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Road trips — the quintessential American family activity. When I was younger, my mother and I would load up the minivan and head out on an adventure. We would hit amusement parks, lakes and national parks and find whatever fun we could along the way.
While the coronavirus may have dampened the idea of a big international vacation, the classic road trip might be the saving grace for your next getaway. Airplane travel has slowed, and while airlines promise to do their best to block middle seats, clean vigorously and provide masks for you to wear, you’re still in a metal tube for hours with strangers.
Instead, consider packing up your car with snacks and some good tunes and head to the Southwest. It's prime for a classic summer road trip, but if you're trying to escape the snow, then heading to the American Southwest is one of the best ways to spend a winter vacation.
Here are some of the best Hilton Hotels (with good redemption options) for your road trip in the Southwest of the United States.
» Learn more: Hilton Honors: The complete guide
What are the COVID-related safety requirements?
Before you hit the road, make sure the COVID-related safety rules match your expectations. Some states and individual cities have their own rules around requiring proof of vaccination, masks, etc. to travel there.
For example, if you're planning to hit Arizona and Utah national parks, remember that masks are required for everyone, regardless of location or vaccination status, in all NPS buildings, crowded outdoor spaces, and all forms of public transportation. At other place, realize that some venues might be closed or have limited services, and restaurants might be closed or offer only takeout. And just in case, you might want to pack your COVID-19 vaccine card on your next trip.
Lots of Hilton properties to choose from
No matter where you go, chances are that you’ll find a Hilton hotel. If you head over to Hilton’s website and do a search for a city in the Southwest U.S. and zoom out, you'll see just how many hotels there are.
Typically, when I go on a road trip, I try to spend as much time as possible in the location itself, which means that I might spend the entire day in one spot, stopping at a roadside hotel in between. Hilton offers several brands (such as Hampton Inn, Home2 Suites and Hilton Garden Inn) that can be found on many interstate highways. That means plenty of opportunities to redeem Hilton Honors points at almost every stop and nearly every price point.
» Learn more: Your guide to booking award nights with Hilton Honors
A Grand Canyon adventure
For a visit to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the South Rim and the North Rim both have something to offer. So either stick near the south in Flagstaff, or head north toward Page.
In Flagstaff, consider staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites Flagstaff East or the DoubleTree Flagstaff. At Hampton, you’ll enjoy free breakfast for the family, free Wi-Fi and on-site laundry facilities.
The DoubleTree offers breakfast to Hilton’s top tier elite members, and all guests enjoy DoubleTree’s free famous cookie at check-in. And because it’s an all-suites property, you’re guaranteed room to stretch out.
Rates at the DoubleTree range between 33,000 and 40,000 points a night, while the Hampton Inn can be had for roughly the same rate.
Page offers the Home2 Suites by Hilton Page Lake Powell. I've stayed there before and recommend it. A stay in June would have set you back a mere 24,000 Honors points. For that price you’ll get free breakfast, a roomy suite and free Wi-Fi.
Page is a great jumping off point for the Grand Canyon North Rim, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, the Monument Valley in Utah and the Navajo Nation.
If you want a spa retreat and some “me time,” what better way than in the relaxing red rocks of Sedona?
The Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock offers tranquility and luxury in a spa setting for only around 59,000 points a night. Remember that the sign-up bonus for a Hilton credit card can go as high as 150,000 points. The sign-up bonus alone could be worth two to three free nights at a top resort.
Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon
Utah holds some absolutely unparalleled beauty, and two gems are Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. No Southwest road trip would be complete if you missed out on these.
The Hampton Inn & Suites Springdale/Zion National Park starts at only 27,000 points a night. But if you need to pay cash, this property won’t break the bank. In checking for dates in late June, prices would have cost only $105 night.
The Hilton Palm Springs can be had for sometimes as little as 38,000 points a night, and although it won’t be open for reservations until September, the DoubleTree by Hilton Golf Resort Palm Springs has availability for roughly the same starting price.
Though September is toward the end of the summer travel season, Labor Day weekend this year falls late into the month, on Sept. 7. Depending on when the kids' school starts, you might be able to snag a deal here and sneak in a round or two of golf while you’re at it.
Photos courtesy of Jon Nickel-D'Andrea.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card