There’s something for almost everyone in America’s national parks. Follow these travel tips to plan your next great national park adventure:
- Visit the National Park Service’s website to pick a park and plan your trip.
- Get your free America the Beautiful Military Pass (at one of these federal recreation sites). The free pass is available to all active-duty, National Guard, reserve and Coast Guard members, dependents of U.S. military members with DD For 1173, U.S. military cadets, veterans and gold star family members. You can choose to purchase the free Military Pass online for a $10 processing fee. Learn more about Military Pass from this fact sheet.
- Choose to tour the parks with the free America the Beautiful 4th Grade Pass (free to all U.S. 4th graders) or the Access Pass (free to all U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities) depending on your family’s needs.
- Pick from hundreds of activities.
- Visit your Morale, Welfare and Recreation program for discounts on camping and other outdoor gear.
- Have fun and stay safe.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or a sit-and-watch-the-world-roll-by kind of person, there’s a national park vacation, day trip or weekend adventure right for you.
Enjoy an outdoor adventure on a budget
Visiting a national park can be very affordable, especially for service members and their families, so pick a park, pack up your car and hit the road. Here are a few travel tips as you plan your next vacation to one of the country’s 423 national parks or areas:
- Find a park. With fields and forests, canyons and coastline, America’s national parks have something for all kinds of nature lovers. You can search for parks by name, location, activity or topic at the National Park Service website.
- Visit the park’s website. Once you’ve picked a park, you can download all you need to know about hours, directions, activities and fees. While entrance fees are free for all at some parks (though parking charges may apply), military families — active duty, National Guard, reserve and Coast Guard members, dependents of U.S. military members with DD For 1173, U.S. military cadets, veterans and gold star family members — qualify for a free America the Beautiful Military Pass (mentioned above) that can come in handy for those that do charge. Many parks issue passes onsite, or you can plan your visit to a park on one of the six free entrance dates.
- Pick your activities. National parks offer exciting activities for all ages. If you have children, check out the Junior Ranger events and programs. Remember, you can search for activities everyone in your family can enjoy. You can also find wheelchair-accessible activities and trails.
- Contact the MWR program. Don’t forget to contact MWR on your installation for lodging discounts and options. Also, see what equipment you can rent before you head out on your adventure. Whether you need a kayak, skis and snow boots, or a boat, the program has a lot of gear available to rent.
- Stop by your Information, Tickets and Travel office. This is where you can score majorly discounted tickets to nearby attractions and activities outside the parks too. ITT expanded its services through American Forces Travel℠, an ecommerce website, making ITT available 24/7. With online access to these military discounts for lodging, concerts, theater, sporting events and more, there’s no reason to pay full price.
- Play it safe. Always follow the rules and warning signs at each park. Stay alert and observe wild life from a safe distance. Remember to protect the wildlife by cleaning up any trash you create and don’t feed the animals.
- Have fun. The great outdoors can bring joy to your body and mind. It can provide you with fresh air, a new perspective and time to think or relax — things many of us don’t get enough of. Take advantage of your national parks as they can be a healthy outlet for you and your family. Get up, get out and explore your world.
With free passes, discounted outdoor gear and tons of activities, you can spend quality time with your family and explore the country’s national parks. Get free, year-round access to national parks and other federal recreation spots with the America the Beautiful Military Pass.