It’s not every day that your mom gets her master’s degree. So if her graduation is in another city, you make travel plans.
After getting back from our last big extended-family trip to my cousin’s wedding in Virginia, we started planning for Mom’s Northern Arizona University graduation in May. We were looking for somewhere that everyone making the trip to Flagstaff could stay.
Cast of Characters:
My mom (a.k.a. Graduate with honors) and dad (vital support system and expert pancake maker)
My brother Ian, sister-in-law Christine, niece and nephew (yep, they flew in from Seattle!)
My aunt (Sister of the Graduate), uncle, and their dog
Phillip and me
Turns out that, even four months ahead, we were a little late. Flagstaff hotels were filling up for graduation weekend, and the rooms that were available tended to cost double or triple their regular rates. We looked at cabins and Airbnb and weren’t finding anything that could accommodate all of us well. (Some of these places have like a million bedrooms but one bathroom. #badideas)
We were excited to find The Canyon Motel and RV Park, which fit what we were looking for:
- Kitchenettes (microwave, mini-fridge, coffeemaker) so we could bring some of our own food.
- Picnic tables for family meals.
- ADA accessible rooms.
- Playground for the kiddos.
- Dogs allowed.
The motel is not actually in Flagstaff but in Williams, about 30 minutes away.
Williams, Arizona’s claims to fame:
Canyon Motel is minutes from historic downtown Williams one direction and Bearizona animal park the other.
The motel part is actually a series of renovated 1940s cottages with exteriors made from the local flagstone. There are 3 separate rooms next to each other in each building.
Besides the cottages, you have the option of staying in a vintage train car or caboose, pulling up your RV or tent camping.
There are fire pits and grills near the picnic tables, a heated indoor pool, and a “hidden patio” (for rent).
The office doubles as a general store selling snacks and Route 66 souvenirs.
While each room is different, the whole place is decorated with a kitschy Route 66 / railroad theme. There are vintage travel posters, benches with backs made from Chevy truck tailgates, and lots of railroad and road signs.
All rooms include kitchenettes. Some also include sofa beds. Ours had shelves near the mini-fridge and also in the bathroom, which is nice. We didn’t have a closet but there was a clothes rack and hangers.
Plot twist: A few weeks out, my aunt realized they wouldn’t be able to make the trip.
When she called to cancel their reservation, the motel couldn’t find it in the system. Which is disconcerting. If they had come with us, they may not have had a room when they arrived.
Although the motel had the rest of our reservations, our arrival still wasn’t exactly smooth.
- A white minivan, carrying my parents and Ian’s family, pulls up in front of the Canyon Motel office.
- Dad is told he can’t park there.
- Misdirected by signs meant for RVs, he pulls forward a few feet, and sends me a warning text.
- Meanwhile, Ian is checking in. The desk clerk goes over where everything is, circling recommended restaurants on a map.
- They go into their respective rooms, where my niece promptly throws up on the bed.
- Someone from the motel brings a change of bedding.
- 30 minutes later, Phillip and I arrive.
- Confused, we follow Dad’s text and park in front of the office.
- Phillip is told to move the car. (Exits)
- I check in and receive a single room key.
- The desk clerk patiently goes over where everything is, circling recommended restaurants on a map – as if she hadn’t just done that when Ian arrived and probably 10 times that day.
- As we wrap up, Phillip returns from moving the car and is told to now park it next to our room.
I Saw the Sign
Of course, not all the check-in drama was the motel’s fault. (They did not, for example, ask my niece to get sick.) Actually, every employee we spoke with was friendly and helpful.
There are just a lot of things design- and policy-wise that make the place itself feel unwelcoming.
Besides the confusing parking, there are baffling rules about all kinds of things, like which picnic tables to use. There are do-and-don’t signs posted all over the place.
More importantly, even though our bed was comfortable, not everyone’s was. The sofa bed where my niece was slept was basically all springs. Fortunately, she’s small enough she could curl up on the one useable corner. (My even smaller nephew slept on a cushion. Awww…)
Our stay wasn’t all bad, but it was a mixed bag. It was great for multiple families to be close together, still have our own individual space (and bathrooms!), and room for the kids to run around. They loved the playground, and the picnic tables were a good gathering spot.
If we were to do this trip over, I’d probably still stay there, because it worked for what we needed at the time. In other circumstances, though, I’d probably opt to stay somewhere that made me feel less like an intruder – or a hassle – and more like a guest.
We received a media discount for our stay from The Canyon Motel and RV Park.