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If the best deal in family travel is the Southwest Companion Pass, then a very close second place is the $10 Senior America the Beautiful Pass that gets US citizens and permanent residents ages 62 and older into National Parks without an additional charge for the rest of their life. At just $10 for the lifetime pass (+ $10 processing document fee if you apply online) it can save you big money on the very first use as admission to our National Parks usually isn’t free, and is often $20 – $30 per vehicle, depending on the park.
If anyone in your party has the America the Beautiful Pass, then the rest of the vehicle gets in without charge as well – subject to limits, so be sure check your desired park for full details. My parents have the $10 Senior America the Beautiful Pass and utilize it regularly on their travels to places like Mesa Verde, Arches, Rocky Mountain National Park, Denali, Bryce, Acadia, and more.
However, according to the AARP, the $10 Senior America the Beautiful Pass is going to become a relic of the past as the price is set to increase 8x to $80 for a lifetime pass at some point in the next year. The price has been at $10 for over 20 years, so it is no shock that an increase is on the horizon, but now is a good time to lock in the $10 price if you are eligible for the pass and have interest in visiting National Parks. A $20 Senior annual pass will also become available, but obviously the $10 lifetime pass makes far more sense if you can get it now.
I have loved every visit I have taken to this country’s National Parks, and I look forward to hopefully many more visits over the coming years. If I was eligible for the $10 lifetime America the Beautiful Senior Pass I guarantee I would lock it in now!
If you aren’t eligible for the $10 lifetime pass but want to save on National Park visits, remember that current U.S. military members and dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Reserve and National Guard members can get a free annual pass. Fourth graders in the United States (including home-schooled and free-choice learners 10 years of age) can get a Every Kid in a Park paper pass that is valid for the 4th grade year and the following summer (September – August). This pass admits the pass owner (4th grader) and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle at a per vehicle fee area, or the pass owner and up to 3 adults at sites that charge per person.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities can get a Free Access Pass. Those who volunteer 250 service hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program can also get a Volunteer Pass free of charge. The National Parks Service also periodically does free admission days and weekends, so those can offer other ways to visit the Parks on a tight budget.