7 Sep
2016
Posted in: travel
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Free Pass to Adventure

4th grade boy holding a Every Kid in the Park pass

Some of the best money we spend each year is the $80 used to purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The pass gives us free access to over 2,000 federally managed recreation sites across the United States. This year we have a 4th grader who qualifies for a free pass through the Every Kid in a Park program. I’m always looking for ways to save money. This saves us $80 and allows for access to a myriad of locations.

Starting Sept. 1, every 4th grader or age equivalent student in the U.S. can print a pass good until Aug. 31, 2017. Educators can also print up to 50 passes to gift to their 4th grade students. The process is simple. The pass admits one passenger vehicle into sites that charge vehicle entrances fees and admits all children under the age of 16 and as many as three adults for free to sites with per person fees. The pass doesn’t cover camping, parking, boating or tour fees, just entrance fees. Printed paper passes can be exchanged for more durable plastic passes at certain sites around the country.

collage of family travels in various National Park entitites

I’ve made quite a few parenting choices I would change in retrospect, but gifting our children with experiences is not one of them. We choose to use our resources to travel with our children and show them the country they call home.  I can’t tell you how many times the kids have learned about something in school that they’ve experienced first-hand by visiting a federally-run site dedicated to the subject. The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, Brown vs. the Board of Education, and Homesteaders National Monument of America are examples of discussion held in classrooms that the kids have been able to say, “I’ve been there.”

We use our pass to plan vacations. Living in Wyoming gives access to several national parks and other sites within a 10-hour driving radius. This year we traveled to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, each park normally costs $30 per vehicle entrance fee. Our pass paid for itself simply with those three visits. We also save money by camping, when feasible, and bringing food to save on restaurant costs.

The free pass for 4th graders could be the nudge families need to discover the land and sites the federal government has chosen to protect. Outdoor enthusiasts will find fishing, boating and hiking locations, while history lovers will find battlefields, homes of influential Americans and ancient Native American ruins to explore. Take advantage of our key to the nation’s parks and discover America.

 

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