They say spending time in nature is important, but why is it so expensive?
I understand that National Parks are equipped with facilities that need to be maintained, but it would be nice if these places weren't making me take out a huge portion of my paycheck.
I think everyone in America should be able to afford to visit these natural wonders because it's a shame to miss out on these experiences.
There are 58 National Parks in the the US and I intend to visit every single one of them. So far 15 down, 42 to go!
According to Financial Post, visiting these gems is getting more expensive every year. Many national parks will increase their entrance fees this season by $5.
Here are a few tips on how you can save money.
1. Go visit the park for FREE these four days
Not all national parks charge a fee, but the ones that do you can get in for free on these four days every year.
- January 15: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday
- April 21: First day of National Park Week
- September 22: National Public Lands Day
- November 11: Veterans Day
Keep in mind, these days are going to be packed with people.
If you would rather see more nature than people, but still save money, keep reading.
2. Grandparents get major discounts
Visiting a National Park is the perfect family trip. Even though my parents are older, they can still hike up those mountains with ease.
Now they can get in for a discounted rate, which they're not complaining about.
Anyone who qualifies as a senior (65+) is eligible to receive the $20 Annual Senior Pass or the $80 Lifetime Senior Pass.
Some of these passes will also get you access to discounted camping sites.
3. Children under 16 are admitted for FREE
If you're going to a national park on foot, you'll save a lot of money if you bring along your kids.
Children under 16 are always admitted for free, but only if the park charges a per person entrance fee.
There is a way adults can get free admission too...
4. Do you have a kid in Grade 4?
If you have a child in fourth grade, take them to a National Park. Not only do you they get in for free, the whole family does too!
Their free admission pass is valid the summer before fourth grade, and the summer after. That's two summers of fun you don't want to miss out on!
That being said, you still have to pay for other expenses while inside the park.
5. Become a volunteer
After 250 volunteer hours with a federal agency that participate in the Interagency Pass Program, you are eligible to receive a National Park Volunteer Pass that gives you free admission.
I know that sounds like a lot of hours, but you're doing a good deed for your country.
Another reason why I love this compromise is because your whole family can get in for free for a whole year.
Depending on the hours, you can also get free lodging.
6. Visit popular parks in low season, and vice versa
The top three most visited National Parks are Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone. You can expect a flock of tourists from around the country - and the world - visiting these sites during high season.
Try to visit these places in early spring or late fall to make the most out of your stay, but make sure to book in advance!
As for parks like Guadalupe Mountains, Congaree, and Great Basin, visit these in the summer months.
These National Parks aren't that popular compared to the big three, but in my opinion they're equally as beautiful.
7. Stock up on supplies at home
Buy all your essentials at home. Once you get close to the National Park, you'll have to pay for a convenience charge.
Basic essentials that cost a dollar or two in your town will cost double or triple the amount the closer you get to the wilderness.
8. Do you have close family in the military?
If you have a family member that is or was part of the U.S. military, bring them along with you.
You can all be admitted for free at any National Park.
9. Book your stay in advance
Popular National Parks can sometimes book up before the year even starts. I have friends who always book their stay at least a year before their visit.
Most people like to go camping when they stay for the night at a National Park, but you definitely should treat yourself at least once and stay at popular lodges like Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn.
The park lodge is absolutely stunning and will be one of your favorite getaway locations!
Another way to save money if you want to stay in a lodge is to find a hotel outside the park entrance. Don't forget to book these rooms a few months before you visit because they can fill up quickly too.
10. Save money by purchasing an annual pass
If you're as obsessed with visiting National Parks like my family is, save money by purchasing an annual pass for $80.
This will definitely be worth it if you visit more than three parks in a year.
11. Camp for FREE the natural way
If you're adamant about camping outside, camp on the National Forest land outside the park for free.
There are no amenities, but that's the whole point of camping, experiencing nature like our ancestors.
12. Ditch expensive flights, rent a RV
There are a lot of RV rental companies you can choose from, and many of them offer great deals.
Last year, my family paid $1 for every day we used our rental camper.
Companies like Apollo, Jucy, Immova, and Transfercar offer similar bargain deals.
13. Find these FREE activities
Activities like ranger-led hikes, snowshoe walks, art classes and kayak tours are super fun, but they cost money.
Enjoy nature the simple way. In my opinion, it's more fun when you plan your own day.
14. Get discounts with the memberships you already have
Did you think all those loyalty or membership cards in your wallet have only one use?
Some of them can be used to get discounts at National Parks.
For example, wholesale clubs, frequent flyer programs, and an AAA membership can help you escape the urban landscape and explore some of the greatest wonders of the world.
What's your favorite National Park?
[H/T: Krady Coupon Lady / Financial Post]
For more travel tips, check out 11 things you must do to stay safe on vacation.