By Cheri Sicard
Visiting national parks is one of the greatest tourist draws America has. And it’s no wonder. With so many parks and such a diversity of sights and attractions, America’s national parks have something to offer nearly everyone.
In the video below, the experts at the America’s Parks YouTube channel share their tips for planning the perfect national park getaway, regardless of which park(s) you hope to visit.
They’ve been traveling in America’s national parks for more than 25 years. In their experience, they have found the general public to be intimidated by planning a national parks vacation, either not knowing where to begin or believing the process to be too difficult and time-consuming. But it does not have to be that way.
This video is not about camping or RVing but rather about planning an overall national park visit. However, there are some good camping and RV tips in the comments below the video on YouTube.
Nonetheless, even without camping info, there is a lot of great practical information contained here. They show step-by-step exactly how they plan a trip.
Step-by-step: How to plan for visiting national parks
While some of the planning steps below will NOT apply to RVers, there is always an equivalent planning task that WILL apply to RVers, so adjust accordingly.
#1: Select a park or parks you want to visit. Do your research and determine when is the park open, how much it costs, and when is the best time of year to visit.
#2: Determine what else is in the area. Often several national parks will be in the same geographical region. With a little logistical planning, you might be able to visit them all on the same trip.
#3: Draft a general itinerary. Once you have done the first two steps, you should be ready to put together a very general plan. Don’t worry, you can always adjust later. But at this point you should be able to answer these five questions. Draft your itinerary:
- When will the trip begin and end?
- How long will you stay at each park?
- Where will you sleep or camp?
- How long is the driving distance between parks (assuming you will be visiting more than 1)?
- Do you wish to plan for any down time?
#4: Will not apply to RVers as they suggest booking airline tickets. However, I would suggest you instead check out your rig and get everything properly working so you can have as stress-free a trip as possible.
#5: Will also not apply to RVers as it talks about booking a rental car. However, RVs should use this step to make sure your driving vehicle, whether a motorhome or tow vehicle, is in good shape for the trip.
#6: Book your lodging. While RVers won’t need a hotel, they will need campground space and now is a good time to make those reservations. Campgrounds in national parks book up early, so you will want to plan in advance.
#7: Book rentals and excursions. This won’t always be applicable, but some national parks offer great amenities like tours and excursions, bike or boat rentals, etc. Check out the optional activities available where you are going and make your reservations. Secure any needed permits such as fishing or hunting licenses.
#8: Research the destination extensively. This will be a work in progress until your departure. But doing research can significantly add to your enjoyment and stop you from missing out on things that are important to you. The video suggests some good resources.
#9: Write the final itinerary. By now you should have everything you need to finalize your itinerary details for the trip. The video gives what you should include.
For someone like me who prefers spontaneity to planning, it seems like a bit much. But I will confess, lack of planning has in the past caused me to miss some things I would have enjoyed. So I can’t say I would not benefit.
However, if you are a planner, and especially if you are planning for a group for visiting national parks, this video is invaluable!