Where should I go on my summer vacation? 6 Spectacular Southwest U.S. Destinations to Put on Your Bucket List

Summer 2015 is finally here, and along with the warmer temperatures comes the start of the busiest time of year to travel! The CheapAir Summer Airfare Index will tell you the best time to purchase flights for your family getaway, and we’d also like to share our top destination picks for the various regions around the country. So whether you’re summer plans involve road-trippin’ or flying, we’ve got you covered. Up first, the Southwest! Seems that wherever you’re in this part of the country, you’re never far from a dazzling photo op!

Monument Valley, AZ Monument Valley, AZ
Let’s start with a crowd pleaser. Monument Valley, which extends into both Arizona and Utah, is on tribal land run by the Navajo Nation and remains one of the most iconic images of the American Southwest.

Admission: $20 per person (children under 6 get in free) plus a $20 car fee (for up to 4 passengers).
Getting there: You’ve got a drive ahead of you. Fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International or McCarran International in Las Vegas and rent a car. Around Monument Valley: If you take the time to get here, you might as well explore. There are many other parks to visit in the vicinity: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Navajo National Monument, Antelope Canyon and the Four Corners Monument for starters.
Essential information: If you plan to do any camping or hiking, you’d best get all of your ducks in a row early. A permit is required for hiking and/or camping in the park, and for goodness sake respect the land. Rock climbing is strictly verboten. And remember to read up on the fees, application process and rules & regulations so you don’t find yourself on the wrong side of tribal law.

Antelope CanyonAntelope Canyon, AZ
Antelope Canyon is home to some of the most spectacular views in the world. This spiritual sanctuary for Navajo is called “the place where water runs through rocks” and is mostly accessible only by guided tour. One word to the wise – even professional photographers find capturing the essence of Antelope Canyon to be challenging, mainly due to problematic light reflection. No worries – once you’ve experienced the Canyon, you’ll never forget.

Admission: General admission is $8. Children under 8 get in free.
Getting there: Antelope Canyon is just east of Page, Arizona. There is a municipal airport in Page, but most folks fly into either Phoenix Sky Harbor or McCarran International in Las Vegas.
Essential information: Visitors are permitted to tour most parts of the canyon with only a professional guide. Tours can be arranged with these operators.

Carlsbad Caverns, NMCarlsbad Caverns, NM
Formed millions of years ago when eastern New Mexico was a shoreline similar to the Florida Keys, the limestone formations are now some of the most impressive in the world. You can do one of two self-guided tours, our head straight to the elevator for the awesome “Big Room” where you can see many of the most spectacular stalagmites and stalagtites. “Big Room” visits are best for those short on time. It’s also a great option if you’ve got people in your group unable to hike (the elderly and wheelchair-bound,for example. You can also schedule more challenging guided tours for a fee.

Admission: General admission is a very reasonable, $10, with kids under 16 free. Seniors (62+) are free with an ID card.
Getting there: Carlsbad Caverns is about 150 miles outside of El Paso – a perfect day trip from the colorful border town.
Essential information: Every evening from April to October, you can witness the mass exodus of bats departing the cave for their nightly hunt. Specially trained guides are around to answer questions about the little guys. For an extra-special treat, you can camp inside the caves! This has to be prearranged with the Visitor Information Center, but they are free. Hike in for at least 0.8 miles to set up camp – there are no official campgrounds, though. Hey, it’s not called backcountry camping for nothing!

Taos Pueblo, NMTaos Pueblo, NM
The adobe structures at Taos Pueblo have been continuously inhabited for more than 1,000 years by the indigenous “Red Willow” people. The site has been declared both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark.

Admission: General admission for adults is $16 per person. Students ages 11 through college age can show an ID for a discounted rate of $14. Kids 10 and under get in free.
Getting there: Most visitors to Taos are using Albuquerque as a base. The Pueblo is about a 2-hour drive from Albuquerque and a little over an hour from Santa Fe.
Essential information: Taos Pueblo is open year round, and tours are not required. However, short guided tours are highly recommended (30 minutes on average). The guides are typically college students. There is no fee for the guided tour, but gratuities are encouraged.

Arches National Park, UTArches National Park, UT
Aptly named (there are over 2,000 arches in the park), the stunning Red Rock formations of Arches National Park make it a must-see destination for nature lovers of all ages.

Admission: Basic admission is inexpensive, but depending on your planned activities the fees can be a bit confusing. Make sure you’ve read through the fees before you go so there will be no surprises.
Getting there: If you’re flying, there are a number of potential entry points into Arches National Park. Grand Junction, Colorado and Salt Lake City are the two closest cities.
Essential information: Planning is key for Arches National Park. There are so many activities to choose from that you’ll never get bored!

Supai Falls, Grand Canyon

Supai Falls, Grand Canyon, AZ
What tour of the natural Southwest would be complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon? The granddaddy of all U.S. National Parks hardly needs our seal of approval, but we do recommend a more adventurous visit – take a hike down to the canyon floor and camp at Supai Falls on the Havasupai reservation. You’d best be in good shape, though. The hike out is no joke.

Admission: Each visitor is subject to a $35 fee/permit when on tribal lands. Carry your permit with you at all times.
Getting there: Once again, you’re looking at a drive no matter how you slice it. The Grand Canyon is a great destination to access from either Phoenix or Flagstaff.
Essential information: Havasupai is not recommended for day hikes. A camping trip of 1–3 days is preferable so you can get rest and experience all the Havasupai area has to offer. Camping and lodge reservations are handled by the Havasupai Nation.

We hope this little tour around the American Southwest gives you some inspiration for your summer vacation plans. Next up: the East Coast!

As always, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. You can also reach out to us on Twitter @CheapAir or email us at info@cheapair.com.

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