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Idaho State News

AAA Offers Travel Tips for Your Next National Park Excursion

BOISE – Thursday was the 100th anniversary of Craters of the Moon National Monument, and AAA is sharing travel tips to make the most of your next visit to the scenic wonders of the National Parks system.


“Every National Park and Monument is a masterpiece of nature, and each has its own personality. We’re very fortunate to have so many here in the West,” says AAA Idaho public affairs director Matthew Conde. “But the secret’s out – since COVID, National Parks attendance has skyrocketed, and it takes some extra planning to make the most of your visit.”

AAA travel tips – National Parks edition

  • The early bird gets the parking space. Many of the national parks face record crowds. Conde said, “Last year at Yosemite, we arrived very early to ensure that we wouldn’t be waiting at the gate. After we parked, we used shuttle buses to reach points of interest.”
  • Have a plan B. “A few years ago, we were trying to get into Arches, and were told we would have a wait time of several hours,” Conde said. “Thankfully, Canyonlands wasn’t crowded at all. It pays to know about another National or state park in the area, just in case.”
  • Head to the most popular spots first. “If you’re heading to Yellowstone, Old Faithful is a famous must-see. But if you get there early, you can have a peaceful experience before the tour buses roll in. Then, head off to the lesser-known stops.”
  • Be ready to pack it in and pack it out. Bring all the water you’ll need – potable water may only be available in limited areas. “When visiting the Petrified Forest one summer, I had to remind my kids to conserve water,” Conde said. “Since we’re all used to having it whenever we want it, you have to adjust that mindset ahead of time.” Pack out trash as needed.
  • Please leave rocks and other items where you found them. Buy souvenirs in the gift shop.
  • Research Park maintenance projects and road and trail closures before your visit.
  • Have a food plan. “Some parks have dining services, but on one occasion, we barely got a meal because they closed after the lunch rush,” Conde said. “If there isn’t a restaurant, there may be sandwiches in the gift shop. But bring plenty of snacks as a backup.”
  • Keep the kids engaged by having them participate in the Junior Ranger program. “Our kids love to participate in an experience that’s tailored to them,” Conde said. “It keeps them interested, and after each park visit, one of our children donates their unique Junior Ranger badge to be made into an ornament for our Christmas tree.”
  • Research the park website to plan your visit. “In our visits to Jewel Cave and Wind Cave in South Dakota, we needed to schedule ahead of time to be on a tour,” Conde said. “Please don’t make the mistake of not doing your homework – you could miss out on some wonderful opportunities. We learned that the hard way last year – we took too long to commit and couldn’t schedule the ferry service to get to the Channel Islands.”
  • Take time to appreciate your visit. Stop and enjoy the moment!

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