Guest post from Brigitte of BrigitteBrulz.com
Did you know there are over 400 National Park Sites in the United States?!
This includes national historic sites, national recreational areas, national sea shores, national monuments, and just over 60 national parks that you can explore with your family. Check out the National Park Service’s website to find one near you (or for your next vacation).
Here are 10 ways to save on your next national park adventure!
1. Purchase or Sign Up for an Annual Pass
Families who frequent national parks that charge a fee may benefit from an annual pass, which is good for 12 months from the purchase month.
Seniors (ages 62+) can take advantage of an annual pass (or even a lifetime pass) aimed specifically at them for an even steeper discount. The senior pass will cover the cost of everyone in a non-commercial vehicle if the site has a per vehicle charge. Great way to enjoy some time with grandkids!
Families with a fourth grader can enjoy free entry at hundreds of locations from September through August by getting a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program. Even homeschooling families with a fourth grader can take advantage of this opportunity!
Active duty military members can receive free annual passes for many sites for them and their dependents by asking for a U.S. military annual pass.
Even if your family has an annual pass, it is still advisable to contact parks ahead of time to ensure the pass is accepted at that location.
2. Go on Free Days
If you don’t plan to visit the national parks multiple times in a 12 month span, an annual pass may not make sense for your family.
Instead, check to see if they offer any free days. It’s suggested to arrive early and be prepared for large crowds of people on these days!
(NOTE: Some national sites are free all year round.)
3. Check the Event’s Calendar
Junior Ranger days, astronomy programs, family days, historic days, nature walks, sled dog demonstrations, movies, archaeology days, and photography walks are just a few of the low cost or even free events offered throughout the year at national sites.
Schedule your visits accordingly by checking the events calendar.
4. Check out the Junior Ranger Program
Kids may enjoy participating in the free Junior Ranger Program where they can complete fun yet educational activities and earn badges at each national park.
Even kids who don’t have an opportunity to visit many national parks can earn badges at home by completing booklets about bats, archaeology, caves, the Underground Railroad, and more.
5. Create a Webrangers Account
Kids (and even interested adults) can earn virtual badges and rewards as they complete activities while learning about people, history, animals, nature, science, puzzles, and parks through the Webrangers program.
Registration is free and simple- just create a user ID and password. Once an account has been created, all of the completed activities are saved so progress can easily be tracked.
Kids may even have fun personalizing their own virtual ranger station by choosing a theme and customizing the walls, shelves, chair, desk, floor, picture, and window view. What a great way to get kids excited about visiting National Parks and learning more!
By carpooling with others, you can split the cost of the entrance fee if the site charges a per vehicle fee.
7. Visit the Visitor’s Center
Visitor’s centers often provide free maps, guides, suggested tips, exhibits, and even videos to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
8. Talk to Park Rangers
Park rangers are often quite knowledgeable about the area and can offer additional suggestions and information about the site.
You may even be able to get a personal tour if you ask (particularly on a non-busy day)!
9. Plan Ahead
Check out the site’s “plan your visit” section to learn more about fees, hours, things to do, suggestions, and more to make the most out of your visit. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you want to see ahead of time since some parks are so big!
Also, check the weather to ensure you are wearing weather-appropriate clothing for the day.
10. Bring Supplies
Besides wearing weather-appropriate clothing, comfortable footwear, and a hat, it may be beneficial to bring water, a camera, sunglasses, bug spray, and sunscreen.
Finally, don’t take a bag for collecting specimens since it is illegal to remove items from national sites.
Instead, bring a bag for any trash you may have and take pictures of all of the neat rocks, shells, and leaves if you want a record of them!
What other tips do you have for your next national park adventure?
Brigitte Brulz is a homeschooling mom, creator of the Adventure Writing Prompt Journal, author of the book Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles, and freelance writer. She offers free coloring pages, activity ideas, and more on her website at BrigitteBrulz.com. [...]
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