Warning: The U.S. National Parks stamp is not only super fun but it is also a little addictive.
If you are looking for a great adventure for your family this summer but you only have limited time and an even smaller budget the National Parks Passport is the way to go. You can buy just one passport for the entire family but my kids love the program so much that they all wanted their own passport.
How It Works
When you buy a National Parks Passport it will come with a map of every National Park in the United States. Every time you go to a National Park you stop by the rangers station and they will date stamp it with a unique stamp for that park. It is like your personal reminder of where you went and when you were there.
The park rangers will typically also give your kids a Jr. Park Ranger activity packet that is unique to that park and have some kind of reward for each kid that completes the Jr. Ranger activities for that park. At one park the kids were given a little medal and at another park they coin that was only given out to the Jr. Rangers. My kids are now teens and they still look forward to becoming Jr. Rangers at the parks we visit. ( You don’t need a passport to participate in the Jr. Ranger program but once the park rangers see your passport they immediately identify you as a family that is “into it” ).
Planning Your Trip
One of the great things about the passport is that it helps you plan out your family vacation by showing you where all the parks are that have these ranger programs and stamps. There are more parks than I imagined. There are National Parks in every state. Some areas have more National Parks than others like our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C., which has several different National Parks all in walking distance. Other places will require a full days drive to get from park to park.
One thing is for sure the passport will take you places you never thought you would visit. We ended up spending an entire day in Dayton Ohio because of the National Parks passport.
The passports are mildly addictive. Once you get started you may find that you want to visit more and more National Parks. I gave these passports to my grown siblings one year for Christmas and my little brother now has three additional passports all filled with stamps and memories.
The most prized stamp for him was the Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. He caught the last boat out to the island during a storm. But he got his stamp!
Get your passport online or at any ranger station and let you kids be part of the planning on where you want to go next.
(PS I have used the passport to visit at least one national park in every state except for North Dakota, Maine and the Virgin Islands – but they are definitely on my list)