Retirement Planning, Elder Law, and Senior Finance

10/5/2022 | By Emma Patch

Looking for an affordable getaway for your next trip? America’s national parks just may be your ticket to cheaper travel. With these national gems spread across all 50 states, you’ll find one within an easy drive.  

Want a vacation that doesn’t bust your budget? Consider a trip to a national park.

National parks stretch from Denali National Park in Alaska to the Everglades in Florida, and from Acadia in Maine to Haleakala in Hawaii. Nearly every national park, nearly every day, has free ranger-led programs. They include everything from arts and crafts and living history presentations to lessons in campfire cooking, musket fire, canoeing, paddling or snowshoeing, depending on the park and time of year. Families with young children can also take advantage of the junior ranger programs in almost every national park.

Of the 423 U.S. national parks, only about 100 have an entrance fee (typically about $15 to $30). All passes are good not only for the passholders but also for everyone traveling with them; you only need one pass per vehicle when visiting a park. Children younger than 15 are admitted free, and fourth graders get an Every Kid Outdoors Pass, which grants them and their families free access to all of the National Parks.

If you are planning a family getaway to visit a few national parks with fees, you can purchase an America the Beautiful Pass, which grants access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, for $80 per year. If you’re 62 or older, you can also buy a lifetime senior pass for $80. Active-duty military, military veterans and people with permanent disabilities can get free lifetime passes.

 Related Article: Tips for Trimming Travel Costs for Your Next Affordable Getaway

Planning ahead is crucial to secure reservations at campgrounds. One workaround you might try if all campsites are booked up: Visit, a platform that lists campsite cancellations.

national park visit for family getaway dreamstime_s_192816563. Looking for an affordable getaway for your next trip? America’s national parks, in all 50 states, may be your ticket to cheaper travel.

Use and its trip-planning tools, or make an effort to speak with a park ranger and ask for advice ahead of your trip, says Wesley Trimble, communications director of the American Hiking Society. Try calling the park you’re planning to visit to speak with one; you’ll find the phone number for each park at

Value trip? Acadia National Park along the coast of Maine. The 47,000-acre park has sand beaches, rocky shores, granite peaks and huge expanses of forest. Besides hiking on the 150 miles of trails, families enjoy drives along Park Loop Road and visits to Sand Beach. For an activity a little more off the beaten path, consider a scenic harbor cruise run by the Isle Au Haut boat service.

Make campsite reservations for Acadia at well in advance or try Wandering Labs or HipCamp for more options.

The current fee per vehicle at Acadia is $30, valid for seven days from the purchase date. Average round-trip airfare within the United States to Bangor, Maine, which is about an hour from the park, is $334 this fall and $459 next spring, says Hayley Berg, economist for the travel app Hopper. The average hotel rate near the park is $152 per night this fall and will be about $135 next spring, Berg says.

Families looking to make the most of a visit to Acadia at affordable prices should consider a family getaway in the early fall when crowds disperse. Peak leaf-peeping season is sometimes as early as late September, but it typically arrives the first couple of weeks of October.

Related: Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Travel to the OBX during shoulder season for a more affordable getaway

© 2022 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

CAPTION FOR FEATURE IMAGE, TOP: Autumn sunrise in Acadia National Park, Maine, from the top of Cadillac Mountain.

Emma Patch

Emma Patch is a staff writer at Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more on this and similar money topics, visit