Video: How to save on a national park vacation



It’s the 100th anniversary of the national parks – a great time to get out and enjoy the most beautiful parks this country has to offer. And, with some budget-saving tips, you can put that extra money toward exciting adventures. Like zip lining through the Rockies!

Visiting America’s majestic national parks is on many people’s bucket lists. But, just like any vacation, the price of idyllic bliss can be steep.

Luckily, credit card reward points can help keep hotel costs down if camping isn’t your thing. However, feeder towns to the national parks may not have major hotel chains affiliated with many of the most popular credit cards.

How to save on a national park vacation

1. Get credit cards affiliated with hotel chains found in smaller towns.
Instead, consider signing up for cards co-branded with hotel chains more likely to have properties in smaller towns, such as the Best Western Rewards MasterCard or the Choice Privileges Visa, which allows you to earn points toward Choice hotels, including Econo Lodge. The Choice card’s sign-up bonus alone can get you free nights.

2. Stay farther out for a bigger selection of card-affiliated hotels.
You can also do what father of four Diego Santillana does – stay a little farther out in a bigger city where you’ll have a greater selection of chain hotels and a better chance of using points you may already have earned, even if it means a longer drive to get into the parks.

“I accumulate my points through travel for work and then use them for my family,” says Santillana.

Some hotel chains, such as Marriott’s Residence Inn, provide fully stocked kitchens in each room, so you can pack your lunches and cook dinners at home, saving big on food costs.

3. Use credit card points, perks to reduce car rental costs.
Renting a car can be another major expense of park visits. To cut costs, use a card that offers free car rental insurance, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. You can also use points from general travel rewards cards like the Chase Freedom Card and the Capital One Venture Rewards card to pay for the costs of a rental.

4. Look for ways to save on entry fees.
Once you’re at the park, there are entry fees to consider. Depending on how many parks you visit or how often you want to re-enter a certain park, the fees can add up. To save on fees consider the following:

  • Visit on free entry days.
    If you are flexible with dates, there are several days a year when you can enter for free. Check the National Park Foundation website for dates.

  • Free passes for members of the military, residents with permanent disabilities, park volunteers and fourth graders.
    The national parks also grant free passes to certain people, including members of the military, residents with permanent disabilities, volunteers who have worked a certain number of hours, and fourth graders, who can get their whole family in for free if they apply for a pass online.

  • Buy an annual park pass if you plan on multiple visits.
    If you plan on multiple visits and don’t qualify for the free passes, consider buying an annual park pass for $80 – which will pay for itself after a few visits.

  • Check out discounts for seniors.
    And, once you hit a certain age, you can spend your mornings as Kathy Granas does, hiking through America’s most treasured parks without worrying about the cost.

    “When you’re 62, for $10 you can get a pass that will get you into the national parks for the rest of your life for free. So don’t miss out on that, that’s wonderful,” says Granas, a national parks senior pass holder.

With more than 400 areas in then national park system, you have ample opportunity to hike through and explore some of the most beautiful landscapes in America – close to home or across the country – and you don’t need to spend a fortune to do it.

See related: How to get free stays and perks faster with hotel rewards, Poll: 8 in 10 Americans pay for summer vacation with savings, Video: Saving on a spa getaway with credit card points


Published: July 13, 2016

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Updated: 10-25-2016

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