With prices rising, free and discounted tickets can help reduce travel expenses.
Several options are available, including the Every Kid Outdoors Pass, America the Beautiful National Park Pass, and the Michigan Activity Pass.
Every Kid Outdoors Pass
The Gawel family of Monroe visited several national parks with the Every Kid Outdoors Pass offered by the National Park Service.
The program saved the family about $200 in admission fees. The free ticket is available to all fourth graders.
Steve and Laura Gawel and their children Alex, 16, and Bekah, 11, learned about the Every Kid Outdoors Pass years ago but were eligible again last summer when Bekah was in fourth grade.
“I first heard about it when my son was in sixth grade. When we were looking for a family vacation a few years later, I remembered the program and we looked for more information,” said Laura. “Applying for the program was really easy.”
Bekah only had to answer a few online questions about places she would like to visit.
“It gave her a chance to feel like she had a role to play in planning this vacation, which piqued her interest in what we were seeing,” Laura said. “At the end of the survey you get a page to print out with the entry voucher for the program. We presented this voucher at the first park we visited and they gave us a pass that worked at all the other parks we visited.”
The pass offers free entry for the fourth grader. In some cases, the whole family was admitted to the park for free, Laura said.
The Gawels ventured into the Great Plains with the pass.
“We decided to use several national parks in the Upper Great Plains. We started by visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, then spent a few days in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. We drove south from Yellowstone and spent a day and a half exploring Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. After that we drove back east and visited Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It was a very special time for our family,” said Laura.
She said the family only made the trip because of the Every Kid Outdoors Pass.
“We would not have made this trip. The pass gave us the incentive to go, and it was fun planning a trip to see how many national parks and monuments we could visit in one trip,” said Laura. “This was a great way to get our family to visit the national parks and give our kids a chance to see some of the amazing gifts that nature has to offer.”
The Every Kid Outdoors Pass is accepted at 2,000 federal recreation areas. Next year’s season starts in September.
“No matter where you live in the United States, there’s a place within two hours of your home,” the National Park Service said.
On the web: https://everykidoutdoors.gov/index.htm
The America the Beautiful National Park Pass
The McCarty family of Monroe saved about $100 this summer with the America the Beautiful National Park Pass, also offered by the National Park Service.
The pass costs $80 per year and gives up to four adults free entry to more than 2,000 national parks and federal recreation areas. Children under 15 have free entry.
Scott and Jenn McCarty bought the pass earlier this year. They have two sons, Brian, 10, and Harrison, 8.
“We just spent two weeks in Utah and Arizona visiting Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonland and Arches National Parks,” Jenn said.
The family has a fourth grader but opted for the America the Beautiful National Park Pass instead of the free Every Kid Outdoors Pass because it offered free entry for more family members and lasted longer.
“We even saved money on buying the pass. We visited six national parks this summer. Admission for all six would have cost us about $185, so we saved about $100 by purchasing the annual pass in advance,” Jenn said.
On the web: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm
Michigan Activity Pass
Anyone with a Monroe County Library System library card can borrow a Michigan Activity Pass.
The pass offers discounted admission to museums, theaters, historic sites, science centers and other locations in the state including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Yankee Air Museum, Hidden Lake Gardens and the Farmington Hills Holocaust Memorial Center.
Some attractions offer free entry, while others offer buy-one, buy-one entry or gift shop discounts.
“Now they even offer mobile passes,” said Barbra Krueger, community outreach coordinator for MCLS.
The MCLS has offered the pass since 2013. It is offered through The Library Network.
“I’ve always believed that your library card held the key to a world of adventure. Our partnership with Michigan Activity Pass is just another example of the unlimited potential of your library card,” Krueger said.
The Michigan Activity Pass is a popular program. In June, 864 reservations were made by Michigan library users.
For more information, see https://mymcls.com/michigan-activity-pass/.
National Park Service junior ranger badge
Visitors to US National Parks can participate in the Junior Ranger Badge program.
“Participants in the program can pick up a free brochure with information and activities. The materials are aimed at children ages 5 to 12, but anyone can participate, even adults,” reported a recent story by Gannett.
Participants must complete activities in the brochure to earn a badge. Activities can include puzzles, gathering information from a landmark, or doing a good deed.
River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe started its junior ranger badge program in 2013 during the bicentennial of the January 1813 battles, said Jami Keegan, interpreting, education and volunteers director.
“The program is based on our exhibitions and programs,” she said. “Anyone who visits the Battlefield Visitor Center can participate and earn a badge.”
Since 2013, more than 6,500 have completed the program.