2017 Free Park Access
[There may be affiliate links in this post. We can’t thank you enough for helping to support the maintenance of the EE site so we can continue to give you awesome budget travel info and tips!]
Everyone has different ways of tracking their travels. Some just post on their Facebook timelines, others painstakingly make photobooks while others scrapbook it all.
We personally keep a pin-map up on our wall and every time we spend the night in a location, it gets a pin. However, after over 5 years of almost continuous travel around Europe and also a lot of Asia, people almost always would comment on the lack of pins in the US.
It was actually embarrassing!
I mean, here we are, born and bred ‘Muricans and we had only a handful of pins across the vast country, where you could barely fit another pin into the Europe continent! Here’s a photo from my IG account of our European section! Feel free to follow us for other great travel motivation 🙂
The severe lack of pins to show of American adventures was actually one of the reasons for moving back over the pond to our beautiful country of the U.S of A. So often, Americans are enamored by far away lands (rightfully so) but then forget about the amazing gems we have in our own backyard. Sure, you could fit all of (European countries) into just the state of Texas alone, resulting in longer travel times needed.
And no, there are not drastically different ethnic and cultural differences just hours within reach from your home-state unlike country hopping within Europe. But that doesn’t mean that different parts of the country don’t have their own flare for life! And it certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t just as stunning, intriguing and “culturally” different regions right here in the US.
Making a List
Checking it Twice Constantly Adding to It
When we moved to Europe, I created a spreadsheet (yup, I’m THAT person!) of all the places I wanted to go. Before we moved, I would daydream of all the foreign towns we could go and sit at outdoor cafes while sipping lattes, skiing (something we’d never done before) in the Alps, exploring cities I’d only once dreamt about visiting like Paris, Rome, Budapest and….and…the list went on.
So as soon as we got there, we pulled up the spreadsheet and before long, we were proudly crossing off place after place. However, it felt like each time we could cross off a location that I ended up actually adding another, resulting in my “list” never getting shorter!
After all, that is the beauty of travel, it opens you up to places, ideas and concepts that you didn’t realize were there before.
[Tweet “The beauty of travel is that it opens you up to places, ideas and concepts that you didn’t realize were there before.”]
Planning a US Adventure?
Research and book affordable activities on TripAdvisor and Hotels at Booking.com
And now, it’s already started with the US!! While places like New York and San Francisco are high on the list, I have found that a wide majority of my dream destinations are actually nature based. I know not everyone is ready to strap their baby onto their backs and go hike a mountain or that everyone loves camping under the stars, but I do. So, after making my list, I realized so many of my top places I wanted to visit were actually National or State parks.
I can’t wait to (attempt, and obviously fail) at hugging a Sequioa, hike the Grand Canyon, camp under the stars in Moab, ski in the Rockies, watch a geyser at Yellowstone, or snorkel at Dry Tortugas.
And since we aren’t named “Economical” Excursionists for nothing, you KNOW that the next thing I had to do was look up discounts on national parks. Which actually led me to finding out that there were FREE days at parks all across the US!
Pin It To Remember The Dates!
But, just like the spreadsheet of places I want to visit, this too, became a wormhole. I clicked on the map that showed me that there are actually over 400 national parks in the US. Once I started clicking on one, it led me to another that I’d actually never really known about and woops, before I knew it, another was added to the list! But….there could be worse problems in the world other than wanting to travel too much!
[Tweet “There could be worse problems in the world other than wanting to travel too much!”]
2017 Free National Park Days
- January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 20: Presidents’ Day
- April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
- August 25: National Park Service Birthday
- September 30: National Public Lands Day
- November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
* The entrance fees for the above dates are waived, however please note that activities, camping, food, etc is still charged unless otherwise stated.
Other National Park Discounts
Military: Free. Active US Military and dependents as well as Coast and National Guard
4th Graders: Free. Good for the full school year through the summer
Senior Citizens: $10 Lifetime Pass
Disability Access: Free for those with permanent disabilities
Further details, national park passes and discounts can be found here.
Traveling to National Parks With Kids
Another fantastic way to get your kids involved with travel is to do the Ranger Program. Not only is it the perfect budget-friendly family activity, but kids 5-13 will love it!
Tip: Heading to a National Park with your Pooch? Here is your ultimate guide!
There are over 400 national parks and actually 276 don’t ever charge a fee. SO, in true Economical fashion, I have more homework. My next mission is to do some research on the cost of the parks. To get the biggest bang for my buck, I am going to find the most expensive parks (that are on the list for free days) and make those my top priority. My next task is to make a list of all the free ones and see which ones tickle my fancy so that I can hit up as many as possible with as little money as possible!
Which national parks have you been to that I just simply HAVE to put at the top of my list? Let me know in the comments below so I can start my planning!
Latest posts by LeAnna Brown (see all)
- 18 Tips On How To Budget Travel Ireland Like A Pro - March 11, 2020
- Bangkok Itinerary 5 Days: Making The Most Of Your Time in BKK - January 29, 2020
- Krabi With Kids: Why Krabi Is the PERFECT Thailand Family Holiday Destination - January 22, 2020
First of all, I admire your strategy of using a spreadsheet to list places you’d like to go. My goal this year is to become more organized (I’m horrible when it comes to planning trips). As for the national parks we just went to Rocky Mountain National park and it was insanely gorgeous. If you’re in that area (Colorado) I highly recommend heading to Great Sand Dunes National Park as well. 🙂
We love CO! Being from Nebraska, it’s the closest we can get to the mountains (Albeit still a good 8-10 hour drive!). With my SW companion pass though, I intend on making it a regular place to go in all seasons because, like you said, it is just stunning!
America’s national parks are so incredible, a real inspiration to the rest of the world, I would say. I’ve only visited a few but have been blown away by them. Good to know about this free entry day as perhaps I can tie a future visit in to be on the relevant date.
Exactly! If you are going to be traveling near a park on a free day anyway, might as well take advantage!
I have only been to America once and we hiked part of the Grand Canyon. I really recommend you. Writing lists of places to see is a great way of making sure you don’t miss anywhere.
We are thinking a trip to the Grand Canyon this spring! I think it is a MUST for national parks!
Thanks for posting the info, I hope to add a couple new National Parks this year. I have a map with those pins as well, but I count if I explored the area, at least for a day. I’m a true American, too, counting countries and states like it is a great competition. My goal is to travel to as many countries as I am years old.
Great goal, Melody! We are at 41 countries ourselves and ope to just keep it going. But now, our focus on States. I’d love to be able to hit all 50 🙂
I think it’s so cool my home country is doing this! I also heard all nat’l parks are free in Canada this year to celebrate their 150th anniversary. There are so many different national parks all over the US– something for everyone. Also, if you don’t already follow the US Dept of Interior on IG you should– they highlight different national parks with some amazing photos.
I’ll have to look into that for Canada! There are some truly gorgeous places there, too! Thanks for the heads up
I’m also guilty of not visiting my own country of Canada. The National Parks are all free this year to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary so I’m going to try to make it to at least one of them.
I live in Europe and there are so many beautiful towns to see, my list is getting bigger all the time. What I love abut the USA among others, are the natural parks that you have, Many of them are on my bucket list as well. I love your tips on how you can save money with the free entry dates.
This is a very useful post for me, because my single most important reason to visit the US would be for the national parks. It was an eye-opener seeing that image of the parks superimposed on Europe…changes your perspective entirely…they are massive!
This is great news, I love hiking and exploring nature and nothing delights me more to see campaigns to encourage people to travel more and travel deeper, especially in their home countries. I guess I should fly back to the US and take advantage of all those free passes this year!