This summer, we're taking the girls to the Grand Canyon! We've lived here for 2 1/2 years and haven't made the trip yet. It is about a 5 hour drive (a little longer if you account for Rachel's 8237429 bathroom stops), and while it could be a day trip, I think it'd be best to make it a 2-3 day vacation instead of rushing through.

How to Save Money on a Trip to the Grand Canyon

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.

Plan your Grand Canyon trip in advance.

There's nothing quite like the thrill of hopping in the car and going on a vacation without a plan in mind! However, if you're trying to save money, you need to plan as much as possible in advance. I personally think the best time to visit is in the late spring, because the summer is crowded – and because in the winter it's going to be snowy, icy, and pretty darn scary if you have to drive on the mountain roads. But, the cheapest time to visit is in winter. The Grand Canyon South Rim is open year-round, with the busiest times being June and July. The south side has most of the services and activities offered by the park.

The North Rim is less crowded, higher up, and open May 15 through October 15. If you visit the North Rim in the summer, you'll enjoy cooler temperatures and less crowding.

There is a $25 vehicle entrance free, but the Grand Canyon National Park waives that entrance fee on certain days of the year. Check out the National Park Service official website for even more information. Depending on your budget, you might also want to check prices for the Grand Canyon Railway.

Pro tip: Use Groupon's coupons for Travelocity to save money no matter when you visit! You'll find reasonably priced hotels near Flagstaff (90 miles out), and Williams (30 miles out).

I love Groupon, and I know you do, too! Shop offers on your cell phone before you hit the stores, to save even more. With promo codes and coupons from most big stores, you'll never want to leave home without Groupon Coupons – and because I know you won't leave home without your phone, you won't have to.

Book lodging well in advance.

Call the hotels directly if you aren't seeing any good deals online. Many times they will have unadvertised specials. If you are visiting last minute without much planning, call them as well – sometimes there are last minute cancellations and you can get in at a decent rate.

Camp for less than $30 a night, if you're into roughing it. For me, “roughing it” is staying in a hotel with some itchy blankets. I don't do the whole camping thing, but if you do, it'll save you a ton!

Decide on activities.

Are you going to be hiking? If so, be sure to get some good, sturdy shoes. (Try this coupon for Foot Locker)

You'll need to pack reusable water bottles, and snacks like trail mix or protein bars (skip the chocolate – it'll melt!). Add sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats – yes, even in the winter – to your hiking backpack, too! A walking stick isn't a bad idea, especially if you'll be hiking the longer trails.

Once inside, try out the free shuttle service at Grand Canyon National Park.

How to Save Money on a Trip to the Grand Canyon

Kids in tow?

Pack a picnic! We fill the cooler up with sandwich supplies, and have a backpack full of trail mix and other snacks that don't require refrigeration.

Be sure to stop at one of the visitor centers to get your free Junior Ranger booklet! Have the kids complete it and they'll earn a Junior Ranger badge.

Explore the historic Grand Canyon Village for free! You'll see the Hopi House, Lookout Studio, Red Horse Cabin, and more.

Looking for more free fun? Try a cell phone tour!

Also, read this Grand Canyon Travel Guide, for more tips, tricks, and ideas.

arizona bucket list