While Zuzu and I usually travel for free by ourselves, we love group trips, even if it means paying for travel like normal people.
On this 7 night trip, our total cost of $1581 was the most we’ve spent on a vacation this year. But we stayed in luxury while hiking the National Parks in Utah with great friends!
Our group of 6 families flew from Nashville to Las Vegas and spent 7 nights in Utah. Zuzu & I used Southwest Airlines points so our 2 round trip tickets only cost $11 per person for taxes and fees.
For the first 2 nights, we stayed for free at the Hyatt Place St George Utah. Instead of paying $402 for a nice room with a view, we used 24,000 Hyatt Points which we earned with strategic use of our credit cards.
Next, we moved to a brand new, magnificent condo for 5 nights. Our share came to only $148 per night. It was the perfect base for taking day trips and still relaxing in luxury at our home away from home.
Besides getting to spend time with great friends, the highlights of our Las Vegas to Utah trip were:
- Box Canyon hike in Snow Canyon State Park
- Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park
- Unbelievable scenery in Bryce Canyon National Park
As our most expensive trip so far in 2023, we’ve now spent a total of $2,727 on 34 vacation nights this year. That includes lodging, flights, rental cars & food on trips to Nassau, Myrtle Beach, New England, All Inclusive resorts in Mexico and now this trip to Utah.
With 2 more trips by the end of this year (6 nights in Punta Cana + 5 nights in Turks & Caicos), we’ll enjoy 7 big trips for about $4,000 total cost in 2023.
If 45 luxury vacation nights for only $4,000 seems like alot of travel for not much money, you can learn how we travel for (almost) free in our Guide to Free Luxury Travel.
Day 1: Nashville to Vegas!
It’s Day 1 of our Utah trip with a dozen friends! Our free flights on Southwest took us to an airport full of slot machines!
And if you’re in Vegas, what’s better for lunch than In-N-Out Burger!
Just an hour drive from Vegas, our first hike of this road trip was in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park.
While we didn’t make it to Arches National Park on this trip, we did get to see our 1st natural rock arch.
After a long day or travel & hiking, we spent the 1st night of our trip at the Hyatt Place in St George. We stayed for free on Hyatt points.
With free flights & a free hotel room, the trip budget is in pretty good shape so far!
Day 2: Snow Canyon
Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park was small, but impressive with lots of colors and a very accessible box canyon.
While it can’t compare with the Secret Lava Tube we found on the Road to Hana in Maui, we were surprised to find lava tubes in Utah.
The Hyatt Place in St George was our home for a second night. After spending some time in the hot tub, we thought this was one of the best Hyatt Place properties that we’ve stayed at during our travels.
And since we pretty much always stay for free in Hyatt hotels, we saved $402 on this trip!
Day 3: Hike and Air B&B
Day three of our Utah trip started with an easy, fun hike on Aspiration Trail in St George, Utah.
There are thousands of painted rocks along the trail and we left a few of our own. Look for our Big Orange Power T (Go Vols!) on a black rock if you hike Aspiration Trail!
Condo in Hurricane, Utah
After our morning hike, we road tripped up to Hurricane, Utah and moved into this brand new condo that sleeps 30+. The huge gourmet kitchen shares the great room with a beautiful white leather sectional that seats 12 with recliners and built in power outlets.
Since I had a bad foot, Zuzu & I got the only bedroom on the ground floor.
Upstairs, there were another 4 bedrooms, 2 bunk rooms and a game room.
The condo was gorgeous but it also had a great location just minutes away from Zion National Park. While we didn’t get this condo for free on points, our share was just $148 per night.
Pro Tip for Free Travel:
Any time you’ve got a large expense, it’s a great time to earn lots of free travel with credit card points. In this case, one of our friends put the $4400 vacation rental charge on their card and earned a ton of points.
Even better is if you can get a new credit card right before a big expense like this. Some of the best cards often have a 60,000 point bonus after spending $4,000. That’s enough points for 3-6 free nights at a really nice hotel!
Day 4: Zion National Park
After spending our 1st night at the condo, we got up early and made the short trip to Zion National Park!
Parking in Zion is at a premium so we parked at Zion Outfitters and took a shuttle bus into the park. We were in awe of the views even before we entered the park.
For us, the highlight of Zion was hiking the Narrows: several miles of box canyon with ankle deep to waist deep water. The views and experience were simply amazing!
Day 5: Art Show & Snow Valley
After a spectacular day at Zion National Park, we hit a local art show.
We also returned to Snow Valley, a hidden gem if you stay in Hurricane like we did!
Day 6: Bryce Canyon National Park
Hard to believe but Bryce Canyon National Park might be even better than Zion.
These pictures are stunning but don’t do it justice.
How Big is Bryce Canyon compared to Zion?
At 56.2 square miles, Bryce is much smaller than Zion National Park which covers 232 square miles. However, because most of the roads and main trails in Bryce run along ridges, Bryce just feels much more expansive than Zion.
As you can see in my pictures, you’re looking out at the horizon and down into valleys alot in Bryce. On Zion’s main roads and trails, you’re mostly looking up.
Even the drive to and from Bryce Canyon was breathtaking. As we were cresting one of the mountains halfway between Bryce and Zion, we just had to pull over and take this shot.
Zuzu and I readily admit that we’re “Beach People.” I mean, who doesn’t love laying on a beach and ordering free drinks at a Mexico All Inclusive?
But after this trip to Zion & Bryce, and our trip last month to Acadia National Park in New England, I think we might also be “National Park People.”
Day 7: Relax in Luxury
For our last full day of this road trip, we spent the day taking it easy with 13 of us in our gorgeous condo. In our private courtyard, we had our own pool and every night was spent around this great fire pit.
Day 8: Vegas to BNA
After a few hours in the rental Jeep, the last stop of our road trip was a great little brewery in Las Vegas.
Obviously, you get a flight of beer before catching a flight at the Las Vegas Airport.
Once we passed through TSA Pre-Check, I used The Business Platinum Card® from American Express to get free entry into the super nice Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas.
Just like on our flights out to Vegas, the flights home had great weather to take in the views from above.
Since we usually travel for (almost) free, spending $1500 on a fantastic 7 night trip with a dozen great friends will be our most expensive trip this year. But it’s definitely money well spent!
Read About our Other Road Trips
On this Las Vegas to Utah road trip, Zuzu and I were able to make new memories that will last a lifetime. And thanks to how we usually travel for (almost) free, we’ve been able take 5-10 big trips like this every year. Here are a few of our favorite trips that we’ve taken since we finally figured out how to travel on the cheap!
- New England Fall Road Trip for $614
- Nassau Bahamas on a Budget
- $13k Hawaii Trip for $2400
- Holiday Trip to NYC: Only $1300 for a $7000 Trip!
If you want to travel for (almost) free like we do, click to read our Guide to Free Travel!