Mayflower itinerary mixes national parks with Vegas


DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- Mayflower Tours' 10-day National Parks of the Southwest itinerary begins and ends in Las Vegas.

"People like that; it makes it more diverse," said Jill Hanert, the firm's marketing manager, explaining why a company that has specialized in national parks tours for 20 years would want to mix neon with nature.

Although some people may like diversity, as Hanert said, the immutability of the national parks leaves little room for changing itineraries.

That is what makes Las Vegas, with its proximity to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park as well as its excellent air service, a convenient add-on for many Southwestern national parks tour operators and an attractive one to some tour groups.

Like many of the operators, however, Mayflower Tours' owners appear reluctant to promote Las Vegas along with the national parks except as a convenient jumping off point and a gateway home.

"People really want to be involved with nature. [They] want to see these parks," said Molly Stachnik, who runs Mayflower Tours with her parents, John and Mary.

According to Stachnik, the firm has been guiding people to national parks in the U.S. and Canada for two decades with hardly a change in itineraries.

That, she said, is because the natural monuments sell themselves. "They're a constant good seller for us. Some of the tours we've been doing for 20 years. They've changed so little because they're the national parks. "Maybe others [tour operators] change their itineraries; ours just sell every year."

Mayflower Tours' brochure, "National Parks of the Southwest featuring Las Vegas," offers a splendid photo of Zion National Park on its cover and a one-column shot of the exterior of the Fremont casino inside.

The tour begins at the casino, where guests arrive in time for dinner and the neon and laser magic of the Fremont Street Experience. The Fremont is located next to the Golden Nugget, where they will stay the night.

Next day, the motorcoach heads south into the desert and the Kaibab Indian Reservation, home of Pipe Spring National Monument. That afternoon and the next two days are spent at the Grand Canyon, with two-nights' accommodations at Grand Canyon Lodges, a few yards from the rim of the canyon.

The schedule for succeeding days includes boating on Lake Powell; a tour of Monument Valley; rafting on the Colorado River; sightseeing at Utah's Deadhorse Point State Park and Capitol Reef National Park, and tours of the Anasazi Indian Village State Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park.

On day 10, the bus follows the Virgin River back toward Las Vegas for an afternoon flight home.

The per-person rates, which do not include air fare to Las Vegas, are $1,498, twin room, double occupancy; $1,929, single, and $1,480, triple.

Also included are six dinners, two lunches, nine breakfasts, park fees, roundtrip airport transfers and $50 in future travel credits. For those clients who want to spend more time in the casinos, rooms for the night before and after the tour are available for $129, tax included.

Mayflower Tours pays agents a commission of up to 15%, according to Hanert.

Departure dates are June 10, 17 and 24; July 15 and 22; Aug. 12 and 19, and Sept. 9, 12, 14, 19, 21, 24 and 27.

Mayflower Tours covers all of the national parks in the U.S. and Canada. These include such sites as Ellis Island and Gettysburg, which Stachnik noted most people do not identify as national parks. "The national parks are not all trees and forests," she said.

Although tourists can drive through any of the parks themselves, motorcoach tours guarantee admission. This is an advantage, Stachnik noted, because at some parks, a limited number of visitors are admitted each day to protect the pristine nature of the preserve.
Mayflower Tours
Phone: (800) 728-0370 or (630) 435-8500
Fax: (630) 960-9886

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