National Park Freebies – Ten Tips to Trim Your Travel Budget

Although there’s no such thing as a free lunch, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to visit one of over 400 national parks and recreation areas across America. From free admission and tours, to special programs and even transportation, there’s no shortage of freebies to be had in these beautiful public lands. And although many of these cost-saving deals are well advertised, some are held as closely guarded secrets. With that in mind, here are ten tips to help trim your travel budget on your next national park visit.

  • US Citizens with a permanent disability can get a free Access Pass, which is good for free admission to all national parks, recreation sites, national monuments and wildlife refuges. Passes can be obtained at entrance kiosks, with proof of citizenship and disability. The pass also offers a 50% discount on campsites and boat launch fees.

  • Active members of the military can also get a free annual pass by presenting their Common Access Card or Military ID (Form 1173). This pass is available to members of all branches of the military — including reservists and National Guard members — and it has the same benefits as the Access Pass.

  • Many parks have free cell phone tours. For example, In Olympic National Park, visitors can call (360) 406-5056 to get recorded information on different areas of the park. Consult the park newspaper to see if a cell phone tour is available.

  • If you’re traveling with someone who can’t walk very far, check with the park visitor center, as many times they have manual wheelchairs for loan.

  • Some parks offer free tours on a first-come basis. Over in Zion visitors can take a free 90-minute ranger-led bus tour of Zion Canyon. Seats are limited and can only be reserved in person at the visitor center, up to three days in advance. It’s always a good idea to inquire at the visitor center whenever you visit a park, as that’s how you’ll discover freebies like this.

  • While we are on the subject, rangers are an excellent source of free information, so don’t hesitate to ask them for specific suggestions. On one visit to Yosemite, a ranger clued me in that Washburn Point was an excellent stop for wheelchair-users. This information wasn’t in the park newspaper, but the ranger knew because her brother was disabled.

  • Take advantage of the free shuttle buses in many parks, as they will save you time and frustration. For example, in Bryce National Park parking is limited along the main park road, but folks that take the optional shuttle bus dodge the parking hassle and have more time to enjoy the park.

  • If you have kids in tow ask about the junior ranger program at the main park visitor center. To become a junior ranger a child has to complete activities in the free junior ranger activity book, then have them checked by a ranger. If all goes well, they are sworn in as a junior ranger. It’s a fun way to encourage kids to learn about the natural environment while they explore a park.

  • If you have a fourth grader in the family you’ll be able to save even more money this year, thanks to the Every Kid in a Park Initiative. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service all fourth graders will receive a season pass for their family, good for admission to all parks in the 2015-2016 school year.

  • Last but not least, everybody gets free admission on national park free entrance days. These include the National Park Service Birthday (August 25), National Public Lands Day (September 26) and the first weekend of National Parks Week (mid-April). There’s also no admission charge on Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Jr Day, and Presidents Day weekend.

Beautiful Band-E Amir – The Ultimate Travel Destination

Choosing a place to go on your vacation can be particularly difficult for many people. Sure you can go to the same old boring places that everybody goes to; theme parks, national parks, sunny islands with beaches, or Europe… but why not consider someplace extraordinary, someplace so out of the ordinary that you’ll remember it for as long as you live?

Take a look at Band-e Amir.

You may never have heard of it because it lies in Afghanistan and most people don’t really think of Afghanistan as the ultimate tourist destination, but Band-e Amir is definitely worth your consideration.

So what exactly is it?

Basically it’s six amazingly blue lakes that are located high up in the Hindu Kush mountains. It’s about 45 miles from Bamiyan if that helps narrow it down in your mind at all. The best time of year to go is between the spring and autumn.

Unfortunately you can’t just step onto an airplane and then take a cab. No, to get there you need to take a 4×4 truck from Bamiyan. Like I said, this isn’t your ordinary vacation!

The lakes are created by water that flows down a number of natural terraces. It’s hard to imagine how beautiful these cobalt blue lakes look surrounded by red sandy rocky mountains and hillscapes. The colors are an amazing contrast.

You can expect to find all kinds of animals in the area including wolves and foxes and even rabbits and some wild sheep and goats. In the water you can find large yellow fish that the local people calls Chush.

Band-e Amir is a national park, in fact the very first national park that Afghanistan has ever had and it was created in 1973. Though a national park in Afghanistan doesn’t really mean the same thing as it does in America, you won’t find park rangers and camping grounds for instance.

Unfortunately right now America is involved in a war in Afghanistan so it may not be the best time to visit, in fact I suggest putting off a trip there until things settle down. Contact the foreign office or your local embassy before making any sort of plans to travel there.

While you won’t find any tourist shops or really much of anything at all… if you’re looking for a vacation that’s off the beaten path and puts you smack dab in the middle of some of the most beautiful natural landscapes that you’ll ever see in your entire life, and you don’t mind roughing it and are up for little or venture, then Band-e Amir may be just right for you.

How to Get the Most of the National Enquiries Rail Helpline

Network Rail is the owner and operator of Britains railway infrastructure including the tracks, signals, tunnels, bridges, viaducts, level crossings and stations.

The UK has the fastest growing railway network in Europe with a growth of 36% in business in the last ten years. Network Rail owns over 10,000 miles of track and there are over 1 billion rail journeys made each year with an average of 2.75 million passengers travelling every day.

The National Rail Timetable contains full details of more than 20,000 passenger train services operated by Britains 23 train operating companies across the National Rail network, together with rail and shipping connections with Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands and certain European destinations.

National Enquiries Rail remains the official information service for National Rail and provides impartial advice on all aspects of train travel including timetables, fares and buying tickets, live train running updates and other useful information.

If you are looking to buy tickets then it is important that you decide which tickets will suit you best. There are various options open to you including Advance, Off-Peak, Anytime, Season, Rovers and Rangers and if you are travelling around London, an Oyster card may be appropriate. You can speak to the National Enquiries Rail helpline to find which ticket is right for you.

To find the best route and cheapest prices you can use the on line Journey Planner or go through National Enquiries Rail.

You cannot buy tickets online through National Enquiries Rail but you can purchase them from one of the Ticket Retailers shown after you have selected your ticket in the Journey Planner. You can however, buy tickets through National Enquiries Rail over the phone, using the customer services helpline. You can of course also buy tickets through the ticket offices and self service ticket machines at stations.

Railcards and other discounts

Railcards offer good value for money if you travel by train, saving you at least a third on rail fares. 12 month Railcards cost from £18 to £26 each. Other discounts may be available on line or you can call the National Enquiries Rail helpline.

Depending on the type of ticket held, you may be able to make changes to travel plans, or obtain a refund if you are unable travel. To find out more you can go online to the ‘Changing and Cancelling Tickets’ page or call the National Enquiries Rail helpline. If you have an Advance ticket it will not be refundable.

Information for business travelers

National Enquiries Rail offers a lot of information relevant to business travelers. Whether a regular traveler or not, our up-to-date, real-time information can assist you with planning and making your journey.

Travel assistance

If you would like assistance when making a journey, such as help getting on or off a train, ramps for a wheelchair, please contact the Train Company that manages the station you are starting your journey from. Try to give a minimum of 24 hours notice.

Contact the National Enquiries Rail [] Helpline for more information.