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Visiting the Grand Canyon? Your complete guide for a Northern Arizona road trip

Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon: Where you can discover new experiences

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona)
Andrew Davey / The Manual

Arizona is a state that automatically conjures up a certain type of desert scenery for many travelers. But while Arizona is a naturally arid state, the climate, the ecosystems, and the topography of Northern Arizona can differ greatly from those of Phoenix and Tucson to the south. Believe it or not, the higher reaches of the Grand Canyon get snow every winter!

The Grand Canyon may be one of America’s most famous national parks, but there’s so much more to see and do beyond the visitor center and the gift shops. Let’s take a grand tour of the northern side of the Grand Canyon State to discover the region’s best hikes, some more adventurous ways to explore the Grand Canyon, the coolest college town you might not have heard of, the most mystical red rocks you’ve ever experienced, and the vibrantly beautiful Native American indigenous communities of Northern Arizona.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona).
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Let’s start with a re-introduction to Northern Arizona

There’s so much to love about Arizona and its natural beauty throughout the state. When you drive north on the I-17 freeway and leave the saguaro cacti and rush hour traffic behind in Phoenix, you notice some interesting changes. Suddenly, you start to notice juniper and pine trees along the side of the road. You see majestic mountain peaks. When you make a pit stop, you feel the cooler air outside.

While the Grand Canyon may feel as synonymous with Arizona as Phoenix, it’s usually at least a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the Valley of the Sun to the Canyon’s South Rim. Though it’s possible to do a day trip to the Grand Canyon or Sedona while staying in Scottsdale or Phoenix, we highly recommend taking more time to experience Northern Arizona in all its glory. That’s why we’re taking you on a virtual tour through the region: If you can spare an extra day (or four!) to take your time to see more of Northern Arizona, you certainly won’t regret it.

Nighttime view of the San Francisco Peaks from the northwest on the rim of Walker Lake crater, located north of the junction of Hart Prairie Road and FR 418. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12, 633 feet in elevation, is the foremost peak in view.
Deborah Lee Soltesz/U.S. Forest Service

Where to stay

Just as Northern Arizona has a wide variety of landscapes, it also has a wide variety of locales offering different types of accommodations. If you’re looking to save money, consider staying in Flagstaff or Williams and using that area as your base camp to explore the wider region. If you’d rather splurge on a luxurious getaway, Sedona has most of the region’s posh hotels and resorts. If you’re really up for an adventure to explore the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, Lake Powell, and the area’s stunning national monuments, we recommend staying in Page for an easier commute. 

A hotel room at Bright Angel Lodge at Grand Canyon Village, Arizona.
Xanterra

Grand Canyon – South Rim

Bright Angel Lodge

If you want a good hotel that’s inside Grand Canyon National Park, this is probably your best bet. When you stay here, you’re staying in Grand Canyon Village’s historic district. You’re about a four-minute walk from the Bright Angel Trailhead, and walking distance from the rest of the village’s main attractions. The rooms aren’t super luxurious, but they’re plenty cozy, and you may not want to spend much time in the room anyway when you’re this close to the Grand Canyon’s best sights. 

  • Nearest airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 3.5-4 hours by car
  • Distance: 235 miles

A hotel room at Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan, Arizona.
Red Feather Lodge

Red Feather Lodge

If you want a few more creature comforts and you don’t mind staying a little farther away from Grand Canyon Village, Red Feather Lodge has rooms with flat-screen TVs and (limited access) Wi-Fi internet, as well as laundry facilities, a heated pool and spa for the summer season, an ATM in the lobby, and a Mexican-American restaurant on the premises. Again, don’t expect big-city hotel-level amenities here, but do rest assured that what you need is probably available.

  • Nearest airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 3-3.5 hours by car
  • Distance: 220 miles

A hotel room at Little America Flagstaff.
Grand America Hotels and Resorts

Flagstaff

Little America

If you’re looking for something a little nicer in Flagstaff, Little America may be the right hotel for you. As part of the Grand America hotel family, Little America has the extra special creature comforts you’re looking for: goose-down bedding, Ulster wool carpeting, custom furniture, a 55-inch LG LED TV, high-speed internet, and more. If you’re up for a nice morning hike, Little America has its own trailhead that connects to the local trail system. If you want a little more excitement, Little America is only two miles away from Downtown Flagstaff.

  • Nearest airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 2-2.5 hours by car
  • Distance: 150 miles

A creekside cottage at L'Auberge de Sedona.
L'Auberge de Sedona

Sedona

L’Auberge de Sedona

If you want the crème de la crème, you’ve arrived at the right place. L’Auberge de Sedona offers a stunning Sedona red rock backdrop and ample luxury throughout the property. Every cottage has its own fireplace, patio with outdoor seating, a wood-burning fireplace, a big-screen TV, high-speed internet with complimentary New York Times and Financial Times digital access, L’Occitane toiletries, an Illy coffee machine, and premium bedding. L’Auberge has a gorgeous restaurant on-site and on Oak Creek, and it has a full-service spa, the La Galerie Art Program that connects guests with the local art scene, a serene pool area, and even its own “Duck Beach” where you can say hello to some feathered locals and relax right by Oak Creek. 

  • Nearest airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: About 2 hours by car
  • Distance: 120 miles

A patio and a private jacuzzi at Enchantment Resort Sedona.
Enchantment Resort Sedona

Enchantment Resort

Once you arrive here, you can see for yourself why Enchantment Resort has its name. They’ve recently redesigned their casita rooms and suites, so you’re in for some sweet treats: plush beds, a private deck with outdoor seating, a flat-screen TV, WiFi internet, and plush robes. Suites come with an oversized bathroom, a working fireplace, a kitchenette and dining area, and even an outdoor grill. If you don’t feel like cooking, Enchantment Resort has three restaurants on-site. For even more relaxation, enjoy the resort’s pool with stunning red rock views, a sports complex with tennis and pickleball courts, a full-service spa and fitness center, and access to the members-only Seven Canyons Golf Club.

  • Nearest airport: Phoenix Sky Harbor
  • Time: 2-2.5 hours by car
  • Distance: 126 miles

A hotel room at Home2 Suites by Hilton Lake Powell Page.
Hilton

Page

Home2 Suites by Hilton Page Lake Powell

Like the Grand Canyon, keep in mind that Page is the biggest town in the area — and Page is not that big of a town, so don’t expect a ton of big-city amenities around here. Nevertheless, a stay at Home2 Suites means you can enjoy WiFi internet, a hot breakfast, a kitchenette with a coffee maker and a refrigerator, an outdoor pool, and a business center during your stay. 

  • Nearest airport: Harry Reid – Las Vegas
  • Time: 4.5-5 hours by car
  • Distance: 280 miles

A plate of kampachi and aguachile aboard Animalón by the Sea.
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Where to eat

Again, please keep in mind that much of Northern Arizona is very rural. While larger towns like Flagstaff and Sedona feature wider varieties of restaurants, smaller towns and more remote outposts might only have a handful of culinary offerings. Here are some of our favorite places to stop and chow down while we’re trekking across the region.

Price key

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap 
  • “$$”= average 
  • “$$$”= expensive 
Two burgers with the Grand Canyon in the background
Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon

Sky View Restaurant

If you’re heading out to Grand Canyon West to check out the Skywalk, you might as well dine out here. The menu is limited — it mainly consists of burgers and salads with a few beer and wine options. With that said, the views seem endless — the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the Skywalk and the Grand Canyon itself are so spectacular that the drive will feel totally worthwhile once you’re seated here. 

  • Best for breakfast and lunch
  • $$

Browse the Menu

A burger and a blue drink from Yavapai Tavern at the Grand Canyon's South Rim.
Yavapai Lodge

Yavapai Tavern

Located at the Yavapai Lodge, Yavapai Tavern offers one of the South Rim’s only outdoor dining patios. The menu is full of classic pub fare like pizza, tacos, and burgers, plus it has a full bar serving Arizona craft beer, various wines, and cocktails. During the summer season, it even hosts live music acts outside.

  • Best for lunch and dinner
  • $$

Browse the Menu

A look inside the El Tovar Dining Room and Lounge.
Xanterra

El Tovar Dining Room and Lounge

Located inside the historic and grand El Tovar Lodge in Grand Canyon Village, the dining room features amazing canyon views and some of the best cuisine you’ll find anywhere on the South Rim. The kitchen serves carnivorous, vegetarian, and vegan dishes, and the drink menu includes some tasty mules (as in the boozy mules) that are perfect for rewarding yourself after a long day of walking and hiking. 

  • Best for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • $$$

Browse the Menu

A person holds a cup of cappuccino at Late for the Train.
Late for the Train Coffee

Flagstaff

Late for the Train

Despite the name of this cafe, there’s no need to rush here! Rather, you may feel the urge to linger around for a while once you order your own custom latte or mocha. And since Late for the Train has its own roastery, you know these beans pack quite a great punch. If you’re a little hungry, you can also take your pick of freshly baked pastries to go with your favorite coffee drink.

  • Best for breakfast
  • $$

Browse the Menu

The arugula pie (pizza) at Fat Olives Flagstaff.
Fat Olives Flagstaff

Fat Olives Flagstaff

Not only does Fat Olives serve Vera Pizza Napoletana-certified pizzas, but these pizza pies are also quite tastefully creative. If you want “What Guy Ate” on Food Network, try the Kenai and Belgio Dolce pizzas. If you prefer the classic, you can’t go wrong with the Margherita D.O.C. or the Di Fungi. If anyone in your group is not in the mood for pizza, Fat Olives also has some pasta options on the menu.

  • Best for lunch and dinner
  • $$

Browse the Menu

Plates on the table at Shift Kitchen + Bar
Shift Kitchen + Bar

Shift Kitchen & Bar

Chef and Owner Dara Wong has made it so clear that she wants to shift the perception of “mountain food” that she opened her own restaurant with this verb as its name. While Shift serves some classic Mountain West favorites, such as burgers and venison, you’ll also find more inventive options, including mole lechon, escolar, and ravioli with basil chimichurri. If you really want to be blown away, stay for dessert — you’ll thank us later. 

  • Best for dinner
  • $$$

Browse the Menu

The omelets being plated at Coffee Pot Restaurant in Sedona, Arizona.
Coffee Pot Restaurant

Sedona

Coffee Pot Restaurant

Though a restaurant boasting 101 omelets might come across as gimmicky, Coffee Pot Restaurant has at least 101 good reasons to boast about its breakfast offerings. Even if you’re not really into omelets, Coffee Pot has plenty of pancakes, waffles, and additional egg dishes. It’s an especially great place to stop before or after hiking some of the incredible trails throughout West Sedona.

  • Best for breakfast
  • $

Browse the Menu

Food on the table at the patio at Hideaway House Sedona.
Hideaway House Sedona

Hideaway House

Hideaway House has not one, not two, but three open-air patios for you to enjoy the ideal al fresco dinner with gorgeous Sedona red rock views. The pizzas may be the best in town, but they also serve a boatload of fresh seafood and heavier meat dishes as well. They have a full bar with a wide selection of drinks, so you might as well stay to enjoy one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. 

  • Best for lunch and dinner
  • $$$

Browse the Menu

A table full of food and drinks at Elote Cafe.
Elote Cafe

Elote Cafe

If you want some really good comida mexicana en Sedona, you have to come to Elote Cafe. It’s very conveniently located in Uptown, and features an extensive menu full of not only Mexican-American favorites, but also some off-the-beaten-path dishes. Come for the elote and goat cheese balls, stay for the buffalo mole poblano or the vegetable mole verde, and linger a little longer for the Mexican chocolate pie.

  • Best for dinner
  • $$$

Browse the Menu

Man sitting on the rock overlooking Horsehoe Bend
Joshua Earle/Unsplash

What to do

Though we’d never say there’s too much to do anywhere, it’s hard to deny that there’s an abundance of exciting outdoor activities throughout Northern Arizona. The Grand Canyon tends to be the star attraction, but don’t ignore the region’s other public lands. You may be surprised by what you find.

A view of the Skywalk at Grand Canyon West.
Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon West

The Hualapai Tribe has run this reservation since 1883. More recently, they embarked on an ambitious plan to bring more visitors to this side of the Grand Canyon by building their one-of-a-kind Skywalk and inviting them to stay and learn more about Native American life in the Southwest. Not only can you walk the signature Skywalk over the Grand Canyon, but you can also do some whitewater rafting, a helicopter tour, zip line, and set aside some time for learning and shopping at Hualapai Point. 

Learn More

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon (Arizona).
Andrew Davey/The Manual

Grand Canyon Village and the South Rim

As the historic heart of the Grand Canyon, the village on the South Rim offers a wide variety of trails for avid hikers and museums and shops for travelers who prefer to stay on top of the rim. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can find multiple trailheads along the main Rim Trail that will take you down and around, including the famed Bright Angel Trail that takes you all the way down to the Colorado River and the historic Bright Angel Campground. If you insist on doing an extended day hike or backpacking journey, please make sure to come prepared. Trust us: It’s perfectly fine to stay up, walk along the Rim Trail, and work on your photographic skills if you’re not ready to invest a whole day or more for such an epic hike.

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Cape Royal on the North Rim provides a panorama up, down, and across the Grand Canyon.
Michael Quinn/National Park Service

The North Rim

Here’s the road less traveled… literally. This side of the Grand Canyon is much harder to reach and is only open to visitors during the warm season. If you’re determined to be among the ten percent of Grand Canyon visitors who actually make it to the North Rim, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views, less crowded paths, higher elevation, and a greater sense of peace and quiet. If you’re up for some amazing hiking, take the North Kaibab Trail. Casual hikers will enjoy the gorgeous scenery at Supai Tunnel, while hard-core adventurers can try heading all the way down to Bright Angel Campground at the Colorado River. 

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Abineau Trail is a steep 1,800 foot climb over two miles up the slopes of the San Francisco Peaks through Abineau Canyon.
Deborah Lee Soltesz/U.S. Forest Service

Flagstaff

Coconino National Forest and the Kachina Trail

Come hike among quaking aspens, ponderosa pines, Douglas firs, and gorgeous mountain views… in Arizona?! Yes, indeed, the Coconino National Forest is great for hikers, bikers, and nature lovers who want alpine scenery in Northern Arizona. You’ll find convenient trailheads across the Flagstaff area. For some truly spectacular scenery, catch the Kachina Trail north of Flagstaff for maximum aspen exposure and views of the San Francisco Peaks.

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An image of some downtown Flagstaff buildings, including the Hotel Monte Vista, with artistic light
Deborah Lee Soltesz/Wikimedia

Downtown Flagstaff

Tucson and Tempe aren’t Arizona’s only major college towns: Flagstaff is home to Northern Arizona University (NAU), where Olympic-level athletes train and some 21,000 students study. Downtown Flagstaff essentially starts at the north end of the NAU campus. The Amtrak train station serves as Downtown’s historic heart — and the visitors’ center where you can find answers to any other questions you have about traveling through the region.

During the summer season, you can enjoy First Friday ArtWalks, outdoor movie screenings at Heritage Square, the community farmers and artisan market, and Saturday outdoor yoga sessions. Throughout the year, Downtown Flagstaff has many of Northern Arizona’s most ambitious restaurants, most creative artisan boutiques, and most extensive entertainment options.

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The Munds Mountain Trail is a challenging, remote trail in the Munds Mountain Wilderness in Sedona, Arizona.
Deborah Lee Soltesz/U.S. Forest Service

Sedona

Marg’s Draw, Munds Mountain, and Schnebly Hill Trails

Schnebly Hill is the closest trail to Uptown Sedona, and it’s not only convenient, but it also offers a moderately challenging hike up to some incredible red rock views. You can catch Marg’s Draw on Schnebly Hill Road, and this trail features amazing views of the iconic Snoopy Rock, Capitol Butte, and Steamboat Rock. You can also catch the Munds Mountain Trail on Schnebly Hill Road for even more jaw-dropping red rock views. If you want even more hiking, you’re in luck: Sedona has over 400 miles worth of trails, many of which offer stunning red rock scenery.

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A look inside the Sedona Arts Center.
Sedona Arts Center

Sedona Arts Center

If you want a pleasant introduction to Sedona’s thriving local arts scene, start here. Stop at Sedona Arts Center’s Uptown Gallery to view works by local artists, check out their selection of classes and workshops where you can create your own art, and see which special events are coming up. It’s a great launchpad to explore more local art. Sedona has over 80 art galleries, and the most walkable stretch is here in Uptown.

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A look at the North Sculpture Garden at Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village in Sedona, Arizona.
Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village

Tlaquepaque

Located a short walk, ride, or drive from Uptown, Tlaquepaque offers a very Sedona twist on the classic shopping mall. You won’t find any huge chain stores or major designer labels here, but you will discover a lovely collection of art galleries featuring local artists, as well as some interesting specialty shops and fun restaurants. Even better, Tlaquepaque is situated right next to Oak Creek, so you can also come here for a scenic impromptu Instagram photo shoot or TikTok session. 

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An amazing view of "The Mittens" at Monument Valley, Arizona.
Clément Bardot/Wikimedia

Monument Valley

While Monument Valley may be as instantly recognizable as the Grand Canyon, fewer visitors tend to brave the longer drive out this way. If you’re ready for something different, head out here to see for yourself the world-famous “Mitten Buttes” and Merrick Butte, and sign up for a guided tour if you’d like to see sacred sites like Ear of the Wind. Since Monument Valley is on Navajo tribal land, this is a unique opportunity to learn directly from the indigenous community why this place is so special. If you want to extend your stay here and support local Native American businesses, you can book a room at The View Hotel and stop at The View Trading Post for one of the region’s largest selections of Native American handcrafted kachinas, rugs, jewelry, and many more works of art.

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Located on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument includes the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Nationally known for its beauty, the Paria Canyon has towering walls streaked with desert varnish, huge red rock amphitheaters, sandstone arches, wooded terraces and hanging gardens.
Bob Wick/U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Lake Powell and Northern Arizona’s national monuments

Situated about 135 miles north of Flagstaff and 270 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, Lake Powell is the stretch of the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. As the weather starts to warm up, and as the mountains’ winter snowpack begins to melt, spring is a great time to head out here.

For quality time on the water, head to Wahweap Marina on the Arizona side of the lake to rent a houseboat and water toys for the ultimate boating trip. If you want to switch it up and investigate some dry land, head to Rainbow Bridge National Monument to explore one of the world’s most famous natural bridges and a sacred Navajo tribal landmark, or hop over to Horseshoe Bend for jaw-droppingly gorgeous river scenery. 

Another nice perk of staying at Lake Powell is that it’s a convenient launchpad to explore more public lands in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. About 50 miles southwest of Wahweap Marina, you’ll discover Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, where you can see some endangered California condors and hike the world-famous swirled sandstone at Coyote Buttes. About 24 miles northwest of Wahweap Marina, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is chock full of historical treasures spanning from dinosaur fossils to Anasazi and Fremont tribal rock art.

Learn More

A view of the famous sandstone formation at Rainbow Bridge National Monument at Lake Powell, Utah.
Bernard Spragg/Flickr

Try these tips for survival, and for planning a better trip

How to save money

First off, know where you want to go. With gas prices as high as they are, you may not really be “saving money” if you’re staying a very long drive away from most of the places you want to visit. 

If you’re planning to spend more time in Sedona, consider booking accommodation in Sedona or Flagstaff. If you and your crew want to do more at the Grand Canyon (South Rim), then Grand Canyon Village, Tusayan, and Williams are probably your best bets for lodging. If Lake Powell and the national monuments north and west of the Grand Canyon are your main destinations, consider making Page, St. George (Utah), or Las Vegas (Nevada) your base camp. If you insist on doing a little of everything, you probably need a central location like Flagstaff. 

Swimming holes, Havasu falls, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to get around

Speaking of driving, Northern Arizona is much more rural and spread out than the rest of the state, so don’t expect a whole lot of mass transit options here. If you prefer train travel, Amtrak does serve Flagstaff, and you will find some shuttles from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. In addition, local bus service in Flagstaff and shuttles serve Grand Canyon Village and Sedona. Beyond the most popular tourist hubs, your transit options become far more limited.

We completely understand the current angst over high gas prices, and at least we can say that Kayak can help you with your rental car costs. Make sure to check Kayak first when shopping for a rental car, so you’ll have a little more money in your pocket to spend on things you actually want to spend money on.

The Grand Canyon
David Ilécio / Pexels

How to beat the summer heat

While most of Northern Arizona tends to avoid the sizzling summer highs of Phoenix, triple-digit temperatures are common in the lower elevations (such as the Grand Canyon floor). Even an extended time out in some seemingly manageable heat can lead to serious problems if you don’t take care of yourself. 

If you’re planning a lot of outdoor activities, please make sure to pack enough water, food, sunscreen, navigation equipment, and other basic necessities to get you through the day. If you want to hike to the Grand Canyon floor and/or check out the rock formations around Lake Powell, get your hiking in early, before the thermometer soars well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re hiking or biking high in the mountains, keep in mind that lower air pressure can lead to lower blood oxygen levels, so pay attention to your body’s needs and don’t try to climb even higher if you start to feel fatigued and/or breathless.

grand canyon night sky
Royce's NightScapes/Getty Images

Finally, enjoy the trip

Northern Arizona has such beautiful scenery and beautiful communities that it’s easy to fall in love with these places once you begin to experience them for yourself. While you’re here, go ahead and enjoy the experience. If you’re on a tight schedule, don’t try to squeeze too much into one or two days. If you have more time, take full advantage of it by planning at least a full day for the Grand Canyon, at least a full day for Sedona, and enough time to enjoy wherever else you want to go. 

We hope you appreciate this grand tour of the Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona. For more amazing content that might inspire your future travel plans, check out our guide to U.S. airports’ TSA security wait times, our favorite neighborhoods to stay in Barcelona, our Iceland travel guide, and our guide to America’s most underrated beaches. Cheers to safe and happy travels.

Editors' Recommendations

Andrew Davey
Andrew Davey is a writer who has spent a long time in "hard news" journalism, but who has also pursued interests in food and…
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Ghost ranch New Mexico

You know you deserve some time off to get out there and live a little, and that means planning a getaway. Few places beckon the wanderer quite like a New Mexico road trip. From the desert to the mountains, the ever-changing landscape is mesmerizing to watch as you work your way across the state in the Southwest U.S.

Following one (or all!) of these itineraries for different regions of the state will also lead you to fantastic food. "We cannot forget about the mouthwatering New Mexican cuisine and the variety of microbreweries and wineries," Brianna Gallegos, a New Mexico Tourism Board representative, said. While you'll find delicious restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and more along the way, you could even stock your car with local snacks, like Bisco Bites, the state's official cookie. Think shortbread cookies laced with spices like cinnamon, sugar, and anise. Once you have your car stocked, get ready to hit the highway for an amazing trip from corner to corner.

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What happens if you miss a connecting flight? These travel tips will help you save your trip
Follow these tips if you miss your connecting flight
Woman at airport

Connecting flights is oftentimes a seamless experience, while other times, you may find yourself running full speed through the airport to make it to your plane. Missed connecting flights are an unfortunate aspect of frequent air travel. But what happens if you miss a connecting flight? Navigating the aftermath of a missed connecting flight can be intimidating and challenging, but with the right travel tips, you can make it to your final destination in an efficient manner.

Missing a connecting flight: the common causes
Several factors contribute to the common causes of a missed connecting flight. These factors range from airline-related issues to personal oversights. Generally, an airline will not sell you a ticket if they don’t believe you can make your connecting flight, but flight delays of even a few minutes can easily cascade into missed connections. 

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