The National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, officially on August 25, thanks to President Woodrow Wilson and the Organic Act of 1916. With interesting land formations and views you can’t get elsewhere, you need to add them to your list of “must-sees.” Plus, you can easily plan a getaway to one near you at a lower cost than most trips.
Here’s how you can save money on one last summer trip by visiting a national park:
- Go on a free day. Yes, the National Park Service offers free park entry days throughout the year. The next one is September 24, and while that is actually the autumn season, the weather may still be nice enough to enjoy the park you choose. The waived fee includes transportation entrance costs as well. You can learn more about the free entry days here.
- Camp out. Lodging costs per night can definitely add up. Despite national park trips typically being cheaper than a trip to somewhere like Hawaii, you can save even more money on your vacation by opting to camp out in a tent instead. Besides, a little “rough” living can’t hurt, right? Just make sure to reserve a spot in advance as spots can fill quickly, particularly in the more popular parks like Yosemite. But, as we approach the end of the season, you may be luckier than some.
- Leave the car at home. If you are looking to be really frugal during this trip, you can leave the car at home and use an alternate form of transportation to enter the park. Compare and contrast the cost of a bus ticket to shuttle you to the park; it just might save you an a buck or two. As another option, you can ride your motorcycle or bicycle in for half of the cost most of the time. If you have the luxury of living close enough to a national park where you can ride your bike, take advantage of the extra savings (and exercise).
- Utilize your discounts. Are you a senior citizen? Student? Military? AAA Member? The National Park Service offers discounts to affiliations like this, so make sure to look into what discounts may apply to you. Sometimes, the discount will even be offered to everyone with you. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Invite friends to come along. Speaking of groups, if you are hoping to stay in a cabin or hotel near the park, invite friends to come along to help reduce travel expenses such as gas. And what better way to end the summer than with a trip with friends?
- Shop at home. Because national parks are also tourist attractions, prices tend to be much higher than they would be at your local grocery store. Stock up at home for travel food, outdoor gear and other necessities for your trip to help save you money.
If you can’t get enough of just one park, or think you’ll visit another before this milestone’s end for the NPS, you may want to consider an annual pass. These can be purchased from the organization’s website for just $80. Another option is to sign up for the park service’s newsletter for discounts, deals and tips.
Will you be trying to fit in one last trip this summer to a national park?