Take a Break at a National Park

If you've been inspired to visit a national park lately, your first order of business is to plan reservations well in advance of peak season. Otherwise, nearby lodging may be impossible to come by.

Our country’s national parks have gotten a lot of attention lately, with a PBS TV series and a new line of commemorative quarters recently announced by the US Mint. If all that inspires you to visit a national park, some careful planning can make your park experience more pleasurable and may save you some money too.

"You remembered to lock the buffalo, right?"

The first job is to make reservations well in advance of peak season. Camping grounds at national parks like Yellowstone fill up fast during the summer months, so getting a spot reserved should be a top priority. Nearby lodging may also be impossible to come by if you don’t have a reservation.

Next, buy a pass. If you’re planning to go to only one specific park, you can usually a buy a pass that’s good for just that facility. If you plan to tour more than one park, an interagency “America the Beautiful” pass is a better idea. $80 will buy you and pass that will get you into hundreds of federally managed parks and recreation areas free for a full year after you buy it.

If you’re 62 or older, the deal is even sweeter. You can get a lifetime Access pass for $10. If the facility charges a per-car entrance fee, the senior pass lets you and your passengers in free. If the entrance fee is per person, a senior can bring in up to three other adults free. Senior passes may also offer the pass owner discounts on park amenity fees, such as the cost for campsites or parking.

For more information on what the pass will cover, check with the individual facility. For more information on interagency passes, visit the America the Beautiful website.