visit the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railway (www.thetrain.com), a historic train that makes daily trips from Williams, Ariz. to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
- Travel during shoulder seasons. In many locations, the two weeks after Memorial Day and two weeks before Labor Day have plenty of room availability - and fewer visitors. So travelers may be better able to find the perfect lodge room. Some locations offer spring and fall room rate discounts.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts (consisting of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Inc. and Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C.) operates lodges, restaurants and other concessions at national parks and state parks and resorts. Xanterra Parks & Resorts is the country's largest park concessioner. Xanterra operates concessions in the following locations: Yellowstone, the North Rim of Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks, and Mount Rushmore National Memorial; and at the Silverado Resort in Napa, Calif.; Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and eight Ohio State Parks. Its affiliate Xanterra South Rim, L.L.C. operates concessions at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Xanterra owns and operates the Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Ariz.
Long committed to the preservation and protection of the environment, Ecologix, Xanterra Parks & Resorts' environmental program, includes a variety of proactive environmental stewardship programs in each location. Xanterra has been repeatedly recognized for its environmental leadership in the hospitality industry and is the recipient of many honors, including major awards from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Travel Industry Association, Colorado Department of Public Health, State of Arizona, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
For more information about Xanterra, links to individual properties and reservations numbers, visit www.xanterra.com.
Xanterra Parks & Resorts
6312 S. Fiddlers Green Circle
Suite 600 North
Greenwood Village, Co 80111
SOURCE: Xanterra Parks & Resorts