Exploring America's National Parks 101

For the reluctant overseas traveler or the traveler who has done it all, try suggesting a trip that explores America's national parks. Often overlooked, America's national parks can provide clients with an active and adventurous vacation—and the best part is, they decide just how active and adventurous they want the trip to be. GrandLuxe Rail Journeys offers train rides through the Grand Canyon

Plenty of tour operators offer trips with extended stays or day-long excursions to national parks. For example, Yellowstone National Park (www.nps.gov/yell) is open year round, but occasionally will close due to severe weather or fires. The park's comprehensive web site lists surrounding hotels and campsites. However, if a client prefers an escorted national park vacation, Adventures by Disney (www.adventuresbydisney.com) offers a seven-day, six-night "Quest for the West" itinerary, with two overnight stays in a hotel near the Old Faithful Geyser, in addition to stops at nearby Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park (www.nps.gov/grte).

While in Yellowstone, guests go geyser watching to see Old Faithful erupt, followed by a picnic lunch in the park. Being Disney, the tour is certainly not short on fun for kids. Yellowstone-specific activities include guided tours of the geyser and animal spotting and a scavenger hunt around the Old Faithful Geyser. Departure dates extend through September, with prices starting at $2,109 per person, excluding airfare. Adventures by Disney pays a 10 percent commission on the land portion of the vacation and a five percent commission on the air portion. For reservations, call 877-728-7282 or visit www.disneytravelagents.com. The Wayfarers makes a stop at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine

The Grand Canyon (www.nps.gov/grca) is probably the one national park that offers the most touring versatility. Clients can choose between walking to the cliff edges, river rafting, catching views from above by helicopter, or relaxing by rail. We recommend GrandLuxe Rail Journeys (www.grandluxerail.com), which offers two trips through the Grand Canyon: "Grand Canyon and the Southwest," a seven-day trip from Scottsdale to Santa Fe, and "National Parks of the West," a 10-day trip covering three other national parks, such as Zion and Yellowstone, in addition to the Grand Canyon. Adventures by Disney guests take part in a geyser walk on the "Quest for the West" tour

GrandLuxe trips include all meals and feature five-course dinners, lecturers and butler and porter service. Prices for the rail company's "Grand Canyon and the Southwest" tour start at $3,250 per person and begin at $5,250 for the "National Parks of the West" journey. In 2008, departure dates for "Grand Canyon and the Southwest" run January through February and for "National Parks of the West," May through July. Agents can call 800-320-4206 for reservations. GrandLuxe offers commissions of 10 percent.

For visits to Hawaii's Waimea Canyon State Park (www.hawaii.gov/dlnr/dsp/kauai.html), travel agents should contact Travel Bound (www.booktravelbound.com), a tour operator that exclusively works with agents. As part of the company's Big Island Adventure tour, agents can arrange for an excursion to Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai, starting at $49 per person. Prices for Travel Bound's "Big Island Adventure" tour start at $385 per person and include a five-night hotel stay, a raft expedition and taxes and fees.

Alternatively, if a client wishes to visit the island of Kauai exclusively, the Waimea Canyon tour is included on Travel Bound's tour of the island, which from $495 per person includes the tour, a five-night hotel stay and taxes and fees. For reservations, call 800-808-9541 or e-mail [email protected] All commissions are based on an agent or agency's earning level, which starts at 10 percent.

New for this year, Trafalgar (www.trafalgartours.com) has put together "The Trailblazer" tour, an eight-day journey from Las Vegas across Route 66 that culminates with two nights in Zion National Park in Utah (www.nps.gov/zion). Priced from $1,185 per person for a twin share, excluding airfare, the trip includes first-class hotel accommodations, luxury travel on an air-conditioned coach and the services of a tour director, as well as arrival and departure transfers, breakfast and some dinners. Departure dates are available through March 9, 2008. Trafalgar pays a 10 percent commission.

For clients interested in visiting Redwood National Park (www.nps.gov/redw), an agent's best bet is to contact Redwood Adventures (www.redwoodadventures.com), the only hotel that lies within the Redwood national and state park system. Redwood Adventures has a dedicated 40-acre piece of parkland in northern Orick, CA, with seven acres of it comprised of Redwood Adventures' Vacation Village—structures originally built to house sawmill workers. The lodging company recently remodeled six buildings into 1,200-square-foot luxury vacation cabins with three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, full kitchens and an attached garage.

Future plans include a campground and Adventures Center to host activities and help with booking excursions. Rates begin at $200 per night and agents can earn a 10 percent commission.

For more information, agents can contact Donna Hufford at [email protected] or call 866-733-9637.

Through October, The Wayfarers (www.thewayfarers.com) hosts a walking tour for "striders and strollers" down the coast of Maine, with stops in Camden, Monhegan Island and Acadia National Park (www.nps.gov/acad). Clients have the option of extending their trip for more walks throughout Acadia, as it is scheduled at the end of the six-day and five-night trip. Prices start at $2,495, excluding airfare.

Agents can contact Nancy Eckert at [email protected] or call 800-249-4620 for more information. The Wayfarers pays a 10 percent commission. —JM