The Grand Canyon is one of America’s best National Parks. It’s also one of the largest, which has many travelers wondering what’s the best way to experience it. In my opinion, take a helicopter tour. These flights cover more in an hour than a week on the ground. But there’s much more to them than that, and here’s five things every visitor should know before booking these trips:
1. Book in Advance. Helicopter rides are extremely popular and fill up fast. This is compounded by the fact that choppers can only hold up to six people. My suggestion is to reserve your flight at least one week before your desired date of departure. Indeed, folks have been able to get same-day bookings, but it’s rare, and, if you do, you’ll most likely get a non “prime-time” flight at a price that’s been marked up nearly 50 percent.
2. Fly in the Morning. The best time to take a helicopter tour is from 7 a.m. to noon. The other choice trips go in the late afternoon. Mornings feature clearer skies and less turbulence. As for clarity, this is especially true during summer afternoons, when dust and smoke from forest fires kick up and lend a haze to the sky. That said, these same particles tend to make sunsets more intense and are a definite reason to book an end-of-the-day flight.
3. Read the Cancellation Policy. Travel plans change so it’s important to book a helicopter tour that comes with a good cancel policy. The best tour operators offer a full money back refund if a flight is cancelled 24 hours prior to take off. In addition, these same companies will refund your money if weather grounds all aircraft and they are unable to reschedule you. By contrast, flights purchased from brokers don’t carry such protection and it’s one of the reasons I warn readers to say away from them.
4. West Rim or South Rim? It’s actually quite a simple decision because it’s based on where you start. You’ll go West Rim if you depart from Las Vegas, NV, and South Rim if you leave from points within Arizona, including Phoenix, Scottsdale, Flagstaff and Sedona. You also need to know that there are no direct helicopter flights from Las Vegas to the South Rim, and that there are no companies that offer service between the rims.
5. Take a Landing Tour. These types of trips are only available at the West Rim, which is serviced from Las Vegas. Further, this rim is the only place where you can fly below the rim and land at the bottom (The Federal Aviation Administration bans these types of flights at the South Rim). The landing trip that gets the most attention is one that lands at the base and comes with a Champagne picnic. The one I like best goes to the bottom, comes with a Colorado River boat ride and ascends back to the top so you can do the Grand Canyon Skywalk!
I hope you find these five tips about Grand Canyon helicopter tours useful. They are based on my own personal experience assisting other travelers as well as friends and family. Before I sign off, I have one more point I need to stress: Purchase your trip online. More to the point, book it direct with the tour company. And the one key thing you need to remember here is to complete the transaction on the web in order to capitalize on the great online price you’re going to get.