Travel 7 ways to save on your next national park trip

21:46  16 april  2018
21:46  16 april  2018 Source:   ap.org

These were the most popular national parks in the US 2017

  These were the most popular national parks in the US 2017 Though visits to national parks across the US remained stable in 2017, new stats reveal that visitors stayed longer, spending more time enjoying the natural surroundings last year than they did in 2016. A ccording to the latest figures from the National Park Service (NPS), parks across the US received 330,882,751 million visits in 2017 -- just slightly less than the record-setting number of 330,971,689 visits made in 2016. Interestingly, despite the marginal dip in 2017, number crunchers noted that visitors spent 19 million more hours at parks last year compared to 2016.

From pricey fuel to upgraded camping costs, not to mention dumping fees and more, it’s difficult to save on an RV trip . Some national parks , such as Yosemite and Zion, also offer shuttle service, sometimes even requiring it in certain locations during the high season.

The biggest expense with RV camping is the vehicle itself. Buying an RV isn't cheap, yet there are numerous ways to save on the purchase. National parks offer another smart option for campers and RV enthusiasts looking to save .

FILE - In this March 16, 2015, file photo, hikers stop and take photos along the Grand Canyon National Park's South Kaibab trail. With diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife, America's national parks are popular travel destinations. To save money on a trip, break out the camping gear and schedule your visit around a fee-free day or during off-peak time. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson, File)© The Associated Press FILE - In this March 16, 2015, file photo, hikers stop and take photos along the Grand Canyon National Park's South Kaibab trail. With diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife, America's national parks are popular travel destinations. To save money on a trip, break out the camping gear and schedule your visit around a fee-free day or during off-peak time. (AP Photo/Anna Johnson, File)

America's national parks are brimming with natural wonders: cascading waterfalls, towering redwoods, white sand beaches. But visiting these gems can cost money and soon will get a little pricier: Many national parks will increase their entrance fees by $5 beginning June 1.

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Here are eight simple ways to save on your next family vacation If you are planning a trip to a theme park or a major national park like Yellowstone or Yosemite, consider sneaking in just ahead of the rush (before Memorial Day) or after it has already died down (just after Labor Day).

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In honor of National Park Week April 21-29, here are seven ways to plan a cheaper national park trip.

1. TRAVEL OFF-PEAK

Mikah Meyer, 32, wants to become the youngest person to visit all 417 National Park Service sites. In the past two years, the Nebraska native has crossed more than 300 off the list while living out of his trusty 2014 Ram ProMaster, a white, windowless cargo van he's dubbed "Vanny McVanface."

He's just one of the more than 330 million people who visited the national park system in 2017. Rooms and campsites fill up fast during weekends, spring break and summer. Meyer suggests visiting offseason to save money and avoid crowds. But there are trade-offs.

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Book Travel Online Contact a Travel Agent My Saved Trips . Ways to Explore Your National Parks . by Marker Marshall | AARP The Magazine. Subscribe to the AARP Travel Newsletter and get inspired for your next trip .

Ways to save money for the next time you head out on your next backpacking excursion. We decided that Yellowstone National Park was our destination and that involved buying plane tickets, renting a car and paying extra attention to our pack load.

"Sometimes you'll go to parks like Yosemite where certain trails and waterfalls are closed because they're snowed in," Meyer says.

Research seasonal conditions to prevent surprises, and note that some destinations have atypical high seasons. Warm-weather parks such as Death Valley and Everglades are busiest in winter.

2. VISIT FOR FREE

More than two-thirds of national parks are free year-round. The others waive entrance fees on certain dates. The remaining fee-free days in 2018 are:

—First day of National Park Week: April 21

—National Public Lands Day: Sept. 22

—Veterans Day: Nov. 11

With free days dwindling — down from 10 in 2017 to four in 2018 — and potential fee hikes looming, take advantage.

3. ANNUAL PASSES AND DISCOUNTS

An annual pass costs $80 and can pay for itself if you plan to visit multiple parks in a 12-month period.

U.S. military members can get the annual pass for free, as can fourth-grade students and certain volunteers.

National Park Service abandons plan to increase entrance fees after public backlash

  National Park Service abandons plan to increase entrance fees after public backlash They need the revenue to complete desperately needed maintenance projects. The plan would entail increased rates at 17 of the 59 parks during peak visitation season, with prices at $70 per private vehicle, $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot.Following the announcement, NPS offered a month-long period for the public to comment on the proposal. But after receiving over 109,000 comments from people opposing the plan, NPS has decided not to move forward with it, Travel + Leisure reports.

Which ones will you add to your next national park road trip ? See More. Taking a road trip this summer? Here are some ways we save money when travelling by car. budget travel tips, budget travel usa

The U.S. National Parks are a bargain any day of the year, but there are several ways that you can save money on entrance fees. Visit on a Fee-Free Day. Entrance fees to all U.S. National Parks will be waived on the following dates in 2018

For seniors, annual passes cost $20 and lifetime passes $80. Lifetime passes are free for those with permanent disabilities.

Travelers can also leverage perks offered by wholesale clubs, frequent flyer programs and other memberships, such as AAA.

4. SKIP THE EXPENSIVE LODGE

Camp by tent or vehicle to cut costs. Backcountry campsites, which are generally in remote areas accessible only on foot, are usually cheaper than developed campsites, says Kathy Kupper, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service. Campsites at Glacier National Park cost a maximum of $23 per night during peak season, for example, compared with the hundreds of dollars a night you might pay to stay in a lodge.

To avoid camping fees outright, Meyer parks in Walmart or hotel parking lots that allow it. He also camps free in U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management areas near national parks.

"Sometimes they have actual campsites with running water and bathrooms, and other times it's just wherever you can fit your car, there you go," Meyer says. Contact your local agency offices for details.

Start Planning Your Summer Travel Now

  Start Planning Your Summer Travel Now Summer travel can be very expensive since more people are taking to the roads and skies, but your vacation doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. The number one rule of budget travel is planning ahead and booking at the right time. It makes all the difference, so start organizing your summer itinerary now. Why now? Pricing data suggests it’s best to book your summer trips somewhere around 47 to 70 days in advance if you want to save on airfare, and Google Flights starts seeing the biggest uptick in searches for summer vacations right about now. Planning this far ahead is sure to save you some serious cash on lodging as well.

10 Creative Ways to Save for Your Next Big Trip . Get paid to lead whitewater rafting trips or work in a national park . At the very least, check out these ways to make money on vacation.

There are a number of simple ways to save money on your next cross-country jaunt. National parks , museums and galleries, for example, are typically inexpensive and can provide an exciting cultural experience.

If roughing it doesn't appeal to you, try hotels or rentals in gateway communities. Neighboring towns typically have more rooms and are less expensive than park lodges.

5. BUY SUPPLIES BEFOREHAND

Don't wait until you're near or inside the park to stock up on food, gas and other essentials.

"The closer you get to these places, especially when they're out in the wilderness, there's going to be that convenience charge," Meyer says. "Something you might buy for $3 at your local grocery store could be $7 or $8 in the middle of nowhere."

6. EXPLORE YOUR BACKYARD

Every state has at least one national park site, so you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to travel to one.

"It's not always saving up for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon. You can go for a day or a weekend to a park near you," Kupper says.

7. LOOK FOR FREE ACTIVITIES

National Park Service programming, with very few exceptions, is free, Kupper says. That includes activities like ranger-led hikes, snowshoe walks and kayak tours.

You can see potential itineraries and book tours at the National Park Service website. Once in the park, stop by a visitor center for more information.

"Spending time in nature is good for body and soul," Kupper says. Doing it cheaply can be good for your wallet, too.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Lauren Schwahn is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: lschwahn@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @lauren_schwahn.

RELATED LINKS:

NerdWallet: How to save money https://nerd.me/how-to-save-money

National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/trip-ideas.htm

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