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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.

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 beginning June 1. In honour of National Park

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

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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In honor of National Park Week April 21-29, here are seven ways to plan a cheaper national park trip . Rooms and campsites fill up fast during weekends, spring break and summer. Meyer suggests visiting offseason to save money and avoid crowds.

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

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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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In honor of National Park Week April 21-29, here are seven ways to plan a cheaper national park trip . 1. TRAVEL OFF-PEAK. Meyer suggests visiting offseason to save money and avoid crowds. But there are trade-offs.

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 parks will increase entrance fees by June 1. Here are seven ways to plan a cheaper trip

"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

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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. Meyer suggests visiting offseason to save money and avoid crowds. But there are trade-offs.

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 beginning June 1. In honor of National Park

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.

With diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife, America’s national parks are popular travel destinations. To save money on your next trip , break out the camping gear and schedule your visit around a fee-free day or during off-peak time. Ways to save .

In honor of National Park Week April 21-29, here are seven ways to plan a cheaper national park trip . 1. Travel off-peak. “It’s not always saving up for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon.

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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