Day 10 began with a bang as we took the kids by surprise with an air ride over the Grand Canyon in the PapiHeli. Well, I don’t really have a PapiHeli but the company we chartered the 30-minute helicopter from is called Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters.
If you go to the Grand Canyon and you can afford to take a helicopter ride (it typically costs around $169 for adults and $149 for children under age 11 online), do it. Sacrifice the expensive hotel or meals but do the helicopter ride because it will become one of the most memorable experiences of your life.
There are a couple of companies that do the helicopter rides but I recommend Papillon, who hosted me as media and is easily the most popular one chartering from the south rim. You have the choice of taking a 50 minute or 30 minute tour. If you’re going with your kids, 30 minutes is more than enough.
Whatever you do, don’t take the cheaper helicopter model called the Bell Helicopter Long Ranger. Pay a little more to go on The Majestic red birds. They have larger windows and that makes a huge difference in the quality of video and photos you will be able to take. They are also quieter.
In general, try to schedule your flight early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It’s true that the Grand Canyon ALWAYS looks beautiful. You could take an out of focus photo there and get a National Geographic photo there but if you take pictures at any time other than early morning or late afternoon the sun hits the rocks so strong that it bleaches the canyon rocks lighter than they should appear.
Briani fell asleep during our flight but Jonathan and Elena were quick to note that this has been the biggest highlight and surprise of their 40-day PapiBlogger Family Road Trip so far.
As evening began to settle, we briefly arrived for some quick photos at the Hoover Dam.
I’ve been to the dam several times and can tell you that the best time to really appreciate it is in the early morning, when the light is much better for photography, you can do tours and it’s not as hot. Just one hour before sundown the temperature outside our car was 105F. Not ideal walking weather for visiting the Hoover Dam but still worth getting off the car to see the dam from both the side that faces Lake Mead and the other side where the monster dam keeps the waters low and manageable. Due to the time of the year we came in, the time zones in Arizona and Nevada were the same but they will change in the Fall after daylight savings time ends.
THE AIR CUNA TRICK
Over the course of the past two days toddler Briani has forced me to improvise and create a new version of the Cuna Trick to calm her from crying loud or otherwise throwing wild tantrums. In desperation to not have to constantly stop to calm her down I came up with what I call Air Cuna.
Air Cuna is for fuzzy babies who are sitting in the back seat yelling uncontrollably. The way it works is that you tell your child you are doing Air Cuna and then you immediately lower all of the car’s windows simultaneously as the vehicle is moving.
You only need to leave the windows down for 10 or so seconds before your child regains their composure and you can raise the windows back up. This has been particularly effective during desert drives in Arizona and Nevada. I think it’s been effective with Briani because she doesn’t want to feel any outside air hitting her (it’ll hit all of you in the car temporarily as well).
FAMILY ROAD TRIP TIP OF THE DAY (Sponsored by Sprint Nextel)
The most important item you need for any road trip with kids? That’s easy. A DVD player like the one onboard our 2010 Chevrolet Traverse. I don’t know what we would do without the DVD player to keep the kids busy through those occasional large stretches of road that are, well, boring.
In our case we have a second DVD player thanks our electronics partner Sony who gave us a portable one we can hook up onboard or in our hotel. To make the ride comfortable we brought a wide selection of DVDs including all the episodes of the 50s classic Twilight Zone, all of the Muppet Show’s first season and many other animated movies from Sony (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Pixar (UP).
The Papimobile’s DVD policy is that each child alternates picking the movie they want to watch. Sometimes the older kids let their baby sister pick Blues Clues, which she has taken a strong liking to during this trip.
During scenic parts of our drive our policy is to not let them watch DVDs or play with their Sony VAIO Netbook.