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Saturday, April 29, 2023

Mother's Day Travel Gift List 2023

Hopefully, this year finds you and the mom(s) in your life well and getting you out and traveling more. Now that we're all settling back into normal vacations (with a few changes) and Mother's Day has come back around, it's time to help your mom get out of town with a little more ease, comfort, and efficiency.

I love giving items that are practical, but ones that can also make an economy travel experience a bit luxurious. Here are my picks for Mother's Day.

I love giving items that are practical, but ones that can also make an economy travel experience a little more luxurious. Here are my top picks for Mother's Day in a variety of price points.

Budget - under $50

1. SpectraSpray
There are natural sprays for everything, including those to make your travels way better. Purchase sprays individually, or ones that go together in a Jet Lag Kit or Stay Well Kit. $19.95+ on SpectraSpray - my review is here

2. AeroPress Go
Does your mom love coffee? Is she always jetting off somewhere? Even if she just enjoys camping or needs to free up some space in her home, the AeroPress Go is perfect for those that just want a good cup of Joe at home. It makes amazing coffee, is super easy to use and clean, and fits inside its own mug. $31.95 from AeroPress or Amazon - my review is here

3. Travel Pakt Toiletries
Give them a leg up on packing their carry-on bag and toiletry bag with awesome natural products. Travel Pakt lets you hand-pick toiletries from a great list of amazing companies that make good products and also do good, then ships them in a TSA-compliant zip-top bag that can be packed right away. $5+ on Travel Pakt - my review is here

4. Airplane Pockets
I really hate the airplane seat pocket. Mostly because they aren't large enough for things I want to have during my flight, but also because I've found so much trash in them when I've flown. Get your mom a set of Airplane Pockets that slip over the tray table (covering it with an anti-bacterial fabric) and give them 4 pockets to hold their phone, glasses, pen, snacks, book and whatever else. If you follow me on IG, you've seen these in action on my trips. $29 on Amazon

5. Well Told drinkware
Since no one's going anywhere for the foreseeable future, why not give them something to remind them of a favorite trip or destination, or a big trip they have hopes of. Well Told Design makes beautiful drinkware with etched maps and more. I have a pair of London pint glasses, but I'm hoping to add to the collection soon. $18+ on Well Told - my review is here

6. Belkin Mini Surge Protector
We have several of these - one for travel and some for our house. These surge protectors are so useful, because you can turn one outlet into three sockets and two USB ports. the back swivels, so you can fit it anywhere and then plug in all your gadgets. It has come in handy in those rooms that have maybe one free outlet (read: 95% of hotel rooms) that isn't at the bathroom vanity. Give your mom the convenience of always having enough power outlets. $16.89 on Amazon

7. Bamboo utensils from The Other Straw
When we all start traveling again, even if it's just around town, we're especially going to want to eat out, even if that's just at food trucks. I'm really loving these great bamboo utensils from The Other Straw. Not only are they eco-friendly and nice to look at, but they come in their own pouch for keeping them clean in between uses and TOS donates 50% of their profits to fund ocean cleanups. $9.56 on The Other Straw

Moderate - $50-100

1. Pang Wangle Essential Wrap
Your mom is going to look chic everywhere she goes with this wrap that has an odorless bug repellent woven into its sustainable, impossibly soft, recycled cotton and Tencel fabric. She can use it as a wrap, a sarong, a scarf, a blanket, and more wherever she goes. $58 on Pang Wangle - my review is here

2. Timbuk2 Scholar Convertible Tote
This is a bag I purchased myself for a personal item size bag for the plane. It's cute and fits in under the seat, but I also was able to pack 4 days of clothes and toiletries in it, along with my iPad, snacks and cords. If your mom commutes and also travels, this is a fantastic bag. It fits a laptop, all their goodies and even a water bottle. You can carry it as a tote or you can attach the hidden backpack straps. It's so comfortable and really good looking. $99 on Amazon

3. Barrier Method Winged Mask
Everyone's got a mask or two right now, but Barrier Method was selling theirs before they were all the rage. I always get comments on mine. This anti-bacterial mask is both healthy and pretty and can be used to stay well, reduce your allergens, keep your neck warm, among other things. Gift your mom the gift of health and wellness with one of these. She can wear it to the grocery store and on the plane. $60 from The Barrier Method - my review is here

4. FaceCradle
There are so many travel pillows to choose from, but one of the best I've tried is the FaceCradle. Not only is it perfect for the ever-diminishing airplane space, but it's great for tall people, and for using on trains and in cars as well. It has a bunch of different ways to use it. We have the regular version and the lite version, and we sleep like babies on the plane. $49.99 on Amazon - my review is here

5. Travelon Anti-Theft Parkview Hobo Crossbody 
The Parkview collection from Travelon is classy and comes in classic colors. Not only is it anti-theft, but it has an RFID-blocking pocket and tons of room. It will never make you stick out as a tourist, and can hold all your things and probably some of your purchases. Mom's have to carry all the things, and this bag can do it, while looking great. $89.25 from Travelon + get 20% off if you use code SHEREENTRAVELS20% 

Splurge - $100+

1. Arcopedico footwear
I love these shoes. They have dual arch support, meaning you stand the correct way to align your body in a way that takes the stress off your soles, calves and lower back. I have walked all day in my booties while in Scotland and England and my feet never hurt at all. $100+ on Arcopedico or Amazon - my review of Mary Janes here | My review of booties here

2. GlobeIn monthly travel box
If your mom doesn't quite have the funds to travel (or just misses traveling during Lockdown), but loves cool stuff from other countries anyway. Give her the gift of stuff from around the world with the GlobeIn box. Each box contains at least 4 goodies from other countries and they all center around a story. $144 for a 3-month subscription. (The price per box goes down with longer subscriptions)

3. CityPASS
I'm sure your mom already has her next trip planned. Why not help her make it more affordable by giving her most or all of her activities for free? You'll be able to find a lot of participating cities. $50+ on CityPASS website

4. Anatomie Style Women's Clothing
Just because you're not at home and trying to pack light doesn't mean you want to look like a schlub. Stock your carry-on with upscale pieces that are classic and versatile. Anatomie isn't cheap, but it's guaranteed to look good for years to come and help you blend in on city travels and cruise ships. Pieces are also lightweight, so they won't take up more space in your luggage than necessary. Your mom will get use out of these pieces at home and on vacation. $45+ on Anatomie

5. Travelon Heritage Carry-All Weekender
This wide-mouth weekender has so much room in it for a weekend or a week or a two-week trip. It's true! I packed two people's clothing in it for a week in Vegas. Not only is it spacious, but it's also super good looking. Your mom will get so much use from this bag and get all the compliments as well. $115 on Travelon + get 20% off if you use code SHEREENTRAVELS20% - my review is here

I hope this helps you find something cool and special for your mom on her special day. Where's your mom's favorite or dream travel destination?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I will be monetarily compensated should you make a purchase through any of those links. Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

A New Kind of Subscription

There are all kinds of subscriptions you can order. If you're like me, you probably have at least one monthly subscription box that comes to your house. I've done Birchbox, LootCrate, Ipsy, and still do Litjoy, and BarkBox. I love getting a box full of mystery products every month or quarter. It's fun and exciting. 

As someone who loves travel products and gadgets, and doesn't want to spend money on terrible products, I've decided to offer a subscription box.
Photo by Curology on Unsplash

There are subscription boxes for everything, including travel, but most are completely unaffordable. As someone who loves travel and travel products and gadgets, but also doesn't want to spend an arm and a leg on items that don't work, are bulky, or poor quality, I've decided that offering my own subscription box, with products I've personally vetted, could be just what fellow budget travelers want. The difference to other subscription boxes: They will be priced less, though there will be a multi-tier system for those that have a bigger budget, and they will be offered quarterly, so you aren't inundated with products.

Partial haul from the last Travel Goods Show I attended

What will be in them? Well, I have the items I want to include in the first introductory box, which should be ready to ship in time for Summer travel. Want to help customize these boxes, so they work for your budget and travel style? If you haven't already taken the survey, I'd love it if you took 2 minutes (or less) to answer a few questions to help me serve you better - even if this isn't something you're interested in at all, because that's helpful to know, too. 

I hope you're as excited about this as I am. If not, that's okay. I'll still be here to keep bringing you my regularly scheduled content and product recommendations.

Do you subscribe to any monthly boxes? If so, let me know which one(s)!

Saturday, April 22, 2023

How To Travel More Freely

What if I want woolly socks?
What if I want to wear a Hawaiian shirt?
What if I need extra boots?
What if I need more pajamas?
What if I'm asked to a gala and I don't have a tuxedo?
What if I go sailing and don't have the proper shoes?
What if I want to go spelunking and I don't have ropes?
Will people know where I'm from? Better pack four or five more Oregon shirts!

What causes people to pack so much they need such a large bag and bring everything short of the kitchen sink? How can you start packing lighter?

Yes, some of these questions are totally ridiculous, but if you're an overpacker, it might be hard to figure out which ones. This post was really inspired by my husband who was coming up with outrageous reasons one would need to have a bag they could fit into if they weren't moving to a new country. Every time I go to the airport, I tend to see at least one or two ladies (and sometimes guys) hauling a bag so large that if it didn't have wheels, they wouldn't have gotten it out of the house. It always makes me wonder what on Earth they could possibly have in there and need for a normal vacation. 

This is by far not the largest bag I've seen people bring to Vegas in the middle of summer.

Eric calls it overpacking due to a fear-based lifestyle. All those 'what-ifs' up there were his (joking) way of identifying an overpacker's train of thought before traveling and when they purchase said huge suitcase. I used to be a chronic overpacker, but I never had a suitcase that I could live in. So, what causes people to pack so much they need such a large bag? Are they uncomfortable with leaving home? Do they worry what will happen if they don't bring half their house with them? Do they freak out if they forget something and then have to figure out where to get it in a foreign place? I have no idea, but what I do know is that not having all your creature comforts is part of the wonderful things about travel. Bring the bare minimum of stuff you need to be comfortable and feel free from your other belongings. 

In the title photo, you can see me with all of our stuff for a 1-week trip, and we've taken that bag for longer trips, too. That's not just my stuff, that's our stuff. I don't want to bog myself down with too many bags or heavy bags or have so much from home that I never need to leave my room. The only things I brought that were not totally necessary was a bag of tea, sweeteners, oatmeal and drink packets. I could have purchased these at my destination, but they took up little space and it was more about convenience. I don't need a whole box of sleepy time tea or a huge thing of sugar/sweetener when I travel. I might need these things in transit and not everyday, so I don't want to waste money at the store buying them with my normal trip purchases (usually eggs, bread, butter, bananas and creamer).

Maybe some travelers feel like such a fish out of water when they are in a new place that they feel they need to feel like they're at home to enjoy their trip. I'm not sure. I just know that it's much easier to be comfortable in a new place, to me, if I get out and see what the locals are doing and get a lay of the land. I don't expect my destination to be like home, nor do I want it to be, otherwise, why travel at all? 

I choose some of my favorite pieces to travel with, a few pair of good shoes and a couple optional articles, like some accessories I love, a scarf, and a packable jacket I may need if it gets chilly. Enough to feel like myself, but not so much that I feel overwhelmed by everything I've packed and that it all is appropriate for the activities I have planned. I don't need a sparkly dress with me if I know I will mostly be visiting museums. I also don't need high heels for walking miles and miles everyday.

Think about what you'll be doing and not so much the "what ifs', because, chances are, you may not even get to everything on your list of things to do, much less those what if opportunities. After walking for 8 or more hours during the day, are you really going to want to put on some fancy shoes that are barely comfortable for an hour when you have just been sitting on your couch all day? Bring some flats or wedges that are cute, but go with everything you have brought with you, so you can look dressed up and not want to cut off your feet.

In lieu of a formal dress, that you may only wear once (if that), why not pack a pair of black jeans? Not only will they work for everyday wear, but can look dressy and work with any number of different tops. Of course, if you travel with an LBD that you wear during sightseeing (I have a great one from Prana), then you can dress it up with a few well-placed accessories to take it from day to night, like I did with this GoLite dress (no longer available, but this gives you a good idea on how to pack one dress for multiple activities - here's something similar).

The more you think about it, the easier it is to travel lighter and still have many of your favorite items with you on your trips so you aren't feeling so much like you're out of your element and not quite yourself. You can still have a clothes personality with fewer items. For more help on how to stretch your wardrobe, check out this post. Figure out what you absolutely can't live without - maybe it's simple and useful like your iPad, maybe it's something more basic and personal like your fuzzy slippers - and then leave the rest at home. For me, it's my laptop for work and playing games/streaming movies, warm socks or booties for the room, and a few random snacks from home.

What can't you live without when you travel? 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Why I Love Disneyland Paris So Much

The other day I read an article about how to beat Ticketmaster prices and fees and it really struck a chord with me. In case you haven't tried to buy mainstream concert tickets in the last several years, or even heard about the Taylor Swift outrage, Ticketmaster and LiveNation merged, so they now have a monopoly on most concert tickets and can charge whatever they want. It's crazy. 

We took a Paris vacation with Disneyland trip for the same price as going to a domestic Disney park. Here's why I love Disneyland Paris so much.

So, what does any of this have to do with Disneyland? Well, I found that it's not just concerts that are worth traveling out of the U.S. for. We had plans in 2020 to go to Disney World. Obviously, you know that didn't happen. We had pushed the trip twice before we outright canceled it. We've been talking about going back, but we have a lot of feelings about the state of Florida right now. 

Those feelings aside, I had looked into theme park prices last year and figured out what an Orlando vacation would cost. Then we found great airfare rates through Play Airlines to go to Paris. Somehow, flying to Paris and going to Disneyland Paris was actually cheaper than going to Walt Disney World. Yes, I know that the parks don't exactly compare to each other, but having been to Disneyland Paris two other times, I we knew it would also be less stressful. 

For less than the price of a trip to WDW, we took a trip to Paris, with a day in Baltimore, ate some amazing food, visited museums we hadn't gotten to on previous trips, explored new parts of the city, and then split that trip with a Disney trip, where we even stayed in a Disney resort. I'm not even a little shocked that people are paying the same, or even less, to buy concert tickets in other countries, plus airfare and a whole trip around it.

Anyway, let's talk about the best things about Disneyland Paris to us:

The castle is beautiful and there's dragon! Did you know that each Disney park has a different castle? Technically Tokyo has a fortress, but it still has the castle feel. This one features a different version of Sleeping Beauty's Castle than the one at WDW and is called Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant. 

The ground floor has the obligatory shops, gorgeous ones, and the second floor, reached by a grand staircase, has beautiful stained glass, which, along with tapestries and vignettes, tells the story of Sleeping Beauty. The ceiling is brilliantly painted and it also feels like you're in the middle of the forest with those trees inside. Make sure to go outside on the balcony to get a view over Fantasyland. Nobody was out there either, but that could be because it was raining. 

If you head down the stairs, you will find yourself in the dragon's dungeon. This is where dragon Maleficent is being kept. This huge animatronic moves and blows smoke and generally feels like you're in the presence of a real animal. Somehow, there's never a ton of people down here and I'm not sure if they don't know about it or don't care, but it's a nice little area to take a break in and see something truly unique to this park. 

Around the corner, there's a nice little eating area that's tucked away behind the buildings. You'll see Cinderella's glass coach and a sweet fountain. 

I know this fountain exists in other parks, but I found this one more easily and it wasn't super crowded around it. We were the only people in the little square, so we didn't have to wait for people to move to see either of these things. It might be different when it's warm out, but this was the first time we've seen these, so I don't really know.

The Haunted Mansion is Phantom Manor here and it has a weird and awesome Wild West vibe, because in Paris, it's located in Frontierland and has a whole story about the people of the west coming to mine in the area and many didn't survive. This is a ride where you should ride it multiple times to catch all the details. I'd also suggest learning the story that goes along with it and then riding it (again). 

You think you're at the end of the land when you exit the ride, and you would be right, but head away from the rest of the park and visit Boot Hill Cemetery. If you listen closely, you can hear the deceased miners. It's a fun detail and there's almost never anyone there. It's also on a raised platform, so you get a different view of Phantom Manor and you can see all of Big Thunder Railroad.

Two other rides that can be found at other parks have their own special twist, too. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril is an outdoor rollercoaster. This is one of our favorite rides, because it feels like Indiana Jones, but it's outside and it goes upside down. This is one of the first rides we head to when the park opens. You also have Hyperspace Mountain. It's pretty similar to the rides in America, except it's a true rollercoaster as well and also goes upside down.

While I could go on and on about how much I love Disneyland Paris, I'll leave you with a few bullet points:
  • There is an Alice In Wonderland labyrinth and you can climb to the top of the Queen's castle and look over the whole thing.
  • They still have the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
  • The parks are not as popular as those in America, so they aren't as crowded. 
  • You could easily do one park per day, but a 3-day park hopper ensures you don't miss out on anything or have to invest in Genie+.
  • Getting from one park to the other is a short walk.
  • You can get a package that includes staying at a Disneyland hotel for pretty much the same price as booking a nearby hotel or vacation rental and get free shuttle service instead of using Uber or similar transportation.
  • In between Frontierland and Adventureland is a walkway with Mexican eateries and a ton of animals and people from Coco's Land of the Dead, including Dante up there. I adore that Coco's getting love, because it doesn't get enough attention over here, unless it's Halloweentime. I admit that I spent way too long oohing and ahhing over every detail.
  • Paris park tickets are considerably cheaper than both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

My only con about Disneyland Paris is that the food is mostly not great. We did have good coffee everywhere and a decent order of fish and chips at Toad Hall. The food at Bistrot Chez Remy was pretty good, but the service was terrible (it could have just been our waitress though). The ambiance made it better. We ate at Captain Jack's, the equivalent of Blue Bayou inside Pirates of the Caribbean, and the food was quite underwhelming. The last time we ate there, it was delicious. I'm not sure what happened there. If you're there during a food festival, though, the kiosks sell tasty food. I would take walking around with food over a sit-down meal, plus you get to try more things that way.

I compared the same trip we took to Paris Disneyland to regular Disneyland with the same tickets and the cheapest resort and it would have cost us over twice the price and we would have only been able to do that and not had 3 extra days of vacation. So, if you're looking to take a trip and you think it's over your budget, think outside the box. We've done several international trips that have been similar or cheaper than a domestic trip. 

What is your favorite Disney (or other theme) park and what do you love most about it?

Saturday, April 15, 2023

10 Ways To Save While Eating On Vacation

Food isn’t like souvenirs. No one goes on vacation without buying it. You have to make room in your travel budget to eat, but there are many ways you can make that part of your expenses smaller. Just because you are trying to save money doesn’t mean that you have to eat fast food or sandwiches for every meal or can’t experience the best cuisine a place has to offer. Below is my top 10 list of ways to stretch your food funds.

Just because you are trying to save money doesn’t mean that you have to eat fast food or sandwiches for every meal or can’t eat well.

Ask the locals where they eat

Odds are, people who live where you’re traveling don’t eat at the fanciest restaurant in town. You know who eats there? Tourists and people celebrating their anniversaries. The “normal” people eat at affordable dining establishments that are also delicious and serve food from the local area. They are going to want to point you towards some of the city’s gems and impress you because, unlike hotel staff, they don’t get paid for recommending the crazy expensive steakhouse down the street.

Look forward to lunch

You probably aren’t always frugal. While on vacation, it’s okay to splurge sometimes. If that includes going to a top-rated restaurant that you know is spendy, make reservations for lunch instead of dinner. The food will be just as tasty, but cheaper than at dinnertime.

Split an entrée

Most restaurants serve you at least twice as much food as you can eat. Don’t be weighted down having to carry around leftovers or feel bad about food left on your plate. Share a main dish with your travel companion. Most hotels will split an entrée for no fee, but even if you have to pay for an extra plate, it only costs a few dollars, which is cheaper than paying for a whole other meal. 

Order an appetizer for a meal

Most appetizers can be plenty to fill you up and can be as little as a third of the price of an entrée. This is also a great option for you if you like to try many different dishes. Order two to three for the same price as a meal.

Hit up the food carts

Food carts can offer a huge variety of different local and international foods, but can be half the price of (or less) than dining at a sit-down restaurant. With this kind of savings, you can try fare from several carts with no regrets.

Shop the farmers market

There’s no better way to experience local cuisine and interacting with residents than a visit to the closest farmers market. You will find a variety of food, including meats, fruits, vegetables and cheeses. Purchase enough for lunch and enjoy the afternoon having a picnic in a nearby park.

Rent a vacation home or stay in a hotel with a kitchen(ette)

This is my favorite way to stretch my food budget, because there are so many options. Renting can be a great value over hotel stays if you’ll be visiting for a week or more, plus it gives you the chance to check out the local grocery store. Make many of your own meals and save considerably. I don’t often like to spend money on eating breakfast out, so I love to buy new cereals and pastries I can enjoy in my room.

Stay at a hotel that offers free breakfast

You don’t realize how much dining out can cost until you go on vacation. A reasonable breakfast can cost between $8-15 per person. If you multiply that by the number of people you’re traveling with and the number of days you’ll be staying, that number can be huge. If you find a hotel in your price range that offers free breakfast, you’ve hit a jackpot of savings.

Sign up for Groupon

If you haven't been using Groupon, what are you even waiting for? Save 40-90% off food and more, meaning you can eat for way less than you originally planned, meaning you can splurge on a fancy meal, spend that money elsewhere, or actually just stay on budget. Sign up at Groupon for the destination of your next vacation (they cover many international locations as well as the United States) and eat for less!

Don’t order off the kids’ menu

If you travel with children, you’ll notice that most kids’ menus seem to have the same small rotation of foods. Obviously, little ones don’t just live on hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwiches. Not only do they charge an outrageous amount for these “staples” that cost hardly anything to make, but they offer hardly any nutritional value and your kids are likely to eat only half of it before declaring they’re full. Instead, order a meal that you both will eat and share. This saves you money and might get them to eat a vegetable or two.

While there are other ways to save on dining, these have proven to be the most useful for my travels and are my first suggestions to anyone asking how to cut costs on their trip. They are easy to do and will enable you to try a bigger variety of foods, too. You’ll experience more of the city and its people, giving you a greater vacation experience.

How do you save money on dining out when you travel?

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Dog-gone Good Travel Tips

This week saw National Pet Day and next month is National Pet Month, plus with summer coming, people will be hitting the road (and sometimes the skies) with their dog. If you fall into that category with 30 million others, then you might need some help in traveling well with your dog. 

We've taken quite a few dog trips and they can be challenging, but can also be very rewarding. Here are tips to take the best trip with your dog.

We've taken quite a few dog trips and they can be challenging, but can also be very rewarding.

Photo credit

Getting there isn't all there is to your traveling. You also need to think about accommodations. Choice Hotels has some great tips on how to deal with hotels - not just their own - and what to bring in order for everyone to be safe and happy on your trip. There are lots of great, budget-friendly hotels and vacation rentals to choose from. 

photo credit

Don't forget to also look for pet-friendly restaurants, so your dog isn't staying in the car if you can help it. Most eating establishments with outside seating allow dogs, many coffee shops do, and, of course, you can always eat your own food at rest stops, parks, and overlooks. I love to look for dog parks, too. It's nice to let your dog run around off-leash in between long stretches in the car. 

What are your favorite dog-friendly cities? From my experience, Portland, OR is lovely (and the coast, basically allows dogs everywhere), as is Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Kalispell & Missoula, MT.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Visit National Parks for Free This Year

If you're hoping to get outside this year on a budge, perhaps a free trip to a National Park is an option for you. Get out and go hiking, biking, camping, see some national monuments and historical places. These do sometimes take planning, since the parks can get real busy. 

Each year, the U.S. National Park Services open their gates to everyone and waive the daily entry fee to make getting outside cheaper and more fun.

With winter dragging on and some places still getting fresh blankets of snow, you might be ready to get out of town. In preparation for the warmer temps, or for those of you who don't care how cold it is or how much snow is on the ground, let's talk about how you can get out and explore your national parks this year for absolutely free. Each year, the U.S. National Park Services open their gates to everyone and waive the daily entry fee to make getting outside cheaper and more fun.
  • Jan 16 — Martin Luther King Jr Day (if you want to start planning for next year)
  • April 22 — National Park Week kicks off
  • Aug. 4 — Celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • Sept. 23 — National Public Lands Day
  • Nov. 11 — Veterans Day
If you're an avid outdoors lover, then you may already have an annual pass, because you want to explore all the things. If you're like me, you only go to the parks when you're on a road trip, so you can't see the value of spending $80 for the year when you only spend maybe 3 days at a National Park. For you, save some money and plan your trips around these free days. The parks maybe be more crowded, but that can be part of the fun. Unfortunately, more people may mean fewer glimpses of wildlife, but it really depends on the park. 

Pack your cooler with some delicious foods, a blanket, and throw some clothes in an overnight bag if you plan to make a getaway of it (because, sometimes you aren't that close to a National Park), because getting outside just got easier:

Save some money on your pass

Did you know that seniors (age 62 and over) can buy a lifetime pass to the parks for just $10? Now that's a fantastic deal! Want to get a cheaper pass? Well, you might be able to. U.S. Military and permanently disabled citizens can get an annual pass for free. If you have a child in the fourth grade, with the Every Kid in a Park initiative, your whole family is eligible for a free pass. 

Split the pass with a friend and add $40 to your pass cost. Each pass can have two people as owner on it (and they don't need to be related), so if you have a a friend or family member who also wants to go to the parks, but doesn't necessarily want to spend full price, add both  your names to the annual pass and split the cost. You'll each pay just $60 that way and will only have to work out who gets it when (or go together). This is great for families, because the NPS has a lot of offer for kids, not least of which is the Junior Ranger program, where kids engage in different educational activities at each park and receive a stamp in their parks passports and often a badge for completing each one. 

When to skip a pass

If you only plan on visiting during the above times or you plan to visit the smaller parks that don't charge a fee. For the record, there's almost 300 of them. Here is the list of 120 parks that charge admission that you can get into free on fee free days. If you want to try to avoid the crowds, check out these "hidden" spots.

Want to get away from the crowds? Visit these 15 least popular parks and you'll get the same lovely scenery but have tons of space to yourself:
  • Pinnacles National Park - California
  • Voyageurs National Park - Minnesota
  • Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Texas
  • Congaree National Park  - South Carolina
  • Virgin Islands National Park - St. John, USVI
  • Great Basin National Park - Nevada
  • Dry Tortugas National Park - Florida
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve - Alaska
  • Katmai National Park and Preserve - Alaksa
  • North Cascades National Park - Washington
  • Isle Royale National Park - Michigan
  • Lake Clark National Park and Preserve - Alaska
  • Kobuk Valley National Park - Alaska
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve - Alaska
  • National Park of American Samoa - Vatia, American Samoa

Visit Canada

Canada has National Parks of its own, and they were established before the U.S. NPS. With tons of open spaces, it's a great place to head to get outdoors, plus they also have fee-free deals for under 17s and new Canadian citizens at all 47 parks across the country. Once they are open to Americans again, it's a good excuse to visit and enjoy new outdoor spaces. 

Now that you have some options, all you need to do is plan your trips, find some awesome hiking boots/shoes, charge your camera and get out there. 

What's your favorite national park and why do you love it?
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