Tips for Visiting Sedona: 6 Mistakes to Avoid

Jun 26, 2021 | Arizona, Sedona, Simple Suit, United States

Looking for tips for visiting Sedona? Avoiding these six mistakes will save you both time and stress.

Allan and I took a couple’s trip to Sedona this spring. I did a fair amount of research before our trip, but there were certainly some things I didn’t plan for!

Sedona is drop-dead gorgeous, and we certainly fell in love with its towering red walls.  We visited in April, knowing that spring and fall are the most popular times.

Regardless of when you’re visiting Sedona, these tips will help you make the most of your time!  Learn from our mistakes…and avoid them!

Don’t expect low crowds in Sedona

Do know that the number of visitors to Sedona has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. Data reports show that the number of visitors to Sedona has tripled over the past decade! In fact, in 2019 they had more than 3 million annual visitors.  

These numbers rank Sedona with some of the most visited national parks in the United States. For some perspective, Yellowstone has about 4 million visitors per year. However, Sedona isn’t a national park and doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the high volume of visitors. Sedona is a small town, with only 10,000 residents.

The city of Sedona is actively working to find solutions for the highest priority issues like trailhead parking. They are in the process of developing a shuttle system for some of the more popular trailheads and hope to roll it out by the spring of 2022.

Crowds lined up for pictures at Devil's Bridge in Sedona

Don’t expect a seamless car rental experience

Do know that post-pandemic car rentals aren’t without a few hiccups. Across the nation, there has been a shortage of available vehicles. Rental car attendants have attributed it to multiple causes.

First, during the COVID shutdown, they were forced to lay off staff. As travel has resumed, they don’t have adequate staff to shuttle vehicles from their off-site locations to the airport, resulting in a lower number of available cars.

Secondly, to stay financially solvent, rental car agencies sold large portions of their fleet during the shutdown and didn’t purchase any new vehicles. As regular travel resumes, some companies just don’t have the fleet numbers that they did pre-pandemic.

Finally, some companies just handle online reservation systems poorly. During a recent trip to Florida, I had reserved a car through a booking agency. In my mind, if you reserve AND place a deposit on a vehicle, it should be in inventory when you get there. However, when we arrived, they had no vehicles to give us. This resulted in us having to obtain a rental car from another agency at double the cost. It seems unethical but is becoming more and more common.

Wanting to avoid that issue in Phoenix, I opted to go directly through a more reputable car rental agency for our Sedona trip and avoid a booking agency. I was able to score the best deal directly from Enterprise…and it was a minivan. Not the sexiest choice for a couple’s trip, but hey, I’m all about saving money and avoiding headaches.

We did have a long wait to get our vehicle at the Phoenix airport, which they attributed to the staffing shortage. However, returning the vehicle was a seamless experience.

Rental white minivan parked in Sedona

Don’t wait to make dining reservations

Do plan at least a month in advance, especially for places like The Hudson. Their outdoor patio is highly prized for catching the sunset while enjoying good food.

I attempted to secure a reservation a couple of weeks before our trip only to discover they were completely booked out for five weeks!

We ended up having to wait about two hours to get a table for two next to the bar. Unfortunately, all the shops around the restaurant were closed, so the wait felt longer. Fortunately, the food was delicious and worth the wait…I think.

Don’t wait until the last minute to book your hotel reservations

Do book your hotel at least 3 months in advance. I find the best deals 4-6 months in advance. I reserved our hotel via Booking.com 4 months before our trip. A few weeks before we left I checked rates again and found that they had increased 2-3 times, depending on the hotel. That’s A LOT of money.

Don’t forget that Sedona is at 4,350’ of elevation

Do plan to puff like a road lizard if you’re coming from a lower elevation and hiking on your first day.

Since our hometown isn’t much above sea level, we try to make our arrival days low-key when visiting higher elevations.  Sedona isn’t that high, but it’s enough to notice.

couple hugging on top of Airport Mesa in Sedona

Don’t expect nightlife or shopping in the evenings

Do know that everything seems to close down early in Sedona. Want a souvenir?  Shop during the day or before dinner. Even by 6 p.m., many of the shops were closed.

We aren’t huge nightlife people but enjoy sharing a cup of coffee during an evening stroll. Even the local Starbucks closed at 8 and 9 p.m.

DO Enjoy your time in Sedona!

Sedona, with all its beauty, has stolen a piece of our hearts. It’s somewhere I could return to again and again.

If you’re planning a trip to Sedona, I hope these tips for visiting Sedona help! Also, check out my post about a 3-day Sedona itinerary with tips on hiking trails, delicious eateries, and more.  If you have any questions, drop them in the comment section!  I’d love to hear from you.

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