National parks are the perfect place for nature lovers. Planning a vacation in such a scenic locale can be exciting. America is home to more than 400 national parks that have become go-to destinations for anyone who craves an educational and adventurous experience.
With so many parks to choose from, it can be hard to narrow down where to go and what to do when you get there. From short day-trips to weeks-long excursions, a national park vacation can be easily customized based on the activities you enjoy most. Keep reading to find out more about planning a national park vacation.
Is a National Park Vacation Right for You?
National park vacations have something for everyone, especially nature lovers and history buffs. Even those who enjoy the outdoors might find themselves overwhelmed with all the options. So how do will you know if a national park vacation is right for you?
The first way to determine if a national park vacation is a good idea is to do your research. Since most of your vacation will be spent outdoors, it’s important to research the best times of the year to visit specific parks and understand how weather and other factors can impact your plans. Each national park has a dedicated website where you can get helpful tips for planning your stay, but you may also want to consult a travel agent who is knowledgeable about national parks.
Park admission will be one area where you can potentially save money compared to traditional vacations. More than half of national parks offer free admission all year and the other parks typically have a nominal fee that goes directly to park maintenance. Some parks offer on-site lodging or campsites for an additional fee while others require that visitors lodge off-site. Always visit a park’s website to find out about policies, activities, and other helpful information that will help you plan your trip.
Put Safety First
Part of the appeal of national parks is the outdoor setting where you can see a plethora of wildlife in a variety of settings. However, you should always take safety precautions, especially when visiting larger parks.
Getting lost is one of the main issues you can encounter when taking a national park vacation, but being prepared can help minimize navigation issues. Always stay on the marked trails and take all signs seriously as they are there for your safety. Not only will staying on the trail lessen your chances of getting lost, but doing so will also keep you away from dangerous areas of the park. Even if you are interested in getting a closer look at something that is off of the trail path, avoid deviating from the trail.
Since many national parks are massive, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and explore in a group whenever possible. If you plan to explore independently, always let someone know where you plan to go and check in periodically. Give the park staff your emergency contact information so they can easily contact your loved ones if needed. There will likely be other groups touring as well as wildlife in its natural habitat, so being alert is imperative.
One of the biggest national park rules is, ‘leave no trace.’ In addition to staying at a safe distance from wildlife, leaving no trace also means doing whatever you can to minimize campfire accidents that could potentially cause catastrophic damage and personal injury. Keep any trash with you to be disposed of properly. Always make sure that you only watch wildlife and do not attempt to actively engage. Animals in their natural habitats tend to feel threatened by approaching humans and can lash out.
Planning Your National Park Vacation
A national park vacation is perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors, exploring nature, and learning about history. Parks are open year-round and offer a variety of seasonal activities and excursions. The top US national parks include Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, and the Grand Canyon. With a little bit of research and some help from a professional travel planner, you can create the perfect national park vacation experience.