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Driving through TX and AZ in Dec.

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Driving through TX and AZ in Dec.

Two of us are planning to drive from Houston to the Grand Canyon, and then to Phoenix in the end of December.

One our way, ideally, we would like to stop for nights at Santa Fe and Flagstaff or Tusayan.

It should be a rather tough trip considering the road condition then, especially for Japanese people like us, born in a little crowded island of Japan and not used to drive at high-speed.

I have driven several times in TX and LA, but not on snow or ice obviously.

Reading some previous comments regarding the area, it seems that driving the area is possible if we plan extra few hours into schedule in case a snowplow has to clear roads.

Provide this is true, do people drive at normal speed or keep slowly on the cleared roads ?

Our whole plan is as follows:

Day 1 and 2 Houston - Santa Fe

Day 3 Santa Fe - Window Rock or Gallup

Day 4 Flagstaff or Tusayan

Day 5 Phoenix

Day 6 El Paso

Day 7 Back to Houston

The schedule slows down between Day 3 and 5 in terms of driving distance as we might get hung up due to a snow storm.

We could allow 1 more day, but not any more as that means I will miss my flight back to Japan.

There are quite a few comment on GC where the roads there are apparently well looked after to welcome tourists.

I worried about the other places, i.e. between Santa Fe and Tusayan, GC and Phoenix.

Do you think our plan is realistic??

I would appreciate your comment and advice.

West Yellowstone...
Destination Expert
for Flagstaff, West Yellowstone
Level Contributor
2,317 posts
62 reviews
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1. Re: Driving through TX and AZ in Dec.

My first thought is that this is going to be a very rushed trip, even if you don't encounter snow (possible).

I am seeing estimates of 12-13 hours from Houston to Santa Fe, so over two days that is not bad, but it doesn't leave you much time to explore when you arrive. Snow is possible in Santa Fe, as well.

From Santa Fe to Flagstaff, without snow, would be about 6.5 hours. To Tusayan, add another hour and a half, so you're now up to over 8 hours of driving and you haven't seen the canyon yet. Of course, there is the next morning. The Grand Canyon to Phoenix is about 4 hours (again, assuming no snow), but what were your aspirations for Phoenix? It's a very large city with much to see and if you get a late start because you've visited the Grand Canyon that morning, you don't have time to see it.

Maybe you could respond with what you hope to accomplish at each of these destinations - if it's just a simple stop to say you've seen it and all the driving is worth that to you, then, yes, it can be done if the weather cooperates. Just be aware that entire stretches of highway can be completely closed during massive snow storms, and this would completely alter your plans. I would prepare a Plan B and be ready to implement it if necessary.

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2. Re: Driving through TX and AZ in Dec.

Dear Adventuritis,

Thanks for your comment!

Most people may not agree but we do not mind a kind of trip "driving, driving and driving and then, finally we made it!".

Taking suggestions from most of you into account, we might modify the schedule as follows;

Day 1 Driving form Houston to Santa Fe

Driving whole day, I know...but in case of snow storm, we might stay somewhere between for a night.

Day 2 Enjoy Santa Fe

Day 3-5 Leave these 3 days flexible, try to reach as close to the GC as possible whenever the weather allows. Stay in the GC village on the Day 5.

Day 6 After Sunrise in GC, driving to Phoenix

In Phoenix, we have an appointment in the evening,but apart from this, we are not intending to do much here.

Day 7 Driving to El Paso

Day 8 Driving towards Houston, but could stop somewhere for another night on the way.

During Day 3-5, depending on the weather, we will spend more time in Santa Fe and less time in GC, or vice versa.

We will keep our eyes on the weather forecast, and traffic conditions.

Based on your suggestion, our plan B would be taking a flight.

I found the Southwest provides flights Houston-Albuquerque, Phoenix-Houston, Albuquerque-Phoenix.

It can always be an assuring back-up.

I would appreciate further comments and suggestions.

Marina, California
Destination Expert
for Tucson
Level Contributor
6,367 posts
102 reviews
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3. Re: Driving through TX and AZ in Dec.

For day Gallup versus Window Rock: you'll find more and better lodging options in Gallup. Window Rock only has a couple of hotels and is not much of a town.

Definitely stay a night, at least, at the one of the lodges at the Grand Canyon. The holidays and the end of December tend to be very, very busy there though so, if you have no already, check lodging availability at http://grandcanyonlodges.com/

Phoenix to Houston, go past El Paso and maybe stay in Fort Stockton. It's a very long drive from El Paso to Houston, but not as bad from Phoenix to El Paso, so it would be best to try and keep them even, I would think.

There is always at least one storm every year that shuts everything down in Northern Arizona. Interstate 40 will close and then, for a day or so, only be open to vehicles with chains. If you're driving your own vehicle (not a rental car), then you should try to buy some chains before you leave, because there's a huge mark-up on them when they start requiring them. And it's not like they'll go bad after a couple of years if you don't end up needing them. If I-40 is closed, then all roads to the Grand Canyon will close as well. You would have to have some bad luck to encounter these conditions though. You will very likely see snow on the ground, and maybe even some falling though. It will also be very, very cold.

I agree that, if your goal is to see the Grand Canyon, then you should at least look into flying to Phoenix and renting a car from there. Southwest flies out of Hobby Airport exclusively. I mention this, because I'm in Houston at least once per year, and do not typically fly them because Intercontinental is more convenient for where I go. Airlines are priced competitively for that route, so check others. But, seeing as this is a peak travel time, I think it's unlikely that it will be cheaper to fly and rent a car, even with fuel and hotels.

Good luck in your planning. Hope that helps.

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4. Re: Driving through TX and AZ in Dec.

Dear Colinaz,

Thank you for your suggestions on good places to stay, and also on chains.Definitely useful tips!We will keep our eyes on the weather forecast, and if a storm obviously hits during the planned period, we will shorten the schedule, avoiding the storm encounter, by taking one of the flights you suggested.

Edited: 4:31 am, October 25, 2013
5. Re: Driving through TX and AZ in Dec.

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